The East Fork Mask Collective was born out of my desire to create the ideal mask. So when Sondra, my boss at Zoot Coffee in Camden, Maine, suggested I sell them, I told her I wanted to perfect the design beforehand. From the very beginning, I was determined to create an effective and attractive mask.
One morning in late May, I delivered the first six masks to be sold from Zoot’s doorway. I thought the mask market was saturated, so the next morning when I discovered every mask had sold I was surprised, and got to work sewing more. Little did I know, I had begun an enterprise that was more than just a little sewing project.
While the initial mask design was effective, I observed customers at Zoot wearing my masks and made a comprehensive list of ways to improve the design. For example, I noticed that some folks would wear their mask upside down, causing it to fall below their nose and render it ineffective. I realized that a good design only works if it is intuitive, and I needed to create a more intuitive design.
At the same time, local retailers began to show interest in carrying my masks. I decided this was my opportunity to both improve and expand. I began to research where to buy nose wires and comfortable cord elastic, and found a supplier that sold both — as well as cord stoppers, something I had not considered before, but saw as a potential game-changer.
That’s also when the “I” became “we” — when I asked three of my friends — Isadora Osgood, Abby White, and Caroline Albertson — who are also talented sewers, if they’d like to get involved. I envisioned a cooperative where everyone received the full profit from each mask they sewed.
With the recognition that our business relies on a global pandemic to profit, we decided to give $2 of every mask sold (about 15 percent of our profit), to those in need, both in our immediate community and beyond.*
Almost immediately after I upgraded the design and enlisted a team of friends to sew along with me, masks began to fly off the shelves at Zoot and Sugar Tools. Every day, someone would come back to buy more masks, exclaiming how the design was their most comfortable. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, and we felt thrilled that our effort was keeping folks safe and happy in their masks.
As time progresses and some of our fellow mask-makers find new pursuits, Abby and I continue to collaborate on our little enterprise, the East Fork Mask Collective. When conversations of the “new normal” -- a term frequently used to discuss how everyday life has fundamentally altered due to the Covid-19 pandemic -- percolate between friends and family, mask-wearing is often at the forefront. We, like many others, recognize that folks will be wearing masks for the foreseeable future, and thus, we intend to continue to provide high-quality masks to those near and far.
Thank you for your support!
*As of February 2022, in an effort to cover additional operational expenses without raising the cost of our masks for customers, we are reducing the amount we donate per mask from $2 to $1. Thank you for understanding, and please do not hesitate to reach out with questions!