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Pixels & Pieces

Written by the Symplicity team

Maritime Resilience is a series of stories on how local organizations are adapting to COVID-19.

Local graphic designer and maker jumps from “pixels” to “pieces” with innovative new masks

When graphic designer and business owner Amy Harrison started working with a laser engraver in 2019, little did she know it would later come in handy for a pandemic.

Harrison’s design business operates out of Halifax, offering a full range of design services, advice, and more recently custom products such as coasters, folios, and ornaments. A corporate layoff in 2019 led to Harrison joining CEED (Centre for Entrepreneur Education Development) and purchasing a laser engraver.

A trained graphic designer and maker, Harrison was focused on the “making” side of her business before the pandemic hit the Maritimes. The laser engraver offered a whole new avenue of possibilities, including not only products to sell on her site but also to offer as bespoke products for her design clients. With a new website scheduled to launch and a range of products in the works for upcoming spring and summer events, the outlook was great. However, things quickly went downhill when those events, like many others, started getting cancelled.
“When all events stopped at the end of April, I realized we’re going to be in this for a long time. My website was geared towards making stuff but I needed more graphic design clients so I essentially tipped the seesaw in the other direction.”

Harrison worked to promote her design skills and sought out some clients. Coincidentally, many businesses suddenly needed web work. Harrison came up with a new package offering called “I need everything” as most of her customers weren’t aware of her full skillset. “A lot of businesses who have been brick and mortar for a long time have realized it’s time for a refresh, so I offer quite a comprehensive package.” Harrison said.

With a decent flow of clients and a “keep calm and carry on” attitude, Harrison hunkered down and continued to promote her design work. However, Pixels and Pieces was about to swing back to the “Pieces” side of things. Not long into the pandemic, Harrison was contacted by Trotec, the supplier of her laser engraver.

“They’re a Canadian company and they’re always innovating and coming up with new things. They had gotten this new material from Europe, did some processing to it, and called it Armabreath.”

Armabreath is as thin as paper, slightly stretchy and more precious than cotton. It is a nonwoven fabric extremely efficient in filtration but with the structural strength of most spunbond material. Perfect for masks. Trotec had been contacting their customers to offer the new material to them as it could be cut with a laser engraver.

Harrison went to work designing, cutting, re-designing, and perfecting the fabric into ideal shapes for masks. “Of course, elastic was not easy to source with everyone else sewing homemade masks.” Instead, Harrison cut holes in her masks and made the bands out of Armabreath as well.

Harrison quickly realized that the material could be used as filter inserts. She reached out to Stubbs, a Canadian garment manufacturing company. With some tweaking, Pixels and Pieces added to their product range Stubbs cotton masks with Armabreath filters. Both masks are available in adult and child sizes and the cotton masks come in a variety of designs and colours.

Harrison is hoping to partner with companies who may have a higher need for the masks, such as nursing homes and other high-risk environments. “The masks aren’t quite hospital-grade, but they’re proven to be more effective than your standard homemade masks, so it would be a great fit for nursing homes.”

Harrison continues to work on both designing and making. She has created a catalog of new products for the Holiday season and is busy with design work for a wide variety of clients.

“Now, more than ever, I’ve realized how important it is to listen to my customers. We usually anticipate what they need when discussing potential work but if we really listen, sometimes we pick up on problems they didn’t even realize we might be able to solve.”

Pixels and Pieces is offering graphic design services, unique products, and Armabreath masks and filters.

Check out their website or social media for more info!

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