History of Kaleidoscopes
Evidence shows that pieces of polished obsidian (a volcanic glass) were used as mirrors as long as 8,000 years ago [source: Enoch]. Mirrors reflected sunlight or fire in early lighthouses, and there’s a record of a possible optical illusion by an ancient Egyptian magician involving a mirror. By the 17th century, the “Hall of Mirrors” — an ornate corridor with 357 mirrors — in the Palace of Versailles became a display of French glory. Mirrors also may have helped achieve symmetry in planning ornamental gardens, a step in the direction toward the kaleidoscope.
The Kaleidoscope was invented as an “ optical instrument” in 1816 by Sir David Brewster, a Scotsmen who trained as a clergyman, but who’s real pass
ion was optical science. Over the years the kaleidoscope followed many different styles and transformations of its outer design due to creative designs by many artists and crafters. By the19th century they found a permanent niche in the consumer market as a cheaply imported toy. Meant to amuse young children with it endless patterns and shapes of colour.
For adults it became a source of debate and distraction as an after supper routine, to return to the parlour and enjoy looking through a then well know optical scientist known as ‘George Bush’, seriously, who made precision brass and leather table mounted “parlour scope”. Offering after dinner contemplative entertainment piece for those wishing to retire to the sitting room. During the art novae era, this much needed and appreciated “optical instrument” was envied and used by all creative designers like, artists, jewellers, architects, weavers, and any other profession in which symmetrical and ornamental patterns were required. At the dawn of the 20th Centaury, they are still made for children, but more mass produced with sloppy interiors, they lost their truer magic. Cosy Baker revolutionised them more by publishing various books on her private collection of scopes and on the various artists who crafted them. Hand the way she mourned the death of her son who passed away tragically in 1985 they became a medium of inspiration, harmony, bereavement and a whole culture of ‘lovers of beauty’ was formed in the Brewster Society, where artists and crafters could showcase their unique pieces.
Now comprising of over 250 kaleidoscope artists. And the unwritten law, is that no one copies the other in design, EVER! So now they are used by health professionals from dentists to teachers to help in restoring balance, through meditation.
How I started making kaleidoscopes
We have been making kaleidoscopes since 1991. We started making them in my father’s garage in Johannesburg way back then just for fun. Later when we moved to Grahamstown we made them for the Grahamstown Festival, winning the ‘winning stall’ in 1998 on the village green. By the time we moved to Cape Town, The Kaleidoscope Studio Shop was opened above the pharmacy across from the waterfront in Simons Town. We are passionate about kaleidoscopes and the Galactic Light Liquid Motion Scope is our very own unique take on the oil scope, filled with lots of gems and stained glass pieces.