Innovation meets science meets art: the contribution of prosthetic artist, Ann McLaren 

Photo: Ann McLaren, 2021 Award of Distinction, Carter Wosk Award Applied Art + Design

A craniofacial prosthetic artist, Ann McLaren combines her love of figurative sculpture in a practical way making people’s lives better.  

Ann McLaren creates silicone facial prosthetics for patients with all sorts of unique situations from trauma to cancer to congenital conditions. “What we want to do is get them to a place where they feel comfortable. The prosthetics are made from a medical grade silicone, and they are custom designed and custom tinted to the patient to restore symmetry, protect areas that are perhaps open, and help with function.” 

“They walk in with a bandage on, and they walk out and people don’t notice anything if I’ve done a good job. It can be completely life-changing because it’s something they’ve never experienced.” 

Whether creating noses or ears out of silicone for her patients, Ann has brought her unique talents and experiences to every project including her former work making life-like models for museums or special effects for film and TV. 

Photo: Prosthetics made from a medical grade silicone, custom designed and custom tinted for each patient by Ann McLaren, 2021 Award of Distinction, Carter Wosk Award Applied Art + Design

After graduating from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Ann found an immediate connection to figurative art and sculpture which led her to working on special effects in film. “I was always interested in doing makeup effects because it’s a lot of figurative things, painting, silicones, transforming people. I was really fortunate to work with a fellow in Toronto, Gordon Smith. He was known for the X-Men series. I helped develop this gel silicone technology primarily on Mystique.” 

Ann has a clear way of describing her transition from special effect to working with facial prosthetics. “When you’re doing makeup effects, you do kind of fantastical creatures or characters but there’s also a lot blood and guts and scars. And now working as an anaplastologist, instead of deconstructing, I’m trying to reconstruct people.” 

She later explored new avenues of her medium by studying forensic facial reconstruction and employed these skills in creating portraits for a Missing Persons Unit. Ann also specialized in making lifelike recreations for international museums such as the Florida Museum of Natural History, the DNA Learning Center in Cold Springs New York, and the NASA Space Center in Houston, Texas. 

This talented awardee has combined innovation, science and art and applied them in a practical way that makes people’s lives better. 

The board of the BC Achievement Foundation named Ann McLaren as the 2021 Award of Distinction Laureate honouring her career and lifetime achievement in craniofacial prosthetics for this life-changing work that translates a practical need into something beautiful. 

Check out Ann’s profile page at to read more about this Award of Distinction recipient and the Carter Wosk Award in Applied Art + Design. 

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