Mask Makers Help Colleagues Stay Safe

Apr 23, 2020

Working remotely, the team is making the necessary protective gear,

mask maker

James Amor uses a 3D printer to create ear guards to make masks more comfortable.


"My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.”

That’s the reminder from the state Department of Health, which is advising individuals to wear homemade cloth or fabric masks to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

Working remotely, three Cal U staff members are making it possible for their colleagues on campus to have that protection.

Costume shop coordinator Joni Farquhar, theater facility manager Jimmy Amor and Housing Office secretary Doris Wadsworth, an accomplished seamstress, are stitching a stockpile of reusable cloth masks.

Although Cal U has transitioned to remote operations, a small group of staff members are needed to maintain campus facilities and sustain essential University operations. The goal is to provide each on-campus employee with five of the heavy-duty, washable masks, one for each day of the work week.

The project arose from a conversation between Dr. Bruce Barnhart, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, and his daughter, Becky, a residence hall director in the Office of Housing and Residence Life.

“These three devoted people are providing a great service to our University, as well as their fellow staff members, in an obvious time of need,” Barnhart said.

Providing handmade masks enhances public health without dipping into the scarce supply of N95 and surgical masks needed by healthcare workers, he added.

“This is a wonderful example of Cal U helping Cal U.”

Once the project was approved, theatre professor Dr. Michele Pagen collected fabric, elastic and filament for 3D printing from the Music and Theatre Department, where she serves as co-chair.

Ben Wise, from Cal U’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, distributed the supplies to the mask-makers.

Farquhar designed the 3-ply, rectangular, unisex face coverings. Made from heavyweight muslin, each has a slit in the middle that can hold a filter for further protection.

She and Wadsworth stitch the masks, while Amor sews on button bands and uses a 3D printer to create “ear guards” that make wearing a mask more comfortable.

Farquhar, who comes from a family of seamstresses, was making masks for friends who are healthcare professions even before the Cal U project began.

“I am thrilled to do this, because I know some of the (Cal U) custodians and I was concerned about their safety,” she said. “What we are doing is a little thing, but it’s all about everybody helping everybody in times like this.”

Amor averages about 27 3D printed pieces per day.

“I am glad that we are able to do something for the University that helps on such an impactful level,” he said. “Fortunately, I have a lot of the equipment at home.”

Wadsworth also was making masks for family members and friends before using her sewing skills to benefit her colleagues on campus.

“They are not only protecting themselves by wearing (a mask), they are also protecting others,” she said.