A few months ago I had never made a face mask. Life was moving quickly, as usual. Holding down my waitress job so I could be available in the day time to my two munchkins. We’d just been through an epic year of loss and had finally started rebuilding. I had my side business doing laser cut restaurant server books and some jewelry that I could tackle while they were at school. As long as I was done by 3:30 pick up and available for any and all school performances, conferences and play dates. Luckily, I live in a very tight knit community and someone would always be there to tuck them in on the nights I worked. We were enjoying the winter turning to spring and the last few weeks in the ski valley. No matter how tight our budget got, ski passes we’re a priority. Even if it took the next year to pay them off. There’s nothing closer to God than the mountains and the snow! Spring break was coming up fast and we were ready. Then it hit. You all know what “it” is. And everybody has their story of how it impacted their life. The ski valley closed over night, our restaurant shut it’s doors within a week. Being that I was a server, and part time at that- (my daughters father passed away in November & I needed to dedicate much more time to our home life) I was eligible for $180 a week in unemployment. I spent the next week making yougurt, pickling beets and trying not to let fear set in. You all know this part, too. Which part to fret over first. Your momma who is in her 70s with COPD, or your sister with her newborn & todler or your own children....and bills, piling up with no remorse. I reached out to a friend for help and he said in a matter of fact way, that at the time I did not appreciate, “why don’t you make masks?”. Another week went by and fear was shifting to high pitched panic. I had recently bought a few big ticket items for my business knowing I could make the credit card payments before the interest was due. Now that time was right around the corner and I had nada. Less than nada. Only more debt.
That night my neighbor, Anais, came home with a pattern for a face mask. She knew I had worked for a local seamstress and had plenty of sewing equipment in my shop. She decided we both needed masks and I was the obvious choice for fabrication. Also the local hospital was asking for a very specific design called the Olsen mask which allowed for a filter to be inserted into a pocket in the lining. Why not focus on what I could do and help out where needed. I took the mask and made a few modifications so it would fit better on the face. I happen to have an amazing collection of Day of the Dead fabric and a brilliant business partner/computer wiz who rebuilt a laser cut which was perfect for cutting fabric quickly and to precise specifications. I thought the fabric choices was apropos given the circumstances behind the mask movement. Anyone born or raised in Northern New Mexico will know exactly what I mean. Anyways, I made the mask and she posted a picture of herself on Facebook.
The next day I had 20 orders. By the end of the week the number was 100 and I knew I was onto something. I switched my all but dead Etsy sight over to the Face Mask category, got a website up and running(with the help of the computer wiz) and started sewin’ my buns off. Along side Claire Blanchard from The Tufted Chair, who taught me most of what I know concerning sewing machines and production work, we managed to provide many masks to my landlord’s son’s hospice center in Albuquerque, NM. We have also given out many to others in our community from healthcare workers to grocery store clerks. Cotton fabric was hard to come by and elastic was impossible as people have been making masks all over the country for months and supply chains were breaking. Luckily I come from a wonderful family of quilters and my Aunt Lois provided me with plenty of high quality cotton for our donation masks. My landlord owns Taos Gems and Minerals, a wonderful gem and jewelry store, which provided elastic beading string. That was the perfect solution to making the most comfortable and wearable face masks. If this pandemic doesn’t teach us to look close to home, or at the least within America for products and services, then we have missed an invaluable lesson.
Anyways, that’s about it. We’re almost a month in now and I think I’ve made over 500 masks from my kitchen table! I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to make a difference to my family, to our town and even to our world. Thank you for supporting us and know when you purchase one of our unique, artistic and impeccably pieced masks, you’re making a difference too! I look forward to hearing your stories and seeing your photos. Please post your photos at #materialcut and we will put a few of them on our website, Materialcut.com & I will choose one outstanding winner to give a limited edition mask to each month.
From our family to yours,