Sunday, August 8, 2021

Experimental Claire (with an update)

I'm back again with a My Twinn doll who has nothing to do with the princess series.  I decided to work on this girl because I was very eager to experiment with a new kind of eye, and this is a doll who has been hanging around my house for a long time now, begging for a makeover!

She's a very pale Catherine from 2000.  The Catherine mold is not rare at all, but I really love this face.  It's so kind and friendly-looking.  Two of my most favorite makeovers (Safiya and Meg) also have the Catherine face.

My Twinn doll from 2000 with the Catherine face.
I named this lovely redhead Claire.  

Speaking of names, I was inspired by comments in Lucy's post, below, to start making name bracelets for the larger girls, too.  I feel bad about giving up on the locket idea, and I want to send everybody to their new homes with a little gift.  So, starting with Claire (and including the Belle and Cinderella princesses), all dolls will now have a simple elastic name bracelet.

Claire's face and hair were in bad shape, as you've already seen, but her body was in good shape:



She has a moderate amount of pilling on her back, but her limbs are sturdy and her torso is clean and odor-free.



All of the vinyl on this doll was filthy dirty, though.  I suspect some clothing must have protected her fabric body from getting as dirty as her head and limbs!


I don't know how well these bright photos show off the damage on Claire's head, but she had a few issues.  First of all, her eyes were pretty wonky.  This is a common problem with the Catherine mold:

Her right eye looks off to the side.
More obvious than the wonky eyes, though, was the makeup stuck in her mouth and the scuffs and smudges on her face:



I took Claire to my worktable and removed her head from her body.


I really like her eyebrows, and my original plan was to keep them.  However, the vinyl on her face was too dirty to pull this off.  There was no way to clean the face effectively without disturbing the brows.  If I'd left the eyebrows, I'd have had to leave a ring of dirt around them.


Claire had been given some fabulous-looking lipstick at one point in her history, but it apparently did not wipe off easily:


Her eyes were a pretty blue, but maybe you can see that there was a lot of dirt and small blue particles (eye makeup?) stuck around the edges of each eye:


Her wig was matted and unsalvageable, so I removed it and threw it away.  Fortunately, I have a replacement that is nearly the exact same color.

Here she is without her wig:


The more I looked at this doll, the more problems I saw.  Not only was her face dirty, but she had a stubborn orange stain just above her right eyebrow:


She also had several scuffs on her forehead:


I removed her old eyes so that I could wash her face thoroughly and try to get rid of some of the marks and makeup:


Fortunately, the scuffs on her forehead, the marks on the rest of her face, and even the stubborn makeup all came away with some Mr Clean Magic Eraser and a bit of acetone.

Here she is with a completely bare face:

(her head is still wet in this picture)
Now, we get to the fun part!

I was inspired to work on Claire because I recently purchased a few pairs of a new kind of eye. These eyes are made out of polyurethane resin and are hand-painted.  The ones I chose are from an Etsy shop called The Secret Art Studio.

When I saw these eyes online, I knew that I needed to see them in person.  They are gorgeous:

That is one of the most beautiful doll eyes I have ever seen.
They have a lot of depth and shine, beautiful color, and spectacular detail.

I only know about these amazing eyes because of a wonderful tip (and many useful links!) from Maureen.  Thank you so much, Maureen!  I've had so much fun exploring this new type of eye.

I love how resin eyes look, but I don't know too many practical things about them.  For example, I had no idea whether or not they could withstand the brutal force or heat of my eye replacement procedure.

I tried to put a pair of these eyes in through the front of Claire's head, but they didn't fit well, and there was a disturbing defect that started to emerge at the edge of the eye after a few attempts.  I guess resin eyes are more delicate than acrylic or glass eyes.

I didn't want to give up on these eyes, though, so I did what I never do:

I opened up the back of the head.
I know that other artists do this a lot, but I don't like to do it.  I'm not sure why.  I guess I don't want to damage the original doll in any way.  I like to think that many years from now, when my makeovers have worn out, another person like me could take the same doll and give her yet another chance to shine.  I guess this can be done even with the head opened up, so maybe I'm just being silly.

I have better tools to work with than the last time I opened a doll's head (which was back on TBP when I was working on a Lenora with a missing finger), so I was super-careful to make neat, precise cuts in the vinyl.

I heated the head and cut around the pate as close to the factory lines as I could get.  Then, I carefully cut away some vinyl from the backs of the eyes.

This is what the head looks like from the inside, with the eyes in place:


Inspired by the design of the My Way Kid heads, I left half of the vinyl at the back of the eyes in tact.  This was really nice, actually, because the remaining vinyl held the eyes in place while I made tiny adjustments so that they were in the right position. Once I had the eyes aligned how I wanted them, I used hot glue to seal the backs of the sockets.

Here's how Claire looks with her new resin eyes:


The eyes are amazingly beautiful, no doubt, but they're a little big:

That's a very large iris.
I didn't want the beauty of these eyes to be overshadowed by the fact that they don't fit well, so I removed that pair...


...and tried a different pair:


These eyes have a brighter (less natural) green color, and they almost look too small.  Claire looks startled or scared.


The artist who makes these eyes offers a few options with the 20mm size.  You can pick a 10mm iris or an 11mm iris.  The first pair I showed you had an 11mm iris, and this new pair has a 10mm iris.

Here's Claire with one of each eye in place:

11mm iris on the left, 10mm iris on the right.
It's funny how 1mm in circumference can make such a big difference!

To help me decide which pair of eyes was best, I made a GIF of the previous photo plus Claire with her original factory eyes (which I thought fit her head well):


The 10mm irises, while they make Claire look a bit startled, are clearly the more realistic match.  I surveyed some photos of real-life 8 and 10-year-old kid eyes to verify this:




All of those eyes have significant white showing, which is something that the 11mm irises do not offer for this face mold.

Here's Claire with her permanent eyes:


She still looks startled to me in this photo, but I decided to go ahead and paint her face.  Unpainted doll heads always look a little freaky.

I gave her some orange-red eyebrows:


Lots of blush and full lips...


And a ton of freckles!

Because why not.

Last, I gave her a new light ginger Monique wig and some auburn eyelashes:


I think there's still something a bit off about her eyes.  It might just be that the whites of the eyes are too white?

I took this test shot to help me decide if I should leave the eyes alone or go back and swap them out for something more standard:


In the end, I decided to leave her alone.  I'm very curious to know what all of you think about these eyes!  Is the beautiful detail worth it for the vaguely startled appearance and the opened-up head?

Maybe looking at some more pictures will help you decide.

Here's Claire holding up the color card that I bought to help me with the balance in my photos:


I use this in addition to the grey card that I showed you in my last post (both ideas are thanks to Lilium!):


Again, I'm not sure exactly how to use this card, but I think it prevents my camera from doing anything too bizarre with the auto color balance.

Claire is dressed in a green knit dress that I had left over from one of my very first collections.  The color is perfect for her eyes:


One of the nice things about replacing the eyes from the inside of the head is that I was able to position them more precisely than I would by just shoving them in from the front.  Now Claire can look straight at the camera, with none of the wonkiness that Catherine eyes typically have:


Here she is from a few different angles:




I love the color of this wig.  In fact, I think it's my favorite color wig out of every wig I've ever used.  Unfortunately, the wig is a bit thinner than some of the luxurious custom wigs that are available now, and it sheds a lot.  The shedding has slowed down at this point, but Claire was losing quite a bit of hair when I first started posing her!

I chose this picture, which shows off the wig nicely, to use as Claire's official portrait:


Here's her comparison GIF:


I might have some hang-ups about these new eyes, but I can't argue that Claire looks much better now than she did before.  These beat-up, well-loved dolls are very rewarding to work on!

I had Claire's hair parted down the middle for all of those first pictures.  I also clipped her hair back for a few shots.  This really highlights her green eyes!






I like this style of wig best when the hair is flipped casually to one side or the other--without a distinct part:



The hair looks very natural this way.



I took Claire outside for a few photos in the sun, hoping that the green background of my yard would compliment her eyes.

However, she's so pale that these photos mostly washed out her freckles and made her look ghostly!


She still enjoyed being out amidst the summer greenery.


She's like an ethereal woodland sprite, I suppose.


Next time, I'll bring my grey card and my color card outside to see if they can help with this type of photography, too!


I hope you like sweet Claire, but her makeover was mostly an experiment to learn about these new eyes, so let's end by talking a bit more about those.

I was *so* excited about these eyes when I first saw them.  From a practical standpoint, they fill an interesting price gap.  They cost $54, which is about half way between the cost of acrylic eyes ($10) and premium glass eyes ($90).  Lauscha glass eyes are less expensive ($36), but they often don't have very much detail or depth, and it's hard to get a pair with the right iris size.

These eyes are handmade and have amazing, unparalleled detail.  They might be the most beautiful doll eyes I have ever seen.  However, I've had real trouble with sizing.  The 11mm irises are too big, but the 10mm irises are borderline too small.  And to further complicate matters, the shop offers several different iris patterns, and each of these seems to be sized slightly differently.  I bought a few pairs of 10mm iris eyes that will never work because they're way too small.

And, I think the whites of the eyes are too white.  Nobody has perfectly white scleras...as much as we wish we did.

Last of all, I'm very reluctant to open up the heads on My Twinn dolls, especially if the doll is from the Denver era or has a rare face mold.  But perhaps these eyes would be the perfect way to make a common-faced, non-Denver doll more special?

Please tell me what you think!  I'd love to invest more in these eyes, but am feeling slightly hesitant right now.  I have two more pairs that might work, so maybe I'll do another experiment in a week or two and see how that doll turns out.

In the meantime, I'm pleased with how Claire looks and I think these new eyes give her a very unique appearance in the My Twinn world.  

Here's a summary of all the work that was done on Claire:
-the head was removed from the body and all old glue was stripped away
-the old wig was removed and all of that glue residue was cleaned off
-all vinyl parts were cleaned
-the factory paint was stripped from the head
-the old eyes were removed
-the head was coated with Mr Super Clear UV cut matte sealant
-a circle was cut into the back of the head to access the eyes
-half circles of vinyl were cut away from the backs of the eyes
-new handmade resin eyes from The Secret Art Studio were placed through the back of the head
-the backs of the eyes were sealed with hot glue
-the pate was glued back to the head using hot glue
-the face was painted using artist-grade acrylic paints
-the face was given another light coat of sealant
-the head was re-attached to the body using hot glue
-a new ginger red Monique wig was glued in place at the front and at the back
-new eyelashes were glued using tacky glue
-Claire is wearing a simple green knit dress that closes in the back with velcro.  This is paired with some blue flower clogs

Claire has some picks in the fabric of her torso, and of course I cut a hole cut in the back of her head so that I could place the eyes.  In addition, I know absolutely nothing about the long term durability of resin eyes.  The shop says they have "excellent UV resistance (anti-yellowing) and lightfastness" which is encouraging.  Overall, Claire is in great shape for a 21-year-old doll.

Claire will eventually be for sale in my Etsy shop.  I'd like to put her in the shop along with Lucy and one other little Kid who I've been working on.  I can't make any promises about timing (especially because I'm babysitting my first granddog next week! Yay!), but my plan is to have the next doll posted on the blog by the end of this week.  We'll see how it goes!


Update, August 9th:
Thank you so much for all of the feedback and words of support in the comments section here, and through messaging on Etsy.  I really appreciate it!  I was too emotionally attached to the idea of these eyes to see them clearly as I was working.

I agree that Claire would make an interesting fairy with those green eyes, and my husband agrees with Stevie Lou that the intensity in her eyes is appealing, but the whites of her eyes are simply too white.  10mm irises are very common in My Twinn dolls, so I was able to rule that out as the primary problem.  

I think the eyes with the large irises were more appealing because they hid the whites (as Anonymous mentioned), and also because we humans are naturally drawn to big eyes: baby eyes do not have much visible sclera.

With all of that in mind, I gave Claire some new Eyeco acrylic eyes today.  The fun thing about having the head opened up was that I could try several different eyes on Claire (green, two different blues, and brown), and pick the ones that suited her best.

Apologies to those who enjoyed Claire's previous intensity, but I had to change her:

The caffeine wore off.



I grabbed these photos really quickly just now, but if I decide to sell her I'll get some better pictures and make another very short blog post.

Thank you so much again for all of the help!! :D

14 comments:

  1. The scleras do seem too white, but the eyes are beautiful. In the outside shots, her eyes look more natural and less startled, so maybe lighting makes a difference too. All in all, another lovely doll. I love this color of wig, too.

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  2. I liked the larger iris more for some reason, but the smaller one is definitely more realistic. I LOVE the Catherine facemold so much. There is a facemold that starts with an M I think, Madison? I forget but it's my favorite. Kind of a rectangular face.
    Then Catherine, then Theresa is probably the order of my favorites.

    Anyway, I love her wig and coloring! Great job, especially with the chameleon eyed wonkiness this poor girl suffered from previously.-Micah

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  3. I agree that something seems off about the eyes. The whites are very bright and the irises might be a bit too small. I also feel like the Catherine mold has wider eyes than some other molds, though? I'd probably repeat this experiment on a doll with smaller eye sockets before throwing in the towel.

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  4. I might be in the minority, but I don't think Claire looks startled with the 10 mm eyes. The eyes, along with the eyebrows give her an intensity that I find captivating. I do agree that the scleras are a little too white and pristine to be realistic. It makes her look a little photoshopped. But I can't think of any way to de-whiten them without it looking bad. I still think they're gorgeous eyes, so the scleras being a little over-white wouldn't bother me too much.

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  5. I honestly liked the larger, 11 mm eyes better, but I can't tell if that's because they help block out more of that bright, toothpaste white, or if it's because I genuinely like the size better. I think another issue with the eyes is that while beautiful, they're almost over-detailed so I feel like she ended up looking a lot more intense than most of your makeovers. I feel like she's an elf or a fairy about to look deep into my soul! Lol. All that being said, she is beautiful as usual, and something that last photo makes her look almost like a teenager getting her yearbook photos taken. Wonderful work!

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  6. I know you like to match the eyelashes with the haircolor for the dolls but with these smaller-looking eyes, she would have benefitted from dark or black eyelashes, the black "line" from the eyelashes might create an eyeliner effect and that would have helped the eyes to llos a little bit smaller/more defined

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  7. Emily I love the eye change and the color!!! I don't think the other eyes were bad, but these are flat out gorgeous, bravo!-Micah

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    1. You are so sweet, Micah! I hate to say that I've already changed them again. I don't know what's wrong with me! Lol. I felt like she'd lost her previous personality completely. I'll show you the new eyes once I grab a few more pics. :)

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    2. XD. I mean, since it's so accessible why not? I almost feel like we've gotten a lot of "mileage" out of this girl, getting pictures of all her different looks! Can't wait to see!-Micah

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  8. I agree that the resin eyes are too white, especially for a pale girl. Though as someone else suggested, darker lashes might help. I am also hesitant to alter dolls in a way that is irreversible (like opening up the head).

    Her new eyes in the update are gorgeous! I love the monochrome look of ginger hair and amber eyes.

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  9. I think the second set of eyes looks much better!

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  10. Oh, I just saw this! It's too bad the resin eyes didn't work out-- they were far too white in the sceleras. She looked a little... sleep deprived? I like her new brown eyes a lot-- they go well with her wig. She's very beautiful!

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  11. A beautiful repaint ❤️ To be honest, I prefered the green ones you used at first and I don‘t tnink she looked shocked…
    The new eyes, the more brown ones give her a complete new character…

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