Kite Building, Kite Festival, Kiter, Kiting

‘KitesUp!’ with Scott Hampton

Absolute wonder! You can’t help but be filled with it every time Salt Lake City resident Scott Hampton introduces a new creation. A prolific designer and builder of kites and ground displays for some 38 years, Hampton brings a stunning and unmistakable color palette to everything he makes. I learned of Hampton and his work when he joined Facebook just a few short years ago. While kiting may be the world’s healthiest addiction, it’s clear for Hampton the creative process wins out every time.

How did you get into kiting?

My first kite was a Vic’s Bee fighter I ordered from a catalog back in 1985. I didn’t realize what a challenge it would be to fly. I remember I first took it to a pasture and all the cows gathered around me for what they thought was feeding time and took up all the flying space.

A few years later while in college, I visited a new kite shop here in Salt Lake City, looking for a large single-lined kite to fly on some local mountain peaks. I was captivated by the sports kite videos the owner was playing and I walked out with a stunt kite instead and a small cellular kite for my wife, Marilynn. I was instantly hooked on the thrill of playing with the wind. 

I’d started designing and building kites in 1987, but my passion for kiting really took off after experiencing my first big kite festival in Reno, Nevada in 1991 and seeing unique one-of-a-kind kites by Deb Cooley, Lee Toy,and Ron Gibian. Right then, I knew I wanted to build my own designs and started filling sketchbooks with ideas. I also started buying kites from kite builders to see their techniques.

When did you begin gaining notoriety in the kiting community?

I initially gained attention for my ground displays and banners. When I first started traveling to festivals, I put up large displays of my banners and ground pieces and stuck to selling those, instead of kites.

Scott Hampton in the early days flanked by his ground displays

It wasn’t until I brought several kites with me to enter into the Washington State International Kite Festival (WSKIF) that I realized I was getting pretty good at designing and building them. To my dismay, the kites made their way into the master class, and I won five of six first-place ribbons.

But it wasn’t until kite builder and collector Scott Skinner bought one of my first kites in a series of a dozen little bug kites that I knew I’d established some notoriety as a builder. Just knowing that Scott had one of my kites in his collection was a thrill.

You have a unique style that’s all your own. How did you develop your skills and what were your major influences?

I was fortunate to have several kitemakers inspire me early on. I was drawn to works by George Peters and Reza Ragheb, especially their unique shapes and graphics. After viewing an early sketchbook of my designs, Ron Gibian encouraged me to pick a theme and run with it.

Hampton on his fade painting technique

When I first started building, I tried several painting techniques including acrylic on Tyvek and Steve Brockett’s method of silk dyes on cotton. Chris Dunlop, Spencer Chun, and Don Mock were using Design Master spray paint as another technique. Once I used the spray paint, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to make the color gradients I desired. Been hooked ever since and still learning new techniques.

Many of your designs are thematic and some are produced in a series. Which are your favorites and why?

Jr. Space Cadet

One of my favorite series is “Jr. Space Cadet”. He’s been in my sketchbooks since 2001 but just recently started his adventures. He’s the little boy in me that’s always wanted to fly. Originally, he started on a rocket powered pogo stick. Now his story continues, attempting different ways to fly, like tying himself to a giant firework, using homemade wings to jump off the roof, hanging onto balloons, and even tying himself to a kite. Eventually he turned into a “Thumbs Up” series as his journey continued.

Where can one buy your kites?

Being a military kid and moving a lot, I wasn’t always able to take everything with me. When assigned to a new Army base, I’d have to give away lots of stuff due to weight limitations. So, I ended up giving away lots of things, which is probably why I tend to keep everything now days – even all of my kids’ toys as they grew up. In fact, they weren’t aware of that until I pulled them all out when my youngest started college. Their reactions were amazing. They lit up as they recalled memories and which pieces went with what sets. They kept what they wanted and donated the rest.

All that is to say I just don’t like getting rid of my stuff, which is why I only sell a few, if any. I get attached to them. They’re a part of me. They bring back memories and bring me joy to fly them. To me, they’re not products to be sold, but an experience. That said, I occasionally sell a few smaller kites at festivals and once in a while something on my Facebook page. When I do sell something, I often make one or two more to replace it.

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