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Holiday is day of fun for me, says kitemaker

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You might say that Renalda Bean's talent as a kitemaker was inherited.

His father Irving Bean was known for the kites he'd make and give away to children in the Billy Goat Hill area of Warwick.

When he died just before Good Friday in 1950, he left his wife Marie with ten children and lots of unfinished kites.

“I was eight years old,” said Mr Bean. “We had all these kites sitting in the house. I decided to finish them but I had to learn to make the loops.”

None of his siblings were interested in helping.

He asked a few neighbours for advice but “they couldn't show me or do anything”, the 72-year-old recalled. “Eventually I just picked it up and got the kites to fly.”

He sold the kites for three shillings apiece.

Mr Bean now lives on Dunscombe Road, a stone's throw from his old home on Billy Goat Hill. A workshop below his house is filled with kites. You can find him there in the run-up to the annual holiday every year, making kites and teaching the art of kitemaking to anyone who's interested.

It takes him about an hour to make “a regular Bermuda kite”. He estimates he averages between 40 and 60 each year.

“I never stopped making kites,” he said. “I love them. In the early years I used to make them for the kids and eventually ended up selling them.

“It got more and more. The most I made in one year was probably about 80 kites. I had 50 kites easy this year, but a lot have gone. There's a lot of work in it but my heart is not in it for the money. My heart is in it for the kids to love it and enjoy.

“It is time consuming but to get what you want you must do it. It's a passion I really enjoy and I like to share it with people.”

He's particularly proud of a kite his father made for youngsters and his own Mad Bull — a hummer kite that “flies extremely good”.

“There's no wire in it so you don't have to worry about being electrocuted,” he explained. “It's very strong.

“[My father] used to put a small kite on a 3ft stick [so children] could hold it up in the air. He seemed to have a knack for making things for children to enjoy. Little kids who are three or four can't hold kites. They don't have fun unless you give it to them on a stick.”

His hope is that government will create a television programme about kitemaking that repeats in the weeks leading up to Good Friday.

“I think it would get more people involved in what is a Bermuda tradition,” he said. “There are a lot of kitemakers [in Bermuda] and there are some even far better than me. There are some who make special kites for show. At the moment, kites aren't recognised anywhere except probably at the [Agricultural Exhibition]. But if there was something on TV that showed the beauty of the art, it'd be helpful. This, to me, would help get more kids involved.

“Bermudian kites are unique to a lot of the world. I worked at Elbow Beach for 41 years and every year I would teach visitors how to make our kites. Sometimes there'd be 50 or 60 people with kids learning how to make them.”

Mr Bean said he crafted a special carrier case so the tourists could take the kites home with them.

These days he spends Good Friday at Astwood Park. He takes extra kites to give to people who are there without.

“I go there every year and spend the day helping kids and family members untangle their string and enjoy their kites.

“It makes me happy. I want Bermudians to enjoy Bermuda with hot cross buns, kites and fishcakes. I fly all my kites, I get other people's kites up for them, it's a day of fun for me.”

Contact Mr Bean on 334-8835 or renaldabean@transact.bm.

Renalda Bean puts the finishing touches on one of his creations. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Renalda Bean. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Kitemaker Renalda Bean. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Kitemaker Renalda Bean. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Renalda Bean prepares to fly a kite from his Dunscombe Road, Warwick home. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
<p>A soaring vision</p>

Renalda Bean’s lessons for kitemakers:

1. Always put light colours on the kite first and dark colours after.

“The paper is so thin, when you’re doing a beautiful kite you don’t want to see other colours coming through,” he explained.

2. Choice of glue is very important.

There are so many brands out there but it’s better if you can paste with your finger, Mr Bean said. He recommends Weldbond.

“Put a little water in it to thin it but not too much so it doesn’t show through the paper,” he suggested.

3. Use clear contact paper to laminate the kite.

“It will make the kites last longer,” he said. “That way if they get wet they won’t dissolve. They could last a couple years. Most Bermuda kites, if you touch them, you’ll put a hole in them.”

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Published April 02, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 02, 2015 at 12:11 pm)

Holiday is day of fun for me, says kitemaker

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