Kite-making (and flying!) in Space and Materiality


The project began with a visit from Royal Talens Art Education Director, Jeff Olson on October 16, whose visit and paint samples altered the project to include a surface design and color. Based on core First Year studies in modularity, platonic solids and polyhedrons, students in Space and Materiality: Culture designed and constructed cellular kites, integrating a section of shoe patterns from their previous project, as well as surface color and design using Royal Talens fluid acrylic paint related to 2-D projects in other First Year courses.

After making paper models of platonic solids from repurposed material, iterative designs were drawn using plan axonometric projection, followed by 3-D models of larger multi-cellular models using repurposed materials such as straws, wire, repurposed plastic bags and tissue paper. Kites had to be collapsible and easily assembled into multiple cells. Finally, students learned how to sew using domestic sewing machines, as flat patterns derived from shoe patterns and enlarged were then adapted as cellular walls of their kite, using ripstop nylon for the membrane, and carbon fiber rods for the spar structures. Students also constructed all joints with dacron nylon ribbon using the sewing machine and specific folding techniques.

Some students experimented with staining the ripstop nylon prior to cutting out patterns and sewing. Some students waited to add the fluid acrylic designs post-construction. Projects were completed by drawing up assembly instructions, designing and shaping their own kite-winder mostly from cut and sanded wood planks, plywood, and blocks, creating a bag to carry all kite parts and making two test flights, one in Washington Square Park, followed by the final test flight at Hudson River Park on November 13.



Following the construction and flights of the kites, students in the course voted for a winning kite amongst all of their peers projects. Peter (Yung Sung) Kim received the most votes from his classmates for having the best kite project. His project was inspired by a cloud form, and titled Cloudy with a Chance of La Croix.



Peter Kim’s process for Cloudy with a Chance of La Croix


Phase 1: Exploration of Polyhedrons including models of the 5 platonic solids.


Phase 2: Design Drawing using modified shoe pattern form from previous project


Phase 3: Paper Models based on Design Drawing


Phase 4: Surface Design with Exploratory Paint Applications


Phase 5: Scaling Up, Sewing and Soft Construction


Phase 6: Rigid Construction with Pockets and Spar Insertion

Phase 8: Surface Design and Kite winder Construction


Phase 9: Test Flight


Phase 10: Reflection and Documentation with Repurposed Kite Bag and Hand-Drawn Instructions


1. How did making the polyhedron help you understand the dimension and designing for your kite?

Making the various polyhedron shapes helped me gain a better understanding of the 3D form and shape from flat 2D patterns. With this knowledge, I think I had an easier time coming up with the appropriate designs and calculating the dimensions.

2. How did drawing assist with your design process?

Drawing the 9-step transformation helped me practice with mapping out 3D forms and visualizing the overall appearance of the kite. I had a better idea of creating a double-cell shape for my final project after.

3. How did your design change over time?

My design originally had much larger top curves that matched the size of the side curves and looked more like a cloud. That was when the rectangle parts were square, however, and after I changed them to incorporate my shoe pattern–which was more tall and skinny–the top curves became much smaller. The curves also were just round shapes, but the final kite consisted of semicircles with measured diameters and circumferences.

4. Did your project come out the way you intended? How? Or How is it different from what you expected, and why did this happen?

To be completely honest, my final kite did not come out the way I intended in the beginning. My original design had much bigger top curves, and I think by shrinking their sizes, I lost the overall cloud appearance a bit.

5. What did you learn about materials and how they relate to each other through this project?

Through this project, I learned much more about different materials and how they work together. For example, I’ve never worked with a nylon sheet before, so it was a nice challenge to cut patterns and sew them together. It was honestly pretty surprising when I sewed the ribbon pockets to the cloud because I didn’t know such materials could be sewn.

6. Explain the connection between your 2D design from another class and this project. How did you adapt another course assignment for this project? Why did you choose it? And what did you discover in the painting process using fluid Amsterdam Acrylics from Royal Talens? How did it evolve? In what way was Jeff’s presentation most helpful?

For my Integrative Studio Class, I had constructed a cardboard gun that incorporated a can of La Croix as a prop for a narrative. With that in mind, I wanted to create a connection to my Kite Project in Space&Materiality. Using Amsterdam Acrylics fluids and acrylic paint, I created a splatter pattern with a color scheme similar to the ones one might find on La Croix.

7. What did you learn about the forces of TENSION and COMPRESSION? What are they – how would you describe them in your own words and how these forces impacted your design?

In my own words, I would describe tension as a force that creates space between multiple objects that want to come together. It forcibly opens up and maintains distance between them. I would describe compression as a force that squeezes multiple objects together as tightly and closely as possible. The two described above are opposite forces, as tension exists without compression and vice versa. They impacted my design because I had to figure out the location of my bent pockets for my diagonal spars so that the overall kite doesn’t collapse and maintains the shape.

8. What was the easiest part of this project? The most enjoyable? The most challenging?

I really had a lot of fun sewing the patterns–the straight parts–and inserting the spars aspects of the project, mainly because I found them so satisfying and rewarding as I saw them come together. The most challenging aspects include calculating the dimensions of the pieces to fit in the nylon sheet and sewing the curved edges. Especially for the last part, I struggled a lot using a sewing machine to combine the parts and hemstitching to refine the edges.

9. What did you learn most about YOURSELF through doing this project?

Through this project, I think I learned the most about myself as a meticulous planner and careful worker. Although I had difficulty finding the measurements, I was really scrupulous in ensuring the precise numbers and didn’t start work until I had them all figured out. When sewing the curved patterns together, I took a long time to make sure I stitched them right by using tape to hold the folds and drawing clear lines.