What started out in 1984 as a stained glass and glass-working studio under the name “Kaleidoscope Studio” in Camberley, UK, has turned into what Janet and Frank Higgins believe is the only studio in the United Kingdom dedicated to the design and creation of kaleidoscopes. The Higgins originally took the name of “Kaleidoscope” for their studio because of its association with glass and light and it was only a chance discovery on a visit to the United States where they were introduced to kaleidoscopes, the production of which is now the sole activity of their studio.
The transition occurred in 1996 when the Higgins were introduced to “contemporary kaleidoscopes” while Frank was in the Washington DC area working his day job in the telecoms industry. There Frank was lucky enough to meet David Meelheim at his shop “Stardust by the Red Balloon” and discover the wonder of the modern kaleidoscope.
Kaleidoscopes appealed to Frank’s physics background and also to Janet’s expertise as a textile color scientist. Janet and Frank decided to apply their experience in glass-working to this new endeavour of kaleidoscope art. In the absence of any kaleidoscope activity in the UK, they have been largely self-taught. The Higgins’ first kaleidoscopes were made in 1997. Since 2002, with Frank’s retirement from the telecom industry, their studio has concentrated solely on Kaleidoscopes.
The Higgins relocated to Odiham, Hampshire, UK in 2007. Their principal medium is glass, using techniques of fusing, glassblowing, lampworking and stained glass construction. They have extended into other media for exterior construction, including metal, glass and leather.
The Higgins keep in touch with other makers and collectors through the “Kaleidoscope Builders’ Knowledge Base”, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kbkb (KBKB) which is an online discussion group and information resource with 500-plus members, of which Frank is group leader and a major contributor. This on-line forum is probably the most active collaboration medium on kaleidoscopes today.
Janet Higgins states” Our on-going mission is to continue our single-handed UK kaleidoscope renaissance. In the past ten years, we have created 2000 or more new kaleidoscope owners, some of whom have turned into collectors. We have told the kaleidoscope story to tens of thousands of people, face-to-face or via talks or lectures. Through the KBKB, Frank has helped many newcomers to the field to learn or develop their kaleidoscope-building skills”.
Franks adds “Our primary objective is to create instruments which will provide the viewer with stunning images through complexity, richness, symmetry and color. We recognize however, that they will spend more time being looked at, rather than being looked into. We therefore aim to make them decorative pieces in their own right”.
Janet and Frank have a small collection of scopes, many of which were created by fellow-members of the KBKB, but they would not consider themselves as serious collectors.
When not engaged in kaleidoscopery Janet and Frank enjoy travelling, good food and spoiling their “delightful” grandchildren.
Here is a chronology of Janet and Franks Higgins’ kaleidoscopes:
- 1997 – Introduced an open series of scopes.
- 2003 – Introduced a range of limited-series kaleidoscopes.
- 2003-2004 – Introduced “Renaissance”, “Gothic”, “Rococo” & “Baroque”.
- 2005-2006 – Introduced special versions of these, having multiple mirror systems and/or interchangeable objects.
- 2007-2008 – Introduced “Barrelscope”, “Waterwheel”, “Max_Mandala” (3 interchangeable objects plus dual mirror systems), “Chorusline” & “Globescope”.
In 2008 they embarked on “The 3rd Dimension”, a range of kaleidoscopes producing images with a strong 3-D appearance.
- 2008 – “Geodesic”, “Pointahedron”, “Cube”, “Torus” & “Carousel”.
- 2009 – “Hypercube”, “Multiverse” & “Beachball”.
- 2010 – “Supernova”, “St. Basil” & “Diabolo”
- 2011 – “Sphere” & “The Egg”
- 2012 – “Globes”
View their scopes:
View the Janet and Frank Higgins Contact Page.
View the Janet and Frank Higgins website.
Below is a video showing Janet and Frank's scopes on display at the Surrey Guild Craft Gallery in Surrey England.