SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The theater at UC Santa Cruz is closed during the county's Shelter in Place, but costume shop employees are still hard at work.
Manager Brent Foland and his assistant, Jenna Phillips, are sewing face masks and neck gaiters for UCSC's Environmental Health and Safety department, which has requested 750 shaped fabric masks and 50 gaiters.
Foland said he got the idea to make masks after hearing about other members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union making masks around the country.
“When it became obvious that the proper elastic was unavailable, I felt that we should help out,” said Foland. “We have a very full stock of sewing supplies, so I asked if there was any way Jenna and I could get approval to work in the shop, use the UCSC supplies, and get the masks to UCSC employees in need.”
There are only two people in the shop, so Foland and Phillips keep their sewing machines at least 10 feet apart.
The two said the shaped, woven fabric masks, which are made of two layers of fabric and elastic ear loops or two sets of ties, take about 25 to 30 minutes to make. The layers of fabric can also have a surgical or dust mask placed in between them for extra protection. To create a more snug fit around the nose, they used pipe cleaners that can be pinched and adjusted.
The gaiters, which are worn around the neck and pulled up over the nose and mouth, take 15 to 20 minutes to make.
When the masks are done, staff from the Environmental Health and Safety department pick them up and distribute them to employees around campus.
“The costume shop deserves credit for generously offering to create cloth masks and for their willingness to work on campus during a time of such uncertainty,” said EH&S director Lisa Wisser. “The supply chain for masks of any kind is severely impacted, and the campus is not able to purchase and receive commercially made cloth masks as quickly as the costume shop can make them. We are currently supplying campus staff with disposable masks, but these cloth masks will be much more comfortable, especially for those who need to wear a face covering all day. This is truly a service to our campus community.”
Any extra masks will be sent to University of California medical centers.