Maddy Eischer, a junior double major in Apparel and Textile Design and Molecular Genetics, is using the extra time during the pandemic to make a difference and to help her community.
“I have always had a passion for medicine and a talent for art and sewing,” she said. “I have struggled with ways to combine my interests, but the pandemic and the boredom of quarantine provided the rather perfect opportunity: sewing cloth face masks!”
In early April, Eischer started on a modest journey to make a few masks to donate to a local church, but through word of mouth and her mom’s Facebook posts, her mask-making turned into a full-blown business, which she calls Maddy’s Masks.
Eischer has sewn nearly every day for the past six months and has made and delivered more than 1,600 masks to 14 states and three countries. Most have been delivered to Michigan, but she also has shipped masks to Washington, California, Texas, Florida, New York, and some were even sent to Mexico and Great Britain.
I have struggled with ways to combine my interests, but the pandemic and the boredom of quarantine provided the rather perfect opportunity: sewing cloth face masks!
“I’ve acquired hundreds of different prints and colors of cotton fabric, more elastic than I’ll ever know what to do with, and the ability to make a face mask in under five minutes,” Eischer said. “I can’t say that starting a mask-making business was exactly on my ‘Summer 2020’ bucket list, but this experience has been extremely rewarding. Not only did this business eliminate my boredom, but it helped me to grow as a designer and a small business owner, allowed me to connect with members of my community, and gave me an opportunity to feel like I was doing something to help throughout the devastation of the pandemic.”
Once the orders started rolling in, Eischer called upon her family for help. Her dad and brother help cut wire and elastic for the masks while her mom communicates with customers, purchases the materials, and picks out and cuts all the fabric, which is then turned over to Eischer who does all the designing, sewing, and packaging of the masks.
“I made masks with the Black Lives Matter fist to help protect my friends and family attending these protests and also further spread the message of outrage toward these injustices. I also made masks painted with the word ‘VOTE’ to encourage people to do their civic duty in this critical election,” Eischer said. “These masks have been worn to protests all over the country, and all of the proceeds were donated to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, The Okra Project, and Campaign Zero.”
Eischer has donated more than $500 to these organizations and hopes to be able to donate more in the future. At the beginning of Eischer’s mask-making business, there was no price, instead she took donations that went toward replenishing material and to those organizations. When things shifted from people needing masks to just wanting ones made with pretty fabric or designs, Eischer started charging $5 per mask.
Juggling Mask-Making and Her Studies
As her classes started in the fall, Eischer has continued to do what she can to keep Maddy’s Mask’s afloat during these hard times.
“I have shifted away from the craziness of sewing five-plus hours every day like I did this summer, but I have not officially retired just yet,” she said. “I am finishing up a huge order for a local elementary school and will continue to take small orders here and there if needed. While part of me wants to retire, I know that masks will still be in demand for a long time, so I do not really see an official end in sight for Maddy’s Masks.”
Along with the mask-making, Eischer has many other commitments that keep her busy at MSU, including doing research in a genetics lab, co-leading MSU’s Fashion Design Student Association, participating in two other campus organizations, interning at a company called Very Good Light, working as a Peer Educator for the SARV program on campus, and working as a studio supervisor for the Apparel and Textile Design program. She leaves her mask-making time for the weekends as a break from work and school and credits her MSU education for encouraging her to take on this new venture.
“During my time at Michigan State, I have always been encouraged to try out anything and everything that piques my interest; from doing research in a genetics lab to submitting art to campus exhibitions, MSU has provided me with the resources and opportunities to grow in all areas of my life,” Eischer said. “I have never felt forced to choose between my varied interests, and while I never knew I wanted to run a business, the explorative and open-minded attitude that MSU has fostered within me helped give me the push I needed to try it out.”
During my time at Michigan State, I have always been encouraged to try out anything and everything that piques my interest; from doing research in a genetics lab to submitting art to campus exhibitions, MSU has provided me with the resources and opportunities to grow in all areas of my life.
Eischer plans on graduating in spring 2022 and is still not 100% sure on what her future holds but knows that science and fashion will both be in it.
“With my odd double major, I have spent the past couple of years researching all the ways to combine my two dichotomous interests into a career,” she said. “I am currently planning on going to medical school to study dermatology, but I have also thought about going into forensics and would still love to be a well-known designer one day. Maybe I’ll combine my skills and design fashionable lab coats or scrubs!”