Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum

Janice Chesnik

By Susan Fisher

Google “Janice Chesnik” and you’ll get over 50,000 links. Janice is a designer of note of kaleidoscopes and not the little cardboard toys favored by children everywhere but beautifully crafted Brass & Stained Glass Wheel Kaleidoscopes featured in galleries nationwide. The Chesniks have been called the First Family of Kaleidoscopes.

Many years ago when Janice and her husband Ray were first married she took a stained glass class to make windows for their home in San Diego (CA) County. Janice says she fell in love with the process and immersed herself in this new hobby. The hobby led to designing and making kaleidoscopes and then a thriving business selling them all over the country. Ray joined her in this enterprise that they ran for 30 years before turning it over to her son Jon when they retired to Georgia.

Kaleidescopes were also Janice’s introduction to quilting. In 1997 she spotted Paula Nadelstern’s Kaleidoscopes & Quilts in a bookstore, bought it, read it cover to cover that night and knew she had to make a kaleidoscope quilt. Janice could sew but had never made a quilt. Her entire quilting legacy is three feed sack quilts handed down to her by her mother. Undaunted, Janice bought fabric and started sewing with no other instruction but Paula’s book.

Janice’s daughter Sheryl, then living in Seattle, called to tell her that THE Paula Nadelstern was teaching a three-day workshop on near by Whidby Island and should she sign them up. “Sure,” replied Janice and shortly afterward Paula herself called Janice because she recognized her name as the well-known kaleidoscope designer. In fact, Paula had purchased Chesnik kaleidoscopes to sell to her students for inspiration. The two have been fast friends ever since. It was Paula who encouraged Janice to join a quilt guild when she and Ray moved to Georgia.

When they decided to retire Janice and Ray visited Sheryl, now teaching at the John C Campbell Folk School in Murphy. They liked the mountains and the trees but Murphy was just too small and too far from an airport so they drove south, saw Dahlonega and fell in love. They moved there in 2005 to a house on two wooded acres.

Following Paula’s advice, Janice joined the Heart and Hand guild in Dawsonville. As she says, “Now I have an extended family here because of my quilt guild.”

After that first workshop with Paula Nadelstern, Janice realized that she had completely skipped over the ABCs of quilting. She took some beginning classes and made some traditional quilts but soon returned to the art quilt genre.

Now Janice sews in the large walk out basement of her home that was converted to studio space. One half of the area is dedicated to “hot glass” work (she and Ray make the millefleur glass used in Chesnik Kaleidoscopes as well as the mirror systems) and the other half to quilting. Although Janice has a long arm machine she says “I’m not in love with it” and prefers to machine quilt on her regular sewing machine. One wall of her studio is covered with a cubicle storage system from Ikea, each cubby filled with a different color of fabric. She says, “It’s like a rainbow in the room.”

Janice seldom buys patterns for quilts. “I like designing my own.” Using techniques she learned from a Charlotte Warr Andersen workshop she has developed a method for making quilts from photos taken from the designs in her kaleidoscopes. Janice is not interested in making any commercial patterns (“I’ve done business.”) but she enjoys sharing her quilts via a trunk show program.

She sums it up nicely, “I’m happiest when I’m quilting.”

March 2010