Artist Spotlight: Ashley Johnson from Factory Of Terror!

When I started working at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island I knew I would be working with people who shared a similar interest of mine, the love of animals. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would also be working with so many people who also shared my love of horror and science fiction films! This blog is about one of them.

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I met Ashley during the zoo’s annual Jack ‘O Lantern Spectacular. She was working at one of the sweet shops and on nights that were slow I noticed that she was drawing, oftentimes monsters. We started talking and it wasn’t long before I realized that I had met another monster kid. As it would get closer to Halloween she would start dressing up, oftentimes with amazing make-up work.

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This year she got her dream job, working for the Factory Of Terror, a New England-based, award-winning haunt that has been in business for over 18 years. Not only does she get to make people up, but she also gets to scare people, a much more fun way of spending the Halloween season than selling popcorn and cupcakes. Ashley was nice enough to take some time and do a quick interview with me.

How did your interest in make-up and make-up effects begin?

Back in my senior year of high school I was taking a Shakespeare class for English. We were given a project to do a presentation on and my group was given the plague. Instead of just standing up in front of everyone and talking on the subject we wanted one of our group members to actually have the plague. Short of finding some infectious disease and exposing our friend to it, make-up was the next best thing. I borrowed a make-up kit from a friend of mine that was in theatre and just started to experiment with it at home. By the time the project came around I was spreading the plague like wildfire and it was the most amazing feeling to see everyone’s reaction to my make-up. I never did give the make-up kit back to her.

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Were you a horror movie fan growing up? If so, what are some of your favorites?

Growing up my family exposed me to a lot of older films. I grew up watching classics like Nosferatu, Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera as well as SciFi films like The Blob and It Conquered the World.

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Were any of these movies influential in your interest in make-up?

When I was younger I never felt the same pull to make-up as I did in high school. I loved watching the films but there wasn’t ever a pull towards make-up per say. I’ve always been a creative person. I have a sketchbook on my person at all times. I used to do a lot of drawing back in the day and I felt like that was my medium of choice, so I drew a lot of creepy creatures. I remember one year I had a total obsession with the wolf man and all of my sketches were of snarling wolf faces, or giant clawed feet.

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Do you have any favorite make-up effect artists?

Who can forget the man of a thousand faces? Lon Chaney Senior was certainly a big influence. He did all of the effects on himself for his films and really set the foundation for what makeup is today. And of course, I’m a HUGE zombie fan. Greg Nicotero and his work on The Walking Dead is so amazing. I’d kill to be an extra on that show just to have a chance to wear that make-up.

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How did you learn your craft?

I’m all self taught. After getting that make-up kit in high school I started to experiment. Immediately I was drawn to gore. When people found out I did make-up they’d ask for something for prom and I had to tell them that unless they wanted to go to prom with their throat ripped open, I wasn’t their girl. There was plenty of face painting and exploring just trying to figure out highlights and shadows, what worked here, what worked there and it just developed. I feel like my background in art really helped with the transition over to sculpting and painting faces.

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Prior to getting hired for Factory of Terror, did you ever work anywhere else utilizing your make-up skills?

Prior to Factory of Terror I’ve done several small jobs here or there. I’ve worked on a couple of local films and productions. I’m originally from Los Angeles and worked back home as well. I did a werewolf film that I was absolutely in love with, however very frustratingly the director never took the film past post production and all that work was lost. Either way I’m always looking for new experiences to further my craft and take it to new places.

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I would like to thank Ashley for taking the time to participate in this interview and I would also like to thank the Factory Of Terror for their permission in allowing me to use these images. The Factory Of Terror now has three exciting locations in Fall River, MA, Worcester, MA and West Warwick, RI and is a great way to celebrate the Halloween season! Check out their website HERE or follow them on Facebook HERE!

~David Albaugh

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