WORLD MASK WEEK: An Interview with Productivity Parlour for Artful Living

MOG’s own Sophie Engle showing off her Parlour Style Face Mask
With internet searches for the term “face mask” reaching an all-time high this year, it’s safe to say that the hunt for the perfect protective facial wear has been a task most of us have endured, including Museum of Glass. 
Since World Mask Week is happening right now, we reached out to MOG’s mask supplier, and Tacoma’s local textile maker space Productivity Parlour for Artful Living, to have Co-director Naarah McDonald answer a few questions about how they pivoted to mask production and are working to support local front line workers.

What made you decide to start this program and when did mask production begin?

We began producing masks in early March when a client asked if we would make some for her to gift to medical personnel. While the easy answer was yes, we also knew this would likely be a greater community need. We asked our personal connections if they would be interested in sponsoring masks for the community at large. The overwhelming response was yes. We also knew that folks would likely need some for personal use as recommendations were starting to suggest cloth masks for the public. At the start, we offered sponsorship only or get one, give one for adult size, and initially, we only offered one design. We did a lot of research on mask options that we could produce and found the initial design was the most flexible in terms of fitting the widest range of folks, allowed for a filter to be inserted, and had a nose contour strip. We have expanded our options a bit since then.
As campaigns started locally and nationally for masks for medical and other essential frontline workers, we really felt that the organizations that would most benefit from our donations would be those that were addressing needs for marginalized/disadvantaged communities. We asked for recommendations from our community to direct our resources where they would be most effective locally. We have added some groups outside our region, like the Navajo Nation and a farmworkers group, because of the impact the virus has had in these communities.

How many masks have been donated so far? 

Out of the over 1000 masks produced so far, a little over 600 have been donated to food banks, rescue missions, schools, medical personnel, community members that couldn’t afford to purchase them, assisted living homes, and community groups or individuals doing street outreach.

Within a video posted on Productivity Parlour’s YouTube Channel, it was mentioned that some materials had been donated by individuals to help produce these masks. Are you still in need of any of these materials? If so, what is the need and how can people help? 

We have had community members donate 100% cotton materials and elastic to help with producing masks. Prior to this pandemic, we accepted material donations to help keep our class costs down and provide access to sewing resources for anyone who would like to learn this skill. During the earlier days of the pandemic, we fairly quickly depleted our on-hand materials to make and distribute masks as quickly as possible. Our community really came through for us as we worked on replenishing fabric and elastic, both through purchase and donation, to be able to continue working. It really is a community effort to make this happen.

Productivity Parlour has several great classes for learning textile skills featured on your website, but with the current state of how businesses are slowly reopening how have you planned to reintroduce classes to fit this “new norm”? 

As with many businesses, this shift in public safety and community responsibility has impacted how we are able to do business. With rises in daily numbers, we are not sure we can safely and effectively hold classes the way we had been. We are gearing up to open one-on-one/family classes in our space on a limited basis. For the last month, we have been offering individual appointments for alterations or custom designs. We will continue to assess as we move forward how best to relaunch our classes safely for staff and clients.

Lastly, is there anything else you would like us to know about Productivity Parlour?

As Spacework alums and a creative micro-business, we are tremendously thankful to our growing community for supporting us as we pivot during these challenging times. Our goal from the beginning was to create an inclusive environment where anyone who wanted to learn textile arts had a place to go. In addition to teaching, we are active in performing arts as costume designers (though not currently due to the impact on the arts), historical costuming in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and provide alterations and custom designs. 

So if you are still in need of a reusable face mask and support local front line workers, head over to Productivity Parlour’s online store today.

Link: Productivity Parlour for Artful Living Online Store