If you’re not already familiar with Savannah’s Abode Studios, you will be soon.
The group’s Skidaway Road location is a multi-function facility offering studios for rent, workshops, markets, events, and networking opportunities to local artisans and makers as well as a retail storefront where inquisitive customers can purchase goods made by the groups’ members.
Yet amongst the current national health crisis, co-owners Chrissy Rippetoe and Alexandra Forby have converted the studio into a self-powered medical supply workshop, cranking out face masks, isolation gowns, and caps to donate to local facilities at no cost, in an attempt to quell their ongoing high demand and the subsequent pattern of price gouging.
"We had a lot of community members asking us if we were selling masks," said Rippetoe. "We were not, but we knew a couple of makers that were, like MMB by Hand and Emily Huff Co. One of them got a very large order from a nurse and needed help, so she reached out to us. Once we got involved, we tried to find a way to make them for free, and when people heard we were doing that, other nurses and medical facilities found out."
"We started off making masks, but then people started asking for isolation gowns," Rippetoe continued. "Now we’ve started to make 3D printed face shields, which Brian Walker of Walker Custom Metal has been helping us with. I also saw some posts from nurses saying that constantly wearing masks were making their ears bruised, bloody, and just really sore all the time. I saw someone who had cut S-shapes out of wood to hold the masks' strings and started playing with that design, those got really popular and the first day I had 1,400 requests from local medical workers."
"We’ve also found a way to include a filter that can be inserted in our masks," added Forby. "We started working on caps as well because essentially these medical professionals need to be covered head to toe, no part of their body should be exposed or essentially it can transfer. Thankfully a lot of these materials have been donated to us. The gowns that we’re making are made from materials donated by Milliken in Spartanburg, S.C., who gave us around two miles of anti-microbial fabric."
The group’s website currently features a call for volunteers and donated materials, as well as a GoFundMe link to assist with the cost of the highly sought-after supplies. "Any medical facility that needs supplies can fill out a request form on there too," said Rippetoe. "Because there’s such a high demand in the medical field, we at Abode are only supplying to medical facilities."
People interested in helping should send an email to the studio, Forby added. "We need seamstresses, people with 3D printers, people with lasers, or filament for our 3D printers, as well as cotton and cotton thread. There’s so much price gouging going on that elastic and filament are like gold right now. People are trying to profiteer off of this crisis knowing that this stuff is going to hospitals and it’s just sad and outrageous."
"We also wanted to give a shoutout to Coastal Canvas," said Forby. "They’ve got a really large cutting machine, and they’ve cut pretty much all of our fabrics for us. They’ve invested hours upon hours assembling kits and masks, and have donated a lot of their time to any local sewing groups who are doing this same type of thing."