Making masks for the new normal

    555

    Work from home and employees-turned-entrepreneurs are the new buzzwords that have cropped up following the lockdown imposed by the national government which brought the country’s business sector and employee livelihood to a screeching halt. Many individuals have managed to turn their hobbies into full-blown businesses, allowing them to earn money in these difficult times.

    For stage and set designer Enzo Pizarro, the lockdown and its effects on events and mass gatherings has resulted in a halt of revenue generation. “I work with Nikko Metal Works, a stage fabrication company. We’ve been in the live events industry for over 12 years. Aside from booth activations and visual merchandising, we also fabricate stages for concerts, fashion shows, and beauty pageants,” he related.

    “As a live events staging company, my crew lost their livelihood because of this pandemic.

    When it became apparent around two weeks into the ECQ that live events will not resume until a vaccine is found, I knew that I needed to find jobs for the 50 or so workers that are dependent on us,” he added.

    A hobbyist leatherworker, Enzo has been creating bags, envelops and watch straps. “I’ve always been fascinated with leather because of the randomness of its grains and patterns.

    I’ve always found things with a certain element of chaos to be beautiful,” he shared.

    When the outbreak started, he fashioned for himself a leather face mask. Originally patterned after the n95 masks that were used by medical frontliners, Enzo soon realized that he had to make adjustments due to the difference in materials used.

    “The end product was okay, but the difference in the thickness and stiffness of the material made me realize that I had to adjust some things. After making that first prototype, I knew that I wanted to make my own design. I took inspiration from video games such as Mass Effect and They Are Billions. The center insert between the two cheek panels was actually a design element to lessen the friction caused by the joint on the nose bridge. I decided to use straps that wrap around the head with slide-in buckles because I found the masks with ear loops to be uncomfortable,” Enzo explained.

    The result was a steam-punk inspired mask which featured slits where inserts could be placed, from washable 1mm felt fabrics, to disposable n95 and other air filter inserts. When he posted pictures of his work, people started asking if they could order. This prompted Enzo to systemize the production of face masks as a way for his employees to continue earning despite the lack of live event projects.

    “I started developing systems and manuals for my DIY projects that my crew could learn and make. I’ve trained five guys from the company’s group of artists who are now working with me in this new endeavor. We are currently training more. It takes roughly about three weeks for my guys to learn the intricacies of leathercrafting,” he said. Today, Enzo and his team can make up to 10 handmade masks per day and this is expected to grow as more people are trained.

    By the end of May, Enzo has launched Attique, an online store that offers handmade products made by him and his employees. “We launched Attique (@attique.ph on Instagram) with the intention of making more than just leather products. Right now, the company’s carpenters, welders, and painters are working on prototypes of products for the home and lifestyle.

    We want Attique to carry handcrafted treasures for the home and lifestyle. We’re coming up with more exciting products in the next few days–from totes, home decor, and mom & baby essentials,” he shared.

    But more than just a means to provide livelihood for his employees, Enzo hopes that the skills that his employees pick up would also serve them well in the future. “Even when the live events industry regains its momentum, I’m sure the skillsets my crew have learned will become invaluable as a secondary means of income for them and their families,” he said.