Ani Stafford-Townsend usually makes hats for stage and screen, with her millinery appearing everywhere from Poldark to pantomimes.
Before non-essential shops were told to close, however, she had already stopped making hats and instead now makes face masks to help people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ani’s masks are made from the same material as used in certified personal protective equipment (PPE) wear, but as a non-certified producer the NHS is unable to accept them, despite her Milliners’ Guild shop and studio on Upper Maudlin Street located almost opposite the BRI.
“I could see that masks were going to be a massive part of the battle to keep Covid-19 at bay until a solution could be found and people did start asking me for them immediately,” Ani told Bristol24/7.
“I know I’ve the skills and material understanding to produce masks but I was very aware of the need to create effective products, as most of the homemade versions floating around on the internet are counter productive.
“So I started researching and speaking to material manufacturers and as many experts that I could find. I spoke directly to mask and filter manufacturers across the world, as well as army and navy suppliers, including the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.”
The former Green Party councillor has recruited a team of skilled makers in Bristol, and is advising other makers across the UK as the fabrics must be sewn with precision and no pins so as to not to compromise their integrity.
Ani added: “My initial though had been to provide for the NHS, but obviously as a non certified producer they can’t accept it.
“Maybe that rule will change as it has in other countries. Hopefully the NHS will have enough PPE to not need mine.
“But I do know lots of people have stashes of masks and PPE that the NHS could use. Hence if someone brings in their PPE stash, they can have a washable and reusable mask, which for the limited trips outside that they should be doing will be quite sufficient.”
Masks are most useful for preventing the spread of the virus when someone carries it without their knowledge and are asymptomatic.
Ani has already made around 100 masks and has enough material to make 2,000, with more material able to be purchased as people buy her not-for-profit masks.
Ani is selling the masks for £3 to keyworkers and £6 for non-keyworkers, which will fund the keyworker masks. The masks are washable but not certified so therefore not suitable for frontline workers. They are available in small, medium or large in a variety of colours: white, red, dark blue, green, raspberry or gold. To order, visit www.millinersguild.co.uk/categories/masks.
Main photo by Simon Stafford-Townsend