A kite that won’t fly | VailDaily.com

A kite that won’t fly

Caramie SchnellVail, CO Colorado
AE Helen Gillespie 1 DT 3-14-07

Upon first inspection, it doesn’t particularly look like a kite, at least not the brightly colored, diamond-shaped variety you ran around the playground with as a kid, trying in vain to fly.

Instead, Minturn artist Helen Gillespie’s kites look more Asian-inspired. Squares of stained coffee filters attach to long sections of bamboo. But this kite isn’t meant to fly – it’s art. And it’s Gillespie’s newest fixation. She’s got the idea for the kites about three years, she said, after she and her husband, Ty, also an artist, hosted a kite workshop for Vail Symposium in their in-home studio. Ebby Pinson, the director at the time, gave Helen a book on kites. The book was about a kite workshop that took place in China in the ’60s with artists from all over the world. “They built kites that were huge – they were 12-foot by 12-foot; some were round, some triangular,” Helen said. “And they flew them if you can imagine, they got them off the ground.”For Helen’s own kites, she uses mostly instant coffee to stain filters. She lets them dry and then cuts them to size. The bigger kites are made with large filters that she got from Vail Coffee Roasters, she said.Local inspirationHelen, who has had her artwork displayed in several valley galleries over the years, goes through phases with her art, she said. For four years she worked almost exclusively with willow branches she collected from her yard – “For a lot of my things, I’m inspired by nature,” she said. A 3-foot bowl, or vessel as she calls it, made out of bent willows and cast in bronze sits on a coffee table in her living room. In 2002 three of her pieces, giant balls formed out of willow and cottonwood branches, were featured at Ford Park for the summer. Her vision for the balls – 8-feet, six-feet and 4-feet respectively – were described in a local magazine as: “I imagine them wind blown across the park setting, settling into a protected corner as if they’ve always been a part of nature’s cycle.”

After a summer in the park, Helen and her husband went to pick up the balls. They secured them (so they thought) on the trailer and got on I-70, heading west. “I turned around and the biggest ball bounced off – it bounced across the median, across the east bound lane, missing everybody. It ended up right by Cascade Club. We went and got it and it was fine,” Helen said.The couple dropped the balls off on some property they owned along the river towards Eagle. There, Helen’s vision for the piece was completed.”They just sort of died, they collapsed back into the earth,” she said. From café to vinoHelen has lived in the valley with her husband for 10 years now. Before that, the couple spent seven years sailing around the world in their 40-foot boat. It started out as a year and progressed into seven, Gillespie said. At the trip’s inception, Gillespie said the trip seemed a bit overwhelming – “I was like well, I’m probably going to die, but I’ve had a good life.”

In retrospect, it wasn’t all that brave, Helen said, “but it’s a great way to see the world.”More recently, Helen and her husband have been focused on a new project. The two built a gallery/studio in Paonia, a small town two hours southwest. The plan is to make art in the studio there and show and sell it in the attached gallery. The kites, which Gillespie said she isn’t showing now, will hang in the gallery. They also have plans to make it a wine tasting gallery, she said, featuring wine made from grapes grown in Paonia. A gallery opening is tentatively planned for July, Helen said.Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.l

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