All posts by Romane Jamet

MADE OF PLASTER

A SYMBOL OF AN ERA OF SOCIAL ASPHYXIA

George Stylianou

House of European History

It’s winter time and it’s snowing at the Flachau ski resort, about 70km south of Salzburg in Austria. A video documenting the snowfall starts with a close up of what appears to be a gloved hand giving a thumb up. The wide shot that follows reveals that the glove is actually on a skier’s foot. Only the legs stick out of the snow while the cable cars above continue their normal service transporting skiers to the hilltop. The other foot, incidentally, still has a ski on. Of course, the skier is not a real human being and the video, titled I’m OK, is a project by Greek artist Anna Vasof.

Humour and the desire to joke about daily life runs through Vasof’s work. The humorous disposition is what led her to create, back in early 2020, her Hand Mask. The lockdown in Vienna, where she now lives, started on March 13. She made the mask one week later. During that period, she recalls, there was a shortage of medical masks. “There were instructions left and right on how to make a cloth mask,” she says. “I thought, as a joke, to create my own mask with the materials I had at home. Because I’m an artist I had plaster and various other materials.”

She casted her own hand and nailed elastic bands to the hardened plaster. The Hand Mask, Vasof insists, can be worn and she took and uploaded photos on social media to prove the point. When asked whether she’s worn it outside, she smilingly notes that it doesn’t offer protection from the virus. Plus, she points out, at the time nobody could move around freely.

It was on social media that Simina Bădică, curator at the House of European History in Brussels, spotted photos of the Hand Mask and contacted Vasof. Bădică acquired the mask, which now sits in the Europe Now section of the museum’s 6th floor in Brussels.

But there is also a serious aspect to this work of art. Its creator points out that during the lockdown, there was an outburst of domestic violence. She recalls hearing shouting and screaming coming out of neighbouring flats. Because the virus affects the respiratory system and people catching it often have shortness of breath, Vasof wanted her artwork “to portray the social asphyxia existing at the time. It was a good metaphor I thought.”

The artist, from the Mount Parnassus area in central Greece, is quick to dismiss suggestions that the Hand Mask criticises the decisions made to try to deal with the pandemic. On the contrary, she notes, “I’m one of the few people still wearing a mask in Vienna. People wanted to have access to masks and it was a pressurised situation. The Hand Mask is a symbol of that era.”

Unlike Vasof’s skier, Europe is indeed starting to do… OK on the pandemic front, even though the February invasion of Ukraine by Russia has thrown the continent head first back into a chilling chaos.   

Image Credit:

House of European History, Brussels, Belgium © Anna Vasof, 2020

Object information:

Title:Hand Mask
Artist:Anna Vasof
Date:2020
Owner:House of European History, Brussels
Dimensions (HxWxD):cca 7 x 15 x 9 cm
Production placeVienna, Austria
Material:Stone-hard, weatherproof plaster and elastic bands

MADE FOR CYCLE COURIERS

“VERY GOOD FIT AND VERY BREATHABLE”

Beatrice Behlen

Museum of London

Like museum staff elsewhere, the curatorial team at the Museum of London began thinking about documenting the effects of the pandemic as soon as Britain went into lockdown in mid-March 2020. One of the first objects we put aside was a cotton facemask, which illustrates a number of aspects of the museum’s wider Collecting COVID project.

According to John W. Murphy, President/General Manager of Natasha Zinko x DUOltd, the ‘upcycled sustainable machine washable face mask’ was created by Ukranian-born, London-based fashion designer Zinko and her son Ivan for ‘front line communities working through the COVID-19 pandemic’. 600 masks were donated to London cycle couriers, before they were also made available to buy online with 50 percent of the proceeds going to the NHS, Britain’s National Health Service. By mid-September 2020, the company had donated £5000. [1]

The masks were advertised on Instagram with two films, only one of which is still available online. We collected these two shorts as well; they are made with humour but also acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. Alongside other objects, such as two hand sanitisers made by a London gin and whiskey distillery respectively, the mask will enable us to show how some companies switched their facilities to producing difficult to obtain commodities. And like the examples of workwear made for hospital staff made by one of the many London ‘scrub hubs’ we also took in, the face mask is one example of the many initiatives supporting the much-loved NHS.

The object also demonstrates another aspect of our methodology – we decided to focus on collecting objects that had already been made, rather than ask Londoners to create something especially for the museum. This approach did not always work, some aspects of the pandemic, such as grieving or the effects on mental health, were hard to evidence with objects so we recorded interviews or commissioned artists to work with communities and individuals to produce something we can keep.

So far, we have made more than 200 acquisitions as part of Collecting COVID, which equates to more than 650 individual objects. These include four more examples of mask making and wearing: three face masks upcycled from football shirts by the independent sportswear designer Georgina Hunt; two masks – one with the Greek, the other with the Cypriot flag – representing the donor’s British Greek Cypriot identity; ten masks made of colourful fabrics by housewife Elaine Lee, originally from Hong Kong, who found herself stranded in London while visiting her son, together with a brooch by Daisy Choi with the words ‘Every Day is a Good Day’, and four mask of African wax print fabric made by the donor for family and friends.

Lastly, Natasha Zinko’s mask bears witness to one other aspect of the Collecting COVID Project. It is not unusual for museum employees to donate objects themselves; particularly our Printed Ephemera collection contains many ‘staff finds’ such as leaflets, brochures and magazines. However, not since the last World War had the museum collected around a topic, which deeply affected everyone involved personally. The pushbike courier who had received this mask and was unable to use it because it was too small is my partner.

[1] Email of John W Murphy to Beatrice Behlen, 15 September 2020

Links

https://natashazinko.com/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-pWw6HDzlC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

https://www.season-zine.com/originals/2020/4/15/georginas-10-steps-to-make-a-football-face-mask

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_AtgUrpuI8/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Made of Haute Couture Embroidery

Jackie Yoong

Fashion and Textiles Senior Curator, Asian Civilisation Museum Singapore

ACM Fashion and Textiles Senior Curator Jackie Yoong (JY) interviews Andrew Gn (AG), Singaporean fashion designer based in Paris; and Pauline Chan (PC), donor.

JY: Why did you bid for the Prestige Singapore charity mask by Andrew Gn and donate it to ACM?

PC:  The Prestige charity mission resonated with me: “In the spirit of giving back, Prestige is collaborating with three Singaporean fashion designers to create exclusive handcrafted face masks for a fundraising campaign.”

It had all the elements that I hold dearly and support – charity, the media Prestige and Singaporean fashion designer. When I saw a picture of the mask, I knew it would be just too difficult to pass up. Happy to donate the mask as it can then be seen and appreciated by more people and for a long time to come. A beauty to be shared!

JY: Why did you partner Prestige Singapore to make this creation during the pandemic?

AG: Because it was part of a drive for a charity

JY: How does the design capture your thoughts of the (pandemic) moment?

AG: I designed my SS21 collection during the heart of the 1st pandemic wave, when all of us were living in anxiety and fear. I named the collection “May There Be Light” because I wished it would simply bring joy, pleasure and hope. Times were very grim, but I was confident we’ll be celebrating again someday. This is why I thought of white, which symbolizes purity, cleansing, rebirth.

JY: Please share more about the creative and technical processes behind your exquisitely crafted creation

AG: The white looks in that collection were worked with contrasting textures and materials: guipure, silk, lace, tweed, fringe… Smooth and knobby, matte and shiny, soft and structured. I used similar couture techniques for the mask: appliqué guipure flowers and braiding on a double layer of silk organza.

JY: How do you feel about the successful auction bidder donating the work to ACM and for the work to be included in an international exhibition on pandemic facemasks?

AG: I’d like to thank very warmly Ms. Pauline Chan for generously bidding for the mask and then donating it to ACM. It’s also an honour for me to be exhibited in this ICOM Costume exhibition alongside works from other international museums which I love, admire and have visited.

Image credit

Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

Made with tradition

Isaac Te Awa (Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Ngā Puhi)

Curator Mātauranga Māori, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

PUREWA MACGREGOR AND HER RARANGA FACE MASK

*List with definitions of Māori terms at the end of the article.

Purewa MacGregor (Ngāti-Tama-Rongo, Muaūpoko) is a Māori weaver currently based in Hastings, Aotearoa New Zealand. Her mother Tracey, Aunt Pare, and sister Niwa are all accomplished weavers with strong links to whiri techniques. Despite coming from a whānau of competent weavers, Purewa has only been weaving for four years. She credits her sister Niwa with initially teaching her the foundations of raranga before she was taken under the wing of well-known master weaver Fiona Jones.

Purewa’s development of the concept of the harakeke mask was in direct response to what she saw on television and in person in the build up to Alert Level 4 lockdown in March and April 2020.

”I saw Māori everywhere wearing scarves, bandanas, hats, and all sorts of things looking for a way of protection during the pandemic and I decided to create something for them. I wanted a way to help my community in a way that allowed them to be safe and be Māori.”

Purewa MacGregor, 2020

The foundation of the raranga mask is woven from boiled harakeke and lined with fabric which can be hand washed and air dried to ensure cleanliness. Purewa noted that all the construction techniques used are those she uses regularly in other woven taonga, therefore the adaptation to a mask was very easy. In order to make a product that was functional she liaised via email with Associate Professor for the University of Auckland Doctor Siouxsie Wiles who kindly offered advice on how to make sure the lining had adequate protection. This was important for Purewa who wanted to ensure she did her best to produce a quality mask. Although there is no formal study to demonstrate that these specific masks adequately protect from covid-19, the response from the Māori community has been significant and positive with Te Ao Māori News producing a story on Tuesday 7 April 2020.[i] Although she was part of the consulting for these masks Doctor Siouxsie Wiles also advised caution with their use.[ii]

In the past many of the visible aspects of Māori culture were suppressed by colonisation. With Covid, it feels like masks have the potential to supress our visible identities. Having items, like masks, that loudly identify with Māori practices continues the reclamation of culture and identity.

Purewa MacGregor, 2021

Purewa describes the response and demand for her masks as overwhelming. Initially priced at $50.00 each, Purewa was forced to raise the price to $100 in order to justify the time required by her to keep up with demand, as their production is time consuming and not based on making profit. The masks have been predominantly purchased by Māori men and the feedback she has received indicated that they are being worn by essential service workers, or people who feel they are in need of protection. During the initial lock down period, Purewa produced and sold at least 40 masks and is still asked to make them over a year later.

*Definition of Māori terms[iii]

Māori: indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Aotearoa: indigenous Māori name for New Zealand.

Whiri: Braid or plait.

Whānau: extended family.

Harakeke: Phormium tenax. New Zealand flax.

Taonga: treasure or prized possession.


[i] Te Ao – Māori News. 2021. ‘Hawkes Bay artist makes facemasks from harakeke’.

https://www.teaomaori.news/hawkes-bay-artist-makes-facemasks-harakeke

[ii] Sadler, R. 2021. ‘Coronavirus: Siouxsie Wiles warns harakeke face masks may not be protective’. News Hub.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/04/coronavirus-siouxsie-wiles-warns-harakeke-face-masks-may-not-be-protective.html

[iii] Moorfield, John. 2003-2021. Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary.

https://maoridictionary.co.nz/

Image credit

Purewa wearing her Raranga Mask, 2020. Courtesy of Purewa MacGregor.

Made by Menswear Brands

UNDERCOVER EXHIBITION

Danielle Sprecher, Andrew Groves

Westminster Menswear Archive

The exhibition Undercover. From Necessity to Luxury: The Evolution of Face Coverings During COVID-19 exploredhow face coverings evolved from being a functional PPE object in short supply to becoming an everyday object worn by millions. It opened on 11 May 2021, one year from when the U.K. government first advised people to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces.

Undercover featured 52 face masks produced between March 2020 and March 2021. The chronological arrangement showed how these everyday products evolved from their medical origins to become highly desirable fashion accessories manufactured by companies ranging from BoohooMAN to Louis Vuitton.

In March 2020, several menswear brands began to pivot their production to respond to a developing medical emergency and adapt their processes to make medical-grade PPE scrubs for health workers. Many companies were at first hesitant to create face coverings as a consumer product. Masks were a new product category for nearly all of these manufacturers and brands, and most of them had no prior expertise designing or making them. They also had to navigate the legal ramifications of production and decide whether they wanted to be associated so explicitly with the pandemic. However, it was not long before manufacturers began producing face masks for their customers.

From a curatorial standpoint, the exhibition presented us with several challenges. Given the new information surrounding COVID-19 in March 2020 and the possibility of contaminated face coverings, we decided only to collect new face coverings. Rapid response collecting meant we faced the uncertainty of knowing what objects would be produced and how to access them, given that most shops were shut. Additionally, almost all websites banned the reselling of face coverings, which made it challenging to acquire objects produced at the beginning of COVID-19 in the U.K. that had become unavailable. Finally, as the year proceeded, the public’s reaction to masks became more polarised and politicised, so we had to continuously re-evaluate the public mood for an exhibition and our appropriate response.

The exhibition’s design was inspired by the colours, fonts, and graphics used on conventional personal protective equipment (PPE) mask packaging. This pseudo-medical approach enabled us to explore how this visual language can make consumers feel safe and reassured when viewing non-PPE objects. The exhibition also drew on the visual language used by many media outlets and retailers in the previous year to display face coverings online. Since all the artefacts were less than a year old and many were still on sale online, we wanted the exhibition to blur the boundary between editorial and exhibition. As we were not displaying the products themselves, but rather images of them, we adopted the digital modification techniques used on fashion editorial to make them look as ‘perfect’ as possible.

The exhibition is now a permanent time capsule chronicling the fashion industry’s response to COVID-19. We intend to return to it in ten years to reflect and re-evaluate the significance of these objects.

https://www.mensweararchive.com/undercover

Skeleton Mask, BoohooMAN, 19 April 2020.

BoohooMAN had previously sold face masks as part of their menswear range in 2019, mirroring a trend popularised by Off-White. However, when this skeleton mask was released in April 2020, they were accused of profiting at a time when the NHS was experiencing a PPE shortage and withdrew the masks from sale.

OBEY Mask, Retrobomb. May 2020
OBEY Mask, Retrobomb. May 2020

This mask is not from the streetwear brand Obey, but an Etsy seller inspired by John Carpenter’s 1988 film They Live, where the ruling class manipulate people through subliminal messages. The film’s message struck a chord with consumers who bought these masks to express their objection to wearing a face covering.


Great British Designer Face Coverings, RÆBURN. 5 June 2020

One of the fashion industry’s first coordinated responses was the British Fashion Council’s Great British Designer Face Coverings. Two packs were available, one featuring Liam Hodges, Julien Macdonald and Rixo, the other RÆBURN, Mulberry and Halpern. In an independent Which? Best Buy lab survey, the face coverings came second overall.

Monogram Tapestry Bandana Mask Cover Set, Louis Vuitton. 13 November 2020

In April 2020, Louis Vuitton pivoted their worldwide production to produce face masks, which they distributed for free to healthcare workers, retirement homes, and organisations most seriously impacted by COVID-19. In November 2020, Louis Vuitton released their elevated retail face covering with a monogram bandana within a drawstring pouch and sold for £350.

Made of Fish

A MASK TO PROTECT AND REFLECT CULTURE

Alison Clark

National Museums of Scotland

In 2020 National Museums Scotland acquired three covid-19 face masks by Tlingit Athabascan artist Crystal Worl. One of these masks (V.2020.9) is currently featured in the online exhibition ‘Clothing the Pandemic’.

Image courtesy of Crystal Worl, @crystalworl

In an Instagram post on May 8th 2020 Crystal Worl wrote: ‘Indigenous people around the globe have been mask makers for centuries. Masks in Alaska were and still are created as a means to transfer cultural values and knowledge from one generation to the next. As a result of today’s pandemic, it is inevitable that Indigenous artists have united in the creation of Indigenized masks. Now is the time to protect our people. Wear a mask!’.

In response to the pandemic Alaskan based Tlingit Athabascan artist Crystal Worl decided to explore the production of face masks that celebrated Indigenous North American culture and reflected a long tradition of mask making. Crystal harvested the sockeye salmon used for this mask with her family and then tanned the skin herself. While the skin was used for this mask, the fish meat provided a meal for her family ensuring that nothing was wasted. The mask evokes the interconnection between Indigenous peoples in Alaska and nature which feeds, clothes and protects.

Image courtesy of Crystal Worl, @crystalworl

The masks were part of a wider campaign in which Crystal also designed posters to be displayed depicting Tlingit and Athabascan motifs as a tool to battle the global pandemic. Crystal described her motivation behind creating the masks and the posters under the theme ‘Stay At Home, Save Our People’, writing ‘since time immemorial the Tlingit people of Alaska have practiced isolation and staying inside as a means to build strength, endurance, and a way to focus on calmness and creativity. Today it is crucial that the world turns to traditional practices of taking care of our elders and cultural barriers by protecting them, keeping at a safe distance, washing our hands, and staying home’ (May 16th 2020 @crystalworl). The digital posters were created to promote these messages and were selected for display in London as part of W1Curates. The posters demonstrate both the digital interconnectedness fostered by the pandemic, as well as the initiative of indigenous artists in response to limited public health communication aimed at indigenous and minority communities.

Made for Children at School

Emmanuelle Macaigne

Head of Conservation – Heritage Department – MUNAÉ

Shortly after the first lockdown in May 2020, the French National Museum of Education (Musée national de l’éducation, MUNAÉ ) acquired three children’s sanitary masks that were designed as part of a local community initiative to help the pupils attending school in the Rouen area combat the epidemic. The context in which the items were manufactured, distributed and used, justified their prompt entry into the museum’s collection.

Today, some of the major issues that were at the core of the pandemic as first experienced by the general public in France have almost been forgotten. Among them, the lack of protection masks first led to a massive incentive to emulate the individual and collective manufacturing of cloth masks modelled on the standardised ones that were widely distributed to the general public. Another such issue was the pressing need to reopen access to the schools with a strict health protocol that entailed wearing a mask throughout the day (with a fresh change between the morning and afternoon time periods). In Bois-Guillaume, a small town on the outskirts of Rouen, the « Chacunsonmask » campaign (“To each, one’s own” or, “one pupil, one mask”) was initiated by a local inhabitant whose professional activity had been reduced by the lockdown. The initiative led to the manufacture of over 1600 masks to be handed out to the children on their return to the local school. The Eden hotel, a local establishment in Bois-Guillaume whose business had also been seriously impacted by the lockdown, readily lent its premises over a two-week period: an improvised workshop was set up in the hotel building so that the masks could be made.

The initiative received the support of the local city council which not only advertised the project and sent out an appeal to volunteers and to donations to get the fabric and material needed to produce the masks but also organised their distribution to families. All in all, a dozen people contributed to the initiative through sewing, cutting, ironing or conditioning the masks, 1200 of which were specifically designed for young children (preschool and primary school levels). The city council then sent out a message to all the pupils’ parents asking them to come and collect the masks that were delivered free of charge to all on showing proof of the children’s school registration. In addition, another 460 masks were delivered by the city council services to the local middle school for use by teenagers attending “college” (Junior high school) and another 420 were made for the senior citizens in the community. The Eden Hotel supported the action by providing the white sheets used to manufacture the first batch of masks and also provided the individual plastic wrapper for each mask. The elastic band required to hold the masks in place was recycled from the playground facilities to be found in the schools themselves. Interestingly, a large majority of parents personally collected the masks for their children, testifying to the success of the operation.

Meanwhile, the National Museum of Education (MUNAE) had initiated a project dedicated to collecting items showcasing education in the lockdown period (still in progress). Quite naturally, the “To each, one’s own” mask campaign was rapidly identified as falling into the category of objects that epitomized the period and an original local initiative. Among the three masks now in the collection, one is a plain white one, made white sheets from the hotel and two are cloth masks (a smaller size designed for a primary school pupil and a larger one meant for a junior school pupil).

As of September 2021, all the masks that had been hand-produced were declared obsolete by the government as new health regulations were enforced. However, the masks manufactured as part of the action campaign were worn for several months by a fair proportion of pupils (percentage unknown) and remain a testimony of the first stage of the pandemic and the local population’s concerns and response to the lockdown situation. Last but not least, these masks clearly demonstrate the wider public’s keen awareness of the value of school as a place of education and learning.    

Translation

Laurence Roussillon-Constanty

Made by Yourself

Tal Granovsky Amit

The Rose Fashion and Textile Archive, Shenkar

Designer: Unknown

Design librarian by day and hobbyist seamstress by night, Elena Pavlova was intrigued by the many mask patterns available online. After sewing various patterns from around the world she stumbled across a Japanese YouTube video showing how to make their kind of mask. Curious because of the folded flat polygonal shape, she copied the video without understanding the language of instructions and hand-sewn the Japanese version that quickly became her favorite.

The mask Elena made represents not only the Covid-19 health crisis but is a great example of a movement that is a part of our life. The Makers Movement or Makers culture is a term for a technological expansion of DIY culture. The makers are people of all ages that create objects in art, science, and other fields by using technology to explore ideas, learn new ways and create through worldwide lenses.

Today, it is impossible to disconnect digital development from design and making. Digital development changed the designer’s toolbox, mediated between products and people, and created new objects. It leans on contemporary principles of “sharing”. If in the past, people were trying to keep their trade secrets – a secret, today, we see more and more people that share their ideas online, create worldly communities, show their skills and the way they put them to use, for others to watch. Nowadays YouTube is a kind of an “open design” platform. Rooted in the open-source tech movement, open design has evolved since Israeli designer Ronen Kadushin coined the term in 2004. It is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by the users.

In his article “Beyond Materiality in Contemporary Product Design” Dr. Ory Bartal claims that from this point of view, contemporary design can be perceived as information exchange, and the role of the designer has consequently changed in the postmodern era. From dealing with materials to managing signs and information flow. The impact of interactive tools and social media enables a wide range of interrelationships. It brings a new way of connection between digital objects and the physical presence of the viewers and makers themselves. We all use the web as a platform for research, production, distribution of works, and global creation, that conducted in several places simultaneously. Thus, blurring the boundaries between design, makers, and users.

Dr. Bartal goes on to argue that the open design method is critical and subversive. It seeks to change the laws of consumer culture and calls on users to be involved in society, and to create social change – no more passive consumers, who accept the values of the capitalist economy. This type of design also poses a challenge to the materiality of the object, since the object is information, and its realization in the material is marginal and can be done in different materials according to the end-user. In this case, the use of a Japanese video by Elena, an Israeli hobbyist seamstress, to create a reusable face mask with scrap textile that was found at home during the lockdown.

Image credit

Rose Fashion and Textile Archive, Shenkar. Photo: Achikam Ben Yosef

Made for Public

IRIS LUCKHAUS AND SOCIAL MEDIA FACILITATED MASK MAKING DURING THE ERA OF COVID-19

Serena Newmark

As the novel coronavirus spread and members of the public began wearing masks in public spaces, a German artist and designer named Iris Luckhaus decided to serve the cause of public health by designing an exceptionally well-fitting face mask.

Although she is versatile in her professional practice and frequently works as a graphic designer, illustrator, and educator, Luckhaus originally trained as a clothing designer at the Universität der Künste in Berlin under Dame Vivienne Westwood. Since her student days, Luckhaus has been intrigued by all manner of historical garments and has dedicated her time to understanding how to solve potential pattern problems and create garments that are particularly enjoyable to wear. As the pandemic quickly made the face mask a necessary protective accessory, Luckhaus put her training to work by designing an exceptional mask that would be both comfortable and functional.

I started to dive back into my own pattern cutting, and enjoyed having yet another interesting pattern problem to solve, one which I’ve never even considered before: how do we dress the human face? To me, good design is always functional, in a way that every tiny detail has to have a reason – and altogether, these details should make perfect sense as a whole.

After testing dozens of masks made from patterns published on the internet, Luckhaus decided to create a new type of mask that combined the most effective design elements of the mask styles already available. Most importantly, she was determined to design a mask that kept her glasses fog free and fit snuggly against her face with no gaps, as any open space between the mask and the face can reduce the mask’s effectiveness.

I decided to try and combine the better fitting features of the mask types I had tested, as a kind of hybrid, and invented some more details of my own . . . My Hybrid Mask has (a) an upturned backwards pleat which fits so snug that even for people with glasses, nose wires are an optional choice, (b) pleats in front that allow for unconstricted breathing and speaking, while the mask reliably stays in place, (c) a trapezoid shape which fits the anatomy of the human face and therefore avoids the usual bulging, and (d) side channels that help the mask fit gapless yet spacious on very different face shapes . . . the mask is quick and easy to sew, to iron, and to carry along!

While profit seeking professional garment creators may purchase a license to make and sell her mask, Luckhaus provides free patterns and assistance to mask makers sewing for their friends and family as well as those volunteering to sew masks for their communities. Luckhaus publishes her patterns alongside detailed instructions in both English and German on her website, and she dutifully answers any questions. In addition to posting her mask patterns in dedicated sewing groups on Facebook, Luckhaus also communicates with mask creators directly via LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. Luckhaus created additional patterns at user request, including mask patterns adapted for different shapes of noses and chins and for those with beards. She invites mask makers to share her pattern widely and publish their own versions of her mask online with the hashtag #LuckhausMask.

Images copyright

(c) 2021 IRIS LUCKHAUS All Rights Reserved

https://www.irisluckhaus.de/en/2020/diy-cloth-mask/

Made in Mexico

“PUTTING A FACE ON THE VIRUS” PROJECT IN MEXICO

Blanca Cárdenas

National School of Anthropology and History – Mexico

We have all faced difficult times recently, but we have all put our creativity and resilience to the test too. This is the case of many Mexican artisans that, despite the technological inequalities and the Wi-Fi signal failures in many communities, created a new logic for promoting their work, and to keep creating and selling their handicrafts. Facebook was the place where we established contact with many of those artisans around the country with the intention to ask them to design a mask than embodied the face of the virus SARS-CoV-2, responsible of the COVID-19 sickness.

Carlos Dávila and I, both ethnologists and professors, coordinate the project entitled “Putting a face on the virus”. On April 2020 we contacted the artisans with the request of designing a handicraft that answered a simple question: How do you see the virus? The results were amazing considering that, what really interested us was to register the creative process and to understand the meanings and symbolic codes involved in each mask. For instance, one of the artisans took many months to finish the mask because he was having trouble dreaming about her. He usually dreams with the masks he creates, but in this case, the task was taking too long.

At the end of 2020, our collaborative project had reached a new level, now with an ethnographic collection related to the virus. We classified each mask and created a digital archive with photographs and information, but we also started a long process of ethnological research. What is a mask? These objects are expressions of cultural diversity that trigger, during carnivals or specific rituals, laughter, fear, anger or solemnity. Masks are also artifacts that embody different meanings according with their cultural context and evoke places and times that maybe won´t fit with our empirical perception, but that embody human and non human beings that exist around us (Neurath & Questa, 2018).

According to the latter, we saw how the 12 masks describe the tension between tradition and modern, as well as the relation between indigenous cosmologies and political realities, ecological concerns, and international catastrophes. The “Covid Pig”, for starting, shows the connections of the virus with the consumption of pork, an animal considered responsible of many foreign diseases. The same happens with the “Mestizo Man” and “The Mask of Power” that embody the virus as a white man.

On the other hand, the “Devil of Teloloapan”, the “Green Devil” and the “Afro Covid” are masks manufactured by afro mestizo artisans that introduce the virus as a demonic figure. These masks have horsehair, goat horns or a skull, and a pattern that shows the COVID-19 cells sprouting from the devils face. Finally, we have masks that give the virus a face of an animal: jaguar, tiger or bull; a skull or an ancient virus known as “Cocoliztli”, responsible of many sicknesses that arrived in Mexican territory from the hands of the Spanish conquerors in the 16th and 17th centuries.

This project is still in an initial stage. Masks have shown the importance of thinking in an anthropological fashion and to understand the many ways of living with the virus. It has been quite a journey to see how in some communities people say that the virus will only attack the white urban people, or the way in which traditional rituals have changed, planting COVID seeds or performing COVID dances and songs.  In August 2021 we will open an academic seminar about art and COVID-19 with our colleagues and students from the National School of Anthropology and History. We want also to present an exhibition in a local museum on 2022, and to take back the masks to their places of provenance, because carnivals and rituals will start again and these masks need to be danced and to take their agency from their communities.

References

Neurath, Johannes & Questa, Alessandro; 2018. “Rostros de otros mundos”, Artes de México. 128:9-19.