When Sapling & Flint opened their doors in 2017 with the goal of being the first major First Nation-based gold & silver jewellery manufacturer; retooling during a global pandemic was the last thing on their mind.
Jesse & Dakota Brant, Mohawk nation sisters and co-founders of Sapling & Flint, are veteran firefighters in Six Nations of the Grand River. "We respond regularly to medical calls in our community. Tools like face masks have a regular presence for us in this line of work" said Jesse, a platoon Captain who was awarded "Most Outstanding Firefighter" by the Ontario Native Firefighters Society in 2011.
"We see the amazing response by the sewing community for reusable face masks to alleviate the global-wide burden on N95s and surgical masks" said Dakota, a volunteer firefighter since 2010. "but we were shocked to hear people were resorting to coffee filters and t-shirt fabric for their mask filters."
Sapling & Flint as their company has also faced its COVID-19 challenges. In early March the province of Ontario mandated a public shutdown of non-essential businesses including major parts of the jewellery industry supply chain. "We've had to majorly scale back our usual production scale." said Jesse, the company's chief jeweller. "Our fabric printers who supply our accessories collection have faced a shutdown as well. Even chains are becoming a commodity to suppliers; Italy makes the best chains in the world and the entire country has been on lock down for a significant amount of time."
But necessity is the Mother of Invention. The Brant's experiences as emergency workers and product developers gave them the motivation they needed to use Sapling & Flint's online following for some good, "In the past month were able to line up suppliers and spent began developing a breathable polypropylene filter that would fit comfortably inside non-medical masks, and make them easily available. Our gallery has been shutdown to the public; but our online store maintains our revenue stream. The added benefit to this production is our ability to maintain employment in our First Nation community during the pandemic and supply anyone, thanks to E-commerce."
Sapling & Flint is also making donation options available online to purchase at a reduced rate, filters that can be donated to frontline workers in Indigenous communities, as well as to the Navajo Nation government who has made a call out for masks to protect their elders. You can purchase mask filters and visit Sapling & Flint's collections at www.saplingandflint.ca or check them out on Instagram @SaplingAndFlint and Facebook.