January 21, 2020

Family’s creations lauded worldwide > Collectors clamoring for kaleidoscopes

KENNEBUNKPORT — Kaleidoscope creations by a former heavy-equipment operator and his family are drawing gazes of interest from collectors and galleries from around the world.

Bob and Sue Rioux, with the help of their 8-year-old son, Alex, create their works of art in a garage workshop behind their home. Each kaleidoscope they turn out is unique.

“I’m very fussy about it,” said Sue Rioux, who used a saw blade encrusted with diamonds to shape swirls in glass before soldering the kaleidoscope together.

“I’ll melt the pieces out if they don’t look right. Nothing goes out of here that I don’t look at and say, `Yes, that’s beautiful,”‘ she told the Boston Sunday Globe.

The Riouxs, whose company is named Sea Parrot after their talkative pet and coastal location, decided to concentrate on kaleidoscopes in 1984, shortly after they moved to Maine. Previously they made stained-glass windows, panels and art for a shop they ran in California.

A kaleidoscope being assembled by Sue Rioux had three sets of internal mirrors that reflected on an outside cylinder made from hand-blown marbles and Austrian crystals.

Rioux kaleidoscopes have found their way into the hands of such enthusiasts as actor Henry Winkler and Queen Noor of Jordan.

Limited edition Rioux kaleidoscopes sell for $250 to $2,500, but the family also makes more traditional, hand-held pieces they first sold for $20 to $35 each.

“Every type of people collect” kaleidoscopes, said Cozy Baker, president of the Brewster Society, a Bethesda, Md.-based, 900-member organization of kaleidoscope enthusiasts from around the world.

“It doesn’t seem to matter what generation, culture or ethnic background you come from. It’s just people with a sense of awe, wonder and beauty.”

Baker said the Riouxs are considered to be among the leading designers of quality kaleidoscopes. The family has participated in national exhibits.

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