Pittsburgh Mask Maker Spotlight: Glitter Grandpa | Coronavirus | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Mask Maker Spotlight: Glitter Grandpa

click to enlarge Rainbow pride face mask with adjustable nose wire and ties - PHOTO: NOAH RILEY
Photo: Noah Riley
Rainbow pride face mask with adjustable nose wire and ties
Since the beginning of the pandemic, designers, artists, and sewing hobbyists have taken to their sewing machines to fill the demand of masks for the public to wear. Pittsburgh City Paper is taking a look behind the scenes and highlighting local mask makers.

Name: Noah Riley
Business: Glitter Grandpa
Neighborhood: Forest Hills

What led you to start making masks?
I volunteer for Humane Animal Rescue as a dog walker, and when the shutdown began in response to COVID-19, volunteers were no longer able to walk dogs to reduce exposure. I was sad about this and trying to find a way to still feel connected to the work. I saw in a discussion in our volunteer Facebook group that staff needed masks and I jumped on the opportunity. I then also started volunteering with Operation Face Mask Pittsburgh and made masks for them for a while. When it became evident to me that we were going to be impacted by COVID-19 for a long time, I decided to start selling masks in my Etsy shop to make up for lost income from Lyft driving (though I also work full-time outside of Lyft).

What considerations did you make when designing/developing masks?
There were a lot of different patterns coming out all of a sudden and it took a bit of trial and error to find the best fit for my business. I was really looking for something that was simple in construction, maximized use of supplies, and easily fit most adults. I have tweaked and streamlined the design I use a few times along the way, and will continue to do so.

I also had started hearing stories from trans and nonbinary community members about how they were getting misgendered more frequently while wearing masks, and wanted to make masks that helped to reclaim the sense of autonomy that being misgendered steals. There weren't many pride-themed masks being sold online initially, so I set out to make a couple of pride flag masks. Right now, I've got a variation of the progress pride flag (emphasizes trans and POC inclusion) as well as a nonbinary and trans pride flag.

What challenges have you encountered while mask making?
In the beginning when things first shut down, sourcing supplies was extremely difficult. Cotton fabric, needles, thread, and elastic were all in short supply and high demand. I was fortunate as a sewist to have my own stock of supplies to start with, but I have actually worked through most of that supply. I also felt inclined to keep my mask prices really low but wasn't adequately compensating myself.

What fabric designs do you use?
As mentioned above, I have a couple of pride flag themes, and I also offer assorted bundles of masks. I try to always include a variety of prints of different styles in these bundles.

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