Today, Greene’s store features kaleidoscopes of various designs from nearly 25 artists. In addition, there are highly popular toy kaleidoscopes that sell for as little as $3, handcrafted glass jewelry, glass marbles, and books about creating kaleidoscopic images on quilts, using various fabrics and techniques. Then there is Greene’s own company, Chesnik Scopes, whose designs are credited as perfections of the wheeled kaleidoscope, with brass tubes placed on a wooden stand or pedestal, wheels of dichroic glass, and Brazilian agate stone or millifiori (“thousand flowers”) glass. The results are dazzling, constantly changing patterns of vivid colors that Greene says create a “wow” factor. These kaleidoscopes are carried in more than 100 galleries and shipped across the United States, Canada, and Japan. Pieces range in price from $140 to $400.
“(Chesnik Scopes) just stand out from the crowd. The quality, the vividness of the colors, it just sparkles and comes to life. To me, they’re the van Gogh of kaleidoscopes,” says Lois Myers, co-founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscopes of Hope Foundation, which has awarded Chesnik Scopes to cancer researchers for 10 years.
Still, kaleidoscopes are not for everyone. Greene says it’s fascinating to watch couples interact when they walk into his store. Often, one person will excitedly peer into kaleidoscope after kaleidoscope, marveling at the colors and remembering back to a toy kaleidoscope from their youth. Others will stand back, hands in pockets, wondering what all the fuss is about. “It’s personality-driven. We have an expression: You don’t pick the kaleidoscope, it picks you,” Greene says. “We call it interactive art. For some people, it’s a toy. For others, it’s art.”
After decades working in wholesale and laboring alone in his studio, Greene relishes spending a couple of days each week talking with customers and making wheels in the store. The store motto is “Come and play,” and it’s a slogan Jon and Suzanne take very seriously. “We have people come in with children and the first thing the parent will say is ‘Don’t touch anything!’” Suzanne says. “We encourage you to touch. We want customers to interact with the kaleidoscopes. That’s the fun.”
Then there are the kaleidoscope collectors who slip into his store and spot Jon, the artist, patiently searching for just the right piece of cut glass that will fit into a new wheel for a future kaleidoscope. “When I come here, I get to talk to people about kaleidoscopes,” he says. “It kind of reinforces everything I believe.”