...An Interview with Michael Graves...

Q: If you could, please tell me about who you are and what you do.

My name is Michael Graves. My major occupation is most easily defined as Trainer and Demonstration artist. I work for a company that sells computer graphics systems to broadcasters and video production facilities. In truth I were many hats, marketing, graphic design, network administrator, etc.

Q: What made you interested in kites?/ Why do you fly kites?

I have always been a mechanical sort of guy. It probably started with Meccano when I was a child...and can thus be blamed on my mother ;-) I think that many people are fascinated by flight, myself included.

How I stumbled upon kiting is a curious story. My former partner (Ilene) and I lived in an un air-conditioned apartment in downtown Toronto for several years. During the hottest of summer days we spent time at the Metro Reference Library at Yonge & Bloor. We both were in Collage taking technical subjects so the library we an interesting, and much cooler place to hang around.

Across the street from the library we a kite shop called Touch The Sky, the cities first serious kite store though that location is no longer there. One day we stumbled in and were intrigued by the idea of stunt kites. (i.e. multi-line steerable sport kites) We bought one and proceeded to Ward's Island Beach to try our hand.

Fortunately, the weather for our initial outing was amenable and we were immediately hooked on kiting. Over the course of the next year we bough a couple more kites, met some other fliers, and eventually tried our hand at kite making from scratch.

Q: Do you build any kites yourself?

Yes, I've built over 500 kites during the past 10 years.

Q: If so, what kind of kites do you build?

Initially I built dual-line sport kites for myself. As per most kite makers I started out by copying a kite that I had bought, then eventually moved on to designing my own from scratch. The reward to starting with an absolutely blank page and some weeks later flying a new design is intoxicating.

Over the years as I developed more of an artistic sense I started to build single line kites as well. Single line kites, particularly large ones, are an amazing way to express graphic ideas. Backlit by the sun they can be stunning to see at festivals. They usually generate more crowd reaction than sport kite flying.

Q: Successes?

My partner and I had numerous successes, though the ones that stick in my mind are the Frank Lloyd Wright Edo, and the Tekaweya Series of sport kites.

The FLW Edo is a modern North American adaptation of a traditional Japanese kite. It won several international awards including "Beauty In The Air" at the Smithsonian Institutes Kite Festival in Washington DC. The graphic design was adapted from a stained glass window in Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo.

The Tekaweya Series of kites were our most commercially successful sport kites. They established us a a serious player in sport kite design, though we were never more than a small craft operation. We made over 300 of the four models.

Q: Faliures?

None that I'll admit to, but there are a few kites that I never quite got around to completing.

Q: What kind of building materials do you use?

It varies depending upon the project. Sometimes handmade Japanese paper and cane or bamboo, sometimes hardwood dowels and cotton sheeting. For our best model designs we typically use ripstop nylon or polyester sailcloth on carbon framing. Even so there are many different sorts of sailcloth and carbon.

The usual approach is to use what seems correct for the particular design problem that each kite presents. Of course I always seek out the lightest and strongest materials available within my budget.

Q: What kind of experience did you gain in building kites? (tips and stuff)

Anyone running a business should really love what they do. That is, love what the business is about rather than the process of business itself. People who love only the process of business are suited only for sales and executive functions. Many businesses make no raw sense unless you really love the activities at the core. I love to make kites, once as an amateur, then for a time as a professional, and now again as an amateur.

I also learned that there is often no alternative to insight. As a kite designer I created wares for mass consumption but the original designs were always geared to please me personally. At times my tastes paralleled those of the buying public, at other times not. Once I was aware of their direction in general I was able to sustain a business by adding my own flavour to their taste of the week.

Visit Michael Graves' Site!

Flier Peter Peters