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It's Your Life / People, Places and Things to do. : Taking a New Look at Kaleidoscopes

August 10, 1995|JEFF MEYERS

Kaleidoscopes, those groovy, psychedelic eye trips, have become even groovier.

On Sundays, crowds gather along the Ventura Promenade to try the latest innovation in kaleidoscopes: attached to the front of the standard mirrored chamber is a slender vertical tube containing multicolored specks suspended in glycerin oil; when the specks slowly float downward, they add the element of motion to the experience.

"Everybody has fun looking whether they buy them or not," says Peter Eller, who sells the kaleidoscopes from his booth during the summer-long Sunday arts and crafts show on the promenade.

The kaleidoscope hadn't changed much since it was invented in 1816 by Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster, but about a year or so ago, the new version began appearing at craft shows, inventor unknown. The slender tubes have been sold to kids as "magic wands" for about 10 years, Eller says.

Eller, who lives in Santa Barbara, made stained-glass objects before branching out into kaleidoscopes of various sizes. He fashions the main chamber out of stained glass, affixing three mirrors inside to reflect the specks.

"It's very labor-intensive," he says.

Eller has sold his kaleidoscopes to tourists from Australia and India and expects copies to appear everywhere. "After a couple of years, they'll be all over the world," he says.

* Kaleidoscopes, $15-$65, on sale Sundays on the Ventura Promenade; 964-9049 or 964-9283.

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