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Issue 11 (Sep/Oct 1999): Profile - Rod and Cindy Thrall

interview thrall kite maker

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#1 Graeme Poole

Graeme Poole


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Posted 01 October 1999 - 04:00 AM

Hi readers, welcome back to another issue of Kitemaker Profile. If you have any suggestions of people you know, or would like to see featured here, please send me their details, this includes nominating yourself if you like.

This month we are going to talk to Rod and Cindy Thrall who have been making a name for themselves with their colorful banners and line art. Rod and Cindy come from Oregon, US.

More recently they have been trying their hand at large inflatable kites. Cindy has also made some really neat line anchors, the first few resembling little kids standing there holding a kite, the last one is in the shape of a dragon. Rod and Cindy make custom order banners and line art.

Kitemaker Profile: Rod and Cindy Thrall


Location: Hillsboro, Oregon, US

Age: 42 / 41

Occupation: Technician in the semiconductor industry / Custom banner and flag sewing and Reg. Nurse

Favorite Food: Cajun Scampi / Seafood

Favorite Book: "Without Remorse", by Tom Clancy / Fearless Creating, by Eric Maisel (Subtitled: "A step-by-step guide to starting & creating your work of art")

Favorite Kite Magazine : KiteLife.com

Favorite Beverage : Diet Coke / Chocolate Milk

Favorite Kite Book : "KiteWorks", by Maxwell Eden

Personal Background :

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Cindy and I both grew up in Northern Idaho, USA. She was born in Sandpoint and I in Lewiston. I lived in Lewiston 'til the 4th grade and then moved 75 miles away to a small logging community where I grew up. Cindy and I have known each other all our lives, in fact she told her mother she was going to marry me when she was in the 4th grade. I never stood a chance. In September we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary. Amazing that she has put up with me this long. We have 2 children, Anne who is 18 and is working for Windborne Kites in Monterey CA this summer and Jesse who is 16 and will be a Senior in high school next year. We started flying kites 7 years ago when we moved to Oregon. Somehow over the past few years we have gravitated to putting together a rather large ground and aerial display. We really enjoy putting lots of color out on the beach.

Professional Background:

(Rod) I have an Associates Degree in Electronic Systems. I've spent the last 11 years in the semiconductor industry as an equipment technician and currently specialize in bulk chemical delivery. I've worked for Intel Corp. for the past 7 years and have just become eligible to take an 8 week sabbatical from work. I'll be taking off the middle of August to the middle of October this year. Coincidentally, the time off will begin the day that WSIKF starts.

(Cindy) I have a Diploma Degree in Nursing. My only nursing related work at this point in time is volunteering about 6 hrs a week for the Red Cross. That lets me accumulate practice hours towards keeping my license, but gives me a greater amount of flexibility than a paid R.N. job would.

Hobbies / Other Interests:

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(Rod) It sometimes seems as if kiting takes up all of my spare time but I do really enjoy reading and spending time with the family. I have enjoyed about everything to do with the outdoors. I enjoy fishing occasionally, and beachcombing.

(Cindy) I have a firm belief that pulling weeds is GREAT therapy....I love to dig in the dirt (aka My Garden!)....we live on 1/4 of an acre, so there's plenty of room for flowers & veggies - even a pond! (Rod doesn't garden- I just point him in the direction of where I want the ground tilled. He tills and I do the rest.) I also read a lot. Currently sifting through several different books on fabric manipulation, fabric painting techniques, etc.

Other Life Interests:

One of the things that Cindy and I have in common is that we were both victims of gunshot wounds way back in High School. Hers involved a jealous boyfriend and mine involved an elk hunt and a brother. If you run into us on the beach we would be happy to share the story.

What is the most dangerous thing you have ever done?

(Rod) I worked one summer as a "head rigger" on a high lead logging crew. I was the one that got to go ahead of the crew and rig the trees. I'm scared to death of heights and it is a wonder I ever survived it. Cindy's Grandfather owned an insurance company at the time and couldn't believe that she married someone that had that dangerous of a job.

What is the most rewarding thing you have ever done?

(Rod) Working with kids, whether it be on kite field or wherever. It doesn't get much better than making a difference in a child's life.

(Cindy) raised two good kids that love their God.


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How long ago did you get interested in kites?

Almost 7 years.

How long ago did you start making kites?

(Rod) About 4 years now. Although I spend more time making line laundry and such than making kites.

(Cindy) Over 5 years now....I made a tumbling star for my 1st attempt. My old Kenmore & I stumbled through that project, hating most every minute of it (& I love to sew!) THEN- I bought a walking foot for the Kenmore, and then a new machine, and then another machine.....

How did you get into making kites?

(Cindy) I've sewn since the age of 9; have made pieced quilts, done tailoring (wool coats & suits), made lingerie & swimsuits.....I looked at the price of kites & banners & such - decided I could do that AND get what I wanted (colors, graphics, etc). The 1st beach feather I made was for Rod for a birthday gift.

What types of kites do you make?

(Rod) I really enjoy making soft kites and it seems that they are getting bigger all the time. So far I have made a 50 sq foot flow form and a 100 sq foot Jordan Airform from Dean Jordan's plans. The next one is a 200 sq foot Airform. I also enjoy making different types of line laundry and bols.

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(Cindy) Mostly appliqued diamonds with my rainbow bow tails. My speciality is flags/banners & windsocks.

What projects do you have in the works right now?

(Rod) A Jordan Airform 200, a set of 6-18 foot Ice Cream cone windsocks, 6-12 foot crayon windsocks.

(Cindy) A set of 8 15' banners for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (In L.A. County, California), set of 6 beach ball windsocks, windsocks for Special Olympics, a giant 20' patchwork turtle (designed to be parked on the beach), a Kite Flying Dragon (to match the dragon on The Kite Flying Fool's banner).

Do you make kites for a living or as a hobby?

(Rod) I do it as a hobby. Every now and then someone will ask me to make them a bol or something but most of what I make goes into our own collection of "stuff".

(Cindy) Make a living at it? Not yet! But I only wrote off $174.00 on my schedule C last year----probably will make enough this year to have to pay taxes! Anyone can find examples of my work on the web site. Most everything I do is "custom" (or one of a kind). The only true production work I do is a line of kite tails.

What types of materials do you use? Where do you get materials?

(Cindy) I really enjoy working with 200 denier nylon (flag/banner fabric). I've been experimenting with different painting/dyeing techniques, and LOVE the way this fabric holds the paint. My favorite suppliers are Bainbridge, Texlon, the Kite Studio, and a guy named George at "Money Arts" in Florida.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years in terms of kite making?

(Cindy) I've been trying to answer this question for a few weeks now, in the hopes of getting a firmer hold on my vision for my business - and I still don't have an answer! I would hope that 11 years from now I could look back and say "Good job! You weren't afraid to try new applications/methods/treatments".

What equipment do you use?

(Rod) Pfaff 1471 sewing machine, #33 nylon bonded thread and a heavy duty sail makers hot knife and a small pencil type soldering iron for hot cutting. Then there are various straight edges and such that we use.

(Cindy) New Home/Janome 7500

Given the opportunity, would you switch sewing machines?


(Cindy) No way! We're good friends! (Unlike my serger & I - UGH!)

Any kites or other club affiliations?

We're members of the AKA and the Associated Oregon Kiteflyers.

What is the average time spent making a kite?

(Rod) I tend to like building larger kites so I usually work on a kite for a month or more off and on. My latest project, a Jordan Airform took me a day to cut out and then 2 days of sewing to put it together. The applique on the front of the kite took me 3 or 4 days to sew. The total time from start to finish though was about a month and a half. Other projects kept getting in the way ;))

What awards have you received for your kites?

(Rod) I received a blue ribbon at WSIKF in the soft kite novice category for a 50 sq. foot flow form that I built. We're still trying to win the "Terrific Territories" competition at WSIKF. We've got a second and third place ribbon but so far no blue...maybe this year. Awarded "best handcrafted kite" at Berkeley '99 for my Jordan Airform 100.

(Cindy) 2nd place "People's Choice- favorite Kite Flyer (the Sand Kids) & 2nd place Wind Art (Patriotic Angel) @ WSIKF 1997; 2nd place Wind Art (Flying Butterfly) , 2nd place Wind Art (The Moon Bather - Banner) @ WSIKF 1998; 1st place Banner award World Cup 1997. Best Ground Display Berkeley Kite Festival 1999 .

Which was the most rewarding kite to make?

(Rod) The first one. I made an 18 foot Delta Conyne. I had looked in Margaret Gregor's book "Kites for Everyone" and found the plan for a 9 footer. I figured if 9 feet was good 18 feet would be even better so I doubled the measurements and sat down to sew. It actually flew! The first time I flew it a gentleman offered to buy it from me. I still fly it on special occasions.

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

(Rod) I've only sold one kite and it was to a local friend. You might see one of my 6 foot bols if you are in Ohio or New Jersey. Mike Gillard has 2 of them and Peter Hugger has one. There are a couple of others out there too.

(Cindy) I have banners in L.A., Denver, San Diego, New Jersey, Michigan....and if you were to go to Long Beach, WA for the WSIKF you could see my work hanging on Ocean Boulevard (the street closest to the ocean), on the old fashioned light posts.

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What are your philosophies on kite making?

(Cindy) I used to be afraid of messing it up & wasting fabric...fear kept me from doing a lot of things. But after a lot of "growing" on my part, well- now it's just fabric and it's fun to play with.... I never thought I'd be doing fabric sculpture in 200 denier nylon! Andy Tauber (the Kite Flying Fool) wanted a 3D Dragon that looked like the one on his banner, and I think I've accomplished it! And it's been fun---when it stops being fun, it's time to quit.

Who has had the most influence on you in kite making?

(Rod) I guess I would have to say Larry Mixon. He was always so encouraging to both Cindy and I. He was always there when either of us had a question and that was very special.

(Cindy) Probably all the people doing painting on fabric. I had the privilege of a one-on-one class with Scott Hampton - what a treat! He's an excellent teacher & a real encourager of "experimenting". At that same Retreat I got to pick Don Mock's brain, too-WOW!

What is your favorite kite...that you have made?

(Rod) My Jordan Airform 100. The applique on that one was really tough to do and when it was finished it really looks good up in the air.

What is your favorite kite made by someone else?

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(Rod) My Factor made by Larry Mixon. It was one of the last ones Larry made before he died. When I fly it, it brings back wonderful memories of good times Larry and I shared.

(Cindy) Ok, this is going to sound sappy, but mine is the AirForm 100 that Rod built that has my logo on it. I really like seeing those kids so high in the sky!

Who is your favorite kite personality?

(Cindy) Terry Yuncker @ Windborne Kites......he's been a real encouragement to me - probably my 3rd best PR person (in line right after my husband & my daughter!)...When I hear "Hey, Cin- do you think maybe you could make ______?", I know I'm in for an adventure - and it will probably be fun!

Which is your favorite kite festival?

(Rod) At the moment it would have to be the Washington State International Kite Festival (WSIKF). We live only 2 hours away from Long Beach and so we get to spend the whole week there every year. There are several other festivals that are on our "we have to go to that one" list though, so this one may change some day.

Where is your favorite flying site?

Seaside, Oregon, we are only a little over an hour away and the winds seem to always be good there.

What kite flying experience is your most memorable?

(Rod) I hope I haven't had it yet! There are so many wonderful memories that we have stored up. Hmmmmm, most memorable though would have to be my first time on a buggy. First I got pulled off sideways and had to get back in and then I got pulled out over the front and got dragged down the beach. I was flying a stack of 3 New Tech ZR1s in 20 mph winds. Too much kite and too much wind. It was all caught on video tape and plays in a kite store in Seaside almost daily. I guess we all have to have something to keep us humble :o)

If you were going to a festival for your own pleasure, what kites would you pack in your kite bag?

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(Rod) I would have to have at least one of Peter Lynn's big masterpieces, I have a real hankering to fly one of his Frogs so I would want one of those. Then I would take all of my flow forms, the 125, the 252 and the 450. Then of course I would have to have the line laundry to go with them. The ice cream cones, the crayons, the beach balls, the sky guys....... Then throw in my 2 Pizazzes and my PBSK kites and I think I would be happy.

(Cindy) I'll let Rod pick out the kites! I'd grab the banners- and if I had to pick it would be the short 6 footers......little ones (kids) love to feel them flapping in the wind, and will almost "dance" with them---and giggle and giggle & giggle some more - makes my heart feel real good.

Thanks Rod and Cindy for sharing some of your thoughts and experiences with us.

If you looked hard, you may see pictures of Rod and Cindy's work in other articles here in this issue of KiteLife. Remember, if there is a kitemaker you think might like to be featured here, please send their name and contact details to me. It would help if the kitemaker has an email address. Until next issue ... happy kite making!
Graeme Poole

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