Initially, as the pandemic hit communities across the country, it was believed non-medical grade face masks did very little to help battle the virus. However, in early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement saying simple, homemade cloth face coverings and masks could help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Many people are asymptomatic and unknowingly spread their germs but a mask can help prevent passing along the virus.
Additionally, starting May 16, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham began requiring New Mexicans to wear a mask while in public. Several people, following the advice of the CDC, had already began wearing masks while shopping or running other errands. This naturally led to an increased demand for face masks.
That’s also when people started to put some thought into something they might have to wear every day. Fashionable, trendy and stylish face masks with pictures, designs, favorite characters and sports teams have emerged along with the demand.
Locally, hobby and professional seamstresses and sewists have been working their needles overtime to create unique and custom masks. Businesses have also shifted their focus to include mask making with a unique flare. Both the National Institute of Flamenco and Opera Southwest are using material they would have used for costumes to make masks.
This locally owned business makes custom dog collars, leashes and more. They now have a line of colorful tie masks, and will even make a matching bandana for the family dog. Prints include flowers, paisley, animal print and geometric designs.
Masks are currently $18 and can be purchased at shopmimigreen.com/face-masks. A face mask with a matching dog bandana is $40.
National Institute of Flamenco
Marisol Encinias, executive director of the National Institute of Flamenco, said their seamstresses are using the costume material to make the masks, which primarily feature polka dots.
“It brings in a little revenue to the organization since we can’t have performances and classes are online,” she said.
A portion of the money earned from masks is also put toward the local Artist Relief Fund, which helps artists who cannot work because of cancellations and social distancing.
Masks are $20 for one or $35 for a pair and can be purchased at nifnm.org.
Tony Zancanella, executive director of Opera Southwest, said the company is using existing fabric from its costume shop to make masks. He said there has been a huge demand and it’s provided an opportunity to keep at least some of his workers employed. To date, they’ve made about 2,200 masks with several
hundred going to local nursing homes and the Navajo Nation.
“I never thought I would become a textile magnate,” he joked. “We are a nonprofit whose primary mission is the production of operas, but we can’t do that right now. We were able to put the costume shop back to work.”
Patterns include beaded, embroidered, polka dots, plaid and other colorful designs. The masks include a filter pocket and padded wire nose bridge.
They are asking for donations to cover the costs of materials and labor, which ranges from $6 to $7. The masks are available for purchase at operasouthwest.org/face-masks.
Candace Nickles, owner of the small business Candace’s Craft Corner, shifted her efforts when most places where she sold her crafts were no longer operating. She resurrected her sewing skills and got to work. Her masks feature sunflowers, succulents, hot air balloons, sugar skulls and a serape pattern.
“They’ve become an accessory,” she said. “I wanted a mask that represented who I am.”
Her masks are $12 and are available on Etsy (etsy.com/shop/CCC505).
Meagan Swari, owner of Bandit, was an exercise instructor and bartender before the pandemic and found herself with a lot of time on her hands when both her jobs became nonexistent. She began sewing masks full time, calling herself the mask bandit. A nickname given to her by her partner after she told him she felt sneaky riding around town on a bike, in a mask dropping off packages (masks) on people’s porches.
“As scientists began reporting that we will probably be dealing with this for at least a year, I started making custom masks,” she said. “If we have to wear masks to keep each other safe, they should look good and be comfortable and functional.”
Her masks feature Star Wars themes, beer, pizza, mermaids, comic book characters, sports teams and flowers. She is in the process of making a line of Pride masks for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) community. She’s gotten the prints from friends, local shops and online. She donates 20% of her monthly earnings to local nonprofits.
Masks start at $5 and go up from there, depending on the print. Photos of the patterns are available on her Facebook page (bandit.masks.505), or her Instagram (bandit.masks.505). Orders can be placed through her social media or by emailing [email protected]