Creative Makerspaces: Bringing Together Community in the Pennsylvania Wilds
Have you ever seen a creative makerspace? If you did, would you know?
If you’ve ever toured the Pajama Factory in Williamsport, know for sure you have seen such a space.
The eight-building complex covers two blocks and boasts 300,000 square feet of floor area. Owner Mark Winkelman bought the historic building in 2008 and hopes to develop it into “a place to make things.”
That is already underway – and is evident throughout the buildings. Large rooms, built with industry and production in mind, are now converted into individual studios and collaborative work spaces for artists and craftspeople of all backgrounds. Down one hall you might find a soap maker, a community art gallery and a photographer, while in another corridor you’ll be flanked by installation artists, a clay studio and printmakers. This is just a sampling of what is happening between the walls that make up the Pajama Factory.
Did you know?
The largest pajama factory in the world was in the Pennsylvania Wilds!
The building’s history takes you back to the late 1800s, and tells the story of U.S. manufacturing during its highest and lowest points – including the Great Depression. The massive space was once used to produce rubber footwear and later Weldon Pajama Company utilized the space. The Weldon Pajama Company was the largest pajama factory in the world during the mid-1950s. (Textile products are actually still made in the building; just visit Equinox, an outdoor apparel company.)
Today, Winkelman is revitalizing the historic building – with a new sense of life and industry. Nearly half of the space is being utilized so far by various tenants, and plans are in the works to fill the other spaces.
On a tour of the space, I learned firsthand what this type of space means for the people who work and play there. Folks shared their stories: what brought them to Williamsport, what made them stay. Some came from large cities, others from rural towns… but all found a home in Williamsport, a rural city, the largest of the Pennsylvania Wilds. A large part of those stories was this overarching idea of community, and what that means to them.
Artisans spoke of the community that has been built at the Pajama Factory. Aside from having a place to go to work on their own trades, hobbies and crafts, they have found a new sense of family in the people who share the space. A photographer may have an idea that requires the skills of a printmaker, or a woodworker may need the input of a potter. Collaboration sparks creativity. Community crafts character. These ingredients invite people to stay, to invest, and to thrive in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
This type of space provides a sort of “incubator” laboratory for artisans to test their ideas and learn about their businesses in an insulated environment, full of inspiration and advice yet perhaps tucked away from what can sometimes seem like a brutal business world. Here, they have the chance to learn from mistakes, and other’s mistakes, to make the best go of their dreams. I am excited to see what the future holds for the Pajama Factory, these creative makers and the community they build together — and I encourage you to take a trip to Williamsport to see the space firsthand.
The Pajama Factory is a Host Site member of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (WCO), one of rural Pennsylvania’s largest networks of creative entrepreneurs. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. will hold its annual PA Wilds Champion Awards Dinner & inaugural Creative Entrepreneur’s Conference at the Pajama Factory, in the Clearstory event venue, on April 26 and 27, 2018. In addition, the Creative Makers of the Pennsylvania Wilds Traveling Public Art Show – which features artisan and producers of the WCO creating pieces in their private work spaces – will be on display in the Community Gallery in April, with a reception planned for April 26.
Learn more about the Pajama Factory, one of the largest creative makerspaces in the Pennsylvania Wilds, at www.PajamaFactory.net.
The WCO is the main program through which small businesses and nonprofits – from artisans to breweries to B&Bs to outfitters to retailers to restaurants to galleries to designers to videographers – engage with the Pennsylvania Wilds brand, networks and platforms. Functionally, the WCO is the listings backbone for the regional visitor site pawilds.com; the product supply line for the PA Wilds Conservation Shops physical and online stores; and the entry point for those looking to team up on PA Wilds licensed products in the market place. The PA Wilds Center promotes the WCO as part of the overall Pennsylvania Wilds experience. Learn more about the WCO at WildsCoPA.org.