people wearing masks

Self portraits of lockdown expressed through mask making

Graphic design lecturer Allyson Waller is collaborating on a project which encourages people to express their experiences of Covid-19 lockdown through the creation of face masks.

Allyson co-founded Collectarium, a publishing platform that creates design activities and engages new ways of seeing, with Dr Sophie Beard, who also teaches graphic design at the University for the Creative Arts in Epsom.

Their latest project, Lockdown Masks, encourages everyone and anyone to take part and explores creativity and wellbeing during isolation caused by the pandemic. They’re asking people to create a mask using anything they have around them that best expresses their feelings during the unprecedented lockdown, which was first imposed three and a half months ago.

Submissions have ranged from notable artists and designers to children, grandparents and students from all over the world, including Indonesia, Brazil and Ukraine, with each face mask image published on the Collectarium Instagram feed. The collection will eventually be published and exhibited with proceeds donated to a mental health charity.

Allyson, who is also a practising graphic designer alongside her work at the university, said: “Sophie and I taught together for several years on the Graphic Design course at UCA Epsom. The mask project was designed as a year one introduction activity. During lockdown, we both did the project with our own children and realised the potential in the activity to engage people to explore creativity and wellbeing during the strange period of isolation.

“The process of making and using design in this context is really helpful for mental health and wellbeing. Our aim is to reach people globally and also those that do not usually make stuff, to open people up to the values of art as a tool for wellbeing. To have work shown alongside practicing artists and designers. This is an open call for submissions for anyone who wants to have a go.”

The Lockdown Mask collection will be published and exhibited with proceeds donated to fund mental health and wellbeing support, with the hope it could be hosted by a museum.

Allyson added: “What we are seeing is that all of our collaborators are reacting to their own personal circumstances. The activity has enabled a large audience of people beyond the Art School to participate. People that have contributed have expressed that it eased some anxiety, has been a distraction, a moment to reflect, an outlet for cabin fever, it has made people laugh in a difficult time, and it’s also been a home-schooling activity, putting art back on the curriculum.

“Most importantly, I think it has allowed people to be part of something collectively – both those that have participated and the Instagram followers who are watching the project grow.”

Collectarium is a platform that creates innovative design activities and documents how these engage an audience’s participation with public archives and collections. Lockdown Masks is one of the first projects.

Anyone can take part and contribute to the collection, either through Instagram or by emailing the images to collecting@collectarium.co.uk.

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