Mending More than Masks | Mingei International Museum

"Sewing is my life and I am constantly designing new clothing and creating new inventory for both my brick and mortar shop and online store."

This past March Claudia, along with other business owners and volunteers, responded to the urgent public health demand and organized the production and distribution of thousands of face masks to local community members in need. More than ten months later, her craft and connection to Mingei brought her front and center in the completion of 200 elegantly created face coverings — the kind to keep as a remembrance of this historic time.

Can you share a little bit about yourself and your shop?

Sewing is my life and I am constantly designing new clothing and creating new inventory for both my brick and mortar shop and online store. I began sewing when I was just eight years old and I am thankful that my parents taught me this incredibly rewarding skill. Sewing has brought so much joy and opportunity into my life! I moved my shop, Sew Loka, to Barrio Logan in 2018 and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The community in Barrio Logan is strong and supportive and I am grateful to live and work in such close proximity to historic Chicano Park.

It seems like when many businesses were still digesting the changes brought on by the pandemic, you had already pivoted to making masks and helping plan “Walk the Block”. Where did you find the inspiration to create and move forward during times of adversity?

In late March 2020, when we entered the first COVID-19 lockdown in California, I immediately shifted to making face masks because I knew that my business could not survive if I simply sat still and stopped working. I have a family that depends on me and failure was not an option. Then, when we entered the second COVID-19 in mid-July, Barrio Logan quickly became a ghost town and I began to see small businesses closing all around me. We didn't have art shows or events for months and the situation was beginning to look incredibly bleak, but the creative business owners in Barrio Logan came together and created “Walk the Block”, a completely new and unique idea that aimed to bring revenue into our community. This new outdoor market served as a catalyst for many small businesses along Logan Avenue, and it allowed many of them to stay afloat during a time of economic uncertainty. For me, Sew Loka, is not just a business—it is my dream, it is my purpose, and I will always do everything within my power to protect it and keep it alive.

What can people do to support local shops and creative communities like Barrio Logan during this pandemic?

Follow us on social media! It's helpful for people to share our products via social media or word of mouth and also buy from our online stores. Many of us are doing our best to transition to online sales and every time you buy something from our website, it allows for us to learn, grow and evolve as a business. I urge everyone to skip Amazon and instead buy from small, locally-owned family businesses. I know that Amazon is convenient, but it is time that we start choosing community over convenience.

What's next for you and Sew Loka?

After seven years as a seamstress, I completely switched up my business model and I am no longer offering tailoring or custom sewing services. Instead, I am solely focused on creating original Sew Loka clothing and accessories. It is a huge risk, but I am up for the challenge and am confident I won't fail!

Connect with Claudia on Instagram, Facebook and her online store.

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