When the Covid-19 pandemic shuts down the world, a Boston artist takes to her sewing machine. Drawing on her close ties to Japan and a life-long love of sewing, she becomes a mask maker. In a time of unparalleled anxiety, her colorful masks offer friends and strangers, near and far, a message of connection and hope.
Memoirs of a Mask Maker: Tending Grief, Reclaiming Joy is the story of how a five-year- old girl learns to navigate loss after a tragic car accident leaves her motherless. Three amazing women help her stitch together a beautiful life. Helen, her paternal grandmother, teaches her sewing skills. Phyllis, her neighbor, models color and boldness in life and fabrics. Katusko, a pharmacist in Japan, weaves mask-wearing into her life of caring for others. In time, the young woman travels the world, lands her dream job as a foreign correspondent in Tokyo and there, finds lasting love.
But her resilience is tested when, just as she is poised to become a mother herself, these three women all die in rapid succession. Seeking solace, she again, turns to sewing. She gathers handkerchiefs from the women who mattered the most, makes a baptismal quilt for her son-to- be, and dries her tears. She clears a path forward, not by pushing through grief, but by tending it. She weeds unhelpful family patterns, visits old graves, communes with weathered scrapbooks, sorts out the tangled threads of unfinished business. This allows her to claim new joys: raising her own family, making art, playing music, growing a garden, and making masks.
In the repurposing, cutting, layering, and stitching of old fabrics, the artist shares her joy with others. She reaffirms the threads that hold our human family together. Signing her name, along with a positive message, on the inside bottom corner of a new colorful face-covering, she is happy to call herself a mask maker.