Visual Art

Tiny Works of Art: Miniature Kites at Paper Hammer

They're handpainted and not much bigger than a silver dollar. Better yet? They actually fly.

By Sheila Farr September 25, 2012

Nobuhiko Yoshizumi's kites are feather light and can fit in the palm of your hand.

The sun may be shining (for the moment), but summer is over and it’s time to start thinking about indoor activities again. One of the sweetest I’ve found is a show of tiny miniature kites that keeps summer alive, if only in our imaginations.

These intricate little jewels by master craftsman Nobuhiko Yoshizumi of Kyoto, Japan—feather light and no larger than the palm of your hand—come painted with demons, heroes, beauties, calligraphy, abstractions, even Hello Kitty. Working with slivers of wood and postage stamp-sized bits of paper, he constructs ovals, rectangles, and assorted shapes as well as graceful kimono forms as backdrops to his painting pyrotechnics. I wanted to see him in action: Does he use tweezers? A magnifying glass? Single-hair brushes? 

Where does Yoshizumi-san get the patience to build these minute aircraft? Because cute as they are as art objects, these bite-sized paintings are functioning kites. You can fly them indoors on the barest waft of air. To demonstrate, a few of them flutter nonstop in the window of Paper Hammer, fixed to a 33 rpm vinyl record, riding the rotation of a turntable.

Paper Hammer opened two years ago, just around the corner from Seattle Art Museum. Maybe you have paused at the corner of Second and Union to take in the eye-catching window displays and wondered: Is this a shop? An office? A gallery? The answer is yes. The street-side shop features handbound blank books and paper goods made in the art-revival Central Washington town of Tieton. The shop adjoins a small gallery with eclectic shifting exhibitions, spotlighting artists from Seattle to Japan, while others are devoted to books and book-related art. Behind the shop is the working office of Marquand Books, producer of artbooks and museum catalogs.

For this kite show, which continues through October 27, Paper Hammer has partnered with the Drachen Foundation, a nonprofit that’s all about kites and how to make them. The digital archive of the world’s largest kite collection is at drachen.org.

Tiny Kites at Paper Hammer
Thru Oct 27, 1400 Second Ave, Mon–Sat 11–6

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