Local entrepreneur Larkin Garbee teamed up with Girls For a Change and artist Hamilton Glass to create face shields that double as flower crowns: keeping the community safe, and teaching innovation along the way.
A year ago, personal protective equipment (PPE) would not have been on many people’s fall accessory lists. But the coronavirus pandemic has made widespread use of face shields, masks, and other safety items critical to public health. With kids returning to virtual and in-person learning, entrepreneur Larkin Garbee paired up with Girls for a Change CEO Angela Patton and artist Hamilton Glass to design and produce a flower-adorned face shield that could raise funds — and save lives.
When Garbee started making face shields in March, it was to support hospitals that were running low on gear in critical times. Her sister and brother-in-law, both employed in medical fields, shared concerns about being completely out of face shields. So Garbee, using her background in entrepreneurship, started a “Buy One, Give One” program to cover the cost of producing the masks. For every mask purchased, one would be donated to an essential employee or healthcare worker.
“It was important to us because we’re not in the business to make all the profit,” Garbee said. “It’s about [serving] the community and making sure the impact is there.”
But making face shields for kids comes with different considerations. PPE can be intimidating, restrictive, or just not fashionable. Garbee thought kids might be more interested in a fun-looking shield that still met industry standards.
“I’d wanted for quite some time to create a more user-friendly version of [face shields]. Early on, I reached out to Angela with Girls for a Change based on the relationship I have with her as friends. We’ve done projects together in the past,” Garbee said. “I thought it would be a really great opportunity to launch the first art shield, specifically with Angela and her program.”
Enter Hamilton Glass: artist and frequent collaborator with Girls for a Change. After working with Patton on several projects, including a mural in Jackson Ward, Glass was approached by Garbee to design a shield the girls would want to wear.
“The premise behind the design was making a crown out of flowers,” Glass said. “I’ve done a lot of work with Girls for a Change, and flowers are pretty much always a part of it.”
The mission at Girls for a Change has long been about growth and empowerment. The youth development organization was designed to help Black girls, and other girls of color, to see their goals and innovations come to life. Glass reflected on the symbolism, which he described as frequent, but unintentional.
“I was trying to find a way for the girls to make [the shields] cool, and expressions of themselves,” Glass said. “To bring out their personality through not just having a normal face shield.”
Glass finished a few designs for the shields before the final idea was chosen. It was revealed at the Girls for a Change garden party, where girls in the nonprofit’s summer programs gathered in a safe, socially-distant atmosphere. At the party, all the girls received a free shield, and could learn about production as well as try their hands at designing their own.
“I wanted the girls to see how they can take a creative skill and apply it — and have some kind of outlet for understanding small-batch manufacturing,” Garbee said. “I was thinking it would be a fun exercise, but it was almost more fun to see them creating their own shields.”
The need for PPE is not going away anytime soon. Garbee wants to support more nonprofits, and she has a plan to do it.
“We just got a printer that arrived this week. It will allow us to locally source our own printing, and do it in-house,” Garbee said. “If we do them locally, it means we don’t have to do 5000 at a time. We can do small batches — 100, 200, or 300 — that could be meaningful for small organizations that don’t have the budget to commit to thousands of these.”
While more partnerships may be coming in the future, Garbee expressed the importance of working with Patton and Glass for their first art shields.
“For me, it was important to specifically work with Angela. I was very excited that Hamilton was willing to work with us as a collaborator,” Garbee said. “We intend to create more of these, but to make our first splash through this partnership was really exciting.”
Their flower crown face shields are available on the GOOD WORK Society website. For every shield purchased, a donation will be made to Girls for a Change.