A client asked us recently whether our practice of creating artificial eyes has changed in the last ten years. When we stopped to think about it, we were amazed by how much our craft has improved over that time. Although ten years ago, we were very pleased with the quality of eyes we were producing, now we would be less than happy with that standard.
An artist is always perfecting his craft, and the art of making artificial eyes is no exception. Nothing stays the same in any creative industry; you constantly develop new skills and knowledge that benefit your end product.
The changes that have influenced us on the way we make a natural-looking eye today have come through many avenues: pure experience; trial and error; seeing recurring problems and finding ways of remedying them; talking with other ocularists; and experimenting with new techniques.
One of the biggest changes has been in the painting of an eye. Historically, eyes were painted with oil paints. This entailed using a combination of different materials which were layered over the eye. Inevitably, this led to separation of the layers over time.
Now we make our own paints, using methyl methacrylate acrylic. We mix oxides with the acrylics and gel, forming one material. The result is far superior and has two major benefits. Firstly, because we are working with one material, there are no separation problems. Secondly, the paint keeps its colour for much longer. Using this technique of painting, an artificial eye can last for fifteen years. When oil paints were used, an eye needed replacing in a third of that time.
One thing that hasn’t changed much in the past thirty years is the machinery we use in our business. In a specialist hand-craft industry such as ours, machines can play only a small part in the production of an eye. They will never replace what we achieve by hand.
So thanks for the great question which got us to reflect on how far we have come in a relatively short amount of time.