Issue 8: Kitemaker Profile – Sharon Musto

It is my pleasure to be able to introduce you to Sharon Musto and her work. In a very short time of kitemaking, Sharon has had a large impact. She won the Rokkaku division of the kite making competitions at WSIKF in both 1997 and 1998, the Rokkaku division of the 1998 AKA Convention kite making championships and won Members Choice for best kite at the same the competition. I have to admit I am biased though, I am the proud owner of one of Sharon’s kites J .

Please enjoy reading about Sharon Musto from Winnipeg, Canada and seeing some of her fantastic kites.


Name: Sharon Musto

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA R2M 5E8

Age: 38 forever (38 was a grreat year …)

Occupation: Teacher

Favourite Food: Julio’s lasagne

Beverage: red wine

Music: yes 🙂

Kite Book: The Penguin Book of KITES, by David Pelham

Kids’ Kite Story: The Sea-Breeze Hotel, by Marcia Vaughan, Illustrated by Patricia Mullins

Personal Background: married since 1980 to Julio, 3 children: Angelina, Christopher, and Julian.

Professional Background: I am a teacher, and I work with students with special needs (learning and behaviour problems) at a junior high school. I have also worked with children at the kindergarten to sixth grade levels, in both public and private schools. At the moment, I prefer working as an aide in special ed. over regular classroom teaching. Besides being very rewarding, it provides a bit of flexibility so that I can get around to different schools and give workshops. Recently, I presented a kite workshop for Manitoba teachers at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Hobbies / Interests (outside of kites): Art. My father was a bookbinder by trade, so we always had plenty of paper around the house. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and doing crafts …creating things for friends mostly. I still do that. I haven’t kept much of the stuff I’ve done, including kites. For a while, I moonlighted as an automobile striping designer; it’s pretty cool to see my designs still rolling around the streets of Winnipeg…


How long have you been interested in kites? How did your interest begin?

I was about 10 or 11 years old when I built my first kite at the local community club. It was made of paper and framed with popsicle sticks, I think. It didn’t actually fly — it just kind of dangled from a short piece of string — but I received a certificate for having the smallest kite. I was reintroduced to kites during my last year of university, and I quickly developed an acute case of kite fever. You know how this kind of thing can get out of hand. I went from flying a dyna-kite to flying stunt kites, to power kites–buggying and snow skiing–to building (no end in sight)…

How long have you been making kites? How did you get into making kites?

The courage to build came after attending my first kite festival in Toronto, in September of 1995. I had been corresponding with one of their club members via E-mail about how to get teddy bears set up with parachutes, harnesses, etc. Their club had a kite festival coming up and, of course, I just *had to* see how this was all done. A 2100 km trip was necessary. Really. 🙂

One thing led to another… after the MetroToronto Kite Festival, *had to* have a rok. I started sewing the sail late in 1995 but didn’t get it framed and flying until the spring of 1996. Working with framing materials, such as fiberglass tubing and ferrules was all new to me. (When I went to school, only the boys took industrial arts; girls learned to sew aprons and bake cakes.) Suddenly, I found myself gravitating to hardware stores… and putting tools on my ‘wish list’.

Sharon’s first Rok.

What type of kites do you make?

For the most part, I build single line kites, but I’ve also built a couple of small dual -line kites. I have made several 2-meter Sanjo rokkakus, one miniature rok, a 6 foot Star Victory based on Stormy Weathers’ design, some small diamond sails for the Arch Project, a della Porta… Does a 6mm rok count? That one was a bugger to bridle!! I *try* to build every kite better than the one before. It may not always work out that way, but hey, I’m learning….


I also make kids’ kites out of newspaper, tissue, plastic bags, tyvek, mylar, etc… always looking for plans and materials I can use in the classroom. So far, my classroom standbys are sleds, tissue fighters with tails, diamonds, and 3-stick hexagonals or “barn door” kites. There is nothing quite like showing children how to build their first kites and sharing the excitement of flying.

Do you make kites for a living? Or hobby? Do you sell your kites? If so, where are they available?

Kite building is a hobby for me at the moment. I’m not prolific enough to make a living at it. Ask anyone who’s waited for a kite from me. 🙂 I have never sold one, but have traded kites with other kite makers. I also make skydiving gear for parafauna–chutes and harnesses–and build line ferries. The ferries work quite well, but I change something everytime I build one…still tinkering away at a new and improved version.

What type of materials do you use? Where do you get your materials?

My first few kites were made of 3/4 oz. ripstop nylon and fiberglass framing. Lately I’ve been using Porcher Marine sail cloth. It is great for appliqué as it seems to cut away cleanly. I also like the way the squares line up and the way it feels. Most of the materials and fittings have come from the US. I wasn’t aware of any Canadian suppliers when I started out, but there are a few.

What equipment do you use? (Sewing machine, hot cutters, knives, tapes, adhesives, etc.)

I’m on my third sewing machine. Don’t look too closely at the stitching on my first rok. 🙂 The sewing on that one keeps me humble. I could never get the stitches to be of a consistent length and tension. For the second rok I borrowed a friend’s machine. This Viking brand was a real workhorse that could handle everything from 1/2 oz icarex to multiple layers of seatbelt webbing and Dacron reinforcement, so it was better than mine but, still, the stitching wasn’t as even as I wanted it to be.

Last year I got an almost new Pfaff 1171 for Mother’s Day ( the gift that covers a lifetime of Mother’s Days). Need I say more? My favourite features: the needle up/down option, ideal for doing appliqué; low bobbin warning light, which prevents running out of thread at an awkward place; and of course, the built in walking foot . I love it.


Other kite building equipment includes:

* Dremel rotary tool, as well as a hacksaw, file, Leviton (I think they’re meant for wiring) snippers – for cutting spars

* soldering gun – with a homemade tip for hot cutting fabric.
For a photograph and more info,see:

* 30 watt soldering pencil – does the trick for smaller tasks and for making nice clean holes.

* tempered glass – hot cutting surface

* stitch rippers – good for getting started when cutting away layers of appliqué

* J.A.Henckels dressmaker shears (large) – for the bulk of the cutting

* J.A.Henckels embroidery scissors (small) – for getting into sharp corners and small areas

* masking tape – for long straight seams, which I remove as I go

* 3M double sided tape or Seamstick – for holding the layers of fabric together

After drawing the design onto the sail, I place the double sided tape strategically, so that I never actually sew through any adhesive. Removing tape that has zigzag stitches through it is a real pain. I have stayed away from spray adhesives, so far, and I haven’t tried hot tacking yet, either.

What is the average time spent making a kite?

It depends on the type of kite and the complexity of the graphic; the little diamond sails for the ‘Arch Project’ took several hours, the Madeline pocket sled for my 4 year old neice took me a day, the roks — months! I work slowly, and I don’t think I want to know how many hours I spend on the bigger projects.

Which was the most rewarding kite to make? Why?

Actually there are two of them. My very first sewn kite was a 2M rokkaku, with a black and white design from a woodcut by M.C.Escher appliquéd on it. Other than the uneven stitching, I was pleased with the way it turned out. I’ll never forget how my spirit soared the very first time this one took to the air –no bridle adjustment needed–it just felt wonderful. It looked good way up in the air too. The experience of sewing, framing, and bridling, gave me the confidence to build more.

Northern Dancer kite

I’d have to say that Northern Dancer was also very rewarding because it marked the first time I used my own artwork for the appliqué. The loon is a national symbol, so it conveys my Canadian identity. The colours boast of our Northern Lights (aurora borealis) and the stylized reflection of the loon in the water and the moon on the top half honours Canada’s aboriginal culture. The design also incorporates other elements that are very meaningful to me, personally.

Where might I see one of your kites flying, but not by you?

So far, the skies over Canada, the US and Australia are the most likely places you’ll see my kites. I ‘owe’ kites to a few online friends, so there will be a few more in the air over other countries before long.

What/who has had the most influence on you in kite making? Why?

The Internet — E-mail, rec.kites, and IRC– have had the greatest influence on my kitemaking. It’s how I initially connected with members of the Toronto Kite Fliers, who helped me get started: Ilene Atkins, Michael Graves, and Karen and Irving Reid. Through E-mail, Ilene shared procedures and tips for doing appliqué, methods which she, in turn, credited to Randy Tom. Karen and Irving shared their parabear know-how with me, and also offered encouragement during my first rok building venture. At that time, I also relied on the rec.kites newsgroup as it was a good resource for sewing and framing information. Attending WSIKF is also very, very inspiring. Seven – eight days of kites and kite fliers from around the world… I don’t imagine I’d be where I am today as far as kite building goes, were it not for the great people I’ve met — first ‘online’ and then ‘in real life’ at festivals–and the amount of information shared by fellow kiters via the Internet.

Do you have a favourite kite made by someone else?

I don’t actually HAVE it because it still belongs to its creator, Mark Groshens, a Canadian kite builder and flier. My favourite single line kite would have to be his Paintbrush kite. Aimé Barsalou’s kites are among my favourites, too. His collection of sky sculptures include a family of large soft skunks, and an arch of inflatable rabbits that seem to be reproducing at an alarming rate; they’re something else! Naturally, Aimé has created something new to grace the sky at Berk-Sur-Mer (shhhh….).

Aimé’s receding hare line

Who is your favourite kite personality? Why?

I admire Margaret Greger and J.R. Tolman and all the other unsung kite enthusiasts who show children of all ages how to build and fly kites. There’s a LOT involved … getting materials and preparing stuff ahead of time, hundreds of little knots to tie, bits of tape to cut. I’m grateful to the volunteers who organized a kite activity at the local community club some 30 years or so ago… 😉 You just never know the impact that a simple activity like building a little paper kite can have on a person’s life, even many years later.

Which is your favourite kite festival? Why?

Washington State International Kite Festival (WSIKF) is my favourite so far, for several reasons. It is held during the third week in August, so the timing is ideal for me. The beach is long and wide, and the winds are cleaner than any prairie winds I’ve ever flown in, great for kiteflying and for buggying, too. WSIKF provides a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow kite enthusiasts from around the world!

Furthermore, the small town of Long Beach boasts several kite stores as well as the World Kite Museum — the place is just made for kitefliers. Can’t wait to go back again! Fly and feast with friends, drop some teddies, buggy into the salty surf … “Comin’ thru!!!!”

If you were going to a festival for your own pleasure, what kites and other toys’ would you pack in your kite bag? (You may or may not actually own any or all of these. Kind of like your own wish list of kites you would love to own and fly.)

I would pack some traction foils for sure … at least 3 or 4 sizes. As far as stunt kites go, I am way out of practice but I’d take a few along: my Pizazzes and probably the NSR, BOT, and Reflex. I’d take my Patang to work on my fighting skills. (Definitely need more lessons there.) I’d take the Double Delta Conyne, and a line ferry or ‘messenger’ for paracritter drops. I wouldn’t *think* of leaving without a few bears. I’d take some windsock line laundry such as my snowman and elephant — who hail from Denmark. I’d bring my dragonfly kite from OZ, and any other new kites made by myself or by friends. Kites I don’t have YET, but would bring if I had them include: a circoflex (gotta learn how to make one of those!!), an arch or train of kites, and a kite rigged for night flying. Other than that, I’d be spending a lot of time admiring other people’s kites. A personalized banner / feather would be nice, along with a cabana — always handy to have a home base so that we can find each other… and have someplace to keep beverages, munchies, Kindersurprise eggs, and umm… other good stuff. Canadian traditions, eh?


Gotta fly…

Thanks Sharon for that wonderful insight into your passion and hobby of kitemaking. Thanks also for spreading the bug through all those workshops you organise for both the kids and the bigger kids.