ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – They didn’t start out making face masks. But when Covid-19 hit the east coast, David Havout and Nathalie d’Iris combined their talents and their sense of generosity and designed and made hundreds of masks they donated to front line workers in New York and more recently, to students in two different schools in Monmouth County.
The married couple, both born in the Normandy area of France, did not meet until after both had moved to the United States and are now married ten years. Halbout is an artisan furniture maker, learning his trade as his father’s woodshop at home, d’Iris a textile designer recognized for her excellence in working in felting, knitting and natural dyeing of her materials. Fair Haven residents, the couple have an organic garden at home where Nathalie grows her own marigolds, black-eyed Susans, Cosmos and other flowers and vegetables to produce the unique dyes she applies to all natural fibers, including cotton and linen, wool, mohair and silk.
When the pandemic struck and people were directed to make masks, the couple realized they could play a role in helping front line workers in New York, where Halbout is a teacher at the Fashion Institute of Technology. So the pair designed masks to be form fitting, have the ability to be adjusted to fit all sizes, and have wiring strong enough to be enable the top of the mask to ensure a tight fit for health and safety reasons. Because of the tight and secure fit, the mask also eliminates fogging of eyeglasses, a common problem for those who wear glasses.
The couple studied the designs and standards used in France where masks were used earlier than along the East Coast, and in speaking with technicians and designers there and reviewing the high standards set for masks, felt confident they could surpass minimum standards set for effective masks. In fact, their masks have been determined to be more than 85 per cent effective.
In addition to their donations to hospital front line workers, the couple have also made numerous donations in Monmouth County. The most recent were to students at the Leonardo School, as well as students with special needs at the Red Bank elementary School.
The handmade masks, with the customed designed ties, are designed in two ways, one with lanyards so the masks can fit properly and snugly attached behind the ears, and the other with bands making it easier and more comfortable for persons with hearing aids, enabling the mask to be adhered with bands behind the head avoiding ear contact. Each is $15, and available either through www.frenchfixllc.com or at the AH Arts Council shop on First Ave.
The mask with adjustable elastic around the head was initially developed for those with special needs, and has been found to be popular for many others as well because of its ability to fit any head size with comfort. “The majority of our customers who do not have any special needs but prefer the adjustable elastic over the head option,” said d’Iris. She said creating the masks brought her back to her childhood school days when all students in home economics classes in the French school system learned how to sew and macrame, in addition to learning how to use a hammer. “I was relatively good with the so-called "girly crafts": macrame and sewing,” she laughed, adding, “I had a "McGyver" moment: I untwisted a paper clip to create a threading tool for the elastic (we pierce the elastic with it and then pull it twice through the silicone stopper). In order to secure the stoppers to prevent falling off during use or getting lost in the wash, we decided to put a pony bead as a safety device. The pony bead serves as a safety, as well as a handle to grasp when adjusting the elastic. This little invention has proven to be a lifesaver for the hearing aids wearer community across the USA and internationally,” she said, adding “We are honored to have been able to put our design skills to the benefit of the public during the pandemic.” The couple is also working with fundraising efforts for the NJ Deaf and Blind community on Access Network and features one of their fabric designs which was made be an artist who is both deaf and blind.
Currently on display in the Shop showcase are Brian McCarty Landscapes in oil and the Member art show display is inside. For further information on French Fix, call 732-403-0400, or visit their site at www.fdrenchfixllc. For further information on the AH Arts Council, and for their open hours call 732-291-1260 or visit www.aharts.org