Tucked away downtown in the art gallery district on Pierpont avenue in Salt Lake City, is an eclectic space where magic happens. One cannot help but feel happy and be in awe after stepping inside its doors. The place is called McGrew Studios and it is where Jen McGrew and her business partner Hraefn Wulfson create that magic. Through a tremendous amount of effort and hard work McGrew Studios offers a variety of services. Including, anything needing custom sets, miniatures, special effects, wardrobe and costuming, such as custom tailoring and dressmaking, themed weddings, as well as temple weddings, parties, and corporate events.
As a child Jen was surrounded by sewing machines and from about the age of seven she developed a liking for them and wanting to learn how to sew. Her parents were tolerant and encouraging when she started showing interest. Later when she attended college at Weber State University she found out that there was actually professional training and grad school for costume designers, clinching her decision to continue her path in clothing and costume design. In 2001, she opened her doors in Utah, although she had been designing and was always at least partially self-employed as a designer whereever she lived prior to living in Utah.
Jen is the master behind the clothing and costumes as well as running the day to day activities. Several young interns from Salt Lake Community College and West High school who have an interest and flare for sewing and design have been invited to assist in the studio. It is a fun atmosphere to be sure, but make no mistake, it is not to be taken lightly. Jen requires her interns to give their all, they learn more from her in the studio than from their school curriculum. Students can obtain credit by working there. It is an experience that can lay the ground work for a future in the clothing and costume design business.
Hraefn did his first official prop work in 1998. Initially, most of the work he did was for commercials. He worked in the Los Angeles Film Industry from 1998 to 2004. Although he is not from Utah, the possibilities within the Creative Economy are what attracted him to come here. Hraefn has a lengthy roster. He built miniatures and props for Publishers Clearing House, Nike, Dodge, and Prilosec. His first feature project was as part of the miniatures team for “The Last Man on Planet Earth." Then his resume became more complex, with a combination of Film, Television, and commercial projects ranging from “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “Jack in the Box” to feature projects like the “Alamo” and “Windtalk.”
He caught the Film bug from watching movies such as Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and other films of that genre. “We did not have television in my house, so movies at our local, small town movie theater were my distraction.” He says. "We lived ten miles from town so going to the Movies was always an event; a special treat.” He believes this might have been a factor in what caused him to watch closely and appreciate the experience more.
Growing up in an intellectual and artistic household allowed him a different perspective on the films he saw. His discerning attitude toward film can be attributed to the fact that for the most part he saw only the best of the industry offerings and he was always included in the adult conversations about the films afterward.
As Hraefn states - “That, and being infused with exposure to a wide range of artistic, political, social, spiritual and philosophical perspectives, defined how I would come to view film both technically and ideologically.” Hraefn is is a true artist and thinker however, film as a medium, has been with him since the beginning.
Jen and Hraefn met in 2010 when he was the creative director of a Tea Company called “Tea Nation." He hired Jen to custom fabricate some swags and curtains for the company's retail Tea shop and by the next year the two became business partners. They put their thinking caps together and began to re-imagine McGrew Studios and in what direction to take it. One point on which they both agreed was that they wanted to work in film as part of their new vision. Hraefn wanted to find a project which would demonstrate the company's skill set as well as that of McGrew's extended network of artisan professionals.
The Fantasy Genre is a challenge because it requires the creation of an entire world. This was a big factor as to why they wanted to take on this type of project. With Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy and the "Narnia" series, much of the known fantasy realm had already been tackled to extremely high standards. Robert Jordan's “Wheel of Time” series was a good vehicle for such a project as it had barely been touched, providing Hraefn and Jen with the opportunity to reach for industry standards, and yet still challenging them to focus on avoiding being derivative.
Check out the "Flight from Shadow" exhibit at the Salt Lake Library. at http://www.slcpl.org/events/view/1842Yes indeed it has been a challenge. One which they have not only met, but have truly exceeded, and the journey so far has been worth it!