Subscribe in a reader

Adventures in Kaleidoscope Land

by Meghan Smith on August 18, 2016

in Featured Classes, Glass & Enameling

Scott Cole

Earlier this month, I had the chance to take a class on kaleidoscopes with longtime Folk School instructor Scott Cole. I’ve taken many classes at the Folk School, but I’ll admit I was a little daunted to work with glass and metal, both materials I’ve had little experience with.

The first night, we set up our studio as a group, looked at examples of the many styles of kaleidoscopes, and had our first small challenge: taping a set of three long mirrors together to create the reflective pattern found in many kaleidoscopes. Our first night’s homework was deceptively simple: take home your mirrors and master their assembly.

The next day, Scott walked us through the process for making a basic brass kaleidoscope. We learned to cut glass, cut our mirrors, glue with epoxy (occasionally a sticky mess for some of us), and how to shape small pieces of glass for our kaleidoscopes’ object cell. While our first kaleidoscopes had matching exteriors and mirror systems, we each found ways to personalize our scopes in ways that matched our individual sense of color, movement, and texture.

KS2A8823_ret

A variety of kaleidoscope exteriors

IMG_2171As the week progressed, each of us students had different techniques we wanted to try, and new materials we wanted to use for the body of our scopes. Scott was attentive to each of our needs, goals, and ideas, and tailored class demos to what we wanted to work on. Tuesday was full of experimenting on my own with different materials and techniques. As with any Folk School class, I felt some frustration and uncertainty as I fumbled with new tools and techniques. The day was also full of small delights and successes: creating little glass jewels and shapes with the propane torch (an experience similar to pulling taffy), or learning to etch designs into metal, allowing us to beautifully decorate the outer body of our kaleidoscopes. The bubbling iron sulfate bath used to etch our kaleidoscope tubes was reminiscent of a mad scientist’s experiment and the results were striking.

Each student brought their own creative touch to their kaleidoscopes during the week. My neighbor in class, work-study Annette Lowder, had brought an array of tiny knick-knacks from home and incorporated them into her work. Miniature figurine gas pumps, pitchforks, and people can be seen tumbling in her scopes. She also repurposed everyday objects in her work: an ordinary sewing bobbin became an interesting IMG_2158eyepiece on one kaleidoscope. My other neighbor, Buzz Ahrold of Iowa, revisited his basic brass kaleidoscope from Day 1, adding hand-braided rope and metal extensions until the exterior looked like an old nautical spyscope. Others worked on making kaleidoscopes from materials like bamboo, or focused on specialized techniques like creating an oil cell for the bits of kaleidoscope “magic” to float in.

By the end of the week, I had made four kaleidoscopes, each with its own personality, flaws, and unique capacity to delight and surprise. In fact, the element of surprise was one of the greatest treats of this class. No matter how the exterior may be decorated, how carefully the internal mirror system might be arranged, or how deliberately the contents of the kaleidoscope cell might be planned, the fun moment of truth is always when you put your kaleidoscope-in-progress up to your eye, and see for the first time what patterns of color, line, and shape evolve and disappear as you rotate the scope. The idea that something I’ve made could continually surprise me, long after finishing the project, is such a delight, and not something I’ve encountered with other forms of art and craft.

Overall, this class was a joy. Scott’s instruction was clear and straightforward, but with a solid dose of encouragement to experiment and explore. I also found myself in a supportive group of students, and as the Folk School blessing says, I even made some new friends.

IMG_7003_650px

IMG_3725crop_ret-copyUpcoming Kaleidoscope Classes at the Folk School:

A Reflection on the Universe (Scottish Heritage Week) with Scott Cole (August 28-September 3)

Kaleidoscopes: “A Metaphor for Life” with David Baker (October 16-22)

Kaleidoscopes: A Colorful Journey into the Universe with Scott Cole (January 4-7)

A Reflection on the Universe with Scott Cole (February 12-17)

Kaleidoscopes: “A Metaphor for Life” with David Baker (March 26-April 1)

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

{ 0 comments }

Capturing Portraits

by Cory Marie Podielski on August 11, 2016

in Class Picks, Featured Classes


At the Folk School, we’re surrounded by intriguing faces. Each student, instructor, and staff member reflects their life experience through their facial features and expressions. Sometimes, the most fascinating faces are portraits in wood, on felt, in a painting, molded in clay, stitched in a quilt, or even engraved on a nickel. Enjoy these class picks that embrace people as inspiration for the artist’s craft.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

We Love Trees

by Cory Marie Podielski on August 4, 2016

in Class Picks, Featured Classes

Oaks. Poplars. Dogwoods. Birch. Beech. Walnut. Pine. We’ve found all these trees on our Folk School campus, and they make our land lush and beautiful. Our trees also inspire diverse class subjects and motifs. On many occasions, our students use the trees’ leaves, roots, bark, branches, nuts, and wood to create striking fine crafts. At the Folk School, we treasure our trees, and we’re pleased to honor them with these class picks.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Back to the Future

by Cory Marie Podielski on July 28, 2016

in Featured Classes, From the Archives

At the Folk School, we often find inspiration from the past, giving us a vision for the present and the future. Since 1925, we’ve been engaging hearts and hands as we nurture our students’ creativity. To celebrate the crafts that have helped to shape the Folk School tradition for nine decades, we’ve pulled some photos from our archives. As we share them, we invite you to join us for a class, and help us to continue the Folk School’s rich craft heritage.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

What’s On Your Bucket List?

by Cory Marie Podielski on July 21, 2016

in Class Picks, Featured Classes

Your bucket list contains all the places you want to visit, and the experiences you’d like to have, during your lifetime. Many folks place a Folk School class high on their bucket list, as they want to enjoy a unique learning vacation on our beautiful 300-acre western North Carolina campus. When planning your visit, choose from over 50 intriguing subjects, taught by talented instructors who are passionate about sharing their craft with students. Browse our class picks below, and cross a “Folk School class” off your bucket list soon.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }