BY VEENA RAO
2186 Henderson Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30345
Bobby Boal is as
vibrant as the myriad kaleidoscopes that color her store.
She narrates details of her family’s India trip in the
summer of 1967, rattling off names of places and people like
it happened yesterday.
She points at artifacts from India that are among the
thousands of gift items in her store. There are carved
jewelry boxes, ornate elephants, fancy bindis and more.
These gift items are interesting additions to the shop’s
unique identity as Georgia’s only kaleidoscope shop.
Kaleidoscope Shop located in Briarcliff Village, just across
Briarcliff Road from Northlake Mall is home to thousands of
scopes representing more than 100 different artists. For
owners Bobby and her husband Jan Boal, a former Math
professor and Head of Department at the Georgia State
University, the shop is the outcome of a passion for scopes
that was ignited in the early 1980s during the kaleidoscope
“As children, my sister and I thought kaleidoscopes were
magical,” says Bobby. The patterns and colors of a
kaleidoscope are interesting to any child. Later, in 1982 we
heard that there was a renaissance and they were doing
beautiful scopes with inlay wood and new things inside like
sea shells, jewels and polarized material.”
The modest kaleidoscope of the 10 cent store had become an
art form. The Boals met Cozy Baker, the first lady of
kaleidoscopes, who was instrumental in popularizing scopes
as an art form through books, TV interviews and exhibitions.
“She was very inspiring to us,” says Bobby.
The Boals opened shop in September 2006. Cozy Baker and 20
top artistes were invited to the opening. Since then, the
Kaleidoscope Shop has been written about in several
magazines, and featured on TV innumerable times.
Kaleidoscope Shop has scopes in every conceivable form.
Gifts range from under a dollar to don’t ask. Bobby’s
passion for kaleidoscopes is obvious as she gleefully
describes scope after scope for this reporter.
There’s the tube scope that comes in a pretty cardboard box
with the history of kaleidoscope inventor David Brewster in
it. There are keychain scopes, jewelry scopes, teleidoscopes,
and hundreds of other scopes, all within the $20 range.
The make-it-yourself kaleidoscope kits are an interesting
gift idea for kids in the 8-13 age range with an interest in
Science and Math.
There are other gift ideas too in the $3 to $20 range. Macho
looking heavy metal puzzles. Little appliqué works of art
created by refugees from the Hmong tribe. Old-world toys
that are long gone from the shelves of department stores.
And plenty of books.
Then there are the super gifts that are priced over $1000,
each one an exquisite piece of art.
“They are either one of a kind, or are the only piece left,”
explains Bobby. “Some of the scopes are from our private
There is the beautiful musical kaleidoscope by Mary Boll in
blue stained glass and silver solder where a lighted votive
candle adds to the colorful effect.
A large wooden geoscope breaks up pictures from a TV monitor
into interesting possibilities.
“The Bourbon Street” was made by designer Sheryl Smith for
the New Orleans kaleidoscope convention in 2002. It has
mardi gras beads, peacock feathers and a mask that captures
the carnival spirit.
The “Carousel” plays “Danny Boy” as crystal and jade horses
turn around the riding wheel.
A Georgia Peach scope from this collection was gifted by the
Boals to Governor Sonny Perdue. The Georgia Peach’s oil
filled cell contains about two-dozen Georgia/Atlanta
landmark-icons in miniature. The Governor was delighted to
receive such a special scope, says Bobby.
A visit to the Kaleidoscope Shop is well worth the effort.
While you can always find something that interests you and
fits your budget, the dazzle of endless possibilities in
patterns and colors uplifts your spirits instantly. It is
not long before Bobby Boal’s enthusiasm rubs off on to you!