Pittsburgh Mask Maker Spotlight: Otto Finn | Health | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Mask Maker Spotlight: Otto Finn

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Mask Maker Spotlight: Otto Finn
Photo: Rona Chang
XXS-L masks from Otto Finn
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: Rona Chang
Title: CEO and Chief Textile Enthusiast at Otto Finn
Neighborhood: Lawrenceville
Instagram: @ottofinn
Facebook: facebook.com/ottofinn

What led you to start making masks?
In the early weeks of the pandemic, I was worrying my heart out for anyone who was on the frontlines and workers who still had to have a job to do. With my family and friends in NYC, and my mom close [to] Elmhurst Hospital (the public hospital that was the epicenter of the pandemic), I read the news and statistics with dread. I started researching and sewing masks and combined some patterns to make masks. Making was something I found therapeutic and calming in the face of chaos. I started off by giving them away to off-duty health care workers, folks who are distributing food and friends with compromised immune systems. I then opened up ordering on my site.

What considerations did you make when designing and developing masks?
At first, I considered comfort, quality/integrity of fabric, size inclusivity. Then after some time and use, my kids prompted me to think more about ease of use, ability to talk (without the mask shifting out of place), and breathability.

My kids (ages 2 and 6) can both wear the duckbill styled masks for long periods of time and while biking down Butler Street in the heat. My son provided the most constructive criticism while I tested variations of patterns and sizes, and he approves the duckbill ones!
click to enlarge Pittsburgh Mask Maker Spotlight: Otto Finn
Photos: Rona Chang
Otto, Rona, Ross, and Etta wearing the duckbill-style mask
What challenges have you encountered while mask making?
Time! With both kids out of daycare and school, and my husband at work during the day, I utilize nights and weekends to sew. Availability of materials was also a big issue in the beginning, but that has eased tremendously.

What fabric designs do you use?
I started off using organic cotton knit. I used it to make baby bandana bibs (something that we carry regularly), so I had plenty in the studio and started sewing right away. For summer, I have switched to using 100% organic cotton woven fabric for its breathability. Both are great for throwing in the washer and dryer.

Can people purchase your masks, and if so, where?
Online at ottofinn.com/masks. The masks are also available at the Lawrenceville Farmers Market with Emily at the Up In Suds table, and I have donated some as Pay What You Can for the info tent at the market.