Personal Statement

I have been making and flying kites since 1989. My fascination with kites started when I was introduced to them by a friend at work. My friend would go out in the afternoon and fly his beautiful “Stunt Kite” in tune to the music. I went out with him several times and marveled at the way he could make his kite dance to the wind. Soon after I bought my own kite and got hooked.

I work for the local Electric utility company in San Diego as a Senior Conversion Planner. My responsibilities include the coordination and design of large construction projects to remove existing overhead electric wire and poles from City streets and replace them with all new underground subsurface trench and conduit systems.

I was borne in Mexico and immigrated with my family to California in 1966. My family settled in San Diego, making it our home till present time. As a child, I was raised to embrace my new found culture in America, but I was always encouraged to keep close bonds and respect for my Mexican heritage.

I began the second stage of my life when I met and fell in love with my beautiful wife Carol. We married in 1977 and proceeded to raise three wonderful kids, Allina, Eric and Alex.

I credit my mother for giving me the love and inspiration for sewing. I remember as a child growing up, standing next to my mother’s sewing machine, watching her create beautiful bridal gowns. My mother was a single parent and worked as a seamstress while raising my siblings and I.

My inspiration for kite making came from Randy Tom. Randy is one of the early time “National Sports kite” and “Single Line” AKA (American Kitefliers Association) champions as well as owner of the now defunct “Hyperkite Co” in San Diego. I spent countless hours observing and picking Randy’s mind about his appliqué techniques, kite designs and color selections. It was Randy as my mentor who suggested I find a “niche” or a style of my own that people would recognize my kites by. I took Randy’s advice seriously and began building kites depicting ancient Aztec Gods and bold colorful designs.

My best recognized kite and winner of the 1992 AKA Grand National Championship is the “Aztec Calendar” kite. The kite is a replica of the ancient Aztec Calendar on a hexagon style shape with a trailing 60 foot long tail.

In 1994, I built my second National Champion kite, the “Aztec Warrior”. This kite is a 12 foot tall Shirone style kite depicting Chuactemoc, a legendary ancient warrior from the Aztec civilization in Mexico.

My third and last Champion kite was built for the 2004 AKA Convention in Ocean City, MD.  The shape of the kite is an eight point star with a 55 foot long tail. I call this kite “New Zealand Star”.

Over the years I have attended and displayed my kites at numerous National and International kite festivals around the world. I have also conducted kite-making workshops all around the nation and have appeared in several nationally televised Cable shows, “What’s my Hobby” and “The Carroll Duval Show”. I recently became a flying member of the “Bay area Sundowners” flight team. I have been a long time member of the Kite Art Committee for the AKA and recently have been named to the Board of the directors for the Drachen Foundation in Seattle, WA.

My greatest enjoyment in kiting is sharing the sky with all the wonderful friends I have met over the years. May we meet again under the sky some day!

“El Cielo Libre”   

Biography from World on a String

Jose Sainz is the Horatio Alger of American kite making. Just three years after taking up the sport, he won the difficult "triple" at the American Kitefliers Association's annual festival-only the second person ever to have done so. The "triple" is first prize in class, the grand championship and the people's choice award. It was a doubly sweet victory. The man he matched, Randy Tom, is his mentor and one of the world's premier kite makers. For the first time, in 1990 at Seaside, California, Tom had pulled off the "triple" at an AKA convention with his "Seven Sisters." It was a great coup. "I wanted to do the same thing, follow in his footsteps," says Sainz.

As a boy Sainz had immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico; he earned a university degree in San Diego, where he now lives. His degree was in drafting, but his love has been the fine arts—sketching and photography. Working his way upward in the local utilities company, he took a training course in 1989 and discovered stunt kites from a colleague. After buying a hot stunt kite, he practiced and became so adept he was invited to join Randy Tom's Hyperkites Elite precision flying team. "Randy's background is Chinese, mine Mexican and the other two on the team—Eric Olaes and Jiggs Rodrigues—are Filipino and Hawaiian," says Sainz. "We had a good combination."

The West Coasters flew successfully for a period, but are not now competing, partly because Tom and Sainz branched out from the two-line stunters to single-liners. "Randy is so talented he motivated me to join in and try my luck making kites as well as flying them," says Sainz. "I just started sewing, with Randy coaching me."

Helped by having watched his seamstress mother create bridal gowns during his childhood, Sainz practiced sewing circles and squares under Randy Tom's watchful eye. Then he made his first kite, a small Japanese hata fighter with an appliquéd bird on the sail; he named it "Ave" (Spanish for "bird"). It won first place in category in the first competition Sainz entered, the 1991 Berkeley kite festival. Not bad for a beginner.

Living close to the Mexican border, and of Mexican heritage, Sainz hit upon using bold, brightly colored Aztec Indian motifs for his kites. He made a rokkaku honoring the Aztec god of fertility, "Quetzalcoatl." With it, he took first place in category at the AKA's festival in Jacksonville in 1991. Again, not bad.

Realizing he had to find his own motifs to make his mark, Sainz continued to look to his heritage and decided to recreate the Aztec calendar for his 1992 AKA kite. Because the design is complex, he needed to make a large kite. "Azteca," as he called his creation, ended up as a ten-by-ten-foot hexagon with fifty-foot tail. The image came from a twenty-six-ton stone monolith dug up in Mexico City in 1790 and now on exhibit at the anthropology museum there. The site of the find was the fifteenth-century Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.

Sainz found the image in a book, traced it, projected the drawing onto his garage wall to scale it up. He then set to work cutting and sewing forty yards of ripstop, spending 250 hours all told. (A precise man, Sainz keeps a daily log of his activities.) Since the stone itself is monochrome, Sainz had to create the color pattern for the kite. Sainz used green as a predominant color. "It's a color not much used in kites," he says, "but it was a predominant color for the Aztecs." There were reds, yellows, and oranges too, plus purple "which gives the kite a cooling effect," says Sainz, "and ties all the colors together."

Finished just in time for the AKA's autumn festival in Lubbock, Texas, in 1992, Sainz entered "Azteca" in the flat and bowed kite class, which he won. The kite was also awarded the grand championship by the judges and received the people's choice award as well. It was the "triple" Randy Tom had won two years before, and only the second time this had ever been accomplished.

Because Sainz entered a number of smaller kites in other categories, all of which won prizes, he was called to take bows repeatedly at the post-competition awards banquet. Kite maker Stan Swanson, making the announcements, soon came up with the admiring line, "And here's another award for the man with too much time on his hands—Jose Sainz."

How did he win the "triple?" Other kite makers told him it was a combination of his intricate detail, lovely color and dramatic size. "My biggest reward," says Sainz, "was in being able to explain to people the beliefs of the Aztecs."

In 1994, Sainz took his second Grand National Championship with a twelve-foot-tall Shirone-style kite. Featuring Chuactemoc, a legendary warrior from Mexico's Aztec civilization, he called his kite the "Aztec Warrior." A third kite took the Championship in 2002. The "New Zealand Star" is an eight-point star with a fifty-five-foot tail.

Recently, Sainz has been introduced to school children: in McDougal Littel's 1998 geometry text book, Sainz's kites are used to illustrate the principles of parallel lines. The text includes a short profile of Sainz and a very basic introduction to kites and kite flying; the chapter emphasizes the geometric forms that kites take, their symmetry, and their variety—all educating children across the country about how interesting kites can be.

Sainz has continued to build show-stopping kites and has established himself as a master kite builder. Over the years, he has conducted kite making workshops around the nation and is on the board of directors of the Drachen Foundation. Gracious and well spoken, Sainz sums up simply: "I just want to be recognized as someone who likes to build kites."

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