Peter and Naomi Pavia in homemade masks stitched by Naomi on Tuesday, April 21 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. Naomi Stitches masks to donate to friends, neighbors and nursing homes while Peter thinks the virus is exaggerated, but wears a mask to be courteous to others. (Nate Stephenson)
Peter and Naomi Pavia in homemade masks stitched by Naomi on Tuesday, April 21 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. Naomi Stitches masks to donate to friends, neighbors and nursing homes while Peter thinks the virus is exaggerated, but wears a mask to be courteous to others.

Nate Stephenson

Masked: The rise of custom masks and the Santa Barbara residents using them

April 27, 2020

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 shook the world, many people have tried to find control and comfort in the chaos by creating and wearing fashionable face masks.

While the shelter in place order seems never ending, and citizens are advised to only leave their homes when necessary, masks are a simple way to stay safe and be creative. 

Ellen Beebe-Sztuck owned a business altering clothes for nearly 10 years, making alterations to anything from pants to bridesmaid dresses. But when the pandemic hit, she went out of business.

“I was bummed going out of business for my nearly 10-year anniversary,” she said.

But once clients began asking for masks, she saw the light at the end of the tunnel and went back to sewing.

Ellen Beebe-Sztuck stitches face masks in her home workshop on Friday, April 24 behind her home in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. Beebe-Sztuck has recently shifted focus of her sewing and alteration business Stitch Witch to face coverings as the demand for masks steepens.
Nate Stephenson
Ellen Beebe-Sztuck stitches face masks in her home workshop on Friday, April 24 behind her home in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. Beebe-Sztuck has recently shifted focus of her sewing and alteration business Stitch Witch to face coverings as the demand for masks steepens.
Ellen Beebe-Sztuck can build a face mask in just over two minutes and produces over 100 masks daily from her home workshop.
Nate Stephenson
Ellen Beebe-Sztuck can build a face mask in just over two minutes and produces over 100 masks daily from her home workshop.

“I have about 1,600 masks made for orders… It’s a lifesaver,” she said, adding that she has been able to support her family after she and her husband went out of business.

She is grateful to give back to her community in Santa Barbara.

With nearly 80 people who call daily to order masks and 100 orders she sews a day, her days are busy, but she is fast. Her record for sewing a mask is currently two minutes and 15 seconds.

When they are done, she puts them in bags, labels them and leaves them outside of her patio in boxes for people to drive by and pick up their orders. 

“This is what I am supposed to be doing, it’s giving me a big sense of purpose,” she said.

Due to the pandemic, masks have been in high demand and are now mandatory to wear in some places.

The Tuesday afternoon farmers market is still a hotspot for locals. Colorful, custom-made masks are popping up from left to right.

“My grandma up north made it for me,” Levis Spanger said while carrying a pie, bought at the farmer’s market, on his skateboard. 

He wore a colorful personalized mask with a western theme on it.

“She is doing whatever she can do to help,” he added. “Everyone in the family got a personalized one… It is not comfortable, but this is for other people.”

Levis Spangler with a strawberry rhubarb pie in a mask made by his grandmother on Tuesday, April 21 in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Nate Stephenson
Levis Spangler with a strawberry rhubarb pie in a mask made by his grandmother on Tuesday, April 21 in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Micheal Amador in a handmade mask from a friend on Tuesday, April 21 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif.
Nate Stephenson
Micheal Amador in a handmade mask from a friend on Tuesday, April 21 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif.
Lizeth Losa bought her mask from a boy on the street selling face coverings for four dollars. Monday, April 20 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif.
Nate Stephenson
Lizeth Losa bought her mask from a boy on the street selling face coverings for four dollars. Monday, April 20 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif.

That is exactly what Nichole Patino had on her mind as well. A longtime seamstress, she set out to help the community by making masks.

“I have friends who work in grocery stores and health offices who need masks,” she said. “So I started making them.”

When her business in bikinis and boat covers slowed down, she decided that creating masks was the way to go.

She started out by making masks for friends, but now receives a couple of orders a day from people who want her custom-made masks.

“Everything is custom-made… I show people what fabric I have and I make it,” she added. 

With 300 masks already made for orders, and half of them being sold or given away, she will continue making them as long as they are needed.

When strolling at the farmers market, husband and wife Peter and Naomi Pavia also saw the necessity to wear masks when being out of the house.

Peter and Naomi Pavia in homemade masks stitched by Naomi on Tuesday, April 24 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. Naomi Stitches masks to donate to friends, neighbors and nursing homes while Peter thinks the virus is exaggerated, but wears a mask to be courteous to others.
Nate Stephenson
Peter and Naomi Pavia in homemade masks stitched by Naomi on Tuesday, April 24 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. Naomi Stitches masks to donate to friends, neighbors and nursing homes while Peter thinks the virus is exaggerated, but wears a mask to be courteous to others.

“I make them myself and donate them to friends, neighbors and nursing homes,” Naomi Pavia said. “There is a pattern of how to make them online.”

Naomi wore a green, purple and black printed mask while Peter wore a brown, crocodile printed mask, both with little seams by the nose so the masks fit comfortably.

“I think [the pandemic] is out of order,” her husband Peter Pavia added. “But I still wear [masks].”

Kate Maxfield in a mask she made from fabric she found while cleaning out her house while sheltering in place on Tuesday, April 21, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Maxfield has since made masks for nearly 50 people.
Nate Stephenson
Kate Maxfield in a mask she made from fabric she found while cleaning out her house while sheltering in place on Tuesday, April 21, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Maxfield has since made masks for nearly 50 people.

Many don’t want to get sick but also care about the community, not wanting others to get sick.

Community members are willing to give and give back to others, making the pandemic a little more colorful.

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