Awesome Foundation Grant Award Winner: Rodney Haug

Written by: Brandi Malarkey

Armed with a pile of napkin sketches and $1200 worth of stainless steel and aluminum rings, Rodney Haug is taking his first steps to fulfill a lifelong dream.

A nationally known kaleidoscope artist based out of Hawley, Minnesota, Rodney purchased his first kaleidoscope in 1983 while on a date with his (now) wife. He had so much fun with it that he started collecting them, which led, eventually, to building his own.

“The people I saw selling them at craft shows seemed to be having a really good time. People love kaleidoscopes so it’s a wonderful product to show off and everyone has fun with them, and I thought, ‘I’d like to be the guy selling a kaleidoscope.’”

Rodney’s confidence in his own abilities to create kaleidoscopes was born of a childhood fascination with taking them apart to see how they worked.

He booked himself a space in the Fargo Street Fair and began creating and selling teleidoscopes (a cross between a telescope and a kaleidoscope which are a bit easier to make), as well as kaleidoscopes, eventually working into larger kaleidoscopes.

Since then, Rodney has been locally known for creating kaleidoscopes for the Yunker Farm Children’s Museum and a set of three kaleidoscopes currently gracing the JC Penny wing of the West Acres Mall, and nationally has a number of scopes in prestigious private collections.

“Kaleidoscopes are about simple moments of joy,” Rodney said. “It’s very similar to looking at a flower. You just appreciate what’s in front of your eye and if you want to spend some time with it, turn the end of the scope and it’ll change again. And you marvel at the beauty of the change.”

After a lifetime of learning about and building kaleidoscopes, Rodney is now embarking on his most ambitious scope ever. He calls it ‘The Omega Project.’ A large kaleidoscope with a 15-inch object chamber, the scope is meant to be a culmination of his scope-making career.

“I want it to be considered one of the finest scopes ever created and I feel that I am just fussy enough that I can pull it off,” laughed Rodney. “I’ve made all the mistakes you can make over thirty years of scope making. I want to build the scope I have always wanted—one as close to perfection as possible.”

Despite his goal of perfection, Rodney is still pushing his personal skills by adding components to his new scope that he has no previous experience with—such as acid etching and working with stainless steel for the first time. “I like to show off,” Rodney said, grinning.

As ambitious as The Omega Project is, Rodney expects it to take multiple years to build. He has started this fall with the aid of a grant from the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation, which has allowed him to invest in getting the object chamber and the carriage ring for the scope body machined— important first steps.

Upon completion of the project, Rodney hopes to be able to unveil his “perfect” kaleidoscope at the National Brewster Kaleidoscope Society Convention.

While the Omega kaleidoscope is meant to put all the skills he’s mastered over the years to good use, his project is just as much about sharing his lifelong enjoyment of the art.

“I do like to preach the gospel of kaleidoscopes,” said Rodney. “They are beautiful, and just like a little exhale of breath. I know it sounds corny, but that’s what I’m after. I just like to bring joy, and color, and symmetry into people’s lives. We all need just a little bit more of that.”

The Cass-Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a nonprofit. Applications can be made at

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