Severed heads, fatal cuts and prosthetics that look like boiling skin are Darla Wigley's bread and butter.
The Chickamauga resident left saving the lives of pets as a veterinary surgical technician to follow her dream of making people into works of art. Now, she is a makeup artist with a full-service special effects studio in her hometown where she turns actors into elves, aliens and burn victims.
She has done over 20 years worth of work in beauty, theater, TV and movies, providing prosthetics and expert application, she said.
The gory jobs are her favorite.
Wigley was even able to work on the Walker Stalker Cruise, a cruise dedicated to fans of "The Walking Dead," where she met members of the cast and created zombies out of audience members.
"Because of the makeup we get to do, I think it brings people out of their shells to have a more meaningful interaction with the actors," Wigley said.
She draws inspiration for these projects from old monster movies, like one of her favorite films, "An American Werewolf in London."
Though she loves watching monster movies and bringing their subjects to life, Wigley dreams of working in Marvel's world of superheroes. She recently submitted an application to be part of the union so she can realize her dream, as most of the crew on Marvel films are union members, she said.
"I am a geek, I guess," said Wigley. "Everyone has that one weird goal in their life. To work on something on that grand of a scale would be epic, for me at least."
She's already had some of her creations appear on the big screen. Her favorite pieces were made to be on "Face Off," a reality show where special effects and makeup artists compete with each other, making intricate works of art through makeup. An artificial intelligent being and an alien, made in her own studio, put Wigley through "hell week" of "Face Off." Each piece took a week and Wigley did not want to see pieces she'd worked so hard on go to waste.
Fortunately, they were picked up and used for the film "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Hall," she said.
With projects being so intricate and challenging, and the ever looming presence of competition, the hours a special effects artist works can be long.
"I've spent birthdays and anniversaries and holidays working instead of with my family," Wigley said.
But however long the hours may be, she loves her job.
"I don't think I could eat, breathe or sleep without being creative, and [special effects makeup is] all the stuff I love rolled up into a ball," said Wigley.
Email Alex Farmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.