BATHVS, as you probably know, is my girlfriend Shana’s business.  She makes soaps, shampoo bars, bubble bars, lotions, and other products.

Recently, she just launched her website, from which you can purchase her products.  Aside from the initial website, she’s done everything herself and, I must say, it looks gorgeous.

BΛTHVS, pronounced Bath-us, believes in using high quality ingredients for the best results in skin and hair care products. We are conscious of our ingredients and where they come from, straying away from animal testing. All ingredients are cruelty free and vegetarian. We support charitable causes throughout the year, from helping animal non-profits, to donating a part of each batch of soap to an organization called “Clean the World”, which gives the soap to impoverished countries, and educates them on personal hygiene to avoid illness. We want to make a positive difference, while also providing pleasure to all of your senses in the form of fine scents, relaxing baths, and soft, manageable hair.

Everything in our shop is handmade in small batches in our studio space at the historic Pajama Factory, from our cold process soaps, to our very popular environmentally friendly hair care products.  Our soaps are cured on our handmade wall racks for at least 4 weeks until they are ready to hit the sales floor.  The long cure ensures that all of the water put in during the soap making process can evaporate out, creating a hard, longer lasting, and mild bar.  We always have something new and interesting coming off of our soap racks to offer to our customers, so I recommend keeping an eye out on our Facebook page, as well as our Blog.

ngrok – secure introspectable tunnels to localhost

So you’re developing a website on your laptop and you want to make it available for someone else to look at, but you don’t want to push it up to a “real” server. Sure, you could do some NAT tunneling voodoo on your router, or maybe some jiggery-pokery with your network’s NGINX config, but that’s probably more effort than you want to go through, so you wind up doing a lame screen share using Skype…

Here’s a better way: Simply download and run in a terminal and it will make your local website available, via an address it generates.

securely expose a local web server to the internet and capture all traffic for detailed inspection and replay

via ngrok – secure introspectable tunnels to localhost.

Quick and Dirty vi

Quick and Dirty vi
Resurrected an old page I wrote years ago.  There was a time it was one of my most popular pages, from back when this site was just a collection of handwritten pages, not done with blogging software:

Quick and Dirty vi

Getting Out of vi

In case you are only here because you’re stuck in vi with a messed-up file on your screen, you probably just want to kill it without saving the file. Relax.

Hit “Escape” a couple of times to insure that you are in comma…

Defy Bags

Defy Bags – “Old Materials. New Ideas.” from Jerry Rig on Vimeo.

Defy has been proudly manufacturing durable goods since 2008, with each and every hand-crafted product inspected by me. All goods are crafted to be: simple, clean-lined, sturdy and manufactured to a level that would make my grandfather proud. We art direct each minute detail to ensure every bag feels truly one of a kind. And oh by the way, we mostly use vintage or reclaimed durable materials to do so. Well, that and imported solid steel and brass Austri Alpin Cobra buckles from Switzerland that are load bearing up to 1,000 lbs and used by special forces around the globe because of their world class quality and construction. Pardon the pun, but at each and every turn we like to Defy expectation.

via Story – Defy Bags.

Further afield: Raleigh Denim. | Fog + Foundry

I’d like to start sharing some stories about inspirational small manufacturing companies. This is the kind of stuff I’d love to see grow at the Pajama Factory.
Here’s the first:

Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko founded Raleigh Denim in 2007 in their North Carolina apartment. Selling their possessions to raise the fund for materials and a sewing machine, their launch was long on enthusiasm if short on expertise.

Over the intervening five years they’ve built Raleigh Denim into a cult fave. Fusing traditional craftsmanship with a modern cut, their jeans are made using denim from Cone Mill’s White Oak plant and vintage machinery such as the 43200G Union Special to produce a chainstitch hem. Each piece is signed on its inside pocket and the leather patch is handstamped with its edition number.

via Further afield: Raleigh Denim. | Fog + Foundry.

Raleigh Denim: Handcrafted in North Carolina | UNC-TV from David Huppert on Vimeo.

Matt Dempsey, Metal Artist

The following is a brief profile on Matt Dempsey and his partner Savannah Barr, two of the latest tenants at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport, PA.

Matt Dempsey, metal artist, at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport, PA

Matt Dempsey loves a challenge. For Dempsey, that challenge might be making a thing that nobody has made in generations, or perhaps something that has never been made before. Dempsey works with metal. He pounds it with hammers and heats it using fire and bellows and showers of sparks and, of course, a huge anvil of the sort rarely seen outside of cartoons. It’s the kind of anvil that makes you picture it being unsuccessfully dropped upon roadrunners, more often landing upon coyotes.

“Matt the blacksmith” is how he’s often referred to around the factory, since there are already several people named Matt around the place, but if you call him a blacksmith in his presence, he’ll correct you.

“A blacksmith is a person with very specialized training. I am not a blacksmith,.” he explains. “I am an an artist working primarily in metal.”

Dempsey, 37, is self-taught in his craft. He didn’t apprentice, he learned to do what he does by tackling specific problems and forging both the tools and the techniques to solve each problem.

“Most people just go buy a hammer when they need one, but I wind up making most of mine. Each one was made to do something very specific and the ones that prove useful wind up being used again.” The same goes for many of his other tools: a pair of tongs he he showed was made for a project, when no other pair was quite right for the job. The same goes for his “Hardy tools”, specialized shaping tools made with a stout square shank that fits into the square hole in his anvil.

It’s an uphill battle in semantics, though, for as long as he’s pounding away on that anvil that sits in his workshop, he’s going to be “the blacksmith” to the casual observer.

Matt Dempsey, metal artist, at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport, PA

Dempsey came to the area from Bradford, PA, the home of Zippo lighters and Case knives, both iconic American brands that epitomize reliability and dependability, traits that seem to fit with the sort of work that he does. He and his partner, Savannah Barr, came to the area for Dempsey to work in the gas industry, but it wasn’t long before he was introduced to Mark Winkelman of the Pajama Factory.

It was a natural fit and fast friendship, as Dempsey loves nothing more than solving a unique problem and a hundred year old building like the Pajama Factory is brimming with just those sorts of puzzles. You see it as you enter his studio space on the ground floor of the factory, next to the recently-closed Cobbler’s Outlet store: the latch on the door to his shop is a heavy black thing of iron, made specifically for that door, no doubt because it does something that the store-bought latches don’t.

”I got into metalwork when I learned to weld. I spent six years welding custom prototype radiators for show cars,” he explains. “It taught me to understand metal, to think about how it behaves in certain situations.”

It was a skill that proved useful when he took up horn carving as a hobby.

Turning an ornately-carved horn in his hands, he explains. “To make these kinds of cuts in the materials, you need knives in very specific shapes. I had to learn to make my own.”

Through his involvement with The Society for Creative Anachronism, an “international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe”, he was able to meet others with a similar interest in the seemingly obsolete: “I really enjoy the old technology. Before everything was plugged into a wall socket, you had to know how to create the things for your day-to-day life.”

That sort of thinking was what helped him when he was part of the crew of the Appledore IV, a twin-masted schooner that sails the Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, a wooden sailing ship used in marine biology and education, another of his unusual experiences. “A boat like the Appeldore isn’t a floating museum piece, it’s a working ship. You need a lot of hard-to-find skills to do that safely.”

He isn’t pretentious in the least, and there is no hint of affectation in his demeanor. He’s down-to-Earth in what he does, but when he talks about his work, there’s a playful glint in his eye and his demeanor becomes noticeably more animated. For this reason, it’s fun to watch him work, as everything becomes a demonstration. His partner, Savannah Barr, had some of her textile designs, in this case, long pieces of beautifully dyed silk, drying on large wooden frames. “See where the dye pattern looks different? She’s used salt to change how the dye is absorbed.”

Sure enough, there are tiny crystals of salt on the silk and the pattern it’s made is beautiful, but equally fascinating is the way the silk is held on the drying frame: every inch or so there’s a string attached to the edge of the silk that drapes over the edge of the frame. At the end of each string is a weight, carefully adjusted to pull the silk taut, without distorting the fabric.

Barr is not only an artist in textiles, she is also a photographer, as well as a journalist.

When asked what was in store for them at the Pajama Factory, Dempsey replied: “Classes and workshops. I plan to set up some very hands-on events for people of all ages. Something where they can come in and later walk away with something they made themselves. To get that going, though, I need more commission work.” These commissions and customers help finance his more creative projects and activities, he explained, but it all goes hand-in-hand, like everything else the pair explained.

“See these masks? See this curve here and that right angle on that one?” He shows a set of copper masks, one an owl, another, an impish-looking gargoyle. “I was doing a project where I needed a large circle of sheet copper and I had to cut it from a square piece. These masks were made from the corners I cut off.”

So much of what the pair does is like that—the tools and the process are as fascinating as the thing that gets created.

Matt Dempsey is available for commissioned work, both artistic and practical. He can be reached at (989) 415-8859.

The Pajama Factory Windows

As a photographer, I spend a lot of time looking at different types of light and shadows, so when I found the Pajama Factory in Williamsport, PA, I was attracted to the exceptional quality of the light afforded by the factory’s large windows.

What I didn’t know was how carefully engineered a modern factory of this era was. Manufacturing was coming into full swing with modern methods on a scale that had never been seen before. Where old factories were smaller, darker and less pleasant for workers, factory owners were learning that productivity could be improved significantly by designing workspaces that employed what would one day become known as ergonomics, a term not coined until 1949, a full thirty years after the Pajama Factory was completed.

An important consideration in designing a large work area is, of course, that sufficient light be made available to workers. Electric light was a fairly new thing, but it was expensive and inefficient for the kinds of spaces that needed to be illuminated. Architects found that they could efficiently light large spaces through the use of carefully-engineered window systems. The engineers needed to add as much light as possible and of course, more windows mean more light.

A typical factory built in the late Nineteenth Century was made of brick and timber, with wood-framed windows that were of course much smaller and less-efficient than they now needed to maximize the usefulness of the spaces they wanted.

Around the turn of the Twentieth Century, architects started designing steel framed factory structures with steel-framed windows that would allow for vast, multistory buildings, such as the 300,000 or so square feet of the Pajama Factory. They designed their buildings to have greater and greater percentages of their outer surface covered with windows and these new techniques allowed them to reach better than eighty percent coverage with glass. This required new types of framing for the windows, such as the “Detroit Fenestra” designs that the Pajama Factory has so many of. These were incredibly strong, far stronger than could be made of wood, and far easier to maintain. Double-glazed windows were an option, but often decided against because the cost of heating the factories was said to be “practically nil.” (Sadly, this is no longer true…)

So by the time the newer buildings of the Pajama Factory were built in the years before and just after World War I, architects could design a building as large as they could afford, with glass covering nearly all of the outside. The problem was, if they used regular flat window glass, most of the light would fall right near the window sills, blinding and baking the workers situated there, while the workers towards the center were left in relative darkness. Lighting engineers of the day set about to tackle this problem. Frosted or ground glass, where the shiny surface was sandblasted to make it translucent, simply reduced the amount of light that passed through. This helped near the windows, but the centers of the rooms on the factory floor were still in shadow. It became clear that the answer to the problem was textured glass of some sort. Glass with patterns of raised bumps were tried. They were an improvement, but not good enough. “Maze glass” had a raised pattern molded to the surface and this had excellent dispersion qualities, but not enough reach towards the center of the halls.

The highest efficiency was found using a type known as “prism dispersion” glass. This type is molded to have an interior surface of 90º ridges about 1/32nd of an inch wide, running parallel across the glass’ surface. These “prisms” caught and redirected the light towards the center of the room, creating a pleasant and efficient environment in the center of a building even sixty feet wide. (A bit more space could be added as a center hallway area, as that didn’t need to be as well-lit.)

Factories could now be built as large as they could be lit. This led to the type of structures exemplified by the Pajama Factory—long, long buildings with windows situated to the West and East.

Looking at the windows of the factory, you’l notice that this kind of glass was only used on the upper panes in each sash. There were a few reasons for this decision: one factor was cost—prism dispersion glass was far more expensive than the smooth kind. It also worked best in the upper part of the room, above the workers and their machines and in combination with white-painted ceilings and columns. Lastly, it was found that the workers actually needed to occasionally glance at a distant object outside, to reduce eye strain. This was balanced against the concern by factory owners that workers, “especially women” would spend too much time staring out the windows rather than working. (This was, after all, 1916 in the example I found and people actually said things like that in public.)

After the windows were in place, the machinery had to be laid out in a manner that didn’t interfere with the light dispersion. Long rows of work area were arranged almost perpendicular to the line of windows so the light could efficiently flow. Ideally, workers would not be facing the windows directly, as this caused undue eye strain, as well as distraction. The same publication noted that this technique had been employed for many years in keeping horses in stables, again stated with no implied irony.

It’s interesting to learn how and why these buildings were made the way they were and what a state-of-the-art facility it was. It’s exactly these sorts of details that make the building so appealing for artists and craftsmen even today, so much more so than even a new building.

Almost a hundred years later, many of the original prism dispersion windows remain, though a few have been lost to the ravages of time. Where practical, broken panes have been replaced with matching vintage panes sourced from salvage dealers.

The next time you visit the Pajama Factory, take a look at the windows and enjoy our exceptional light.