Local mask makers fill need

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Lisa Goeppner of Jasper sews a fabric mask at her home on Tuesday. Goeppner and her daughter, Stephanie Collins, have made and sold more than 2,400 masks.


JASPER — Animal prints, floral patterns and tie-dye swirls.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, local artisans are stocking up on elastic and fabrics while working diligently to bring their creativity to new — and potentially life-saving — canvases.

Cloth face masks.

“It’s like a trend, but yet, it’s also needed,” said Brenda Buschkoetter, owner of Impulse of Jasper. A sign outside the shop’s downtown storefront is chalked up with the words, “2020 Facemasks,” followed by the tagline, “The NEW Fashion Accessory.”

With the help of her daughter, Lisa Goeppner has crafted thousands of masks in recent months, many of which have been sold at Impulse. A seamstress for more than 30 years, Goeppner has assembled a swatch book with about 160 fabric samples that include everything from monochrome and practical to intricate and eye-catching.

“I’ve always been creative,” said Goeppner, who sews costumes as a hobby and normally attends a dozen pop culture and anime conventions a year. “So, initially it was more just a way for me to kind of like have a creative outlet and something to do.”

It was also a way to help Buschkoetter, her friend, by bringing more people to Impulse to purchase an in-demand product. Goeppner said Monday afternoon that about 1,900 of her masks have sold at the shop since they were introduced in late April. (She estimated she and her daughter, Stephanie Collins, have produced more than 2,400 total).

Harry Potter-themed fabric face masks made by Lisa Goeppner of Jasper are displayed in her home on Tuesday.

Handmade, fashionable masks are also moving quickly on the other side of the Courthouse Square at EJ and Dots. There, owner Ann Brosmer has also sold thousands of the coverings through a collaboration with another local, mother-daughter, mask-making duo.

Brosmer initially held off selling the coverings at her shop in hopes that the pandemic would subside. When it didn’t, she made a point to tap a local crafter to complete the work for her customers. All sizes — from baby through adult — are sold through custom orders at the shop. Patterns can be found on the site’s Facebook page.

“People need them,” Brosmer said of the masks. “So, like I said, it wasn’t something I wanted to do at first, but we know we need them. And there’s no getting away from that, and they’re something that’s necessary right now.”

Goeppner makes contoured, fitted coverings that are pieced together with a curved front and an aluminum nose piece. Her life has become consumed by the sewing, stitching and ironing process.

It takes her about 12 minutes to create one of her masks — after assembling the supplies — and, in recent weeks, as demand has spiked, she has spent as many as 12 hours a day working on them.

“With the orders at the current level, it’s definitely more than a full-time job,” Goeppner said.

She has spoken to other local mask makers and she knows the work is wearing them out, too. But Goeppner has refined her process. And she loves hearing about how her masks are making a difference.

In addition to her standard masks, she has also completed meaningful, special orders, including requests such as coverings that have windows over the mouths to help those who are hearing impaired read lips, packs for wedding parties, and mass quantities for other organizations.

“I think most local mask makers would just want people to know, ‘Hey, we’re doing the best we can,’ ” Goeppner said, adding that “a little bit of appreciation really goes a long way.”

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