A social production of face masks

Face masks are not a thing in the Netherlands. We see them on television in our doctor-drama-series or when we watch a documentary on the streets of China. Yet now the corona virus is here to change all that. Taking care of each other means that we need to protect elderly and other risk groups… from ourselves and themselves. The corona virus is a virus that spreads super fast through droplets in the air when we cough, sneeze or even speak loudly. This means that covering your face and nose (with a mask) limits your spreading (and intake) of particles. When you are on the streets, there is no way to know when you are a possible spreader of the virus – there are even people who show very limited symptoms, – or whether you are in close proximity to anyone from the risk groups. So I feel that it is better to be safe than sorry. Especially as the act of wearing a face mask is not that weird and can even be fun. (imho)

Minsung (De MEDEWRKN) had a good sense for the two complications that a run on masks would bring in the Netherlands.
1. A disregard or ignorance on the quality of masks – leading to a sense of false security or a shortages for the medical workers that would need high grade medical equipment that would be sold to the (wealthy) general public. (In our daily lives we don’t need high grade medical equipment; there are options.) Which is why we call our (home-made) masks: masks for informal care. They hold no medical standard, but they can still be effective in minimising the spread of the virus.
2. Shortage on masks due to the sudden peak in demand will drive the prices of masks up and make them unavailable for people who can not pay up.

This is why we started a new project to bring Designer Sun Lee, #Awesome and Uit de Buurtfabriek together to start a collaborative production of DIY face masks. Sun Lee designed an easy to make pattern that would create a durable mask that has a filter pocket. #Awesome would provide us with second hand cotton that would be used as a fabric for these masks and they provided the (wo)manpower to sew these masks. Uit the Buurtfabriek has closed their factory but does still want their group to stay active; So they became the couriers for getting all of the materials and the finished masks safely to all homes.

In this project special attention went to educating people on how to use masks as a tool. A short instruction manual was disguised as a friendly letter from the makers to tell users what rules to follow for the mask to be truly effective. Making the social connection behind this project clear fuelled a feeling of togetherness in this moment of crisis and change.

Setting up this collaboration provided the MEDEWRKN with new insights on the type of information people needed when working on a social production of masks. We made several documents where we describe not only how to make the masks but also how to set up a safe system of collaboration. We hope that this project will show the exceptional strength of social connection that can be made through crafted products, in a time where it is hard to have any irl contact. Please feel free to use the documentation provided through this link. It would be awesome if our practice could spread through Eindhoven and beyond!

Lastly I just want to add that April was suppose to be our big kick-off month for our open talent development program. And I am sure this goes for many other organisations… we are all feeling that our plans for this year are getting away from us. At the same time I find it hopeful to see all these new initiatives pop-up to show that people are not giving up. This is the time where making new connections – virtually! has become a primal need for people. And this is one of the pillars that the MEDEWRKN operates on, so we are not stopping because our normal way of doing things has changed. We are going with this new flow and looking at new ways to help. This is why the MEDEWRKN also made a guide for setting up social check-ins through the use of video-meeting apps. Use this link to see our documentation of this.