Kites widen her horizons

Passion for flying and making kites takes housewife to festivals around the world

When she was a young girl, Ms Gadis Widiyati Riyadi was told by her father to pick up more feminine hobbies such as sewing. But her heart was in kites.

"My father was very against kite flying, as he thought that kites were meant to be toys for boys and not girls," said Ms Widiyati.

She obeyed her father and learnt sewing, but she never gave up on her first love. In fact, sewing made her even more interested in kite making.

Her skill with needle and thread come in handy for making kites of all shapes and sizes.

Ms Widiyati, now 55, has been flying and making kites since she was 10 years old. "I first started making basic kites such as diamond and traditional Malay kites when I was young," she said.

Her love for flying and making kites has also become a family passion, with her husband and three grown-up children all into the hobby. "They are all avid kite fliers; my second son is also a kite-flying instructor. All three of them help me at kite-making workshops."

  • New to kite flying? Here's a guide on how to do it.

  • 1 Pick a kite. Standard shapes such as delta and diamond are recommended for beginners.

    2 Choose the right time. If the wind is too gentle, it will not be possible to fly kites. Use a flag to test the wind direction.

    3 Select the right location - one that is free from obstruction. Look out for signs that say kite flying is prohibited. Parks, fields or any open spaces are good choices.

    4 Find a friend to help you hold the kite downwind. Make sure that the wind direction is going in a straight line from you to your friend.

    5 Hold the flying line and unwind about 20m of string. Stand about 20m away from your friend.

    6 When you feel a gust of wind, signal to your friend to release the kite. Pull on the string to provide tension in order to launch the kite upwards.

    7 Release the string slowly, to allow the kite to fly upwards.

    WHERE TO FLY A KITE?

    In built-up Singapore, finding a good spot to fly a kite can be a challenge. Under the

    Air Navigation Act, kites should not be flown within 5km of an aerodrome, which includes commercial airports and military airbases. Kites should also not be flown higher than 60m above the ground.

    Some suitable places include

    • Marina Barrage

    • Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Punggol Waterway Park, East Coast Park, West Coast Park


    HOW TO MAKE A KITE

    A simple diamond-shaped kite can be made easily with materials from an art and craft shop.

    WHAT YOU NEED:

    • Two bamboo sticks - 46cm and 53cm

    • A sail

    • Sticky tape

    • String

    • Streamers

    • Flying line

    • Toothpick

    TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes

    DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Beginner

    Clarice Teo

Ms Widiyati, a housewife, has made about 100 kites with her husband, Mr Yuwono Riyadi, 59, who works in logistics.

Her kite designs have evolved from simple, traditional ones to those that are more elaborate and creative, including inflatable kites. She spends anything from hours to a few months making them, depending on their complexity.

"The Sode Dako kite I made this year took me about three months because it's huge," said Ms Widiyati. Sode Dako kites are also known as kimono kites.

She draws inspiration from what happens around her. Referring to a Chinese opera kite, she said that it was inspired by the Chinese opera performances during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Inspiration also comes from the things she loves. Pointing to a rokkaku kite - a traditional Japanese kite - she said: "My family are fans of the comic book The Adventures Of Tintin, which gave me the idea to make this kite with Captain Haddock on it."

Besides running kite-making workshops at kite festivals, Ms Widiyati also gives talks about kites at schools, companies and museums. She is the secretary of the Singapore Kite Association as well as the Asean Kite Council.

Her passion for kites won her the gold award for the "Most Committed Kite Flyer" at the Borneo International Kite Festival in 2011.

She has attended many international kite festivals - from Cambodia and China to Spain and South Africa - and her designs have bagged awards from around the world, including from Germany and Malaysia.

Ms Widiyati's love for all things kite has widened her horizons. As she put it, flying and making kites have been her "passport to go around the world".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Kites widen her horizons'. Print Edition | Subscribe