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West Columbia face shield company caters to hospital workers and Hollywood stars

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zshield makeup

Portland makeup artist Kelli Thomsen wears South Carolina made Zshields while working with clients as protection against the spread of the coronavirus. Kelli Thomsen Beauty and Alixann Loosle Photography/Provided.

COLUMBIA — Lights, camera, face shield, action.

As Hollywood productions resume in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, actors and makeup artists are sporting a new accessory, face shields — some of which are coming from a West Columbia firm.

While the film industry is a small portion of business from Zverse, a 3D printing and digital manufacturing company turned mask-maker, it is probably the most visible.

The face shields, most popular with educators, the beauty services industry and health workers, hang around the user's neck with a clear plastic barrier rising in front of their face that can be flipped down when necessary.

The company's Zshields can be seen in the Instagram feeds around the necks of major actors including Matt Damon while he works on the set of the upcoming Ridley Scott film "The Last Duel," as well as Channing Tatum, Jennifer Anniston and Halle Berry.

The Zshields have become popular with makeup artists because their Hollywood clientele can wear them without smudging their stage makeup the way a mask might, Zverse CEO John Carrington said.

The Zshield has garnered nationwide attention from professionals like Kelli Thomsen, a Portland-based makeup artist who came across it on Instagram. She wears the shield while working at the med spa she founded a decade ago.

Thomsen caters more to makeup for head shots, branding and brides. Her bridal clients wear masks until she has to do the makeup on that portion of their face. Then she uses a makeup-setting spray to prevent smudging.

A face shield appealed to Thomsen because she wears glasses and certain masks were blocking her vision.

"It looked like good quality that I could wipe down with Barbicide," she said. 

The shield's ability to tilt down and open up allows her to step back and look in the mirror to make sure the makeup is even. And because the mask hangs around her neck, rather than her forehead, the rising heat from her breath doesn't fog it up.

"I have been doing this for a long time and (other makeup artists) definitely all talk and let each other know what’s working and what’s not," Thomsen said.

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She has also started wearing a clear smock that she can clean between clients since she was able to start seeing them again in July, as well as a personal HEPA filter air purifier that hangs around her neck and pumps fresh air into her mask.

zshield makeup

Portland makeup artist Kelli Thomsen wears South Carolina-made Zshields while working with clients as protection against the spread of the coronavirus. Kelli Thomsen Beauty and Alixann Loosle Photography/Provided.

"For me, I think the most important thing I'm looking for is quality," Thomsen said. "If it doesn't work and people don't feel protected, then they aren’t going to come to me."

Just like the pandemic has changed the way makeup artists and other service providers work, it has changed Zverse too.

Previously, the company was known for creating the 3D design files manufacturers need to take things from a drawing to production. Now Zverse is mass-producing those items, too.

At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Carrington's clients paused operations and he thought he was going to have to lay off employees. But when the call came in from hospitals for protective equipment, he pivoted.

To meet the demand for face shield products, Zverse has expanded into a 30,000-square-foot space in West Columbia, near Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Carrington said.

His business had expanded from 18 to 84 employees.

Zverse now has the ability to make 120,000 shields per day using new injection-molding machines and has produced more than 4 million shields to date. Shields are now being shipped to Europe, as well as across the United States.

Carrington sees the potential to keep the business going while meeting the needs of other industries, such as auto and aerospace, well into the future after a vaccine is created and the virus comes under control.

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