Masks by Julie

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Julie Verost put her creativity and handiness to work.

Julie Verost holds up a selection of masks she has made. — Clare Lonergan

When a construction ban was announced in early April, carpenter Julie Verost’s workload was put on hold and the naturally creative Verost found herself with a lot of free time. She was struck with inspiration: she decided to try her hand at mask-making.

“I love making things. I do a lot of sewing anyway,” said Verost, who lives in Oak Bluffs. “I’m always keeping my hands busy.”

Based on the dimensions of the standard hospital masks, Verost whipped up a prototype using quilting cotton she had at home. She gave her first mask to her sister. Soon after, began distributing them to family members and workers at Mocha Mott’s, where her husband Scott works. She estimates that she gave around 80 masks away in only a few weeks before deciding to officially start selling them online. Word of her stylish and comfortable masks travelled quickly and her operation took off.

Though she has lost count of exactly how many masks she’s made, Verost estimates it to be somewhere around 300 in total. She makes each mask on her own.

In response to growing demand for her chic and snappy masks, Verost launched her website in early May. She makes each mask to order and has 100 fabric options to choose from on her site. There seems to be a pattern for every customer: swirling paisley, earthy plaid, a chicken-and-egg design, and — my favorite — a bright pink cheetah print. Her most popular mask at the moment is one with a peace sign design. Each mask costs $16.

“I find that these are comfortable. My husband has to wear them for his entire shift at Mott’s, and it’s doable,” said Verost. She picks her materials mindfully: 1/8-inch elastic and interior wiring to ensure that the masks are well-structured, so that they stay up and are comfortable. In response to recent requests, Verost has begun to offer child-sized masks, which she says fit most kids from 4 to 12 years old.

We asked her how she transitioned from carpentry to mask-making. Verost explained that she first got into carpentry after earning her BFA in sculpture with a minor in horticulture. She moved to the Island in 2001 and began working on jobs with a carpenter friend. Since then, she and her business partner, Ian Macleod, have launched their own carpentry business, Honest to Goodness Custom Built.

Verost described how her professional background has translated into the creativity and hands-on skill needed to craft her masks.

“I’ve made and built things since some of my earliest memories,” said Verost. “It comes naturally to me.”

Though she has returned to work now that the construction ban has been lifted, Julie has not slowed down on her mask production.

“When somebody orders one, I usually try to get them done on that date,” said Verost, who has honed her skills in the past few months. It usually takes her around 30 minutes to make a single mask.

Verost expressed her support for efforts to encourage mask wearing.

“I personally don’t understand the resistance to wearing masks. Do it for other people, if not for yourself. It’s the kind and decent thing to do,” she said. “This will all, hopefully, get over sooner if we all just do it.”

Wearing masks becomes an even more appealing choice with Julie’s charming designs. You can browse her selections at masksbyjulie.onlineweb.shop.