What does a city look like during the corona outbreak? Photographer Annelien Nijland is documenting the daily reality of one-and-a-half metre life. Part 9: The face mask fabricator.

Photo by Annelien Nijland

Okay. Making face masks isn’t exactly exciting for a qualified seamstress. Cut the squares, iron the pleats, fasten it off, stitch the seams, sew on the ties – I guess that’s how prawn peelers feel, Anne Willemijn thought. But the combination of cheerful fabrics and music in her sewing room in Ondiep are making the process much more fun. The reactions she receives help too: a box of chocolates from a physiotherapist, the happy note sent by a care home, the relief shown by someone who eventually dared to go outside wearing one of her face masks.

Photo by Annelien Nijland

I can do this, she thought, as she’d delivered her first order to a care home. It feels good to being something to help, something for people who need it. And as she’s self-isolating at home, she’s got plenty of time. Or rather…she did have. That was until Mark Rutte held a press conference making face masks compulsory on public transport. Anne Willemijns’ phone was bursting with personal orders from people all around Utrecht. She lay awake worrying about it: how on earth would she manage? They weren’t just orders; the bar had suddenly been aesthetically raised. Could she supply face masks with a botanical print? Or featuring Minnie Mouse? In a particular gingham? And could she make the ties a bit longer?

Photo by Annelien Nijland

Anne Willemijn now has a waiting list. She sells her washable face masks at cost price, to friends, relations and people on a low income or with a good story. This allows her to keep on top of the work. She’s now making one for herself – she too wants to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Hers will be made of white material with colourful polka dots. And to make sure that she is at least spreading something, she’s embroidering a special message onto it. ‘Be kind’.