Ultimate reflections: Local artist explores kaleidoscopic expression
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David Sugich and his wife Nadereh, both Santa Barbara locals, have been making and selling unique kaleidoscopes for the Art Walk by the pier for the past 22 years.
Sugich transferred his knowledge of glass to the art of kaleidoscopes in 1992 when he was inspired by a woman on TV making a kaleidoscope. That same year, he began to take his work to the Santa Barbara Art Walk, where he was placed on the very end of the line where all the new artists go. On the first day of sales, every single kaleidoscope was sold out.
“There was a big crowd around my booth because these kaleidoscopes were so unique and new at the time, because no one had seen them before,” Sugich says. “What’s wonderful about the kaleidoscope art is that it’s new!”
A few years after he started his “Ultimate Reflection” business, Sugich’s daughter came home from a field trip to an art shop called The Nature Company, which sold many elaborate kaleidoscopes.
Sugich’s daughter informed him that The Nature Company’s kaleidoscopes weren’t nearly as good as the ones he makes. So Sugich sent them one of his kaleidoscopes and a note explaining that he would be willing to make kaleidoscopes for their company. The very next day, he received a $30,000 order of kaleidoscopes from The Nature Company.
Sugich excitedly proclaimed, “It was an overnight success to my business!”
His kaleidoscopes continued to attract more and more people over the years.
One day, two art collectors from Ventura stopped at Sugich’s kaleidoscope table and began to converse with him about their love for exotic kaleidoscopes. The couple later invited Sugich to their house to show him their vast collection. Throughout the years, they became close friends and the couple introduced Sugich to the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society. Once he became involved with the Kaleidoscope Society, Sugich began to make more and more intricate kaleidoscopes.
Sugich describes his kaleidoscopes as unique and exciting: “My kaleidoscopes are not your typical everyday kaleidoscopes. I make a variety of two-, three- and sometimes four-mirror kaleidoscopes which are all three-dimensional in nature.”
To make these special kaleidoscopes, Sugich uses a special optic mirror called a front surface mirror, the same sort of mirrors used in Xerox machines and cameras. The front surface mirror is placed in his handmade kaleidoscope and it bends the light to make a perfect 3-D image.
Sugich also makes hexagonal, triangular and square kaleidoscopes. He discovered the square kaleidoscope style as an accident when he forgot to remove the plastic film that protects the mirrors before he cut the glass. When he tried to peel the film away after the glass was cut, he discovered the light was patterned into cool square structures. He said it was a “perfect mistake.”
Sugich loves working with glass and enjoys adding an explosion of color into each kaleidoscope. He said, “It is so cool to work with the symmetry in a kaleidoscope, because everything in nature has symmetry, so you know you are going to make something cool when you work with symmetry. It just has a universal appeal to it.”
He’s been in the business for 22 years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Sugich’s kaleidoscope exhibit appears each Sunday at the Santa Barbara Art Walk.