Friday, August 8, 2014

Tutorial: How to Repair Shattered Glass Doll Eyes

A doll with shattered glass eyes.
As promised in my last post, here is my step-by-step doll eye repair tutorial. This method will repair the old glass eyes you find in composition dolls. When these eyes are not damaged, they are amazingly beautiful. Replacements command extremely high prices because of their rarity and beauty. The old glass doll eyes were often made with the same care and attention to detail as those for humans, especially the German ones. When you find a doll with pristine eyes you will immediately be drawn in to the lustrous color and loveliness of the eyes. Unfortunately, since the dolls with glass eyes are toys of 80 years old or older, you rarely find one with one or both eyes not shattered. Luckily, there is a pretty easy fix for this. I've devised a method which adds some of the original iridescence and sparkle back to the eyes.

Typically I would start with sun catcher paint. This is craft paint used to paint plastic panels to look like stained glass. You can find it in craft stores and even in the craft section of stores like Wal-Mart. In the case of this doll, however, I started with water soluble artist's oil paint. I did so because I was changing the color of the eyes and also because these eyes were even more shattered than usual. The surface was very pitted and uneven. Oil paint is somewhat transparent, but not so much as sun catcher paint, so I wanted to use the oil paint to make a smooth surface. I painted a thin coat of pure oil paint over the irises and let it dry.

At this point I also painted the whites of the eyes with sun catcher paint, which I do if the whites are yellowed. White oil paint is not transparent enough to look correct on the whites, so I don't recommend using it unless you are very skilled in oil painting and understand the use of mediums.

When the first layer of paint was dry I drew a pupil in each eye with a black Sharpie marker. Then I painted clear gloss varnish over the oil paint to make a seal and to add a clear layer for light to travel through, making the surface look more like colored glass.

Sealing in between paint layers with clear varnish makes light travel through the color.

After I apply the base coat, either with oil or sun catcher paint, and let it dry and then let the varnish dry, I apply veins and highlights to the center of the eye around the pupil with metallic permanent markers, like Sharpie or similar brands. In this case I used metallic light green. I have a whole drawer of Sharpies. They're extremely useful for doll repair, especially for eye lashes and eye brows. When ever I see an unusual color I snap it up.

I add highlights with metallic permanent markers.

The metallic highlights

The metallic highlights give the eyes some of the brilliance and shimmer of the original glass eyes. I let the metallic highlights dry and then paint another layer of sun catcher paint over the entire eye. I seal that layer with varnish when it's dry and then add lighter highlights with sun catcher paint to the center of the eye over the metallic marker.

Painting over the highlights with sun catcher paint.
I just repeat layering the sun catcher paint until the eyes have the color and lustre I want. Then I draw the pupils again with a black Sharpie marker.

Drawing the pupils
I let the eyes dry and then I put a final seal of gloss varnish over the eyes.
The finished eyes before final sealing.

One thing to remember about applying the paint, and especially the varnish, is that you need to use a tiny brush so you aren't getting paint all inside the eyes. Work carefully so you don't gum the eyes all up. I test the eyes in between layers when the paint has dried to make sure they still function.

Apply the varnish with a tiny brush.

I'm extremely proud of my metallic marker method. I used to just use the sun catcher paint. It worked well enough, but didn't have the depth of color of the original eyes. The metallic shimmer under the transparent paint allows light to go into the eye, bounce off the metallic highlights, and reflect back through the color so the eyes look lit from within. Just as they should! You can find this Scarlett O'Hara doll and may other restored dolls in my store, so please check:

The finished and sealed eyes.

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