Costume designer turns talents to reusable face masks

Mask Manufacturer Leah Bennetts of Bouddi Masks

Central Coast locals are making the most of the demand for facemasks by starting up mask-making businesses from their homes.

With the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and a global shortage of PPE, well known artist and costume designer, Leah Bennett from Pretty Beach, has started making and selling masks to the community.

After becoming unsettled by the number of facemasks going to landfill, Bennett decided to start sewing her own reusable, machine washable masks for her friends and family and Bouddi Masks was born.

“I made a few masks for my parents who were constantly churning through the disposable ones, and they loved them, so I popped a few on social media, and it has just gone gangbusters,” she said.

“I have got hordes of fabric that I have been accumulating over the years, a background in fashion and costume, and sewing skills, so I just thought I would put it all together.”

Bennett is well-known among Killcare locals for “putting it all together” to create amazing costumes (seemingly out of nothing) for all the kids in Pretty Beach’s school plays in past years.

Now, she has turned her attention to face masks, hand sewing around 20 masks per day to keep up with the demand.

“I thought I would give mask making a whirl, but it has kind of got a life of its own, and I am here sewing until midnight every night while the kids are falling asleep to the sound of the sewing machine,” Bennett said.

“But it’s good to be helping local people, getting them to cover up, using my stash of fabric and also to be putting my old skills to use.

“I have photographed a combination of my fabrics and numbered them so people can choose the ones they like, and I am making a few different sizes, so it’s very bespoke because people can choose what they like.”

Isabel Wilson from Berkeley Vale had the same idea, starting her business The Little Mask Company just over a month ago. She too has been inundated with requests, shipping around Australia and as far as New Zealand.

Isabel Wilson – The Little Mask Company

“I originally just started because I had lots of family in Melbourne and me and my mum thought we should make some masks and send them to them because they are probably struggling at the moment,” she said.

“I have been unemployed, so I had this idea of making masks and then selling them to help my community out, and it has gone off and turned into a really good achievement for me.”

After recently moving to the Central Coast to study and not being able to find a job, the business has become a solid form of income.

“Starting this business has helped me enormously, and it makes me so happy I can help my community here and throughout Australia.” Wilson said.

With little previous experience in the industry, Wilson’s mother taught her everything she needed to know on the job.

The Little Mask Company also offers a ‘pay it forward’ campaign, which allows people to buy an extra mask which is then passed on to the vulnerable members of the community.

Both Bennett and Wilson make their masks with three layers of material, in compliance with NSW government guidelines.

(See our full video interview with Leah Bennett on our website.)

Reporter Jacinta Counihan