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Business owner turns into mask maker

Kathy Miller is a hoarder but you won’t find her on any of those television shows.

Her home isn’t in shambles from years of neglect, there aren’t newspapers stacked from floor to ceiling, and she’s not going to need an intervention.

In fact, she has turned years of hoarding fabric into a new business to keep her going during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many know Miller from her decades of professional photography as owner of One Shot Photography but she recently opened The Farmhouse at Gemini Branch, a wedding and event venue on the family farm, which began operation in 1872. A renovated home on the property was restored for overnight stays.

It sounds like the perfect situation for everyone, but the first wedding was scheduled for March 21, when there were more than 24,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United States.

What was supposed to be a dream wedding with dozens of attendees was reduced to a party of 10 as the governor tightened restrictions on the amount of people who could gather together. Miller said she went from having bookings to having empty barns.

“I was trying to figure out how to cover the expenses of renovation,” she said.

And then her sister-in-law called and asked Miller if she could sew a few fabric masks to send to her daughter, who works in health care. It was like putting a match to a pile of leaves.

That request sent Miller to closets and bins and bags, from where she produced yards and yards of fabric and elastic, some from another sideline she has producing custom children’s clothing. She made a mask prototype but wasn’t satisfied with it, but on the second try, she produced one she felt would be more effective and faster to produce.

“We posted our silly photos of us wearing diaper cloth masks on Facebook, and the rest is history. I never even posted anywhere else that we were giving away or selling masks. People have just reached out to us.”

Likely fueled by President Trump’s April 3 recommendation that Americans wear non-medical cloth face masks, the orders began to pile in.More than 300 masks have been produced, with orders for hundreds more coming from all over the state as well as from Florida and Maryland.

Flight attendants, construction workers, restaurant workers, bank tellers, and healthcare workers have requested the masks. They can be made with elastic or ties, and custom fabric choices are available, as

Miller has hundreds of colors and patterns from which to choose. There is a cotton filter inside each one, and both mask and filter are washable.

There was no way Miller could keep up with the demand herself, so she decided to advertise.

“I started thinking about all the people who had lost their jobs, so I advertised on Facebook for individuals who were home and needed to make some stay-at-home money. We now have six women sewing masks from home and are able to pay them to help offset the loss of their jobs,” Miller said.

She provides the masks free to people she deems to be in need. The barn has been converted to a sewing factory and Miller said she has gone from photographing brides and babies to taking pictures of masks.

“I’m only sleeping four or five hours a night because this has gone crazy, and I know how important it is to provide these masks.”

For orders or information, Miller may be reached at thefarmhouseatgeminibranch@gmail.com or kathy@oneshotphotography.com.