Independent Artists Find a New Canvas: Face Masks

Emilee Geist

Grabbing a face mask before you head out the door is almost as ubiquitous as grabbing your keys these days, as officials around the country continue to promote the wearing of face coverings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Most states now have some sort of face mask mandate in place, and it’s not uncommon anymore to see a room full of people with their mouths and nose covered, whether you’re in a restaurant, at the bank, or waiting in line at the grocery store.

And while face masks continue to be a CDC-recommended guideline for helping to curb the spread of germs and airborne particles, a good face mask has also quickly become a statement-making accessory of sorts — a way for people to express themselves, much like picking out a hat or piece of jewelry. After all: if you’re going to be stuck wearing a mask for the foreseeable future, you might as well pick out a design you actually want to wear.

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There are a ton of places online to find a great face mask, but if you’re looking for something beyond the basic department store options, you’ll want to pick up a face mask (or two) from Redbubble.

An online marketplace where artists around the world can list and sell their designs, Redbubble introduced thousands of face mask offerings a few months ago, giving its roster of painters, illustrators and graphic designers a whole new medium to showcase their work. Artists who were once creating patterns and illustrations for posters and tote bags, suddenly found themselves adapting the same designs on cloth face masks. In the same way that people are picking up unique face masks to express their personal style, artists have also been using face masks as a new canvas of sorts, to express their ideas as well.

While Redbubble offers everything from T-shirts to phone cases to wall art, face masks have quickly become a best-selling category on the site. According to the latest Redbubble Group business update, the site has sold more than 600,000 units to date, and the trend continues to grow. The site says masks have contributed to overall Redbubble Group topline growth in excess of 100% in the June quarter. In layman’s terms: people are buying a lot of face masks.

safe scream mask redbubble

Safe Scream Mask, $12.49, available at Redbubble

The reason why face masks have been selling so well on Redbubble is simple: with more than one million independent artists on the site, you’re almost guaranteed to find a unique face covering, whether you’re looking for pop culture-inspired prints, or museum-worthy paintings. Redbubble’s designers have created masks for every personal style too, with everything from a classic floral print (say, to wear with your T-shirt and jeans) to more avant-garde designs, for those with more adventurous tastes.

While most of the mask offerings are one-size-fits-all for adults, Redbubble just launched kids masks and teen sizes as well. What we like: everything is printed on demand, for a more sustainable production process. The masks are all machine-washable and reusable too (note: while Redbubble face masks will keep dirt and debris away, they’re not designed for medical use).

For Lois Eastlund, a fashion designer known for her pop art-inspired designs, working with Redbubble has allowed her to expand her product offerings beyond just T-shirts. “I worked as a clothing designer in the fashion industry for many years and I always wanted to design my own prints,” she explains. “Redbubble allows me to do just that, and to create entire collections around my designs. I just love creating new graphics and seeing them come to life on all the products.”

International Vegan Flag Mask, $13, available at Redbubble

Eastlund’s colorful, retro-inspired prints may have been inspired by clothing, but they breathe new life into the humble face mask as well. The bold, bright designs inject a healthy dose of fun and irreverence into an otherwise ordinary accessory. “Aside from my pop art/mod-inspired graphic prints, I’m all about veganism, health/fitness, politics (and cats!), and my statement designs reflect that,” Eastlund says. “As an introvert, it’s not always easy to express your views. Having a strong message on a T-shirt, sticker, tote bag, mask, etc, speaks louder than I ever could.”

For Hong Kong-based Andy Westface, best-known for his vector art, Redbubble has allowed his work to reach people world-wide, while also giving him a creative outlet beyond a regular desk job. “This is the only way for me to share my emotion and stories,” he says. “They give new artists, just like me, a chance.”

Tropical Sunset Mask, $12.49, available at Redbubble

Westface’s masks are charming and whimsical, with illustrations inspired by animals and nature (shop his mask designs here). “Animals and rainbows are the most commonly seen elements in my artwork,” he explains. “I love their purity, sincerity and I think they’re [the] most joyful things and colors in the world.”

And while buying a face mask from Redbubble can help you make a style statement (not to mention supporting your self-expression), it’s also helping to support the company’s give-back efforts. Redbubble has donated more than 400,000 masks to Heart to Heart International, an organization working to make the world healthier by providing humanitarian aid to communities across the globe.

The company says it’s proud to be supporting independent artists during this uncertain time as well. “Redbubble helps artists who may need to supplement their incomes in a difficult time,” says Tina Garcia, Head of Brand Marketing. “By purchasing a mask on Redbubble, people can help support independent artists and small businesses, while selecting a design that resonates with them personally.”

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