Community Masks Project Sews with a MissionKristin Crane
When recommendations were released advising everyone to wear a cloth face mask, we, like so many others, pulled out our sewing machines, reached into our stash, and started sewing. We sewed masks for our families, neighbors, and friends. With the news feeling overwhelming, it felt good to use our skills (not to mention all the fabric we’ve hoarded for years) to do something that felt useful. Something that protected people in this time of national crisis. It also became clear very quickly that just like working from home, masks aren’t going to be a passing fad. We’re all going to be wearing these for a while.
And if there’s something everyone needs to wear, humans are wired to use it as a tool of expression. Almost instantly, people craved something personalized and designers responded. “I have seen a huge amount of discussion on the fashion aspect of these masks. I think it’s a testament to the resiliency of our nation how quickly we can move from crisis to lifestyle,” said CEO of Creative Cause Solutions, John Otsuki, whose company launched The Community Masks Project. A project that donates one mask to someone in need for every mask they sell.
According to John, Community Masks Project grew organically at the Creative Cause Solutions manufacturing facility in Virginia. As production increased, they launched a featured designer series and invited Design Pool to contribute designs. Excited about this project, we sat down with John (virtually, of course) to learn more about their masks and this community-minded project.
The Community Masks Project started on the sewing room floor.
What inspired you to start making the masks?
As the first reports of individuals with COVID-19 were announced, one of our staff asked if she could use our equipment to make masks for her daughter who was working in the health care industry. Worrying her daughter was at risk, we all gathered around to help. What started out as dozens of masks, soon grew to hundreds and then thousands as more people heard about the project. We formed a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of materials and shipping, many of our staff, as well as local volunteers, took on the sewing. Now, we receive requests from health care groups and family services agencies from across the country. We are now selling masks to individuals and businesses and using those proceeds to fund these donations.
What inspired you to connect with the community as part of the Community Masks Project?
We have always tried to support the local community at times of crisis. This is one of the many “Causes” that make up Creative Cause Solutions. In the case of the face masks, we had materials on hand, staff that wanted to donate their time and local groups that desperately needed masks. It made sense to bring everything together.
What has the reaction been to those people receiving donated masks?
We have received amazing responses from those who have been given masks, as well as those who have bought them. They have been extremely supportive of our efforts to ensure that everyone that needs a mask is getting one. For those that are at risk, or are working in medical, first responder, or essential services, they regard these masks as greatly needed protection against the spread of the virus. That alone makes it worth doing.
What does making and donating these masks mean to you and your employees?
One of the biggest problems today is the feeling of helplessness. As individuals, we all have a desire to help find a solution and minimize the loss of life. We want to lessen the impact on our lives and the lives of those we care about. Making masks is something we can do that provides a tangible benefit to thousands of people. The experience has been incredibly rewarding.
Safe materials are critically important in the production of something intended for the face.
What are the materials and is there anything that makes them unique to your masks?
We chose to use polyester as this would allow for a mask with a longer life, no issues with dyes or print inks and stands up to bleach and disinfectants. The inner surface is fleeced making for a very effective filter, as well as being less irritating. We use aluminum nose strips and tubular elastic which make a better performing mask. People tell us our masks are better fitting and more comfortable than others. Above all, making a high-quality product is a point of pride for Creative Cause Solutions.
One thing I do want to make people aware of is that people are rarely asked to breathe through a piece of apparel. Apparel manufacturing supply chains have no consideration of the possible impact of this issue. In the case of facemasks, we need to be VERY careful about material choices and, in particular, printing methods for these items. Most products used for fabric printing are not suitable for breathing through for hours at a time. Not knowing how something was printed, the chemicals used, and any residual products that might be left on the fabric is a real concern for the consumer. This is why we chose methods and materials we knew would provide the safest, and most environmentally sound option.
How long do you plan to keep the Community Masks Project going?
We plan to make masks for as long as needed. We are also now producing Level 2 Certified Isolation Gowns and other PPE items for medical and non-medical institutional use. What started out as one mask for one person’s loved one, has possibly changed our company’s future direction.
We are so excited to be a featured designer in the Community Masks Project online shop! Firstly, we love these maks. They are comfortable, easy to clean, and safe close to the face. Worn alone or with ear guards, they are comfortable even over a long period of time. Also, they are available in three sizes. As a result, their masks fit everyone in the family. The range of designs assures everyone finds a pattern they love.
So, if you’re in need of a mask, please head over to the Community Masks Project online store. In addition to a great mask, you will feel good knowing your purchase helps get a mask to someone else in need.