Maggie McGlenn ’22 works on masks in the costume shop.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Maggie McGlenn ’22 keeps busy as a biology major and a data science minor. But you also can find her bent over a sewing machine in the Theatre Department’s costume shop, crafting face masks for people on campus and across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

In some ways, McGlenn has always occupied this niche as a sewer and a creator. She got her first sewing machine at age 9 and later took lessons with a family friend in her hometown of Madison. She debuted in Lawrence’s costume shop in fall 2018 as a first-year student helping to create costumes for Lawrence’s theater productions.

It’s where she now spends time sewing masks, some in efforts to help mask up the Lawrence campus and others for family, friends, and other contacts near and far. McGlenn created an Instagram page to vend her surplus masks on a “pay what you can” basis.

Despite experience that’s years in the making, McGlenn said she continues to develop her skills.

“It’s taught me a lot about doing things consistently,” she said. “When I sell a mask, I have to be more critical and think, ‘Are all my lines straight? Does it look finished?’ It’s taught me to be diligent in sewing, and also try to increase my speed and make masks quicker.”

Finding comfort in the work

It was the initial mask shortage in March that spurred McGlenn’s foray into mask-making. In those early days, working at home, her goal was to ensure that her family and friends were equipped to be COVID-safe, especially as transmission rates rose throughout spring and the reality of the pandemic’s presence became more pronounced. When fall fell upon us, McGlenn discovered solace in bringing her skills to campus.

“I found it was something really comforting to me, feeling like I could still contribute in some way,” McGlenn said.

That extra contribution is more important than ever. For one, work in the costume shop has been unconventional. Productions have been socially distanced and on a scale that doesn’t require hefty original costuming work.

Stitching together a community

The project begs a humanitarian perspective.

“Trying to turn a profit is definitely not what’s most important,” said McGlenn, who is trying to cover her costs. “It comes down to, ‘How do I care for and support my community?’ I want to act in the world as I want to see the world become. Giving what I can in a time when it feels like a lot of things are going wrong or poorly.”

Hundreds of masks later, McGlenn has successfully shown us that providing for the community is a great way to stay in touch with others, even from a distance. It’s a means for connection we’re missing out on these days.

“Masks are a love language of that,” she said. “I’ll send masks to my great aunts or friends who aren’t on campus in my immediate vicinity, and it still feels like I get to connect with them and still maintain communities.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.