INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — A local costume designer is "Inspiring Indiana," using her skills to help others during the coronavirus pandemic, one stitch at a time.
She's known nationwide for sewing intricate and extraordinary costumes for Halloween, ComicCon and other big events.
But Indianapolis designer Jess West has gone from creating mermaids and monsters to making face masks: a Hoosier stitching hope and keeping people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I feel like I'm kind of using my superpower, if you will, to help protect people," West said. "You know, I bought all these crazy patterns, and they're selling and it's a way to let people have this little peace of mind, and it's a way for them to express themselves and feel cool when they're out and maybe even match their outfit and/or just know that they're wearing a product that was made well by a local person."
West created the "Masked Hope Collection" in March, which features dozens of custom prints that bring out personality, from a wicked witch design to bedazzled fabrics to faces showing Indiana pride with our state logo.
The masks are not medical-grade, but they do include a removable filter.
They come in adult and child sizes and sell for around $20.
Part of the proceeds from West's sales go to hospitals and first responders.
"I've had several nurses that have worn them and they say it's kind of inviting when you go in and you're speaking to someone with this brightly colored mask as opposed to, you know, the plain medical mask that they wear all the time so that's nice," West said.
This project also fills a personal need for West.
Right before the coronavirus hit, she landed her dream job to become head costume designer for Cirque du Soleil on cruise ships in the Caribbean and Europe.
But the pandemic put everything on hold.
"It was very tough. I cried for about a week," West said. "Then I was like, 'what can I do?' Usually if I get backed into a corner, I try to find a creative way to get out of it and you know do something for the best and I've had a lot of fun doing these masks."
West is also helping other Hoosiers out of work right now.
She hired and trained 12 people who'd been laid off - some with sewing experience, others who came from service industries like bartenders, waitresses and retail employees.
They're working in shifts in West's studio and they've filled more than 2,500 orders so far.
"They had a lot of drive and they really wanted a job and they did it, they came in and wanted to do it for the right reasons. Obviously they needed to make money, but they're feeling really proud of themselves at the end of the day too," West said.
West hopes she can bring a smile to people's faces - behind those masks - using her talent to save lives.
To learn more about the "Masked Hope Collection" or to order a mask online, click here.