“That's staying up until we have a vaccine. THEN we will remove his mask and have a celebration."
“The story of how I came to make a mask for Fenris started off pretty simply. One of the other librarians shared a post on Facebook with pictures of sculptures from many different places, including one of the lions in front of the New York City Library wearing masks. I replied to her post and said ‘I’ve been thinking we should put a mask on the statue of Fenris (a sculpture outside the front door of Odum Library) but I have no idea how I’d get the measurements’. I wasn’t actually expecting her to go out and measure his mouth, but within an hour she responded, ‘…it’s about 60” horizontally and 40” vertically’. Once I knew the measurements, I figured after making hundreds of masks for people it couldn’t be that much harder to adapt the pattern for a slightly larger mouth!
I started making masks because I had a sewing machine, some very basic sewing skills and a lot of friends and family who needed masks. One of my cousins is also an O.R. nurse supervisor and she started the Mask Makers of Michigan. I've been helping her as a co-administrator of that group for a while and continued to make masks all spring and summer.
In July, I happened upon a story about Kristina Wong, a performance artist who had been making masks on her Hello Kitty sewing machine ever since COVID hit and her tour was canceled. She wound up starting a group called the Auntie Sewing Squad, a group that now consists of hundreds of volunteers from all over the country. So, I sent a note and said, basically, ‘I’m an auntie (well, I’m an aunt anyhow) and I make masks. Can I help?’ I found not only a group of sewers, but a source of support and community.
The mission of the Auntie Sewing Squad states that ‘We are a national collective of volunteers of all genders who have turned our living rooms into ‘sweatshops’ because of the failure of the Federal Government to provide proper PPE to essential workers and vulnerable communities.’ It also celebrates the origins of the group ‘as a mostly WOC (Women of Color) and QTNB (Queer Trans Non Binary) group that celebrates the ability of all our Aunties to rise up and become the real leaders in this crisis.’ You will find Aunties, Uncles, and non-binary volunteers that are from all walks of life, including many people from the arts community, which has suffered a lot of furloughs and downtime. Costume designers, screenwriters, filmmakers, actors. Making masks.
The Aunties have made hundreds of thousands of masks in the past nine months, with a focus on sending them to vulnerable communities across North America, including First Nations, farmworkers, migrants seeking asylum, incarcerated communities, and poor communities of color. As an example, the 150+ masks I have in the basket on my desk are just one tiny piece of a request for over 6,000 masks for children and adults that are going to multiple locations on a reservation in Arizona.
So back to Fenris and his mask. I thought, ‘How hard can this be?” I will admit it was a little harder than I thought, but it only took two attempts to come up with a design that worked. And then I thought, hmmm, I wonder who I’m supposed to ask for permission to put a mask on Fenris? Since the sculpture sits in front of Odum Library, I went to the VSU dean of libraries and asked if it would be ok with him. He said, ‘I'm not sure I have approval for that.’ So I asked, ‘Do you have a ladder I can borrow?’
I have had a blast watching groups of students posing with Fenris. Sometimes when I see groups of students taking photos in front of Fenris and I notice a couple of them don’t have their masks on, I’ll tease them, ‘If you're taking a picture with him, you’ve got to put a mask on.’ That does it every time. Fenris’s mask is a great reminder to students that everyone on campus is required to wear a mask. They are good about it inside the buildings, and it isn’t really required outside, but when you’re posing with a mythological wolf in a mask, it just seems appropriate and the teasing reminder is always taken with a laugh as they pull on masks and keep taking photos!
When I put up the mask in the middle of October, I thought it might be there for a couple of days. Well, it’s been a couple months now. The other day, I mentioned to our archivist, Deb Davis, that I expected we should probably think about taking it down at the end of the semester. She laughed and said, ‘Oh no, that's staying up until we have a vaccine, and our students have access to it.’ Deb has plans for Fenris and his mask! She is currently looking for a very large vaccine syringe and has some really fun ideas about how we can make an event out of vaccinating Fenris when the vaccine becomes available to students. After we can do that, THEN we will remove his mask and have a celebration.”
-- Colette, Valdosta State University (November 2020).
Dr. Colette Drouillard is a member of the Department of Library and Information Studies faculty at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia. VSU's Master of Library and Information Science is an asynchronous online degree.
Learn more about Auntie Sewing Squad.