Many of us may remember the colorful kaleidoscopes of our youth, but the scopes that were on display at the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society’s Phoenix Expo are far from children’s toys.  

British Scientist Sir David Brewster invented the kaleidoscope in 1816, and in 1986, travel author and Baltimore resident Cozy Baker established the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society (BKS).

Baker had been on tour promoting her latest book, which was a cathartic response to the passing of her son, when she fell in love with her first kaleidoscope in a boutique in Nashville. That was in 1982 and since then she’s worked tirelessly, celebrating and promoting the kaleidoscope as a piece of art. While Baker passed in 2010, her legacy lives on in the organization. She founded the Cozette Award, which is named in her honor as she was its first recipient in 2002.

“The BKS is a society of artists who design and create kaleidoscopes; the galleries and shops who sell kaleidoscopes; and the collectors and museums who appreciate and enjoy them,” according to the organization’s website.  

BKS’s 300-plus membership hails from all around the globe and the internet is vital to keeping them connected. In order to meet and share their kaleidoscope creations up close and personal, they hold an expo once a year in a unique location.

In June, the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas hosted its 29th meeting, which was attended by more than 150 conference-goers. 

While not all members are able to journey to the expo every year, 2019 welcomed many new faces. Participating artists traveled to the Valley from as far away as New Zealand, Japan and South America. Despite the thousands of miles that separate the members, the group exudes a feeling of real family and camaraderie as member artists often consult with one another on particular projects.

“These members are the backbone of the industry,” BKS Board member Judith Wilde said.

After a warm welcome from Wilde, the day commenced with the morning program beginning with the presentation of The Cozette Award followed by The Grand Unveiling where the artists’ latest kaleidoscope masterpieces were showcased. In the afternoon, the showroom opened, providing access to each artist’s table.  

In terms of size and shape, kaleidoscopes are made as small as wearable art jewelry, like necklaces and earrings, all the way up to massive furniture pieces such as large as coffee tables.

When it comes to the theme, there’s no ceiling on creativity. Kaleidoscopes are fabricated from a vast array of materials including clay, metal, wood, ceramic and stained glass. There were kaleidoscopes designed out of everyday items such as a doll and a pair of cowboy boots. The possibilities seem endless.

Artist Koji Yamami, the Cozette Award winner for 2019, went back to nature with his impressive scope inspired by the native saguaros and Sedona’s red rocks.

“Probably the biggest shop in the country for the number of scopes it has is Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes and Art Glass in Jerome,” Wilde said. In October, Nellie Bly is set to sponsor the next significant scope event entitled Kaleidoscope Weekend 2019.

2019 Nellie Bly Kaleidoscope weekend

When: October 16-20

Where: 136 Main St., Jerome, AZ, 86331 

nellieblyscopes.com