Amy Wilson’s handmade coronavirus masks get a shoutout in a recent Hyperallergic article about the art world’s response to COVID-19

Posted by on Mar 27, 2020 in Faculty, Images, Other | No Comments

A custom-made, washable coronavirus mask made by artist Amy Wilson (courtesy the artist) (via Hyperallergic)

For the last few weeks, VCS faculty member Amy Wilson has been making masks in her studio to help people avoid exposure to the coronavirus. After researching various patterns online and reading about the virus, she settled one with a non-woven filter made of felt affixed between two layers of woven cloth, which seems to be the most effective design for preventing transmission of the virus via a cloth mask. Wilson has been selling the masks online, with half of each new batch listed at full price ($20) and half for sale at 25 cents (the lowest price her online store will allow), for people who desperately need them because of immunodeficiency, serious risk of exposure at work, or other situations where need is high; the idea is that the full price masks subsidize the cost of materials, labor, and shipping to the subsidized masks.

Amy’s project has gained a fair amount of attention in recent days. Last Saturday, a brief interview with her was broadcast on WNYC. (Unfortunately, though, it hasn’t been archived online.) Two days ago, she was quoted in an article on Hyperallergic about the art world’s response to COVID-19. Here’s what she had to say:

Artist Amy Wilson is offering custom-made, washable coronavirus masks for prices as low as $0.25. “If you are an emergency worker, a personal health aide, or low/fixed income, or otherwise in serious risk and also unable to purchase one, please select Subsidized and you will get your mask delivered to you for 25 cents (this site won’t let me do it for free!!! I’m really sorry!),” the artist says on her website. The regular price of the mask is $20.

Wilson has also compiled a list of DIY coronavirus mask tutorials and sewing patterns for download on a new blog she named Let’s Make Masks. (More mask patterns can be downloaded here.)

Amy’s masks initially became popular with her immediate friends on social media, but word spread quickly, and she’s learned that they’ve ended up as far away as a hospital in Nevada, where two nurses are wearing s couple of the subsidized masks while on call.

Amy’s full-price masks have ended up in a wide range of hands, including at least one of her friends in New Jersey politics:

Above: Mayor Joe Signorello of Roselle Park, New Jersey wearing one of Amy’s masks. (Courtesy the artist and Mayor Signorello)

New batches of masks often sell out within minutes of posting and it’s hard for Amy to keep up with demand, so she’s also been recruiting others to make them via the blog mentioned above and calls on social media.

Amy continues to make more masks as time permits, in between teaching her online classes and trying to jeep a relatively normal daily routine going. Her studio is about a mile away from her home in Jersey City, so on days off she walks over to where her sewing machine, cloth, elastic, and thread are located, and sets up shop for the day. Over time, Amy has become faster and much more proficient at cutting the fabric and sewing all the parts together. In the early days of the project, she was able to make about ten masks a day. On her last visit to her studio, she created forty, by far the most she’s ever done in one session. (Not bad for someone working single-handedly.)

It looks like Amy’s masks are continuing to gain attention, so if and when she gets interviewed again, I’ll post updates here on the VCS blog.

Visual & Critical Studies