In preparation for the open:MAKE season, we’ve been trying out a lot of new experiments in the Tinkering Studio over the past couple of weeks. Last Friday, we brought out some kaleidoscope experiments that Nicole has been working on as new table top exhibits. These prototypes stem from both the shadow kaleidoscope which we had in the space earlier in the year and a found toy from the seventies? that has a hinged mirror and makes a kaleidoscope with pre-made patterns. We set up two related activities on each half of the table and spent a few hours with visitors in the space seeing what kind of interesting geometric patterns they would come up with.
On one side of the table we set up an area where people could cut up pieces of decorative paper and arrange the pieces in the middle of various angled mirrors. The metallic, glittery, and patterned material made for some very lovely creations and encouraged people to spend a lot of time carefully arranging each collage. There were scissors available so that visitors could create almost any design they had in mind and we brought out a table with a slight lip so that the scraps wouldn’t fall on the floor.
On the other half of the table we set up the two kaleidoscope mini exhibits that Nicole recently finished. These have a rotating base with a hole for a donut shaped piece of paper and a hinged double mirror that can be lifted to get the paper on and off. We first started with washable crayola markers which made really neat colorful patterns, but communicated that the space was exclusively for very young kids. This made it hard for older children and adults to participate so we decided to reconsider our set up.
Later in the afternoon we took the markers off the table and replaced them with simple pencils. This immediately upped the age of the participants and the thoughtfulness of their actions. In fact, the energy in the space felt calm and focused enough that Ryoko and Lianna eventually brought out some of the Sumi ink that we have been working with lately in other activities. The deep black ink made for beautiful drawings and more importantly communicated to visitors that this was a space for deeper investigations and more deliberate actions. It’s always incredible to see the dramatic difference a change in materials or environment can make in people’s behavior and the kaleidoscope experiments were a perfect example of that.
Some visitors made multiple drawings, testing out how their paintings looked in the mirrors as they were getting comfortable with a new tool and artistic medium. The pencils combined with the black ink allowed people to really think about how to create a unique, personal, and beautiful kaleidoscope.