by catherine hobbs
scope it out
No batteries required; all that is needed to enjoy these magnificent works of art is light. “You can’t look at a kaleidoscope and not smile,” claims Kathleen Hunt. The artist must spend most of her time with a grin on her face, as her home is filled with a collection of these color-filled tubes, including ones she makes herself.
“You can’t look at a kaleidoscope and not smile,”
The mother of four spent 20 years crafting leaded stained-glass windows. Then 14 years ago, she says, “I picked up a kaleidoscope kit, and I was hooked.” Since that moment, she has been creating kaleidoscopes out of copper-foiled stained glass, kiln-fired glass
disks, mirrors and a variety of found objects. She is one of 90 artisans world-wide who design and make them full time.
Picture By Elliot Lincis
According to Hunt, a Scotsman named David Brewster invented the kaleidoscope in 1816 to design textile patterns. “It was a functional tool when it was invented, and everything else has been an embellishment,” says Hunt. Those embellishments now come in the form of beads, artificial, flowers, crystals, blown-glass vessels, and countless colors melted together on spinning disks. Sometimes, Hunt even shapes the kaleidoscopes into airplanes. For larger “scopes,” the Mesa artist searches out interesting objects to serve as bases. Blown glass, ceramic vases and iron candleholders are among the items used.
"A kaleidoscope is a magical thing.”
For all the beauty seen in what Hunt calls her “interactive works of art,” she admits that “there’s a great deal of math and physics involved.” A front surface, or first surface, mirror is used to create the reflections that produce the image, or mandala, at the end of the tube. The mirrors need to be angled perfectly inside the kaleidoscope so that the view is seamless. A simple image is created using three mirrors in the shape of an equilateral triangle. Hunt says she once designed a kaleidoscope that utilized seven mirror systems, resulting in an incredibly intricate pattern.
“I always got a kaleidoscope in my Christmas stocking,” the artist recalls. “I would sit with that paper tube for hours. As a child, a kaleidoscope is a magical thing.”
For Hunt, the magic remains.