Into The Wind's Flight Blog

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's hip to be a Square Flyer.

George Peters began making kites when he was living in Hawaii in the '70's. But it wasn't until he moved to Boulder that he linked up with Into The Wind. He says, and George Emmons, Into The Wind's owner, remembers it the same way, that having a kite store in Boulder was "a big incentive to start making kites with a vengeance."

When George's kites appeared on the Into The Wind scene in 1983, they came on with a bang, gracing the cover of that year's catalog. In fact, George designed that cover and used a variation of it for his product brochure for some time afterwards. That first year, the Cloud Bird sold for $185, the same price it is in our 2009 catalog. I guess you could say that making the Cloud Bird in China has taken 26 years off the price of a George Peters' original. George Peters' Dragonfly now sells for $95. In 1983 it was $185. And the $99 Twin Tail Dragon was $150 when George made it himself.

Over the years, we've carried George's products off and on. If it were up to us, we would have sold his entire line every year. Unfortunately, it was all too easy for demand to overwhelm George's one-man production capabilities. The 1984 Into The Wind catalog carried a smattering of his products and introduced George's version of the traditional Japanese Rokkaku. The catalog cover that year featured Into The Wind's co-owner, Jim Glass, flying the custom Into The Wind Rokkaku that George Peters designed for the fledging company. That image became the Into The Wind logo for many years to follow. (It was converted to a drawing that is still on the cover of the Into The Wind Pocket Guides that we include free with kite orders.) In 1993, the graphic made it's way onto a limited edition t-shirt in front of a screened, glowing sunset fade.

Although we did carry other Rokkakus from other kitemakers, George's kites disappeared from the catalog entirely for the next ten years. In 1994, he hired a sewer and we convinced him to let us sell his Flying Fish banners. The following year, the George Peters Indian Fighter made its debut. The Indian Fighter left the catalog in 1996, but was replaced by George's Square Flyer in assorted patterns and colors. (We currently sell not only his Indian Fighter which is still made in the USA, but three different designs of his Square Flyer made in China.)

The 1997 Catalog was full of firsts and many of them lasts: it was the only Into The Wind catalog printed in the Slim Jim format instead of the usual digest size. It also was the only catalog where George Emmons surrendered the layout to a graphics company which resulted in a catalog cover that pictured a conglomeration of 16 kites (hinting at the chaos you'd find inside the covers). And, it was the only catalog where we purchased a couple of "stock" kitefliers (up until then, and since then, all of the catalog photos with models have been taken by George E.). But on the positive side, it was one of the few catalogs with a dedicated designer section which included kites from Italian designer Maurizio Angeletti, Texan Joel Scholz, Jim Rowlands and Martin Lester of the U.K., David Ti's wind creations, one whimsical offering each from Stan Swanson and Peter Lynn and a page devoted to George Peters' Buzz Bee, Dragonfly, Cloud Bird and Square Flyer. After 1998, George took a breather again until 2007 when his Sky Bird once again found its way onto the cover, this time made by Into The Wind in China.

When I told George that I was going to do a little blog about his kites he emailed, "I'm flattered." But I think we're the ones that have always been flattered. From the very beginning, Jim and George were enthusiastic about selling his exotic designs in their new, tiny kite shop on East Pearl. Over the years we've been honored every time we convinced him to let us, once again, include his products in the catalog. And finally, he paid Into The Wind the ultimate compliment when he agreed to let us make his kite designs, in China no less.

Now that he's not making kites himself, George has tons of free time. (That's a joke.) To find out what he's up to check out the Airworks Studio Blog and while you're at it, think about picking up a Square Flyer. We'll make all three designs of the $35 George Peters 2009 Square Flyer $28 until July 15th just to get you in a George Peters frame of mind.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's that time of year.

Hi everyone! This spring we have been busy receiving and inspecting a ton of ITW kites. This has kept me extremely busy as my primary responsibility here is quality control. Even so, I thought I would take a moment to blog about this to let you know how important quality is to Into The Wind.

The process of making kites begins with George and Mary Ann working hard with designers such as Christoph Fokken, George Peters and Dan Leigh. Prototypes are made, adjustments are requested and the kites are approved for production. We know that we are making excellent kites, but we still take the time to guarantee this even after they are shipped to us.

Here is an example of our process:

  • Depending on the quantity of a specific kite received, I will randomly pick 12% or more of them to inspect. We never inspect less than 12% of a shipment and frequently, we inspect 1/4 or more of the kites we receive.
  • We have created checklists tailored to each kite design in order to make the review process efficient. I assemble a kite, compare it with the checklist and make sure my random samples are correct. Some of the things we look for are:
      • Proper spreader length
      • The sail and case are perfect with no fabric flaws
      • Stitching is secure and even
      • The pattern/design is correct
      • Bridle measurements are as specified
      • Secure and proper detailing and fittings
  • Each kite design has different specifications. Currently, there are 53 different worksheets that list each kite's review points. (We make more than 53 kites but the same worksheet can be used for different diamonds or deltas.)
  • Each style of kite has different needs, a delta's spreader should not be too tight, but a box kite's spreaders should be just tight enough. These are small, but very important details I look for when inspecting our shipments from China.
  • If the kite is a new design or if we have changed something since the last production run, one of the kites is given to George who personally test flies it. With George's stamp of approval, we know it is a good kite and we can ship it out to our customers. Any kite that has been test flown cannot be sold as new. It then goes into our "Bargain Bin", give us a call and we will let you know what we have in there!

I admit I am biased, but I think quality control is the most important step in our kite making process. It gives us an opportunity to make improvements for future production runs while also guaranteeing that the kites are ready to fly now.

That's about it for me. I have got to get back to some Sweet 16s that aren't going to Q/C themselves! Oh, and that kite that is folded just perfectly in its case... yeah, I looked at that one.

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