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Historic Figures > Cozy Baker

Brewster Society Founder and Author

November 14, 1923 – October 19, 2010
By Mary Theresa Boll
To me kaleidoscopes are divine inspiration; they resonate to the music in my soul and the imagery is exactly what my heart yearns to see. I view the kaleidoscope's image as a warm embrace - one more colorful expression of God's love toward all creation.
Cozy Baker, News Scope, spring, 2004

Early Years – Developing the Person

Cozy Baker was born as Hazel Cozette Oliver and was named after her aunt. In her growing up years, she lived in Wilmore, Kentucky, a small town about 30 minutes southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. She lived with her grandmother, Mary Oliver, who worked as a dietitian at Asbury College. Cozy attended Asbury College for both high school and college until 1943.

Her husband also attended Asbury College where he graduated in 1943 and that year they married.   They eventually moved to Washington, DC where her husband, Harold Baker, was a lawyer and became a partner in a prominent Washington law firm. He and Cozy had three children, Brant, Barbi and Randall.

In 1974, Cozy published her first book called, A Cozy Getaway: A Travel Guide to the Unusual. Later she published Holiday Frame of Mind. She traveled widely and wrote travel articles for newspapers and magazines. She was also known for her public speaking concerning her travels and their relationship to one’s inner spiritual journeys.

Journey to Kaleidoscopes

Her next book would be published a year after her youngest son’s death. At age 23, Randall was killed by a drunk driver. This next book about her journey through tragedy was published in 1982 and was titled Love beyond Life: Six Ways to Triumph over Tragedy.

During her book tour in 1982, she stopped in a small gift shop in Nashville, Tennessee and purchased a kaleidoscope by Doug Johnson. During the entire flight home to Maryland, Cozy was mesmerized by the images of this wonderful new acquisition.

It was during my search for the other half of the rainbow that I found my first kaleidoscope. Rainbows have always intrigued me…I pondered where the other half of the rainbow could be hidden. Cozy Baker, Prologue, Through the Kaleidoscope, 1985

Shortly after she began looking for kaleidoscopes wherever she went from the east coast to the west. Her personal collection began to grow as well as her curiosity about the artists who created them.

Yes, kaleidoscopes captivate everyone. A person’s age, race, sex, or skill does not seem to matter, but rather the possession of a sense of wonder and a delight in beauty. Cozy Baker, Prelude, Kaleidoscope Renaissance, 1993

Kaleidoscope Author and Curator

Unable to find any books about kaleidoscopes, Cozy wrote the first. Through the Kaleidoscope was published in 1985. She followed her first book with six more publications: Through the Kaleidoscope…and Beyond, 1987; Kaleidorama, 1990; Kaleidoscope Renaissance, 1993; Kaleidoscopia, 1995; Kaleidoscopes: Wonders of Wonder, 1999; and Kaleidoscope Artistry, 2002.

In her books she introduced the world to the history, the mystery, the new language of kaleidoscopes and the people involved in their creation and appreciation.

Although the artists are nearly as diverse in their backgrounds, ambitions and pursuits as the instrument’s myriad images, they all feel intuitively drawn to create their own interpretation of the kaleidoscope. Each artist strives to create some original concept or unique workmanship to distinguish his or her own scopes from those of any other. Cozy Baker, Kaleidoscope Artistry, 2002, p. 15

About 1985, a friend of Cozy’s brought the director of Strathmore Hall Art Center to see her kaleidoscopes. Eliot Pfansteihl asked her if she would consider organizing and curating a kaleidoscope exhibit. Cozy was thrilled that the world’s first kaleidoscope exhibition would coincide with publication of the first book on the subject.

 

In 1985 Charles Karadimos and Carolyn Bennett had the job of unpacking the scopes for “Through the Kaleidoscope,” the first kaleidoscope exhibition at Strathmore Mansion in North Bethesda, Maryland. Each box held a surprise and the promise of a new friend. As the opening evening approached, one by one, artists and collectors stepped through Strathmore’s doors. Wide eyed and a little timid, we introduced ourselves to each other. There was an instant kinship. We understood each other’s passion. Message from the Directors, News Scope, fall, 2005
Strathmore’s first exhibition attracted 10,000 visitors, generated nationwide publicity, and spawned numerous exhibits all around the country. The following year there was a second exhibit and it was during that opening that I founded the Brewster Society. Yes, Strathmore truly represents our kaleidoscope roots. Cozy Baker, News Scope, fall, 2005

The Brewster Society

The Brewster Society began at the second exhibit at Strathmore and took official form in 1986. Cozy began it as a sole proprietorship organization beginning first by publishing a newsletter about kaleidoscopes: what they were, who made them and where to find them. The society was named by Cozy in honor of Sir David Brewster. The membership includes artists, retailers and collectors who make up a living, breathing kaleidoscope of persons who love and appreciate the beauty of the kaleidoscope. In 1996, Cozy received a gold angel when she was presented the International Angel Award. It was a Humanitarian Award given by Excellence in Media in recognition of her founding the Brewster Society. The presentation took place at Sardi’s in New York.

Most historians think that Sir David Brewster would be disappointed to be remembered and best known in the 21st century for his kaleidoscope, being a brilliant man with so many notable accomplishments. But I feel otherwise - I think he would be exhilarated to witness the wondrous culmination of his invention in the magnificent artistry of today's scopes, to see the extraordinary group of kaleidoscope enthusiasts in the Brewster Society - and to realize that kaleidoscopes are irresistible to so many around the world! Cozy Baker, News Scope, summer, 2004

In 1989, she organized the first Brewster Society Convention held in Louisville, Kentucky. The conventions brought the Brewster Society together in a yearly celebration of kaleidoscopes. Cozy’s favorite part of each convention was when the artists unveiled their newest, never before seen, kaleidoscope designs and creations. The conventions also provided time for learning and sharing for all persons attending from around the world. Artists brought kaleidoscopes to sell. Collectors and retailers came to buy and enjoy. Cozy presented awards for innovation and design to many of the innovative artists. Two Brewster Kaleidoscope Society awards now carry Cozy’s name. The Cozy Baker Award instituted by Cozy herself, is a special award that goes to an artist who is responsible for the development of innovations that set the standard for the aesthetic of the art of kaleidoscope. The Cozette Award was introduced as an award of recognition for the person though passion and dedication shares the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society’s love and appreciation of kaleidoscopes. A very surprised Cozy Baker was presented the first ever Cozette Award personally designed for her by Sherry Moser and affirmed by a standing ovation at the 2003 Ashville, North Carolina convention.

In the fall of 2007 in her News Scope column, Cozy wrote about her many appellations as she called them: Titillating Titles.

In looking through dozens of old magazine and newspaper articles, I was interested and amused with the many titles that have been bestowed on me over the years: First Lady of Kaleidoscopes, Kaleidoscope Queen, the authority on kaleidoscopes, guiding force behind the kaleidoscope movement, Ambassador of the Kaleidoworld, Doyenne of Kaleidoscopes, Patron Saint of Kaleidoscopes, and the most recent (and my very favorite) which appeared in the new book by Mrs. Kazuko Ogato - “Mother of the Kaleidoscope Renaissance. Cozy Baker, News Scope, fall, 2007

Cozy inspired many kaleidoscopes but Cozy never designed a kaleidoscope except in the people around her. She was the person who brought so many different people together and continually nudged them in so many ways to be better and to strive higher. She was continually calling artists and letting them know that there was a new retailer that would be interested in their designs. She searched out retailers and sent them artists. She opened her home/museum to collectors and new friends from around the world. She brought many diverse people together each year at convention in a flowing celebration of this wonderful and still growing art form of the kaleidoscope as it begins its 200th year…and beyond.

A new dawn is always breaking inside a kaleidoscope…Listening with an open heart enables one to discover that each kaleidoscope is a little world unto itself where one can…keep dreaming dreams…reflect on beauty repeating itself over and over again and know that for each ending there is a new beginning. Cozy Baker, Preface, Kaleidoscope Artistry, 2002

Sources:

  • Brewster Kaleidoscope Website Tribute by Michael Barndt
  • Brewster Kaleidoscope Society News Scope 2004-2011
  • A Local life: Cozy Baker, 86; Outlook of kaleidoscope collector was transformed by beauty By T. Rees Shapiro, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, December 18, 2010
  • Ancestry.com
  • Books written by Cozy Baker as mentioned in the article
  • Cozy Baker, RIP  Claire Wolfe Blog, Friday, October 22nd, 2010
  • Personal memories of those who love her