Monday, January 4, 2010

Silicone Eyes: A lengthy tale of woe

So, the local doll shop where I get my glass eyes has gone under. I've got mixed emotions about it since the guy who ran the place was a major jerk face poop head bucket of a mean wad...and yet, when I needed puppet eyes I could go and say, "ok this one works, & this one doesn't."

I've had to find a new supplier. Online.

Now, unfortunately I'd never really paid much attention to the actual size of the eyes I'd been buying. There was no need. I simply brought in a puppet's head & held the eyes up & said "ok this one works, & this one doesn't."

I found a supplier & took a chance on the size. They're local, too, which is a plus--except that they still needed to ship things to me.

Now, I really only use the glass eyes in swanky puppets, so when I saw silicone eyes on this website & saw just how swanky the price-tag was, I thought I'd give it a try. I mean, they must cost that much for a reason, right?

I got them & fell in love. They looked & felt so realistic. (yes, I've handled real eyes....) (OK that's a lie, I've never handled real eyes) (OK that's a lie, too. When I was in the 5th grade my class dissected cow eyes. Being the animal rights activist that I was as a 10-year-old (read that as "totally grossed out"), I refrained. However since my dad worked near the butcher, I was required to bring the brown paper sack full of enough cow eyes to entertain a group of curiously twisted 5th graders to my class. On my bicycle. In the rain. So in some sort of truth, I've handled lots of eyes. Except that it wasn't in the rain. I added that part for creative storytelling.)

I had a project that I felt would be perfect for the eye-swank. And they were. Not too bulgy, not too flat. and I could cut them down where I needed to. So awesome I just wanted to bite them. I found the perfect eyeball. I made the eyelids to fit around them perfectly & glued them in with E6000. Then began working on an elaborate tattoo. I stayed up all night to meet this before-Christmas deadline.

My husband woke up to find me busy at work from the night before. Eager to show him my progress, I held up the puppet. He raved about what I had done. "When are you going to glue in the eyes?" said he. "I did already." said I. "Uhh..." said he. "Uhhhhh....WHAT? NO! NO NO NO NO NO!" said I.

The glue didn't stick. One eye looked up at me from the floor. I ran to my hot glue gun with only hours to get this bad Larry to the post office. Hot glue did nothing. Silicone doesn't stick! That's its deal. What was I even thinking? My fried eggs always slide perfectly out of my frying pan, why would I think that E6000, the glue known to the state of California to cause cancer, could hold the eyes to the fabric sockets? Why? Because the glue friggin' causes cancer, that's why!

Desperate, I went to my unventilated workspace to dig out my contact cement. Not only did I have just a few hours, we also had family coming over for breakfast & I was working on 0 sleep two days before Christmas. I grabbed a nearby chopstick & started slopping the yellow goo on. Stupid stinky, yellow goo. I had neither time nor common sense to go cautiously. I let the socket & silicone eye get tacky & shoved them in. Keeping in mind that the lids are usually put on after, I couldn't get the eyes focused. The puppet that I had worked so hard on was quite possibly my most impressive & worst puppet all at the same time. I really hope the silicone doesn't discolor over time.

In improv we say that your best show & your worst show have one thing in common. They're both in the past. And the beauty of improvisational theater (to me) is that it's very temporal. Part of making puppets (for me) is the quasi permanence. I'm making something to last, and I hope it does. I have so many regrets about that puppet...and most of it stems from taking all of that extra time fixing my silicone eye nightmare.

Puppeteers, take heed. Buy not the silicone eyes. As pretty as they may be, they're not your friend. Oh I'm sure I could get silicone epoxy and make my life complete again. But I'm a woman scorned. Scorned by deliciously beautiful eyes. (I still kinda want to bite them.)


Darkwing Nyx said...

I loved this story! I'm sorry about your silicone problem, but I'm glad you got through it. Priceless!

kelvinkao said...

Silicones cause problems. I know that. I live in Los Angeles.

Anonymous said...

This is why in general I only work with products I'm familiar with, or do a test with new ones before confidently applying them to a puppet only to discover it falls apart. One of those lessons you learn the hard way!

staceyrebecca said...

The problem with working with familiar products for this particular project was the unavailability of the familiar products. I did order the same color in two kinds of eyes in case one didn't work out (assuming getting the same size meant they'd also be the same depth--not the case). Testing would have required building a 2nd puppet, which I didn't have time to do given the holiday deadline (& the lengthy shipping time)...but the bigger problem was that testing the silicone eyes in another puppet just wasn't cost effective since they're $22USD/pair.

I'll get pictures of her posted soon. Also in the hubbubaloo of the holidays, my laptop died, making it harder to upload photos to our slow-butt desktop.

Lesson learned: Silicone is bad. :)