It’s All in the Eyes

“It’s all in the eyes, I was once told. A smile isn’t genuine, unless the eyes smile too. Words mean nothing, unless the eyes speak them too.” – Unknown

As you may recall from Samantha Cole’s article “What goes bump in the night…and says ‘excuse me.’”, there are MANY moving parts and pieces necessary to make our Creek Monster Habitat come to life. Our teams- Structure, Lighting, Sound, Art/Sculpt/Puppet, and Eyes- have been hard at work these past couple of weeks designing, experimenting, and prototyping their many ideas. 

As a member of the Eye Team, we have a very important role to fulfill: bring the Creek Monster Habitat to life! After all, “The Eyes are the window to your [the Monster’s] soul.”, (William Shakesspeare). 

Our Eye design process began where any good design should start: pen and paper. Individually, the Eye Team members quickly sketched, doodled, and scribbled our many ideas down. Here is an image of my first sketches/notes of how I thought the eye could operate. As designers, we had to consider many things in our initial concepts: aesthetics, materials, weight, forces of nature, light, functionality, and installation. 

We spoke to Karen Maness (our Creek Monster class Instructor), Delena Bradley (the Creek Monster Project Designer), and James Ortiz, (Master Puppeteer), to gather their thoughts on our designs. Several ideas were tossed around. This included using servos to power our eye movement, using clear or opaque Vacuform to create our eyeballs, using Christmas ornaments to create our eyeballs, using tape light to light up our eyes…we even considered using similar techniques found in “The Drinking Bird” toy to power our eyelids movements (weight and gravity to pull our Monster eyelids open and shut). I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of every idea we have considered, however, let me just say that it has been quite the process to figure out what ideas (designs) will work best!

Since then, we have been been prototyping! Last week, we presented a very small scale version of an eye that would (ideally), hang in a tree or sit in a bush. Sam, and Emma used Christmas ornaments, wire, cloth, and lots of tape and glue to help bring our ideas to a physical form. I painted a sample eye onto a previously Vacuformed piece that Karen Maness made. Using my phone, I placed the small painted test eye on my screen to see how the light would shine through it. 

After showing our small prototypes to our class, we have tweaked some things here and there and have worked on a larger, more fleshed-out prototype.

This prototype is made from cloth, plastic piping, tape, cardboard, and a 14 inch diameter, Vacuformed semi-sphere. We created this Vacuformed piece using a large metal salad-bowl as our mold. Although we initially thought that we wanted our Vacuform material to be clear, we have since decided, with the aid of the Lighting Team, to use the Opaque Vacuform material. This material diffuses the LED light that will sit inside of our eye perfectly! 

As we continue to experiment with various materials at different sizes, we are moving closer and closer to our desired end product: 5 total lit-up eye-sets to hang in the trees or bushes as the viewers enter and walk through the Monster’s habitat; and two large mechanical eye-sets in our Monster’s nest that physically blink and are lit up. Our next steps are to create 2 full sets of Vacuformed Eyes for our nest, paint them, and work more on the mechanics of making the eyelids open and close. 

To reiterate, our goal as the Eye Team is to bring life to our Monster’s home. Our Monster, although he will never make a full appearance, has a kind but shy personality we hope our craftsmanship of the Eyes will portray to viewers. “It’s all in the eyes, I was once told. A smile isn’t genuine, unless the eyes smile too. Words mean nothing, unless the eyes speak them too.” (Unknown).