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It’s not just a fashion statement … it’s an ear saver for those who wear masks often

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Tara Kiwenzie’s beaded barrettes aren’t just beautiful; they are also functional, keeping the ears comfortable against the pain of wearing a mask.

Kiwenzie, who hails from the unceded Wikwemikong territory on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, typically spends his days on the powwow trail throughout the summer. But when COVID-19 canceled powwows across the country, she turned to beadwork to occupy her time.

In November, she saw crochet earmuffs that relieve the pressure of mask bands on the ears.

The buttons on the side of the pieces serve as anchors for the mask elastics. (Submitted by Tara Kiwenzie)

She said her husband and hubby always joked that she should try different things, and when he suggested a beaded ear saver she thought it was a great idea.

“Masks aren’t going anywhere,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of people complain about their ears and their rashes behind their ears.”

Kiwenzie played with the idea of ​​figuring out how she wanted it to look and function.

The pieces are similar to the large barrettes that can be seen on powwow dancers, but they have two buttons on the sides to slide the rubber bands off the mask.

The first went to her sister-in-law Naomi Wolfe, who works as a midwife in Sudbury and has to wear a mask all day.

Wolfe said the pandemic has been difficult for midwives because they provide one-on-one care to women, sometimes for 14 hours straight, without removing a mask.

The barrettes are “fantastic because they actually help hold the mask in place, and it saves my ears,” she said.

Wolfe, who is a member of Brunswick House First Nation near Sudbury, said she always asks for early information on Kiwenzie’s creations.

Kiwenzie has created five additional earmuffs to sell on Facebook. (Submitted by Tara Kiwenzie)

“When I’m stuck in scrubs and masks and goggles it’s nice to see a little bit of personality and culture show through in my protective gear,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said she also likes to include pearl jewelry or cords with her daily scrubs, as she primarily works with members of the Indigenous community and it helps show clients that they can relate to her.

Since the ear saver she gave Wolfe turned out to be working on the front lines, Kiwenzie decided to share five more on Facebook.

They all sold out in four hours.

“The price I’m asking is a bit more upscale because it’s a functional part. It’s not like a locket that you only wear once in a while, ”she says.

One of the people who ordered one of the pieces also requested matching earrings, so they now have a full set.

Kiwenzie said she plans to donate one of the earmuffs from her next collection to a frontline worker.

The first article went to Kiwenzie’s sister-in-law, Naomi Wolfe, who is a midwife. (Submitted by Tara Kiwenzie)

“I’m just asking people to share a brief story about a frontline worker in their life or if they are themselves,” she said.

Then she will put the names together and draw awinner.

She said she would keep making them for as long as people wanted.

“I always try to think of a masculine style, with bigger buttons and a smaller beaded piece, so it’s not that blingy.”

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