Issue 39: ProFile with Barry “Bazzer” Poulter

One our favorite characters in kiting may be best known for his very colorful personality and incredibly intricate “celtic knot” style appliqued kites and photopolymer stamps which are quite handy for marking your raffle tickets… Hailing from the Northwest, Barry “Bazzer” Poulter is a dedicated regular at most of the events throughout Oregon and Washington as well as other festivals around the world, always with a grin and huge variety of his beautiful kites in tow for onlookers to enjoy.

Even after just a fleeting chat with Bazzer, you can’t help but find yourself infected with his sense of humor and genuine enjoyment of kites… Although he hasn’t touched a sport kite in years, he is one of those fliers who clearly appreciates the community at large and can be found joking, sharing his experience and conspiring with any given group on the field.

Where are you from originally?

See that fat red head guy standing over there with a drink in his hand and a straw hat?

Yep, that could be me!

Or see that big pile of stylish color in the sky that keeps appearing from that one kite bag… Could be me.

Or that guy who wants to borrow your sand bags… Yes it’s probably me, Bazzer.

I come from a land far away called Great Britain. You know that place where you bore all your friends, telling everyone that “I’m a ¼ Scot or Irish”… “I have ancestors in Glaasgooowe”.

Well I’m from England. Barry Thomas Poulter to the INS. I think my ancestors were up to their knees in chicken scat in Germany or Wales, I don’t know! Worse than that, I’m from Southern England. The place where they do actually speak properly, yes! We sound pompous! It’s taken centuries of in-breeding to achieve.

I was born in a small town called Fleet in Hampshire. Not New Hampshire but the original one. (Go due South from London and you can’t miss it!) I had a great childhood and did quite well at school. Went on to Art School and then to Theatre Design College.
Worked for thirteen years as a theatre technician at the Hawth Theatre in Crawley West Sussex (just next door to Hampshire) and before that worked in the West End of London.

I specialized in all technical aspects of theatre but was drawn to lighting design, rigging and looking up the dancer’s skirts.

How did you get involved in kiting (what originally attracted you to it)?

As a child I always enjoyed kite flying and as most people do flew sports kites. I was then taken to Bristol Kite Festival in 1991 and had my eyes well and truly opened. I bought my first pieces of rip stop nylon and got some spars and re-made my Peter Powell stunt kite (a Trlby kind of thing) using a hand crank Singer sewing machine.

I then stole my mum’s sewing machine and built a Flexifoil. At the time I couldn’t find the mesh for the leading edge so I used Cross stitch fabric. (In the UK we don’t have mesh screen doors!) I had borrowed my brother-in-law’s Flexi and copied the pattern.
I toiled over that kite for days and finally took my creation to the top of the South Downs and launched it… It hovered 2 feet off the ground and bounced like an eager puppy. I had produced the world’s first bouncing airbed.

The fourth kite I built was a 9 foot Revolution. It was so cool in pink and dark blue stripes. Of course I knew better than the Hadzicki boys and now had my supply of the black meshy stuff. My only problem now was those spars. I didn’t need those expensive wrappy things I’ll just throw in some good ol’ 8mm carbon. So out I went once more with my custom made copper pipe handles with pipe insulation as pads. Connected up the lines and pulled back on the handles…….whoosh! Up went my striped beast like a bird taking off…. And then crack! A sound like a gun shot! As my Rev snapped in half and spiraled to the ground like a shot pheasant.

These are just a couple of the monumental mistakes that I have made in my kite making days. I can look back on them all and laugh…apart from the incident with the hot knife and the stack of “Spin Offs” Ouch that one still smarts. So what am I saying? These mistakes that we all make are for a reason. Yes folks, we learn by them. When I was starting in kite making there were only a few sources of information to tap into. Of course being English (Not a Brit, we English hate being called Brits) you would never ask anyone how to do anything and would rather sit there in complete ignorance than speak up and say you are having a problem on a kite to your friends. That is why it is so important for us to pass on our knowledge to others. What is the point of becoming a master in a dying art, wouldn’t it be better for it to be flourishing?

Is there anyone who has been a major influence on you, in regard to kiting?

There are so many. At first it was the names that you saw in the magazines and at the festivals. For me a guy called Mik (Tricky) Jennison from Brighton taught me so much, a bloody genius in my mind. I thought at the time how great it would be to show off in the arenas. Here I am now doing it. I wish someone had told me how much bloody hard work it is to put on a show all day. My hat comes off to all who do these displays whether it is dual or single line.

Especially Peter Lynn, that man never stops working. He once stood up at a kite flyers meeting in Dieppe in France and ripped into every one of the invited guests for not working in the light winds. I remember that to this day. He was right. They had flown these people across the planet to put on a show and they just sat there bitching about the lack of wind. They pay for the show. You give it. Lay the kites out. Build every one in the bag. Walk them around the crowd. Run them into the air. Do the show. The show must go on attitude. I lived that one long enough for it to become ingrained. We can all get lazy some days though. It is hard work but luckily it’s also great fun.

My biggest influences now are the people who I meet while flying and also the views and ideas shared at kite making conferences. There is so much knowledge out there. Not just from the so called big names.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for *new* people just getting involved in kiting?

Yes, Open your mouth and talk to people. If you see a kite you like go and talk to the flyer. I have never known anyone to be told to go away! Oh! Unless it’s in the middle of a stunt routine in an arena That happened one year in Bristol during a figures routine in the Nationals. It’s amazing what a 5 year old can get away with! If you have a question, then ask it. Unless you are one of those ex-Boeing people who want to know about wing loading.

What is it about kiting that most appeals to you now and keeps you involved?

Meeting with other kite makers from home and abroad, and sharing ideas even if it means sketching in the sand because you don’t share the same verbal language… To me this is so important. Kites are our language and whether we make them or buy them it doesn’t matter. If they are one, two or four lines have no meaning. We all fly. We are kite fliers.

Sharing knowledge is one of my passions. This was one of the reasons that I became involved in the Fort Worden Kite makers Conference. This conference, and also the Oregon Kite makers Retreat and MAKR, are the backbone to our recreation/sport of kite making and flying. Each one of us has a story like my Flexi or Rev up above and might have the answer to somebody’s problem or at least a suggestion. No one can know everything… but we all know something. Get a room of 40 people and start talk about a problem you are having on a project. I guarantee that you will have some ideas by the time you leave your seat. We must share our knowledge because if we don’t it dies with us. Let us not waste our experiences. They are all part of our own learning curves. A small trick that you use could open the flood gates on someone else’s imagination. That annoying problem, which you have been having on one kite or another, put that problem in the hands of 160 people and guess what…You are going to get some ideas and solutions to try out. Some one once wrote “no man is an island” and if he is… Build a bloody raft! Maybe with a kite sail!

In what ways has kiting affected your life?

Without kiting I would never in my life have traveled where I have traveled and met the wonderful people I have met or married Kim. The one thing I have noticed in all of the countries is the kite fliers themselves. We are all the same no matter what the language or religion, color or gender. We have all found that wonderful something in a kite that is personal to each and every one of us that brings us all together.

For me it is the joy to design shapes and patterns and to see them all in the air. The very first time I fly a collection or even a single kite I get goose bumps. That for me is the enjoyment. I love what I do. From paper through computer to sewing machine to sky is my thrill.

I personally don’t require a judging panel to tell me if my kite is good. If it wasn’t any good I wouldn’t have built it. My kites are just that, MINE, for my enjoyment. It does however seem as if people want to buy my kites. That is OK. It also is now apparent that by entering competitions I sell more so that is good for business. For me once I have flown them two or three times I get bored with them so if you want one you can buy it. My prices aren’t expensive but they are fair to me the maker.

What types of kites do you favor the most, or specialize in?

I’m now a single line kite maker and flyer. (You can hold a drink in the other hand while flying…Get with it stunties!) I specialize in Flat and Bowed kites at this time but tomorrow I might change to another style. I design my kites in color collections. I make the ones that will sit together in a group in the sky. I haven’t yet made a soft kite but living here in the NW I might do it soon.

The reason for this of course is the near perfect beach winds. My all time favorite kite is the Edo . In my mind it is the king of all kites. If you ever get the chance to fly them do. To stand behind an Edo which has just left your hand and watch it power into the sky is pure majesty. To see all of the bridles in perfect alignment and the kite sit in the sky without moving… Yeah, that’s my idea of heaven.

How do you go about designing a new kite?

Oh boy John! Now there’s a question. You want to know what goes on in my head!

Some times I’m walking down the cookie isle in Safeway and all of a sudden I see a ventilation grill and think of ice cream… Or I’m doodling and then sit back and cut the shape of a Rok or Noodle out of a piece of paper and move it around the image. Sometimes it’s that 3 in the morning…OH my god, I got it! Sometimes I listen to drunken conversations and wake up and forget the idea. Sometimes though, they just come. Then the work really starts.

Having the idea is the easy part. Making it work as a kite art is the real skill to being a kite maker. I usually work from a detailed sketch. I then put it into a computer (Illustrator CS) and really start designing. To me, the computer is just a natural extension of my thought processes. It allows me to experiment very quickly with colors and distort rigid patterns in a way which is far more versatile to my way of thinking. There are some things that I will do to an original image which if you tried doing it by hand would either be impossible or so time consuming as to make the process boring. I love to design. It is what I was trained to do.

My latest kites are weaves and knot works. I studied Celtic Knot work (pronounced Keltic Knot work) for many years and became bored with the rigid structure of “A must go over B”. So I played and came up with my own style, which I will probably change to another direction at anytime. My art schooling has enabled me to pick up new techniques quickly and adapt them in a way that suits me. At this moment in time I am very interested in acrylic paint on kites. Up until recently I have been using a spray paint to add a 3D feel to my knot works. At college I was very influenced by the Bauhaus and also Russian Constructivism. I love Swedish wood block prints from the hard days before and after the war and started to create paintings which up until this time I could never reproduce onto rip stop. These latest acrylic techniques are new to me and I am very excited in producing something that I have always wanted to. One thing is for certain… they will be different.

What kind of sewing machine(s) do you use?

I now use a Pfaff Quilt master. I prefer Berninas as they have more power. However, the Pfaff’s have many excellent features that the Bernies don’t.

How do you feel about kite making competition?

Competitions are a good way to hone your skills or business. I however think that they are judged incorrectly. A kite flies in the sky. It is enjoyed in the sky. It is a kite when it flies. The majority of points say 80% of the points in competition should be awarded while the kite is flying in the air being a kite. To have 50% of the points awarded on the ground when the kite is just a piece of cloth/paper and sticks is wrong. We are holding a kite competition, not a sewing circle.

While I’m banging my drum I should like to politely suggest another way of judging single line kites in the experienced levels. Each one of the competitors has to choose his/her three favorite kites in their category excluding their own. Number them 1. 2. 3. All of the votes are collated and a winner announced.

In the experienced kite making division makers should judge the kites. They know as soon as they stand there which is the better kite. We do not need an hour of judging. We know almost at once and don’t need to listen to each other’s BS and egos. I do however think that it is important when first starting in competition (if you must) to be able to find out your “weakness” (according to the rules) as it can give encouragement (or make you despondent).

That’s about all I have to say on that, apart for this… If you ever find yourself designing a kite with the sole intention to win a competition PLEASE seriously think again. Make it because you want to, not to please the judges.

What would you recommend to people getting into kite making for the first time?

If you want to make kites go to Fort Worden Kitemakers Conference or Oregon Kite Makers Retreat or MAKR. Basically you can learn it on your own if you really want to. I did with many kites. I look back to those times and think of all the mistakes and what I learnt by them. However, if someone could have answered some of the basics when I was starting I would have progressed quicker. Whether I would have learned as much I don’t know, but it wouldn’t have been so frustrating. That is why I help run the Fort Worden Conference. To sit in a room of 160 kite makers and share knowledge is priceless.

Aside from kiting, what other hobbies/sports/activities are you involved in?

Oh…..Golf. I love golf. It hates me….To hit a ball 220 yards from the fairway on to a heavily guarded green… Bliss.

Oh and bacon cheese burgers. I don’t know if they are an activity…but they should be!

I have just started my own kite design company called Designs By Bazzer.

Although I will make some kites each year the main idea for the company is to start producing items for the kite flier. To design cards and pictures which have kites that are drawn correctly. Never again will we have to buy that darn card with the cutesy little teddy bear flying Malays with the spars on the front.

I also make clear photopolymer stamps. Which unlike red rubber stamps, you can see straight through them. Place one of these on a clear Acrylic block and guess what. You can see exactly where you stamp every single time, something which is impossible with wood block types of stamp.

I have just started making stamp sets of individual kites (Cody, Rok, Delta, Parafoil and Flow Form) and also mixed packs of the same. I am just creating a teachers set which has 21 different small sized kite stamps to ease the boredom while marking. Sorry, that should read “to show the little darlings all of the wonderful kites in the world!”

Also, self inking stamps (the plunger type) with kite designs and your details on them for raffle ticket marking and also return address on letters and parcels. Also, kite making project books including a booklet on “Make Your Own Cody Mobiles” in the new year.

There will be many kite things that just appear every now and again. I have bitched for so long for someone to actually make decent things that kite flyers want to buy rather than feel that they have to buy because it has a picture of a kite on it. Time to stop bitching, and start making. The web site should be up by the beginning of 2005.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the kiting world as a whole?

Kiting to me has become a way of life. I have seen things on my travels that I would never have seen and it is all thanks to kites. Here’s one example:

I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to Japan on several occasions. On one of these trips we went to a place called Hirosaki in the prefecture of Amori ; It was a quiet still night with hardly any clouds in the sky. A full moon hung clear and bright. Below the moon was the garden of Hirosaki , an old archery fort with moats and a garden… Not just any garden, this was a garden made from five thousand, three to five hundred year old cherry trees. The blossom had been falling for a few days and was carpeting the ground like snow. The surfaces of the moats were as thick strawberry milkshake. When you stuck you arm in the water the blossoms were about 18’ thick. All around us were thousands of people all celebrating the blossoms under the perfect moon.

Bento boxes were piled on mats all across the gardens and slowly but surely the parties started to join up. I walked around the garden with an old Japanese friend of mine. He pointed at the moon, the blossom and the bridges and the small rowboats (one word) pushing their way through the blossom. A small fair had a haunted house in it. They had strung ropes between bamboo poles and hung sheets on them like a washing line maze.

As we approached one corner I noticed some feet under the cloth waiting to ambush us around the next corner. So I ran around the corner screaming at them. They ran for it. I guess they were not expecting a short fat round eyed monster to come screaming at them. We went outside and continued our midnight walk and talk through the gardens. It was so peaceful and beautiful… Thousands of people having a good time, just because the cherry blossoms and the moon were perfect… No problems, No police.

What thoughts do you have on kiting’s influence on global culture?

Many cultures in the world embrace kiting within their cultures. In nearly all cases kites bring together the people in times of celebration, whether it be to welcome a child into the world or in village competition to drag each other into a river. A Sport? No I don’t think so. A way of life? It can be. An excellent recreation… Without a doubt.

Do you see any differences in the way festivals are done in the USA, compared to other countries?

The winds in the NW are bloody wonderful. The beaches are huge and the people are very friendly. In Europe we party harder and I think on the whole are more innovative in design. We don’t get up at 4.30 in the morning to go and park our cars on a Beach and also don’t stop flying at 4.30 to go and feed our faces and go to bed at 9pm. At one of my first US festivals I was walking through the town at 9.20 try to find other kite flyers to go drinking with. I’m sorry. I’m a grown man who likes to party. It’s my choice. (Luckily I have now found my people)

Competition is big in the US. It’s how you were brought up. I prefer the festivals without the comps.

What are some of your favorite kite festivals, and why?

Portsmouth Kite Festival. At six in the evening the wind drops to a gentle breeze and the sun sets. When the wind finally drops we have something to eat with the stall holders and party the night away.

Diamon, Japan. The whole town is kite nuts. Go there.

Lunen, Germany. Just lots of good friends beer and brats.

Long Beach. I love to fly with my friends.

Do you think that the kiting scene will ever become mainstream, and how might we go about making it happen?

If it ever does, I think that I would drift away from it. Mainstream over here would mean competition and trophies, TV, judging panels and every thing which sours my enjoyment of flying. I started flying for my enjoyment, to see something that I created in the air and if truth be told to show off a bit and break away from the English stereotype. I design my kites for the air, not on somebody’s wall or to receive acclaim from others (although as I recently experienced it is good for business), to have that wonderful detachment from the ground for just a little while. We all know that feeling… Just us and a kite… Single line, dual, quad, whatever.

Now if we can get more families off their butts and away from the TV brain eater that would be a good thing. Actually have a family doing something outside the house that isn’t eating. Kites can do this but it takes effort and we on the whole are to lethargic. At least some of us have the right idea.

Thanks for having a chat with us Bazzer! We always enjoy sharing the sky with you, and consider any festival extremely lucky to have you as part of the show.

I look forward to seeing you on the fields or darn sandy beach. (please, someone invite me to a grass field festival… I hate sand!)

Please enjoy my kites because ………… I do.

(photo of Bazzer by Bob Alford, photo of
Noodles 2nd down on right by Rob Pratt)

If you would like to contact Bazzer regarding his
kites, photopolymer stamps or other specialties,
just click here to visit his web site!