By Jillian Risberg
For the Bead Sisters who lost lots of loved ones, including their beloved mother to COVID on April 1 — creating beaded mask chains that were fashionable, functional and fabulous with her beads was a true homage to the amazing woman who loved them for her lifetime.
“I want to keep her memory alive with these beads, continue the tradition of what she started,” says Caryn Chow. “The main thing is when people find out the beads came from mom’s collection and this is how MaskLifts™ was created — they’re interested in supporting it.”
In these tumultuous times that show no signs of slowing down, one thing remains an effective constant to stop the spread of COVID-19 — universal mask-wearing.
Chow can’t think of a better way to honor their mom and keep people safe.
“I know she would be proud of us,” the beader says. “It’s a way to give back to the community that helped her when she was in the hospital and also helped me.”
They’re producing them with a vengeance and a purpose at the core of it all.
“When the pandemic is over that doesn’t mean our business will be over ‘cause we’re expanding to bracelets,” says Chow. “But right now the MaskLifts™ are hot because they’re needed and fun and makes you feel normal again — like just wearing jewelry.”
She and sister Sheryl Chin have one in every color.
“The clasps are small so just clasp onto the cords on either side of your mask, then put the mask on and it looks like you have long earrings,” says the beader. “When you take ‘em off, it looks like it’s attached to a long necklace.”
According to Chow, they’re especially happy that people have been buying in bulk.
“Every five that a customer purchases, we donate one to a healthcare worker,” she says. “Our goal is to build it to the point where we have a substantial amount that we can donate. I’m thinking of the COVID center here in Wayne that’s probably going to be our first mark.”
At the onset of the pandemic in March, Chow was in the hospital trying hard to recuperate from the virus.
But her heart was elsewhere when their mom fell seriously ill, with sister Sheryl her caregiver and at her bedside in a different hospital.
“We all had COVID and had to FaceTime with each other with her nurse,” says the beader. “I was able to walk around but still very, very weak.”
It felt like they were in a bubble with a dark cloud hovering during the height of the pandemic.
“I had no closure so I still feel like I could just call her,” says Chow. “She’s with us every day when we bead, I feel her presence.”
She didn’t have the ability to see mom in person when she was hospitalized.
“Even when I talk about it, I feel like I’m talking about someone else’s life, like this did not happen,” she says.
They only found out about their mom’s bead collection months later.
“My mom did a beautiful thing — one of the last things I remember she taught (my friends) how to make these money balls. It’s fashioned out of crisp one dollar bills and you have to have 30 of them.”
According to Chow, it’s adorned with beautiful ribbons and dangling with decorative beads.
“She collected all this in four acrylic boxes with different compartments and (two) three-tiered drawers with wheels and we didn’t have the heart to throw it out,” says the beader. “At the time, our cousins were beading, making these necklaces to hang the masks on.”
The sisters instantly knew they had found their own calling.
“To take our mind off of things — we found it therapeutic and we still do,” Chow says. “I’ll sit here and make ten of them a night and we put (the beads) to good use. We feel happy that we’ve been able to salvage them.”
And the MaskLifts™ have definitely been resonating with people. They launched about the second week of November 2020.
“We’ve done shows, we were at the Rockaway Mall pre-Christmas, we’re going to be at the Miss USA World Pageantry event in March at the Wyndham Hotel, we were invited to be vendors there — and we did a pop up at Lake Hopatcong for the holidays. But mostly we’ve reached out to people we know. On the website there’s a discount when they opt in or subscribe,” she says.
This isn’t just a hobby; it’s their passion.
“I don’t leave home without it,” Chow says, adding that it reduces the need to search your home or car for a mask. “Just hook it onto your mask and leave it by the door — take the chain and put it over your head and you’re ready to go.”
If you want to order from the sisters, visit www.beadcause.shop.