When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, longtime Capitol Hill resident Kathleen Newton’s career as a flight attendant was put on pause.
Newton had already become a regular at DC markets for over 20 years, selling specialty goods that she collected in her travels. Like millions of Americans, Newton had some extra time on her hands this spring and launched Maskerade by Kiwi to sell creative, custom, handmade masks to the community.
“It was a very international booth that I was able to bring to Eastern Market,” Newton said.
Newton said that while she could not travel and was staying home, she “watched the news and saw how politicized masks had become” which inspired her to make masks. She emphasized that the act of wearing a mask is a way to be respectful and considerate to others and she hopes that her creations can continue to bring a fashionable element to this act.
“Wearing a mask is an act of love,” Newton said.
Maskerade features a diverse collection of masks, all custom made by Newton, including sports themes, political masks and other unique designs. She also takes special requests for designs from community members and says she tries to “cater to the moment” coming out with designs for the inauguration and the upcoming cherry blossom season in DC.
All masks are handmade, but Newton says what sets hers apart are the ear loops. All are adjustable, soft elastic making masks comfortable and ensuring a good fit.
Newton praised the organizers at Eastern Market for working to ensure the safety of all vendors and customers. She said that spacing out vendors, limited crowds of people, one-way paths have made her feel safe to attend with the pandemic.
“They’ve (put) a lot of thought into making the market more safe during the pandemic,” Newton said.
Newton says while this business has been both fun and lucrative, she looks forward to a time when she can serve as a flight attendant again and plans to return to the outdoor market with her global set of items after the pandemic is over.
You can learn more about Newton’s masks by visiting her at booth 35 at the DC Holiday Market until Dec. 23 and, after that, at the outdoor market on the 200 block of Seventh Street SE at Eastern Market.
Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at [email protected].