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The master’s touch

Coupeville Elementary School fourth-grader Samantha Martin puts the finishing touches on her kite. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Coupeville Elementary School fourth-grader Samantha Martin puts the finishing touches on her kite.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Coupeville Elementary School students recently learned about kite making from an instructor from Japan who showed them the ancient craft’s finer points.

Nobuhiko Yoshizumi, a kite maker from Kyoto, Japan, spent a week earlier in the month with students from every grade as they attended their weekly art classes.

Students created rectangular paper kites with personalized drawings. Dragons, birds, or just pictures of something off the top of their heads comprised the images that were on the kites.

Ryan Griggs drew a dragon on his rectangular paper kite. “It’s really fun. It turned out really good,” he said as he showed his classmates his latest creation. Kitemaking is a familiar skill for Griggs. He has made them before and he has participated in the annual kite flying festival held at Fort Casey.

Yoshizumi spent class periods peering over students’ shoulders and helping them put the finishing touches on the kites. He made sure the students placed the wood sticks in proper alignment and that the string was tied in the correct spot.

Yoshizumi’s claim to fame is that he has makes the world’s smallest kites. He showed the students some of his smaller kites which were typically about one centimeter in length. That translates into about four-tenths of an inch.

The Drachen Foundation, located in West Seattle, coordinated bringing Yoshizumi to Coupeville. The foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to kite education.

Coupeville Elementary School Art teacher Tacy Bigelow learned about the kite maker during a three-week trip she made to Japan two years ago under the auspices of the East Asian Resource Center.

When she found out Yoshizumi was visiting this region, she arranged to have him teach her students about the kite-making art.

“We are so lucky and blessed to have Yoshi here for them,” Bigelow said. Her students have been studying Japanese art since January. In addition to kites, the students learned about tea ceremonies, made kimonos, and studied Japanese films.

She said the students have been looking forward to the kite making, and Yoshizumi’s visit, for weeks.

“They have been treating him like a rock star,” Bigelow said. Yoshizumi spent time autographing kites and the kids’ arms.

The school had a show earlier in the month displaying the work the students created during their lessons about Japan.

The Japanese art unit was funded by grants from the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival, the Coupeville Education Foundation, the Coupeville Elementary School PTA and the East Asian Resource Center.

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