Pringles boxes and kaleidoscopes

Pause. Take a moment to think back to when contraptions other than your phone had fascinated you. It wasn't an unceasing flow of cyber junk that kept you hooked, it was boundless wonder. There was that dual-wheel coloured paper fan, hooked onto a thin stick, circling gently in the air at the exhibition you were wandering in, ice-gola in hand. Or that old rainbow coloured spiral slinky, which now lays forgotten in your old toy box. And of course, everyone's personal magical favourite— the kaleidoscope. Fascinating and wondrous. 

Delhi's the city of my grown up years, of jarring traffic jams and blaring horns and too much brightness, and people who were always too busy, too cool, too much. But just as I close in on almost seven years in this city, I've found just the sort of wonder that this city needs. And it's in this one-person project called The Rainbow Kaleidoscope. Run by Desna, a twenty-something who has forever been fascinated by kaleidoscopes, the project formally started only in 2014 when she started selling designs that she'd started working on two years prior, even as she doing her undergraduation in English literature at Delhi University. 

Desna crafts each of her kaleidoscopes with meticulous care for detail. This can be seen especially with the thematic ones. For example, an Agatha Christie themed kaleidoscope, she puts in material such as small letters of the alphabet, question marks, and skulls for a stunning world of visuals. "If I cant find material specifically relevant, then I try to use colours and viscosity to evoke the ‘feel’ of the concept. This is something I can't really describe. You’ll just have to see for yourself!"

Inspired by her father, an ex-cinematographer whose experiments with kaleidoscopes resulted in interesting visuals, Desna frequents areas like Paharganj, Kotla for raw materials, and also relies on found items to craft her pieces. Edited excerpts from a conversation:

Pieces themed on Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, the 'Angry Young Man', known so for the sort of roles he played in the height of his career.  [Photo via Desna Sharma]

Pieces themed on Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, the 'Angry Young Man', known so for the sort of roles he played in the height of his career.  [Photo via Desna Sharma]

With what the magic happens
I mostly just end up using material from around the house though, like empty Pringles boxes or old wedding invitations, cards, leftover or rejected cloth, broken jewellery.
On how long it takes to make one

If I had to start from nothing and just make one kaleidoscope, it would take me an entire day. It took me months initially, just to even figure what exactly I needed after experimenting with different material. But since I already have everything available in my workshop now, I can make the simplest kaleidoscope in under 30 minutes.

The story of a customised favourite/s.
There haven’t been any specific stories as such that stand out. But I do get very attached to some of my kaleidoscopes. It also really gets to me when people want to buy one of the kaleidoscopes just because they think it looks pretty, but have no idea what the references are. Very often I end up discouraging people from buying them if they aren’t as enthusiastic about the concept as me.

It makes me a terrible salesperson.
Once, someone found one of my Doctor Who kaleidoscopes really pretty and wanted to buy it. But they had no idea what Doctor Who was and didn’t even seem interested in finding out, so I just told them it was already reserved. Same thing happened with a Janis Joplin themed one.
This happens all the time.

A simple Calvin and Hobbes strip kaleidoscope. <3 [Photo via Desna Sharma]

A simple Calvin and Hobbes strip kaleidoscope. <3 [Photo via Desna Sharma]

On daily routines and how and where kaleidoscope-making fits in. 

Making Kaleidoscopes is a hobby so far and not a serious source of income, mostly because I'm not sure how to promote it or increase sales. I have been seriously practicing Korean and Japanese ink painting and plan on putting that to good use once I'm more confident with it. Other than travelling a lot, I also spend a lot of my time at my farm near Mussoorie, planning a home stay venture there. So when I have a big order, which is extremely rare, I can easily make time for it, as I don’t have a job or any strict schedule. The number of kaleidoscopes I make in a month vary a lot: from none in the months that I'm away, to over 50 when I really get into it.

In the midst of a super crazy week, Desna's The Rainbow Kaleidoscope reminded me to take a super deep breath, a step back, and be in a place of wonder. You can never feel big-city-lost or daily-routine-stuck there. :) 

Lots of love, light, and colour to all you TLJ readers (and anyone who's just stumbled by newly) this Diwali! Gift yourself a kaleidoscope from Desna here.

Yummy. [Photo via Desna Sharma]

Yummy. [Photo via Desna Sharma]

Text by Vangmayi

Thumbnail images and feature banner courtesy Desna Sharma

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