Monday, November 16, 2009

Origin & History of Kaleidoscopes -- Part III

Although kaleidoscopes enjoyed a relatively wide popularity in the later part of the nineteenth century, by the early twentieth century they had largely been relegated to cheap, inexpensive toys. Many of the World War II and Baby Boomer generations will remember them as toys, often used as favors at childrens birthday parties. Made often of cheap paper, of minimal optical quality, and often available for mere pennies, they largely fell into obscurity.

By the later part of the 1970s serious kaleidoscope makers began to come forward with more highly-crafted kaleidoscopes. Artisans crafted kaleidoscopes in most every medium available -- wood, stained glass, ceramics, polymer clay, paper, cardboard, acrylic, brass, copper, silver, even cigar boxes (see examples of some the limited edition Cigar Box Kaleidoscopes I have made below), just to name some. Kaleidoscopes were crafted from the "super-mini" scopes to the large, almost "building-size" kaleidoscopes.

Part of a limited edition of "Cigar Box Kaleidoscopes" with Image Wheels by WRIGHTMADE

The person credited by many with popularizing and reviving kaleidoscopes in the 1970s and beyond is a Maryland woman, Cozy Baker. She wrote some six books on the subject and founded the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society in 1986. She was the curator of the world's first kaleidoscope exhibition and turned her home into a museum of kaleidoscopes. For 18 years she was the sole officer of the Society and acted as a liaison between artists, retailers, galleries, collectors, and the general public. For many years she wrote a quarterly newsletter and planned an annual convention in cities around the country to popularize kaleidoscopes. In 2003, Cozy retired from the presidency of the Brewster Society, but continues as President Emeritus of the Society and remains very active in the field.

For more information on her and the society     CLICK HERE.

In large part due to the efforts of Cozy Baker, as well as numerous artists, gallery owners, retailers, and collectors, kaleidoscopes are widely available across the country and are becoming more available around the world, largely due to the internet. There are literally dozens of galleries, web sites, and other venues exhibiting kaleidoscopes of most every type, shape, and material imaginable. Although interest remains strongest in North America, it is growing worldwide, largely through the internet. I am receiving orders from Singapore, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, France, Great Britain, to name only a few.

To see my current offering of kaleidoscopes -- mini and full-sized -- as well as a variety of other work I craft see my shop:

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