If you enter the East London studio of speciality make-up artist Jennifer Drew its best to be prepared for the sight of a few ripped-off arms laying around or a devilishly grimacing Frankenstein. These are just a few of her specialities.
As well as making props, designing wigs and hair-dressing, she is most-known for special make-up effects, which include the making of prosthetic appliances and full character transformations for horror and fantasy productions. She works for advertising, film, television and fashion companies.
Most of her work takes place in her studio but she also creates effects on set or applies make-up backstage in theatres. “If it’s for TV or film you get a script, break it down and work out which make-up is required for the different characters. However, if it’s a smaller budget film then you end up making props as well.”
Drew takes her inspiration from the world around her. As she writes on her blog: “The most inspiring thing of all is after soaking up all this information around us I go to sleep at night and dream the most beautifully sculpted, crazy, insane, horrific, interesting, emotional and wonderful dreams. I wake up and it’s all forgotten… but somehow my mind holds it somewhere deep inside and that’s the start of my inspiration.”
While she has just finished a project for a Netflix Original film, she finds satisfaction from smaller budget productions. “I like to do a character from start to finish, but most of the larger studios mainly make everything and then send it off to being made by different departments, whereas I like to make it by myself and then go and apply as well.”
Originally from Wales, she started as a hairdresser and a beauty therapist: “Make-up was something I’ve always been interested in, but I ended up developing it into this.”
She studied at London College of Fashion but gained her skills mostly through the practical work and experimentation: “There are so many different materials and chemicals. It takes time to build up your knowledge on them. It took 7 years to actually understand the chemistry behind. You need a little bit of maths for all your measurements, chemistry for the materials and obviously art and design as well.”
The time she needs for her creations depends a lot on the project itself. “Once I was asked to create five oaks and they gave me five days plus one assistant helping me (…) This was the fastest job I’ve ever done.”