AN ALRESFORD kite maker has turned his craft into an exhibition.

Former chemist and inventor, John Browning, is showcasing his kites at a new free exhibition at the University of Winchester’s West Downs Gallery.

John’s kites are all made from natural materials such as leaves and paper and can all fly.

The exhibition includes kites made from Beech, Whitebeam, Holm Oak, Hornbeam and leaves from many other trees and shrubs.

Hampshire Chronicle: 'Carrick''Carrick' (Image: John Browning)

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The kite creator, from Alresford, cooks green leaves in an alkali solution and then carefully arranges the wet leaves into a design. The leaves are then pressed and dried using a vacuum bag. 

The finished product is a delicate sheet of leaves attached to a bamboo frame. Finally, the string is attached which John grows himself.

John made his first kite at age 25 while on holiday in Cornwall. He said: “It was an absolute disaster. It was blowing a gale so I thought (erroneously) it’d be a perfect day for flying a kite.

“We made it out of plastic and some old bamboo poles and attached it to some fishing line with a 7lb breaking strain – it snapped almost immediately. After that, I went home and made a proper one.”

Hampshire Chronicle: John BrowningJohn Browning (Image: John Browning)

John was inspired to use natural materials after seeing the work of French artist Claude Léa Comallonga.

He said: “Her kites gave me goosebumps. She encouraged me to have a go and my life changed. I immediately started making kites using only natural materials. At first, they looked very much like Claude’s but now they are quite distinct.

“Kites are deeply embedded in the cultures of Asian countries. It wasn’t until the 17th century that kites came to the West. Nevertheless, I think we all have an affinity with kites. If you put a kite string in someone’s hand, they smile.”

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Hampshire Chronicle: The exhibitionThe exhibition (Image: John Browning)

Public engagement manager at the University of Winchester, Chloe Battle, said: “We are really excited to be able to show John’s beautiful kites which are incredibly elegant and sometimes rather ethereal creations. His process of making is fascinating and his enthusiasm is completely infectious.”

John said visitors have been extremely impressed with the display and he is delighted with how it's gone so far.

The exhibition was part of Hampshire Open Studios and is on at the West Downs Gallery until Wednesday, September 27. The gallery is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday and from 8.30am to 4pm Saturdays.

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