It is not my place to decide who should wear what colors. Self expression is so important. It makes us unique, so who am I to say what colors are assigned to which genders?
One important part of the Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT is highlighting safe and affirming places for trans and queer folx to purchase masks. In addition to this Q&A series, we maintain a list on the project homepage. This Q&A was crafted to highlight some unique aspects of the participating businesses and explore related issues, including the manifestation of racial justice in the LGBTQIA+ community and the real struggles of running a small business in this economy.
Next up is Lori Korchok with Goblin Girl Designs. I learned about her face masks from a friend and have purchased dozens for us and to give away as gifts. Lori is a pet lover who taught herself to make face masks to respond to the need. Support a business owned by a disabled woman who is a good ally to the LGBTQIA community. Lori doesn’t like labels, but it is imperative that we understand who is stepping forward to respond to this crisis and creating safe opportunities for LGBTQIA+ neighbors.
Name: Lori Korchok
Your Business Name: Goblin Girl Designs
How do you describe your identity? I have never liked labels of any kind when describing people, but I am a straight ally.
Tell us about your company. I started Goblin Girl Designs a few years ago when my bulldog, Goblin was very ill. We racked up the vet bills, and I felt unsettled about accepting money through a GoFund Me page. Since the early 1990s, I have been making toys and bandanas for my friends’ dogs and cats, so I decided to try to sell them locally to offset the vet bills. The business took off, and I am still making pet accessories today.
How did you decide to create and sell facemasks? Springtime is usually a very busy time for my business. There are plenty of pet events and dog Easter Bone hunts, but this year the pandemic wiped all of that off the calendar. I am at risk and was already committed to not leaving my house, so when I heard about frontline workers not having enough face masks to keep them safe, I decided to learn how to make masks. I already have a rather large stash of fabrics and materials, so when I found a tutorial I liked, I went to work. Since late March, Goblin Girl Designs has donated over 500 masks to essential workers from the medical field to our local grocery stores. All of this was done through contactless, porch pick-up. The feedback was so positive that I decided to start selling them, and it saved my business this year. I feel so grateful to everyone who purchased and referred others to me, and also to my friends who so generously offered to pick up orders and ship them for me when orders started coming in from across the country.
Please describe your mask style for our readers. What inspired the design? Like so many others, I learned how to make my masks from an internet tutorial. They are an accordion style mask with a pocket in the back for a filter. I do not provide filters, but they available on Amazon. My friends got to try them first and helped me tweak the measurements until I was happy with a standard One Size Fits Most. I do have some male friends over 6″4″ and some with glorious beards, so I knew I had to offer larger sizes as well. I can also make them so they tie on, which is helpful for those with cochlear implants or hearing aides.
The Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT was established to connect trans and queer community members with facemask vendors that are respectful & safe. We live in a world where bakeries go to the Supreme Court to deny us wedding cakes and health care providers want to deny care to transgender neighbors. It is not a big leap for those of us who are queer to imagine being refused a chance to buy a mask when that is legal, like in most of Pennsylvania. That’s why I want to highlight your masks. Being safe isn’t just about wearing the mask, it has to be about securing the mask in the first place.
It is also important for all of us to support a local small business owned by women. How have you and the business been navigating these past months of plague, economic uncertainty, and demands for racial justice? These certainly are unprecedented times, and we are all struggling in some way or another. As a disabled person at high risk of death from Covid-19, I did not leave the house a single time for the first 5 months of the pandemic. I am still very cautious and only go out when necessary, but I have started working some socially distanced, outdoor events. Like so many others, I’m trying to adjust to this new world we live in while staying healthy and protecting my loved ones. I will always do my part to treat every person with dignity no matter their color, age, race, religion, or sexual preference, and I fully believe we should all have equal rights. I just used a very powerful tool to help create change in this world, and that tool is my vote. Vote! Everyone who can vote should vote.
Since late March, Goblin Girl Designs has donated over 500 masks to essential workers from the medical field to our local grocery stores. All of this was done through contactless, porch pick-up. The feedback was so positive that I decided to start selling them, and it saved my business this year.
You are known for your wide array of gorgeous fabric choices, but I notice that you do not use gendered language to describe the materials – there is pink, blue, green, aliens, cats, etc. But you don’t predetermine what is a masculine fabric and what is a feminine fabric. Is that a conscious choice? It is really refreshing for my community. It is not my place to decide who should wear what colors. Self expression is so important. It makes us unique, so who am I to say what colors are assigned to which genders? It goes back to how I don’t like labels. If you like it, wear it. Flaunt it!
Buying seasonal masks is one way I feel normal – shopping online for something festive that’s practical. We had actual fun browsing your Halloween masks together and I imagine the same will be true as the winter holiday arrive. I buy gift masks for my niblings from your store. My partner has a whole array of Penn State masks that she wears as much as possible. I really appreciate not just the masks, but the experience. Please tell our readers how your shopping/ordering process works. I’m so glad you enjoyed yourselves while shopping! Clearly I have trouble deciding which fabrics to buy, so that’s why I have such a selection.
I had never intended to sell through my Facebook business page, so I don’t have a “SHOP” button. I’m trying to evolve with the times, but the technical stuff is not my strength. As you mentioned, I do have a wide selection of fabrics which are “Pinned” to the top of my Facebook Page. After deciding on fabrics, customers can send me a private message with either a description of the fabric or some people will screen shot their favorites and send the screen shot of their choices. I am still offering contactless, free porch pick-up and also shipping within the United States. My Facebook business page is a public page, so even people who do not have a Facebook account can still see the posts and email me.
How long do you plan to offer face masks? I will offer masks as long as we need them. I feel like we will be wearing them well into next year, and if you have to wear it, why not wear something fun that expresses your individuality?
What else can people buy from you? Before the pandemic, my business was actually a pet accessories business, so I do offer a wide selection of bandanas, bow ties, toys, blankets, and some gifts for humans. Matching masks and dog bandana sets have obviously been very popular this year. My dog, Goblin and I always match! I have also been afforded more time to make some custom cross-stitch pieces of pets, which make great gifts or memorials. Several of my pieces were donated to fundraising auctions for animal rescues and have raised over $300. I really am proud to sell products that were all handmade right here in Pittsburgh.
In addition to setting up at local events, my pet accessories can be found year round at Embroidery & Much More in Cranberry Township and the Gift Shop (upstairs) at Janoski’s Farm & Greenhouse in Clinton, PA.
Anything else you’d like readers to know? First of all, thank you for this opportunity. This was a learn as you go
situation for me because I was not set up to sell online. I have a Facebook Page that was only ever intended for announcing which local events I would be working, but I’m trying to adapt to the times. The events I work are usually local pet events, but anyone can attend. If you’re a pet lover, and you happen to see our Goblin Girl Designs booth, please stop and say hello to Goblin the Bulldog. She’s a therapy dog who cannot do visits because of the pandemic, so she would love some attention, and we would both love to meet you. Stay safe!
Thank you, Lori.
The Pittsburgh MasQUe ProjecT connects members of the trans and queer community with face masks to protect them during the coronavirus. This includes identifying safe vendors for purchasing masks as well as offering mask distributions. To sign up as a featured vendor, please email us at [email protected]
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