Arts and Entertainment

An ever-changing pattern

In addition to kaleidescopes (like the one above) Brouwer creates decorative strained glasswork like lamps and hangings.  - Staff Photo/Bill Mickelson
In addition to kaleidescopes (like the one above) Brouwer creates decorative strained glasswork like lamps and hangings.
— image credit: Staff Photo/Bill Mickelson

The wow factor.

Whether it’s emitting from a gleeful gallery patron who’s just happened upon her work or if it’s coming from her own mind after completing one of her stained glass creations, the wow factor is what drives Jody Brouwer to create.

She’ll be featured at the Verksted Gallery in Poulsbo throughout March, along with woodturner Norm Hix and photographer Dinah Satterwhite.

Brouwer, a full-time mother of two, began working with stained glass just over six years ago when her grandmother invited her over to take a peek at her newest artistic adventure. As the medium has a tendency to do, it hooked Brouwer and she took up glasswork as well.

A few years later, while shopping for materials, she came across a make-your-own-kaleidoscope kit and decided she’d try it.

Once again, she was automatically entranced.

“It’s infectious,” she said. “It’s very inspirational, the whole process, from getting the idea to the finished product.”

Once a kaleidoscope is complete, it’s still hard to put it down. That’s the age-old allure of the mirrored contraption that was invented by a physicist named David Brewster in 1816.

THE ORIGINS OF KALEIDOSCOPIC ART

Sir Brewster was a child prodigy and a “natural philosopher,” roughly equivalent to today’s physicist.

After constructing a telescope at the age of 10, he entered University of Edinburgh, one of the United Kingdom’s top research academies, at the age of 12. While he dabbled in clergy and religion, his primary field of study was optics and the physics of light.

Observing the phenomenon of polarization — in which light reflected or retracted exhibits curious effects when reflected or retracted again — Brewster began experimenting with bouncing light between mirrors theorizing that the more the particles of light were reflected the more polarized they became.

“Each image is a reflection of itself,” Brouwer explained the principle as it relates inside a kaleidoscope.

Brewster’s kaleidoscopic break came when he got the idea of giving motion to objects either fixed or placed loosely at the end of the instrument to give colorful pattern to the reflected light.

When Brouwer first got her hands on stained glass, it was that colorful, shimmery quality that attracted her. That and her self-described “three-dimensional, mechanical mind” served as a bridge to making kaleidoscopes.

“I had never seen one other than the cardboard tubes we knew when we were kids,” she said. “You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know what a kaleidoscope is outside of those cardboard tubes.”

Brouwer’s first kaleidoscope was a rectangular-shaped piece about six inches long, a shaft of stained glass rather than cardboard. On the outside, its construction was quite similar to the functional boxes which she cut her teeth on in the glass medium, but Brouwer said the inside was something completely different.

“Remember all that math stuff you learned in school that you never thought you’d have to use? I’m having to go back and re-learn all of that,” she noted. “Remember that thing called a protractor that you never used? Yeah, I use that all the time.”

The inside of Brouwer’s first kaleidoscope was lined with three mirrors (the simplest design), each at about 60 degrees forming a triangle within the rectangle. At one end, the viewing space, and at the other, a cell of colorful beads.

As light shines through the cell, that image is bounced from mirror to mirror, reflecting itself and creating the multi-cellular patterns seen by the eye. When the kaleidoscope is rotated, the beads shift, morphing that image and giving the contraption its magic.

MAGIC TO THE EYE THROUGH THE AGES

Brouwer will have a replica of that first kaleidoscope she ever made on display along with a collection that could plausibly keep one occupied for the better part of an hour, if they like what they see.

Kaleidoscopes have long been an entrancing phenomena. Brewster had originally intended the gadget as a scientific tool, but it was widely and enthusiastically accepted as a Victorian Era form of compact entertainment — pre-radio, pre-television.

They found their way to American parlors around 1870 but by the early decades of the 20th century kaleidoscopes began a fall from grace, eventually landing as mass-produced plastic and cardboard kids’ toys.

While, of course, those kids’ toys can be great fun, their images tend to pail in comparison to a professionally, artfully crafted kaleidoscope like Brouwer’s.

That kind of kaleidoscopic artistry enjoyed a renaissance in the 1970s led in large part by an artist by the name of Cozy Baker. Baker created scopes, wrote articles and raised awareness on the topic and also created the international Brewster Kaleidoscope Society for artists, collectors and retailers worldwide.

In her Suquamish workshop, cluttered with thousands of dollars worth of stained glass, Brouwer carries on the tradition.

Judy Brouwer’s stained glass kaleidoscopes, functional boxes and other decorative arts will be featured at the Verksted Gallery, 18937 Front Street in Poulsbo, in March. Verksted artists Norm Hix and Dinah Satterwhite will also be featured. Info: www.verkstedgallery.com or call (360) 697-4470.

For more on kaleidoscopic artistry, check out the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society

at www.

brewstersociety.com.

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