The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College student applies art skills to make face shields

Stephenee Borelli, studio art major, stands on her front porch with a plastic shield and cloth masks she makes from home in Sacramento, California Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Borelli has spent up to $300 of her own money to make masks for health care workers and others in need. Borelli started making the plastic shields March 23, 2020, and since has made 150 shields and 30 cloth masks. (Sara Nevis/[email protected])

Tucked in the back corner of the Kondos Gallery at City College is Stephenee Borelli’s art piece, a dress made out of the pages of a copy of Jane Austen’s classic novel, “Pride and Prejudice.” But because City College campus is currently closed, the piece is not going anywhere any time soon.

“It’s stuck. It’s like a time capsule. It’s stuck in the Kondos Gallery,” Borelli said. “One day I will be reunited with it.”

But Borelli, a studio art major at City College, at home in isolation like artists around the world, is now using her artistic skills in a new way. She is making face shields out of acetate plastic, elastic and foam for doctors to place over their N95 masks, which allow the masks to be reused.

“Doctors are used to using everything once and throwing them away, but they’re now reusing their surgical masks,” Borelli said. “Something they can do is wear an N95 mask and then put a homemade cloth mask over it that’s washable and then [add] the face shield.”

Borelli has found that her classes have given her skills that she is now using to make the face shields. Still, she has had to make adjustments. She uses her kitchen knives to cut through the foam, as well as a glue gun to attach the pieces.

“I actually attribute my collage class to really learning how to cut and my sculpture class for really teaching me how to use that glue gun. I’m definitely bringing my art lessons into play,” Borelli said. “It’s kind of neat to see something work in the real world. Like this is a real application that could save lives. And that’s kind of amazing that what I learned in art class could help save somebody’s life.”

Borelli’s sister, who works as an ear, nose and throat doctor in Stockton, inspired Borelli’s foray into making face shields. Because Borelli’s sister was concerned for her safety, this led Borelli to begin making face shields.

“It is a scary reality,” Borelli said. “I mean, nobody really knows if and when they will get enough equipment to keep themselves and patients safe. So it was the only thing I could do.”

So far, Borelli has made 50 face shields for her sister in Stockton, which she dropped off March 31. And Borelli’s sister is going to share them with her colleagues as well as the hospital. However, Borelli plans to make more and has materials for an additional 150 shields.

“[My sister] tried them out. I had made 50 of one particular style and had one that the foam was a little different,” Borelli said. “I’m going to change it up a little bit for the next round. But she wants more, so I’ll just keep making them.”

Borelli has found that some nurses have been reaching out to the community asking for help to procure face shields.

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“I actually made a dozen more and dropped them off to an ER nurse here in town who posted something on NextDoor about needing masks,” Borelli said.

As of now, she doesn’t plan on stopping.

“I’m just going to keep making them,” Borelli said.”I’ve been reaching out to anybody on NextDoor who posts their needs.” 

NextDoor is an app used for community members to connect with those in their local neighborhoods and post comments and ask for help with everything from lost pets to neighborhood disturbances.

As well as transitioning her art skills to making the face shields, Borelli has found that she has had to adjust her skills as a mother of three.

“I now have three homeschoolers. I have three kids who are in second, fourth and seventh grade and they’re now learning at home,” Borelli said. “I can’t learn at the same time, it’s too much.”

As a result, Borelli has had to drop her art 372 class because she has found that balancing both her class and her children learning at home was not feasible.   

While Borelli has been able to help, there are other things that the medical community needs that she cannot provide.

“They need masks—they need N95s actually,” Borelli said, “not homemade masks, but they need the ones that are in people’s garages.”

While Borelli has gotten her own assembly line of making the face shields down, she acknowledges that the shields might not be used.

“And you know, hopefully they won’t need them. Hopefully, they’ll get professional masks or face shields,” Borelli said. “Hopefully, the real deal comes in, but these will serve in a pinch.”

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