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Here's where you can find Tucson-themed face masks
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Here's where you can find Tucson-themed face masks

Tucson-centric masks can help you show off your community pride

Quinlan Wilhite, the founder and designer for QMULATIVE, has taken over his dad’s dining room to make masks. Wilhite has donated masks to the Tohono O’odham Nation, first responders and community organizations that supply masks to others.

Tucson fashion designer Quinlan Wilhite is best known for his Arizona pocket tees designs — T-shirts with breast pockets shaped like the state and festooned with saguaros and the popular signature “Hearts for Tucson” with a heart-shaped prickly-pear pad.

But these days he’s spending more time at his sewing machine making Tucson and Arizona-themed face masks.

Since early April, when federal and local health officials recommended people wear masks in public to stem the spread of the coronavirus, he thinks he’s made and sold around 250 masks; the most popular are the desert scene and the colorful sugar skull design.

The University of Arizona also has jumped into the face mask biz. The UA Bookstore on campus has a several UA-themed masks decorated with the Wildcat and the block “A” as well as non-UA related masks including a couple blinged up with rhinestones.

Masks may be the bane of many people’s existence, but they are proving to be the perfect canvas to show your hometown pride and personality. And in Tucson, that means everything from celebrating our desert wildlife and natural beauty to our Wildcat and team pride.

We found a handful of folks who are letting us show our Tucson pride and style while we navigate the coronavirus pandemic. Most of them sell their masks online only and orders can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks.

Qmulative

qmulativebrand.com

Owner/designer Wilhite designed his first masks back in late March for family and friends.

They loved them.

And that’s when it occurred to him that opportunity was knocking: Add Tucson and Southwest-themed face masks to his mix of T-shirts.

Fashion designer and T-shirt maker Quinlan Wilhite, not pictured, has been making masks since April. His Dia de los Muertos design is one of his most popular.

Going fast

But in the midst of a pandemic and with his small staff of seamstresses busy keeping his primary business — the Arizona pocket tees that he’s been producing since 2013 — running, Wilhite became a one-man show.

He sets up for several hours a day at the dining room table in his father’s east-side home and makes a half-dozen or so different style masks. Top sellers include a desert scene, pink and orange cactus print and a Dia de los Muertos pattern with sugar skulls.

The masks sell for $15 apiece and when you buy one, Wilhite will give one away. He has donated masks to the Tohono O’odham Nation, first responders and community organizations that supply masks to groups including residents of the Navajo Nation.

Wilhite was named the 2017 Phoenix Fashion Week lifestyle designer of the year. In addition to his T-shirts, he is expanding his business to include garments and outfits.

Reneé Cloutier, Gaslight Theatre head costume designer, left, helps Lori Baity with her mask order at the Gaslight Costume Shoppe, 7004 E. Broadway Blvd., on July 10, 2020.

Gaslight Costume Shoppe

7004 E. Broadway, 886-1046; gaslightcostumes.com

The Gaslight Theatre has been shuttered since March, when the coronavirus pandemic led to stay-at-home orders that effectively darkened every theater in the state. But even when the state reopened in May, theaters remained closed, which has left the talented costume designers and craftsman at Gaslight with little to do. But that didn’t last long.

The Gaslight Costume Shoppe, though, has reopened, but head designer Reneé Cloutier and her staff aren't making costumes. Instead, inspired by Cloutier's nurse daughter, they have launched a small mask-making operation at the shop.

At first they made masks for first responders and medical professionals like her daughter. But then the public got wind, orders came in, people started donating fabric for the endeavor and the little operation became a full-time job.

Cloutier and her small staff started selling the masks to the public for $5, but when they upped their game with more quality fabric, they increased the price to $10.

Reneé Cloutier, Gaslight Theatre head costume designer, says once a week she buys an array of styles so customers can choose a pattern for a mask that fits their personality. Masks currently sell for $11.95 and come in three different styles.

The masks come in three styles — one with a faux handlebar mustache, another with a big smile and a third with a brilliant desert sunset scene and the phrase “Tucson Strong.”

They also have done custom masks for small businesses including the foothills restaurant Fini’s Landing and Scott Lehman’s Premier Auto Center, Cloutier said.

The costume shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays  and you also can order the masks online or by calling the shop for curbside pickup or delivery.

CREAM Design & Print

740 N. Main Ave., creamforever.com

Husband-and-wife team Patrick Foley and Marissa Johnson once flirted with the idea of creating face masks, but it had nothing to do with our current health crisis.

It was a couple years ago, when the Dusk Music Festival moved downtown, not far from their CREAM Design & Print Shop.

But the idea never really went anywhere, Foley said.

And then came the coronavirus pandemic and the recommendation that turned into a countywide mandate that face masks can help slow the spread of the disease that has infected more than 100,000 Arizonans.

You can show off your Wildcat spirit with this mask, sold at the University of Arizona bookstore

Suddenly that idea was back on the table.

CREAM — it stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me courtesy Wu-Tang Clan —test drove a few cloth masks to decide which materials worked best. Then they teamed up with the Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill to create Tucson and biodiversity-themed masks to commemorate the re-opening of Tumamoc Hill in May. Proceeds are donated to the Desert Lab's community outreach. The masks are custom sewn by Bio-Concepts, which uses medical-use fabric that captures and retains disinfecting powers of bleach for added anti-microbial properties, Foley said.

The popular Tumamoc biodiversity mask sells for $20.

CREAM has not reopened its store, but the masks are available online at shop.creamforever.com.

Foley said masks are usually delivered within two weeks of ordering.

University of Arizona Bookstore

1209 E. University, shop.arizona.edu

Show your Wildcat pride pandemic style with a UA face mask, available through the bookstore.

Reusable antimicrobial fabric masks in red, white and blue with the signature block “A” are $12.99 apiece.

There’s also a disposable mask featuring Wilbur and the “A” for $2.49.

The University of Arizona BookStores is open Monday through Friday noon to 4 p.m. for in-person shopping. Masks are also available for purchase online. There is a $4.95 charge for shipping. Masks generally go out the same day and could take three to four business days to ship.

For more information or to check for availability, call 621-2426.

Local shop Why I Love Where I Live is selling masks with some designs tailored around Tucson and the Sonoran desert. The business is owned by Alex and Kristin Tovar, pictured with their 3-year-old daughter Liv and 6-year-old son Calvin.

Why I Love Where I Live

267 S. Avenida del Convento in the MSA Annex, 422-5770; whyilovewhereilive.com

Owners Alex and Kristin Tovar added masks to their array of Tucson souvenirs, gifts and apparel in late April.

So far, they figure they’ve sold about 300 masks, with the most popular being the mask version of their popular “Tucson Together” T-shirt line and masked saguaros donning sunglasses.

They sell for $15 apiece and Kristin Tovar said they send the perfect message of unity and community — two ideals that inspired her to launch Why I Love Where I Live online several years ago and to open the shop in 2018.

A mask with locally-designed saguaros wearing masks rests on a pile of masks at Why I Love Where I Live, 267 S. Avenida Del Convento, in Tucson, Ariz., on July 9, 2020.

Even better, for every mask purchased, another mask is donated.

The Underestimated City

theunderestimatedcity.com

Long representing the Old Pueblo, The Underestimated City has several Tucson-themed face coverings available for purchase, ranging from $12 to $18.

You can get a mask reading “Tucson” loud and proud across the front, one with the TUC logo or one with TUC logo on an image of “A” Mountain.

When + Where Co.

4441 E. Speedway; whenwhereco.com

This midtown vintage shop has several homegrown masks that pay homage to Tucson, as well as quirky masks with slogans like “spit kills” for $6 apiece.

A portion of the sales go toward The Lot on 22nd, a volunteer organization that provides food and clothes for the homeless. Hours of operation are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursdays-Sundays.

El Jefe Cat Lounge

3025 N. Campbell Ave., eljefecatlounge.com

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many to tweak their business models and El Jefe Cat Lounge, where Tucsonans can play with adoptable cats, is no exception.

With the lounge closed, to make the rent, the midtown business began making cloth face masks using a donated sewing machine in May.

Starting at $7.50 each, there are a variety of cactus prints, two prints repping the state of Arizona, and, of course, feline-themed face masks, including a sugar skull kitty print.

Masks, available in adult and youth sizes, can be ordered online or purchased in person at the shop from noon to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Reporter Gerald M. Gay contributed to this story.

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