BOBIE-LEE DIXON

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The reality of bills and a child staring her in the face made 37-year-old Crystal Mc Pherson get on her knees, asking God for an answer when she was forced by COVID-19 to stop practicing her trade of over 20 years, as a professional hairdresser. The response came in the form of Masked by Chris— designer facial cloth masks, which she said have been taking off.

In March, after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO); countries across the globe began setting measures to mollify the spread of the infection. One such measure taken by some individual countries was the shutting down of non-essential services, a category in which Mc Pherson’s profession fell.

She tolf Guardian Media, “ I was in panic mode…I was literally in panic mode for about a week and change because you have all your commitments to take care of. I started brainstorming and praying, asking God for a way out and then I just got the idea, tried it, posted a picture and it went from there.”

Like several people, Mc Pherson had begun making facemasks, a much-needed facial garb these days as it has become the national safety requirement to move about in public. To date, she has sold 200 masks. She also noted on Thursday she completed stitching on 400 more and while she was being interviewed by Guardian Media, the finishing touches were being added to an order of 50, already purchased and awaiting collection.

The making of her masks takes Mc Pherson from the wee hours of the morning into late nights but reaping the reward she says always compliments the sacrifice.

Her trendy designer masks are made for the oldest to the youngest and bearded men also enjoy her custom-fitted masks for full beard coverage. Mc Pherson’s newfound service has also been patronised by healthcare workers as well as persons from the various arms of national security. And her sales continue to increase through referrals. Even groovy soca queen, Patrice Roberts found Mc Pherson’s masks deserving of her pennies.

Mc Pherson grew up surrounded by hairdressing. Naturally, she followed in the footsteps of her mother and sister who were both hairstylists but perfected the art of the trade, participating in several courses at various hairdressing schools

Hairdressing was all she knew but she said COVID-19 made her find out there were other talents she had. Like many young girls, Mc Pherson said the only training she had in sewing or stitching before making masks, was when she hand-sewed dolly clothes as a young girl.

She said it was something she just enjoyed doing. In her older years, the steep cost of a skirt she wanted to purchase, caused Mc Pherson to buy a sewing machine and she attempted sewing her skirt cost-effectively.

“It was there I got a fair bit of experience making my stitching and stuff,” she says.

Little did she know it would have been a training ground for what lied ahead.

Asked how was her new profession different from hairdressing, Mc Pherson said one thing was for certain—that human contact did not exist.

She added, to some, making masks may seem easier than doing hairdressing but they both required certain levels of concentration and were also both time-consuming. She said, but whatever it requires she attends to those requirements as currently; it was her only form of new income.

“I cannot sit down and do nothing. I don’t know what is to do that. I was literally panicking and going crazy,” Mc Pherson added.

Asked if she has been inspired to do another kind of sewing beyond making masks, Mc Pherson said, “Yes, I do. But before all of this I had signed up to do a couple of courses and one was in the area of making drapery but that was halted with the shutdown.”

She said it was something she had an interest venturing into, but the challenges and adjustments that came with COVID-19 forced accelerated that action.

Mc Pherson believes out of the evil of COVID-19 came good.

“In everything that happens, you look for the good in it. It may sound cliché, but it forces you to do something.”

Mc Pherson said she does not know what it is to receive handouts. “I had to find something and find something quick and that is what presented itself,” she noted.

Her former hairdressing clients, as well as her daughter, Mc Pherson said, have all been very supportive and encouraging. She has even been blessed with a workshop by a friend, which has allowed for her private home to get back to some state of normalcy.

For others who have found themselves on the breadline because of COVID-19 Mc Pherson had some advice, “After the panic sets in, sit and do some reflection, then start asking yourself what can you do. I honestly believe everybody has a talent and everybody can do something else other than what they think they can do.” Keep pushing; the right people will eventually see you. But you just cannot give up, that’s not an option.”