The Leaded Lights of Chesnik Scopes

There were more questions that needed to be answered concerning my endeavours surrounding kaleidoscopes. What, pray tell, was I going to do with the photographs? In the beginning, I had no vision of enlarging and framing them as works of contemporary art on my living room walls. I’m a writer first, and although I have yet to become a member of the IAMPETH Master Penman Society, I am of a dying breed of folk who still value longhand written notes and letters with cursive embellishments. So, it seemed like a natural first step to create art cards with the photos.

I had seen art cards in quaint shops before. Some opted for fastened photos onto card stock, and others had the image printed directly onto the paper. I prefered the latter, searched out a local printing shop, gave them some image files, and waited. The results were less than desireable. They didn’t do anything I didn’t ask them to, but I knew what the image was supposed to look like and it never transpired onto the paper so I shut the door on that idea for a while. It’s not that I didn’t think it could be done well, but I wasn’t willing to invest the time and money necessary until I found a company I trusted to execute my vision for the end product. More than that, I knew I hadn’t reached my potential as a photographer and that my work needed improving. All of these things would take time.

Meanwhile, I kept experimenting with the scopes in my aunt’s collection and invested in a beautiful pedestal scope she purchased that was created by Janice and Ray Chesnik. I bought additional wheels from Janice’s son, Jon Greene, and therefore chose not to include this scope with those I gave away as per my aunt’s dying wish.

My favourite image I took of the Chesnik pedestal scope doesn’t come close to capturing its true beauty.

Jon was very helpful and encouraging as I shared with him what I was doing with my camera. The Chesnik scope is an exquisite example of leaded mosaics of stained glass, and as hard as I tried, I was never able to capture the beauty as well as I had hoped. This isn’t a reflection of Chesnik’s craftmanship, but rather, my own limitations and inability to do the kaleidoscope the justice it truly deserved. How does one capture on film the wonderment to be found in a cathedral’s rose window? It’s simply not possible, and is best enjoyed by one’s naked eye. I have since upgraded my equipment and could try again, but I am loath to compromise the integrity of Jon’s craft. Some things are best left well enough alone, but I’ll be sure to let you know if I ever change my mind. Either way, I strongly encourage you to purchase your own Chesnik scope and experience the leaded lights for yourself.

Pain in the Offering

There was never a quick word with my aunt, Elizabeth (Betty) Spoelstra. This, of course, was on account of her being a master at engaging. When I was with her, I felt like I was the most intelligent and gifted woman — she brought out the best of everyone she was with — and I never wanted our visits together to end. She was eccentric, engaging, and full of life even when she was full of death; her body inwardly decaying from cancer. Aunt Betty left behind a legacy of faith and joy and music, among other things, when she died 12 years ago. One of the things she left me in particular was a cabinet overflowing with kaleidoscopes. I had always admired her scopes when I visited her. I would take them out of her cabinet (there were over 60 of them) and go through them one by one, competely enraptured by the vision of light and colour that would scroll by in front of my peeping eye.

Shortly before she died, she told me she would bequeath the scopes to me with the instruction that I was to give them all away. So, one by one, I have been doing as she requested and gifting cousins on their wedding day, teachers on their retirement, and friends transitioning into new homes with kaleidoscopes from my aunt’s collection. One by one I have watched various scopes pass from my hand to the grateful receiever; scopes by Bennett, Chesnik, Karadimos, Knox, Paretti, Weeks, Van Cort, and many others.

Honestly, there is pain in the offering. But I know that’s a good thing. Gifts should cost us something if they are to be a true gift. And in case you’re wondering, the pain is not in parting with such costly collectibles. The pain is when I must take the scope in one hand and a cloth in the other, and carefully rub all of my aunt’s fingerprints off the scope before wrapping it in tissue and gently laying it into a giftbox. I’m not losing money or beautiful artistry. I’m losing another piece of that which remains of my aunt.

Today, only a few kaleidoscopes remain in the wood and glass display cabinet that Aunt Betty gave me, and I will continue to give them away as she requested. And as I hold her scopes in my hand and rub away the smudges and prints, I will remind myself of the gift I received that’s worth far more than her collection: The memory of a woman whose love and life shone brighter and more beautifully than any person I have ever had the privilege of knowing.cabinet