Brasington Concentrix and Wind Tulip workshop

Robert Brasington, AKA 2012 Lee Toy Award winner

At the recent AKA convention in Enid Oklahoma Robert Brasington was awarded The Lee Toy award. This honor goes to the kite artist of the year. Criteria in the selection process focuses on the person’s body of original work. It also includes commitment to kites as art and the ability to inspire others.

Robert qualifies in all of these areas but he is so much more than just that. He is in very good company with past recipients such as Jon Burkhardt, Ron Gibian and Masaaki Modegi.

A good overview of Robert’s artwork and workshops is available right on his own webpage. There are some great details on many of his unique and creative kites. His world renowned workshops are also featured on the web site.

Another way to learn more about Robert’s passion for kites is to experience one of his workshops first hand. I was lucky enough to attend one of these workshops in Beverly Farms Massachusetts. Here is my fun experience at a Robert Brasington workshop.

Last summer I got word from my buddy Thom Shanken that Robert Brasington of Tasmania was coming over to The US to run not one, but two kite making workshops. Robert is well known for his colourful appliqué and unique kite designs. Saturday would feature a single line kite with appliqué called the Concentrix. Sunday’s workshop was a wind spinner that Robert calls the Wind Tulip. Thom pointed me to organizer Rob Banks’ Windswept kites sign up page. We both signed up within minutes. A confirmation from Rob soon followed saying that we were in and the class was now completely full.

I live in Cambridge, Ontario Canada and the workshop was a solid ten hour drive. Thom, the “band leader”, had already made arrangements for us to stay with our friends Don Tuff & Kim Linehan. The NYKE gang is a fun bunch and always offer each other a place to stay for events.

I met up with Thom at his home in Waterloo, New York and we drove the rest of the way together. We always share great conversations about kiting and new workshop ideas. The two of arrived at Don and Kim’s home a little late but still in time for a great dinner! It was fun to see all the people that had gathered at Don’s house for the weekend. I said hi to Gary and Maggie Engvall, Kevin Reynolds, Jon and Jeanette Hosford and of course our hosts Kim and Don. Wow, there was an AKA president, an AKA regional director, AKA kite making winners and a bona-fide Boy Scout leader too. It was going to be a fun weekend for sure!

The next morning we all drove into the historical town of Beverly Farms. The class was held in Hastings house which is the original town hall. It was a perfect choice as it featured a huge open room for the workshop. The 20ft high ceiling would allow for some indoor flying too! We quickly set up our sewing gear and soon gathered at the center work station for a meet and greet. Okay, now I was spotting more AKA award winners like Ben Huggett and Jackie Maciel. AKA Kiting Magazine had come alive in Hastings House! Robert Brasington quickly introduced himself and got right into the project instructions.

The Concentrix series of kites are very intricate and feature a lot of appliqué and long flowing organza tails. Robert gave us a choice of the four kite template shapes he brought along. It was interesting to note how Robert packs all his templates into his luggage. The appliquéd kite pattern is cut into several sections. Each colour change will feature another piece of the template. The best way to describe it is to say it looks like a jigsaw puzzle. When all the pieces are separated they break down into smaller sections for travel. The Concentrix kite required a lot of detailed explanation. Robert’s method of colour change is a variation built on other kite builders appliqué methods. Rob Banks had described this as a class not designed for beginners. He was right. The supplies were handed out so we all got busy cutting and building.

AKA kite making award winner Jackie Maciel was my workshop partner as we both selected the same kite pattern. I really liked the idea of working together with Jackie. It was great having help with the templates and confirming the logic of steps with each other. It really motivated me to keep up with Jackie’s fast pace! Robert periodically walked around the class and checked everyone’s progress. This really saved a lot of headaches and prevented most mistakes. The class was stopped several times during the day so that Robert could explain the next step. Running many very well organized workshops was very evident in Robert’s approach. The complicated small project kept us busy from morning till the very end of the scheduled class. I would say at least ninety five percent of the participants completed their kites.

While we were putting our new kite and gear away Rob Banks reminded all about the West beach surf and turf dinner. Lobster and steak on the beach sounded great! We had some time to kill before dinner so many started chatting about kite projects and kite festivals. Before long Kevin Reynolds brought out a couple of his brand new indoor gliders. I had never seen an iFlite before. I was hooked on my first flight. Mr. Banks sure got a lot of ultralight orders that weekend.

We left the Hastings house and met up again on West Beach. Some brought chairs some brought kites and some brought special beverages to enjoy on a beautiful night. Several gathered their chairs in a circle near the surf. Robert shared some great stories about his wife and their life back home. Taking care of his beautiful gardens is one of his other passions. On the beach I had a great time flying butterflies and other ultralights in the light evening winds. Within half an hour a truck pulled up with a surf and turf bonanza. A tailgate party soon ensued! The Lobster and steak meals were great and Rob Banks gets full points for great organization!

After dinner the Peabody gang headed back to Don and Kim’s house. I have never been to an AKA convention before so the evenings talks about competitions and what goes on at convention was great fun! It’s not often we get to hear things from a past president’s point of view. All the while Don’s three little dogs happily wandered in and out of the room. One of Don’s Dogs has a wheel chair for his back legs. I laughed every time the dog ran over Gary’s foot. Good fun with a great group of people!

It was back to Beverly for Sunday’s wind turbine workshop. Robert’s version for the workshop is called the Wind Tulip. It has six small sails and requires a ton of sewing and hardware for full assembly. The ripstop pieces were small but they required all exposed edges be sewn down to eliminate future fraying. Gary Engvall started up a fun game of running his sewing machine until the very end of his bobbin thread. When he stopped Gary would pull out a short thread about two inches long. We all did fairly well at the game but Gary always seemed to have the shortest thread. About an hour later he let on his little trick. His machine has a built in counter gadget that tells him how much thread is left on the bobbin. Sewing games, that was a new one to me. Much like Saturday, Robert stopped the class to explain each new step.

During the class Robert Brasington also talked about some of his other designs. Rob Banks was kind enough to set up some Brasington kites for show and tell. There were several very unique kite designs displayed around the room. One of the larger pieces is called lysithea and looks to me like a 1970’s lunar lander. I also loved Robert’s smaller white angel kite.

Most finished their Tulip by the end of the day. Jon Hosford started a class trend of taking completed turbines outside to watch them take their first spin and Kodak moment. Thank you to Robert Brasington for putting on two great workshops. I learned several new techniques and made a few new friends too. I would like to thank Rob Banks of Windswept kites for organizing such a fun event. We all headed home with a new spinner and a cool appliquéd kite.

Recently I spoke to my good friend Meg Albers about Robert’s AKA recognition this year. Meg herself won the Steve Edeiken award just last year. I think Meg’s words describe Robert best.

In addition to Kinetic Art and kites, Robert also makes incredible mobiles…in fact at the same convention that he won the Lee Toy award for kite artist he donated a way cool mobile to the auction and it brought in a very impressive amount. Robert’s latest workshop in Enid was explaining his creative process. How he takes an idea from concept through to kite. Robert is a work in progress, his work continues to evolve, grow and blossom. The kite world is lucky to have him.

I could not have said it any better, thanks Meg! Cheers and congratulations to Robert Brasington the 2012 Lee Toy award winner!

Carlos Simoes
Cambridge, Ontario Canada