#LetsMakeWednesdays – Shiny Things!



December 9, 2020

Do you like shiny things? What’s the shiniest thing you can see right now? Would you rather spend a shiny coin, or an older one? One story about shiny things is that they are sometimes stolen by magpies (or other birds) to keep in their nests. But have you ever seen a magpie take something? What would you do if a magpie stole something from you?

At the V&A Museum of Childhood, we met with some children from local primary schools to look at different optical toys and the ways that different textures – such as shiny objects – can make us feel. Out of all the things we showed them, the children picked one of our shiny kaleidoscopes as their favourite! As the V&A Museum of Childhood is being redeveloped, we are thinking about how to put the magic of the kaleidoscope into our new designs. One idea is for our new staircase to be shiny on the inside – so we can have lots of space to make funny faces in when we reopen!  

Co-design workshop with The Children’s Forum, September 2018 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 
The V&A Museum of Childhood’s kaleidoscope staircase designed by De Matos Ryan architects. 2019, Design Visualisation

Let’s look at some shiny things!

In the V&A we have a lot of interesting and beautifully decorated shiny mirrors. How do shiny things make you feel when you look at them? Can you go on a treasure hunt to find all the shiny objects in your home? How many different funny faces can you make in all the mirrors in your home? 

Wall mirror, carved and gilt wood frame, 1720 – 40. Museum no. W.40-1947 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Mirror, silver filigree frame, 1700. Museum no. M.274-1976 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Mirror, papier mâché and mother of pearl, 1850 – 75. Museum no. AP.95-1875 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We have a large jewellery collection at the museum, with different styles of patterns made from shiny metals such as gold, copper and silver, bronze, brass and iron.  

What patterns and shapes can you see in the jewellery? Can you try drawing these shapes and patterns?  

Beyoncé’s butterfly ring, tsavorite and diamond, 2014. Museum no. M.1-2018 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Brooch, gold, silver and moonstones, 1850 – 1900, England © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Have a look around your home for some unexpected shiny objects! You might find some of your toys are shiny, or that some furniture you can see has some shiny parts.  

Can you make a reflection on a wall using a shiny object in your home? 

Desk, mahogany and white gold 1925. Museum no.
Circ.898-1968 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Green bauble, glass, 1880. Museum no.
C.108-1916 © Victoria and Albert Museum 
Action Man space capsule, 1968. Museum no. B.194:1 to 3-2009 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Let’s make a kaleidoscope!

A kaleidoscope is an optical toy made up of a tube containing mirrors and shiny beads, whose reflections make different patterns when it is rotated.  

  • What colours do you want to be inside your kaleidoscope?
  • How shiny do you want it to be? 
  • What will you put in your kaleidoscope? (Colourful or shiny beads, shiny confetti, shiny stickers?)  

Let’s get some inspiration from these interesting kaleidoscope patterns in our collection. The artists have used different colours and patterns to make interesting effects.  

Textile pattern, silk, 1870. Museum no. CIRC.575-1967 © Victoria and Albert Museum
Screen printed pattern, cotton, 1960. Museum no. CIRC.267-1960 © Victoria and Albert Museum
Screen printed kaleidoscope pattern, 2010. Museum no. E.321:32-2012 © Victoria and Albert Museum
Gather these materials

Let’s make one ourselves. Follow these instructions.

  • Get an empty crisp can or a kitchen roll tube. 
  • Cut some shiny or mirrored sheets into three equal strips. Tape them together and fold them into a triangle with the shiny part on the inside. Then slot them inside your tube. You can keep them in place with adhesive putty.
The strips to make the triangle shape.
The triangle inside the tube.
  • If are you are using a crisp tube, punch a hole through the sealed end with a pen or a screw. If you are using a kitchen roll, cover it with paper and poke a hole in it. The hole will let you see in. 
You only need a tiny hole to see through.
  • If you are using a crisp can, then you can use the clear lid to glue your shiny objects to the inside using glue or tape. If you are using a kitchen roll, then you can use cling film instead, use sticky tape to stick your shiny gems on and secure it in place with a rubber band.
Using confetti in the lid of the tube.
Use cling film to hold confetti in place.
  • Hold your kaleidoscope up to the light, and look through the hole you made to see your cool patterns. Can you try moving the lid around to see your patterns changing shape? The light coming into the kaleidoscope is reflected back and forth between the shiny mirrored surfaces. 
Top tip: find a bright room to allow light into your kaleidoscope.
Try moving the confetti around to make different patterns.
  • Now you can decorate the outside of your kaleidoscope. Maybe you could use wrapping paper, tin foil or shiny stickers. Have a look at these examples of kaleidoscopes from our collection.
Kaleidoscope, card and plastic, 1994. Museum no. B.387-1994 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Kaleidoscope, glass and cardboard, 1890 – 1899. Museum no. MISC.506-1986 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Let’s take it further

Did you know that you can take a picture of the inside your kaleidoscope?  

Try holding your adult’s phone or camera up to the hole of your kaleidoscope to take a picture of the shiny patterns you have just created.  

If you like the picture you have made, you could print it? And then use it to decorate holiday cards to send messages to your family and friends.  

Don’t forget to show us what you have made #LetsMakeWednesdays 

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