Alice Houser

Alice Houser

Mixed Media
Queen Anne's Lace Kaleidoscopes

Maker Statement

My interest in kaleidoscopes began when I started collecting them more than 25 years ago. My collection includes numerous toy kaleidoscopes, as well as some beautiful handmade ones. My favorite was one in which I could take the lid off the object chamber and change the bits and pieces inside to see a different sets of patterns. I also appreciated the teleidoscopes, with no object chamber, to view the world around me in a kaleidoscopic pattern.


Spruce Pine




After I learned how to make kaleidoscopes myself, I was able to look over my collection with a new discernment. I could see how design flaws resulted in a kaleidoscope that was less than first rate. Now my collection includes many experimentations as I developed my own designs. With scopes having different mirror systems, various tube constructions, and many surface designs, my kaleidoscope collection is also a stroll down memory lane in my design work. Having completed a course in kaleidoscope making and design at Penland School of Crafts, I now look at the world with a new perspective. Trying to capture the delicacy of a snowflake or the intense variety of fall leaves and "bottling" it in a kaleidoscope has given me a new appreciation for the infinite imagination and awesome resourcefulness of God. It seems rather ironic to carefully construct something with the most precise measurements and control factors in order to create an object over which one has no control! But then, that's the fun of looking through a kaleidoscope, isn't it? Glass cutting, lens grinding, lampworking, sandblasting, working with wood, brass, handmarbled paper, and paints....these are a few of the techniques used in the design and construction of kaleidoscopes. Optical quality, first-surface mirrors are used in a three mirror system which results in a pattern repeating itself from the object chamber to the eye. I have become quite a scavenger of all sorts of bits and pieces to use in the object chamber of the scopes. These may include twisted wire, lampworked glass, handmade beads, glass or plastic chips and beads, millefiori, antique bugle beads, seashells, and jewelry. This photo shows several kaleidoscopes that have been filled with bits and pieces, and are ready for the end lens to be glued in place - the final step. I am able to get "glass trash" from several local glass blowing artists, which contain unique features from their designs. Other collectibles include shattered glass from car windows, Mardi Gras beads, and antique bugle beads from old lamp shades. Dichroic glass, which changes colors with the light is a unique addition. Also, I make my own lampworked glass, turning long sections into twisted canes. This results in pieces that catch the light with each turn of the scope. There is no way to make two identical kaleidoscopes; each one is unique! Because I design kaleidoscopes with tubes of brass, wood, or covered with surface design, they are wonderfully lightweight. Also there are no moving parts in my kaleidoscopes. One simply rotates the whole tube to enjoy a changing pattern. This enables the mirror system inside to be as large as possible, to maximize what is viewed in the object chamber. On nearly all the designs, I add a magnifying lens. This results in a full, focused image. -Alice Houser
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