Buteo Huang – Kite designs convey aspirations

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Here is an interesting article about Buteo Huang, his love of kites and his passion for designing them.

I had heard of Buteo Huang a few years ago when he competed at the AKA convention, If I recall correctly he took home a few trophies :). His kites were definitely beautiful and very unique. One of Buteo’s kites, “Starbird”, was featured in the “Stranger in a Strange Land” episode of the TV show LOST. I hadn’t really heard of him again until recently when I purchased a Buteo Huang Chinese Opera mask kite that is being produced by New Tech Kites. It’s a wonderful piece and it’s one of six in the series of Opera masks. He produces some wonderful kites, if you can you should try and pick one up for your collection.. worth every penny.

more information about Buteo Huang can be found here…
Buteo Hang’s Blog
For master kitemaker Buteo Huang, the sky’s the limit
New Tech Kites Buteo Huang site
Buddy TV – LOST

An interesting video posted on Buteo’s website is here

Article from the Taiwan Journal

Publication Date:09/21/2007 Section:Arts and Culture
By Sandra Shih

Entering the front gate to the artist’s studio, the first thing that came into sight was the pieces of an oval kite hanging above a small pond. The kite was decorated with brown and black circles, similar to the rings on the trunks of old trees. Together with the green plants and sound from the waterfall, the setting was like a hidden forest. This was the studio of Buteo Huang, a kite designer. He had turned his home into a studio to pursue his childhood dream.

Huang called the kite “Disappearing Forest,” which was one of the many that he designed and added to his collection. He said that many people looked at his works in museums or indoor displays, commenting that they were not extraordinary and regarding them as installation art. “Everything you see here can actually fly. That’s why it is a kite, not an installation,” Huang said Sept. 7. Seeing a kite flying in the air was normal, but making a flat piece of paper ascend to the sky could take him months at a time. “Flying is the fundamental desire of human beings,” he claimed. “What I do satisfies this innate need.”

Huang grew up in Sansia Township in Taipei County, where there was a Yuan Mountain located southwest to the old street in the town. The Mandarin word “yuan” was the name of a type of falcon known as a glede. According to Chinese folklore, the army of Ming dynasty general Jheng Cheng-gong (1624-1662) used to be stationed there and was attacked by two strange birds. One was shot down with an arrow and fell on the mountain, giving it the name Yuan Mountain. The valley in the mountain was Huang’s hometown and was also the place where he dreamed of flying. In the spring of 1972, he played with his brothers and built a diamond-shaped kite successfully. From that time on, kites became a fixture in his life.

After completing his compulsory military service, Huang established an interior-design company in Sansia, although he kept making kites. “I like to fly kites, even though I don’t usually fly the same one twice,” he said. Driven by his passion, he closed down his interior-design company and focused on designing kites. Huang’s 30-year career demonstrated his innovative ideas and accumulation of various works.

In the beginning, Huang started by imitating the kites he purchased from stores. Learning from practice, he then designed kites by observing specific things, like animals or birds. Eventually, Huang developed his technique and played with all the possibilities. He expressed more abstract ideas in his work, and the design of his kites followed simple shapes like a circle or a diamond with colorful lines and patterns. The works “Eye” and “Disappearing Forest” both stripped away the superfluous elements and only preserved the essentials.

“Since I had architectural training, I do things differently from those in an art school,” Huang claimed, adding that his design workshops taught him that he had to consider the needs of others. “Even though an interior design might be fantastic, it is for the use of other people, so you have to think about what the clients like from a critical perspective,” he stressed. Huang designed his kites with his clients in mind.

“So long as it is a kite, it should be able to fly. Flying kites is very different from designing kites,” he said. Spending a few months on a kite was normal to him because the production process required a lot of work, including calculating, testing and balancing the elements of the kite.

The basic structure of a kite was a cross, and he said that finding the right place to attach the string could be a difficult task. “There are countless possibilities on this stick, but how can you choose just two to tie the flying string?” he asked, pointing at a long kite in a swallow-like shape. There was no definite answer, since the materials and sizes of every kite differed. He had to make sure the string could grasp the kite and resist strong winds. Any miscalculation could lead to the failure of a kite.

“The plane created by the Wright brothers is a kind of kite,” Huang said, noting that the difference was that airplanes were used to transport people and required numerous test trials to ensure safety. Even though a kite was less risky than a plane, he approached his work with the same serious attitude.

Huang would try new materials for the frame and more often than not, the final product would be a complex combination of carbon fiber, fiberglass and bamboo. Based on the size of the kite, he used different types of kevlar cords to tie it together. “The bigger the kite is, the thicker and stronger the kevlar needs to be,” he explained. A variety of textures were applied to present the theme of his kite. For instance, the fishing boat of the Tao ethnic group in Orchid Island was turned into a kite with tyvek paper, which Huang said could resist humidity better.

A thorough understanding of materials and structures seemed to be a prerequisite for making a kite, but to Huang, it was not the key issue because he never learned his kite-making skills from a teacher. He recalled that this knowledge grew out of his interest and extensive practice, starting from simple designs. “What matters is the idea behind it,” he stressed. “The inspiration is more important than the technique.”

Huang said that the story and idea behind each work were the essence of his kites. Some museums refused to exhibit kites because they regarded kites as a folk art, thinking that a community cultural center would be more suitable, he said. Nevertheless, whenever Huang presented his newest design, he expressed the concerns on his mind.

“Disappearing Forest” was an example of this philosophy. Each piece had several tree rings, representing trees that had been chopped down. The exhaust fumes in cities have increased dramatically in recent years and caused the greenhouse effect, which sparked a heated debate in international organizations over the effects of industrial development. Huang said that if trees continued to be destroyed, there would be no way to clean the air. As a result, he used a set of fallen trees to stress the importance of planting trees.

Quite a few works shared this theme of conservation. A kite called “White Chinese Crested Tern” was hanging above his table, and Huang said that this bird was an endangered species. When the crested terns appeared in the Matsu Islands this year, the villagers were very surprised and excited to see the rare bird, Huang claimed.

The black beak was the most distinctive feature on its face, and Huang attempted to replicate the shape of the tern in the kite. “Different from the traditional bird kites, my crested tern kite has big wings and a comparatively small body,” he explained. Huang tried to maintain the original shape of the bird, even though the heavy wings might cause the kite to flip over.

A kite was never pretty or ugly, in Huang’s view, as he valued every work. He never sold his original kites because he wished to establish a kite museum of his own in the future, where he could convey more ideas through his works. When people flied kites, they could also receive messages from the artist. “People in Taiwan enjoy the benefit of natural wind in all four seasons, so they should take advantage of it to fly kites more and free their minds,” Huang said.

Write to June Tsai at sandrashih@mail.gio.gov.tw