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Barry Poulter

Trained in Fine Art.
Went on to train as a Theatre Set Designer and Lighting Designer.
13 years as a Theatre Technician specializing in stage and lighting.
Emigrated in 2002, married to Kim and now work as a Gardener on an estate in Lakewood (Washington).
I have been building kites since 1991.

My name is Barry Poulter or Bazzer to my friends. I was born in Fleet in Hampshire, England, on 9th September 1967. I had a great childhood and could go and ride on my bike all day along canals and across military ranges, where I would collect the burnt tail fins of mortars and bring them home grasped tightly to my handlebars.
You should have seen my Mum’s face the first time I did that!
I was a quiet kid who looked and listened and always tried to be a pain in the butt to my big sister. I was good at it, like all younger brothers are.
I have always had a strong work ethic thanks to my Mum, Dad and Grandfather. Also my first Art Teacher, Maggie Smith. She stood one day in front of a class of teenagers and said this,
“ Who cannot draw? Why can’t you?
You have been taught to write for most of your life.
Now I will teach you how to draw!”

My first memories of kite flying were on a farm in Wales over looking the Pembroke Coastline while on a holiday with my parents. A black Peter Powel stunt kite with white “SKY” written on it with white PVC tape. (My first piece of appliqué!) In 1991 was then taken to Bristol kite festival. Here I met rolls of ripstop nylon and carbon fibre. I was told that it wasn’t possible to make certain kites because they were too difficult for a beginner! So I cut my teeth on these so-called “impossible kites” the Flexifoil and Rev’s.

The very first Flexi I made looked perfect. It inflated and took shape and then bounced on the ground like an airbed with two-year-olds jumping on it! The first Rev took off and then snapped in two and slowly spiraled to the ground like a shot pheasant. For me this was the best thing that could have happened. It got me thinking. At this time I had no one to ask the hows and whys so I had to work it out for myself. There were many future mistakes and prototypes and there still are today! That’s the way I do things. Luckily nowadays there are people I know whom I can bounce ideas off. A shared problem usually leads to many ideas and new roads of thought. In the end though you must go with your “gut” instinct, weigh up the facts and make your own decision. I don’t like to open a book and copy a design from the page. I tend to look for different shapes in the sky and in books and then alter them to what I think looks more pleasing to my eye. What shape is interesting to design on and in?

Fine Art training drummed into me composition. The main bases of composition are this: your drawing, painting or design all have a relationship to the space it lives (juxtaposition). Just slapping a design in the middle of a kite isn’t usually the answer. By moving shapes to the edge of their space you create tensions between themselves and also paper/kite skin.

Many people say that I’m lucky that I can draw and design things and that they could never do it! I look at it this way. When you were a toddler! Could you write? So what happened? People who could write taught you! Time and effort within our society made the rules of grammar and comprehension and how the letters should look. When you were that toddler who started to draw, they taught you to write, not to draw. Just think how you draw a house for a child, a flat box with square windows with smoke curling out of the chimneys. We won’t go on to our drawings of cats and dogs and horses. This and colouring book art is the first experience our children have to art and learning to draw and there it stops.
Drawing is about observation. Until you really look at something you can’t draw it.
This is why Art schools are so important, they teach us drawing! Language is a barrier of which drawing has a passport. So I’m not lucky, I’m educated.

With my kites, I design for me, not for a judging panel. Can’t stand competitions. For me kite making is so personal that I am the only judge I listen to. I do not need a panel of judges to tell me if a kite design is good or not. I know that already! When it comes down to counting stitches and what spars you have used I turn cold. As long as it flies perfectly and I love it…end of story. I like what I’ve done; they are the best I can do at the time of building and that is all that matters to me. Many kite makers will not show their early work as it has “mistakes”. So what!

Kites for me are a learning curve. The more you do the more you learn…or should do! If you want to try something …well just do it. It may turn out to be rubbish but it may turn out to be the lesson you personally needed to go on in your own direction.

The first kite that I really learned to fly was a Hawaiian Team kite. I spent months flying that thing. I would look out the window and see if there was enough wind and sit on my haunches and wait for the wind if there wasn’t. I then started to play with Roks. If there is one kite that explains it all it is the Rokkaku. I can really fly one. I mean I understand it! I can re-bridle and set the bows to make it fly left, right, low, high, strong pulling or light. My friends and I would spend hours tipping and cutting and pasting each other. Great fun and an invaluable lesson in flight. Unfortunately, prizes brought out the worst side of people and ruined a wonderful thing. Rules led to cheating and everything turned sour.

Some of the designs I work on for months. The best kites for me are the ones that have a story. Not necessarily a pictorial story but a personal one. Some kites remind me of places and faces and some remind me of old friends. When I look up in the sky I don’t see the kite that you do. I become blind to the finished work but remember the people and places that I have flown the kite at. I remember the journey I have taken in the early design stages. Sometimes, even the time when it all suddenly came together. Moving a line to left or right, moving a head up or down.

I have traveled Europe and Japan with my kites and it was kites that first of all brought me to the US.
So that’s a fair bit about me.
I do what I do.
I like to talk to others about what I have experienced and know.
I have become involved in the Fort Worden Kitemaker’s Conference and think of it, and the others like it, as School for Kitemaker’s.
None of us as toddlers could build kites!

We learned………