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The Subversive Sode

The following is the submission that accompanied the kite pieces for the Subverting Craft show. Held at Ceader Crest College in Allentown PA.

The Sode (or Sode-Dako) Kite is of traditional Japanese decent. Sode kites are meant to resemble the sleeve of the Kimono and were traditionally used to celebrate the arrival of a healthy baby boy into world. A traditional sode kite might be made with Washi paper and mimic the bright, colorful patterns of the kimono or have symbols that indicate family and city of origin. Because of their large flat surface the sode-dako kite has become the perfect canvas for artistic expression and in western kite-flying circles can be found sporting popular cartoon characters as well as more traditional looks.


You will need: dowels or other light-weight wood for the bones of the kite, epoxy, glue, or heavy-duty tape, string, yarn, material for the kite skin, dyes, paints, and brushes to decorate the kite.


Beginning this project is a lot like falling in love with the wrong person. You find a project that catches your eye (in this case a sweet little kaleidoscope number) and something inside you clicks. You begin to think about all of the possibilities, imagining all of the wonderful things you’ll do together, planning your future. It feels bold but you are confident, perhaps a little too confident. You push your doubt aside and, practically in the face of reason, plunge in. You purchase materials and begin making arrangements but nothing seems to fit. It can’t be the projects fault though; clearly the blame lies in your own two feeble hands. Doubt creeps in. Do you still have faith in this project? A little more reluctantly this time but the answer is still yes.

And yet… and yet you find yourself straying, looking at other projects from long ago and wondering. “What if I had just pursued this project or that one a little harder? Would that have been more successful?” Perhaps. Most likely, though, it would have come to the same natural end. It would be a fool’s game to begin those old flings anew. You are not the person you were when you started those other projects and you know it was only proper to quit them.

You thumb through your book and your it opens to a familiar picture but what was once excitement is only met with self-doubt and loathing. You cast the book aside and distract yourself. Occasionally you revisit your materials but the attempts feel hollow. You put them down and feel a sort of burning shame. Other artists make it look so easy, a sort of second nature and yet here you sit, alone, with nothing to show for your efforts but a pile of disappointment. Over the course of the next few weeks you continue the cycle of disinterest and interest however the interest is a little more forced each time and the disinterest a little more comfortable.

You effectively ghost your project. You are no longer committed; however you are not quite strong enough to break the cycle of disinterest and move on. You turn your attention to newer projects, but quickly realize they don’t satisfy you either. You know what you must do. With a touch of trepidation you make your peace and put an end to the project that can never be, you turn to that familiar spread one last time. You were always a glutton for punishment. This time is different though. You overshoot your initial target by only a few pages and come across something that stimulates you in a way a kaleidoscope could never. Not only does it reignite your interest it fits within your wheelhouse, you have shared interests but there is still an air of mystery and exploration. You feel alive again.

You perform a perfunctory search, finding a form that fits your needs and grappling with the idea that your new love may be a form of cultural appropriation. You commit yourself to understanding as much as you can to avoid any pitfalls. Finally when all of the above is complete you learn to make a kite.

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