First published in Spotlight: The Arts Wellbeing Collective Magazine, Edition 2
The Masque Co is a brand new company founded by performing artist Claire Lyon. The Masque Co features a range of washable, ultra-soft face masks in a range of fun designs, and Claire has generously chosen to donate $1 from every mask purchased to the Arts Wellbeing Collective.
Claire was performing the role of Christine Daa in The Phantom of the Opera in Seoul, South Korea, when she conceived the idea for The Masque Co.
‘It was like the idea was in my face the whole time. Our audience members were all in masks, even the Phantom was in a mask! When I saw the coronavirus numbers still surging, especially in my hometown of Melbourne, I had to get cracking. The fact that mask wearing became mandatory just recently was a complete coincidence,’ said Claire.
Mask wearing in South Korea had become a way of life. Incredibly, as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the performing arts industry with closures and cancellations happening across the globe, The Phantom of the Opera continued to play eight shows a week in a 1,600 seat theatre in South Korea, with strict health and safety protocols in place.
As part of these strict protocols, everyone must be masked unless they are onstage (with the obvious exception of the Phantom, of course!).
Consequently, Claire tried many, many kinds of masks.
‘I found wearing one-time-use surgical masks a little depressing and so many I had tried were either too uncomfortable, too suffocating, not eco-friendly or just plain boring. I thought to myself ‘How can I make this more fun and less scary?”
Partnering with Melbourne-based designers, Claire developed a range of fun designs made from high quality stretchy, washable, lightweight fabric. The masks are also tried and tested by the Korean Apparel Testing and Research Institute, which has some of the strictest guidelines in the world, and have an antibacterial activity of 99.9 percent.
‘I’m so thankful to everyone who has purchased a mask – we’ve had thousands of orders from Victoria and NSW, as well as South Africa, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the USA and UK.’
She hopes that her masks will help brighten people’s lives, and that the donation to the Arts Wellbeing Collective will help support Australian performing arts workers who are struggling with the impact of COVID-19, and help get the performing arts industry back on its feet.
‘Many people in the performing arts have been badly affected by COVID-19 and the theatre industry is just being decimated. I just wanted to do as much as I possibly could. I was the lucky one who still had a job. I had to do something to help.’