All about eyes: postscript
Examining a pair of 20-year-old Zoukeimuras.
I've been chatting with esuko about doll eyes. Esuko posted a journal on Instagram about the Zoukeimura brand of glass eyes, and a follow-up with observations on how to distinguish Zoukeimura of different vintages.
Zoukeimura造形村 was the first brand of quality Japanese glass eyes that I learned about, on account of being used by Volks as their premium line of glass eyes since practically the beginning of Super Dollfies. ("Volks HG" is their other, standard line of glass eyes.) In my BJD newbie days (late 00s/early 10s), they were uncommon but appeared at a decent frequency on Den of Angels Marketplace. Now in 2023, I think they are substantially harder to find overall.
I wanted to try out Zoukeimura eyes, but at the time could reasonably afford just one pair. So I set my sights on GE-15 Neosium (Neodymium). I was intrigued by its colour and thought it'd be suitable for Syr, whom I'd just bought and whose appearance was taking shape in my imagination. GE-15 Neosium was one of a batch of colours that got discontinued shortly after I joined the hobby, so I started actively searching in the hopes of acquiring a pair before they got too elusive. The effort paid off: I bought my pair off eBay in 2010. The auction listing stated these eyes were made circa 2002-2003.
To my chagrin, they didn't work out for Syr: too big, and the colour didn't suit her faceup. But I've held onto them because they were my first and, until recently, only pair of glass eyes I've owned.
Esuko listed several criteria commonly used to distinguish Zoukeimura vintage, so I'll examine these eyes with those criteria.
18mm normal iris (9mm).
Measured with a micrometer: 17.8mm eye/8.65mm iris + 18.0mm eye/8.4mm iris
I recall that most Zoukeimura eyes on the secondhand market came in 18mm and 20mm; 16mm was less common.
I consider these low-domed when compared to some of my urethane eyes. As with handmade glass eyes, the domes aren't perfectly symmetrical.
Next to urethane eyes. Left to right -- A: DropRops 16mm. B: Zoukeimura 18mm Neosium. C: Enchanted Doll 16mm, high dome. D: Dollflower 16mm.
Uneven. One of them floats higher than the other, but it's not too drastic. From the few times I've used them, the imperfect pupils don't seem to adversely affect the realism and 3-dimensionality of the eye. It might even contribute to realism.
White, crisp and evenly spaced. It's clearly handmade and waggles a bit, but I think the waggle gives the iris a natural look and texture, especially when seen in the context of a doll's face.
The honeycomb pattern
Esuko noted that some old Zoukeimuras have a honeycomb texture on the eye dome's surface that's only visible in a macro photo. My smartphone camera could barely capture it, and only indirectly. (I tried using a DSLR, but I'm not experienced in handling it so couldn't get good photos.) I think the honeycomb texture manifests indirectly as a distortion in the glass that makes the pupil and other details look ragged. The right eye shows it better than the left. Up close it looks like imperfection in the glass, but it's not visible from any distance. Perhaps the roughness of the glass texture contributes to the eye's ability to capture light.
I can't really discuss the Neosium eye colour without putting them into a doll.
Justinian looks a bit traumatized. Poor guy: he'd already fought off one inappropriate pair of eyes, and now he's suffering another pair again. But he looks that way because of the 9mm iris that 18mm eyes usually have. It's only about 1-1.5mm larger than 16mm eyes he usually wears, but that -- and the likewise slightly larger pupil -- is enough to fill more of his eyewells and give him a wide-eyed look. I don't quite like that look and prefer him in 16mm with normal iris (8mm).
Likewise Syr doesn't look as good in 18mm as in 16mm. If I try to avoid the startled look, her eyelids end up blocking out more of the 18mm's larger pupil, so they give her a bit of dead-eyed stare instead. The colour suits her more, but I still think they're too pale and prefer her with dark-grey eyes.
The "Neosium" colour
The Neosium colour seems to vary wildly from pair to pair, according to this page. Some of the eyes have a distinctly blue tinge; I've never seen that colour appear in my pair, although the gray sometimes shades towards a cooler temperature.
The eyes have great clarity and even colouring. The white threading gives the iris a shimmery texture, and elevates it from pale grey to silver. As for the hue of the iris? Here it gets interesting.
The Neosium eyes has a colour-shifting property that I've never seen in any other eye. Outside a doll and under diffused light, my pair is a pale grey and neutral-temperature, maybe a touch cool. In indirect but warm sunlight, it acquires a violet tinge. Justinian wore the eyes on a sunny day, and the violet was quite visible in the indirect sunlight. Syr wore them the next day, which was overcast; the eyes have returned to more neutral temperature, although the violet is faintly visible depending on quality of light.
This is a mercurial, subtle colour shift. Half the time I wonder if my eyes are deceiving me, especially when I'm looking at photos. Sometimes the violet shows up on PC monitor and smartphone screen, and sometimes it doesn't. I was very confident that the eyes looked violet in Justinian but not in Syr and it was mainly due to lighting... but now I'm second-guessing myself whether I saw anything at all.
Aside: I think part of seeing the violet is a matter of one's visual perception. There are whole theories and tests devoted to the science behind vision and colour interpretation, but in short - colour is not an absolute physical fact, but the brain's way of interpreting the physical properties of an object through the light reflected off said object and surrounding environment. So, the violet colour-shift might be visible mainly because one perceives it so, both in-person and in photos. Maybe my dolls' different faceups, skintones, hair and clothing combine with the quality of the light source to influence how I'm perceiving the colour of the eyes. Vision is complicated!
I mean - is it just me, or is there a cool, bluish hue in these irises now? This photo was taken with a DSLR, whereas all the others were taken with my smartphone. What does the camera pick up, and what am I seeing?
Violet or not, I'm fascinated by this Neosium colour. Regardless of how well they fit identification criteria for old Zoukeimuras (and esuko did say her criteria aren't hard-and-fast rules), they are very lovely and excellent quality, and are just as good as the other Japanese glass eyes I recently bought. I'm thankful I found a pair, even though no doll at home or incoming can wear them currently. Well, these eyes have gone back into storage, and I'll keep waiting for the day I get a doll who can wear 18mm and fully show off this wonderful colour.