Kite innovator reaches new heights

From the first designs at art college in 1973 through the awards and international recognition he received, including getting the first ever Jalbert Award for Innovative Kite Design back in 1992 right up to the present day, the airborne creations of Martin Lester have been flying high and his love of kites still soars.

What began as a hobby manifested into his own kite shop which he opened in 1976 in Bristol, and from there he reached new heights through the manufacture of such innovative much loved. And instantly recognisable designs such as Scuba Diver, Martin’s Legs and Chorus Line.

From a hobby to his own Kite Shop in Bristol in 1976, and from there to manufacturing innovative and instantly recognisable and much loved kites like the giant ‘Martin’s Legs’, ‘Scuba Diver’, and ‘Chorus Line’, Martin has been filling the skies with giant people, birds and even sharks over the last 3 decades.

Wherever in the world Martin’s kites are flown there has always been the double-take, a look of happy amazement on the observers’ faces, a lot of photographs being taken, and the message that today’s kites don’t have to

look like…well, kites.

Today Cornwall based Martin still produces many of the old 3D ‘soft’ and framed kites which rely upon the wind to inflate them to produce their full visual effect. His very latest design – a Hyperbolic Paraboloid – is a complete departure from this idea and represents another innovative step forward for the humble kite into the modern world of fibreglass, carbon fibre and tight nylon fabric.

“A more descriptive name would be to call it a Cheshire Cat, or in the case of the smaller one, a Cheshire Kitten” says Martin.

As the pet name suggests the Hypar ‘Cheshire Cat’ is in the shape of a grin.

It is elegant, white (as the standard colour), striking, strangely pleasing to look at, but is still great fun to fly.

“I was actually working on another project when I accidentally designed a kite very similar to the Vietnamese Flute Kite or Dieu Sao. The Hypar is similar in shape but it’s made of ripstop nylon and either carbon or fibreglass (depending on the size), and without the flutes” says Martin.

“My kites could never be described as mass market and these new kites are no exception. My prime concern has always been and still is originality of design and quality of workmanship. I still make all my own kites. They are not mass produced elsewhere” says Martin.

These days Martin has also used many of the skills he’s developed in kite building over the years to diversify.

“I now also provide a custom building service for more traditional kites, flags and banners for both private and corporate customers. I also produce a range of kite bags both for individual kites, and stronger travel bags for collections of kites.

My heavyweight sewing machine means I can now also do a wider range of industrial sewing work. Using canvas and similar materials I can make bespoke garden canopies, boat covers, canvas bags and other items”. ++.