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Catchy kaleidoscopes: Artist takes scrapbooking idea to a whole new level

Artist Melissa Burness puts the final coat of clear acrylic on a tile with one of her kaleidoscope photo’s to mount on it. Burness will open up her studio this weekend for the Studio Cruise with her amazing images transformed into a kaleidoscope prints, some images are framed, some mounted on glass for refrigerator magnets and even kaleidoscope pennants. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — A hobby that started out as scrapbooking for her six children has developed into an art form for Melissa Burness.

“I started as a nature and wildlife photographer and found that it’s a tough market out there to really stand out,” Burness said. “I wanted to do something different with my photographs. I was doing scrapbooking for my six children at that time and one day when the photos were lying haphazardly and I could see the kaleidoscope effect and decided to develop it.”

Burness and her husband, Bill, moved here because of a job interview for Melissa and it was love at first sight when she flew into Bemidji. Bill moved here sight unseen, although they had both been searching for towns within the Upper Peninsula because they liked the woods and the water. Bemidji has it all and the move here in 2006 has been good for the Burnesses. Their children were all in college at that time, and now five of the six have moved to the Bemidji area.

Melissa first attempts at the kaleidoscope effect were done with an Exacto knife and ruler and a roll of tape. The individual pieces were taped together on the back and were pretty rough, she said. About five years ago, Burness worked at making her kaleidoscope art effective with digital photography, she said after coming to the realization that it’s all about the geometry. The trick was in finding the correct angle in the picture that needed to be cut out and copied.

“I am working with different elements within my photo, looking for more texture and an interesting background because that is really how I’m going to get that kaleidoscope effect,” said Burness. “I am going to be pairing up the animal as the focal point to create the design that is really all about the background. I can have a great shot of a bear or a deer that would make a good traditional photo but that doesn’t mean that it will make a good kaleidoscope photo.

“The first question people ask is ‘How I do it?’” said Burness, “and the next question is about using a photograph of theirs.”

Burness does special orders, often popular are kaleidoscopes of children or of pets that have passed away. She can also make a pendant that can be worn or a picture. Ceramic tiles are also popular and are special ordered from around the country. Burness has just completed working with a studio in town to develop her own website, www.Melissa, to showcase the more than 150 designs she now produces, and also make it easier for people to order her designs. Her new products this year are trinket boxes that can be put on top of a bureau to hold a wallet, keys and spare change. She also likes to up-cycle tables by applying tiles to the top and, therefore, changing the look to salvage a piece of furniture that has been ruined or damaged.

Of course, Burness said she will have available this weekend the popular Christmas ornaments that are made with beveled glass and soldered together along with the trivets, tiles and magnets that are so popular.

Please note that there is a typo on the map, which concerns those people interested in Burness and Jane Carlstrom on the orange tour of the 2013 Studio Cruise. These two artists can be reached by traveling on County Road 12 not 27 as printed in the brochure. Look for additional signs to their studios. The other artists on the orange tour are Terry Honstead and Don Houseman in Tenstrike; Jeff Burger and Monica Hansmeyer in Turtle River and Kathy Gustafson and Dee Najjar in Pat Shough’s studio in Bemidji.

A complete listing of all the artists Bemidji First City of Arts Studio Cruise ‘13 will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 pm on Sunday.