Covering up and going back out

statue with face mask
Sir Joshua Reynolds outside the Royal Academy London – at least some London residents know how to put on their masks.

Lockdown has been a strange, sometimes worrying experience – and everyone has experienced it differently, EAST members included. But if there were benefits to being stuck indoors (and I realise it did not benefit everyone), being able to be creative was one. Whether it was having the skills to make masks and scrubs, being able to lose ourselves in work for our next exhibition (more of that later), or stitching for mindfulness – it certainly highlighted how important it is to be able to make and create. I was particularly pleased to see a number of posts on social media from individuals discovering or rediscovering the pleasure of stitch.

Now some restrictions are easing and having a day out is a possibility for many. Virtual exhibitions have meant ‘visiting’ places and attending talks and workshops from the comfort of our own homes but even when these are free, nothing beats experiencing things for real. Our museums, galleries and other arts venues need us more than ever if they are to survive so it was nice to get out and about again. For me, meeting a friend, chatting over a coffee and visiting my first ‘actual’ exhibition since March this year was a big deal. Something easily taken for granted. That said, I hope the virtual tours and online talks will continue because physical, financial and other factors prevent many from ever leaving their homes.

London Liverpool Street Station, Central Line – 11am on a Thursday morning (August 2020) and the station is almost deserted.

I was a bit nervous of my first trip to London – until I saw how empty it was. Initially I wasn’t sure how I’d feel wearing a face covering most of the day – both being compulsory on the train and in the gallery – but it is beginning to feel quite normal now. I really don’t like the idea of disposable masks and as someone who can stitch I had no excuse but to make my own. I have been trying out a few different styles to see which one worked best for me – it is amazing how many styles there now are. YouTube is full of new patterns – each one the ‘quickest’, the ‘easiest’, the ‘safest’. Then there are posts showing different types of ear loops, how to avoid ear loops, which type of fabric is best and this week I saw someone showing how they could be decorated. No doubt we will have Christmas fabric and party masks to make in due course.

My Passmore reverse nose pleat masks

I was recommended this design (see above) by fellow EAST member Carol. The fold over above the nose means it fits snug to the face but there is also space to breath. I had no problem with my glasses steaming up and there is no need for wire. There is a gap for a filter. The instructions I used came from Sophie Passmore on YouTube. Or if you don’t sew yourself why not buy one from someone who can and support a charity at the same time. Carol’s daughter sells a range of masks – For every mask sold £2 will go to the National Deaf Children’s Society. Obviously there are plenty of other sellers too.

And before I end this post just one more thing – EAST are now preparing for their next exhibition Transformation. We are expecting to open at Braintree District Museum, Essex, UK in the Spring of 2021. Subscribe to this blog and you will be the first to hear when the details are finalised.

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