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Around the Factory with Savannah Barr

May 20, 2012
By BETHANY WIEGAND ( , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Savannah Barr, originally from Smethport, has found a home at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave., as an artist of many mediums.

Barr and her boyfriend, Matthew Dempsey, are both residents of the Pajama Factory. Barr came to the Williamsport area in February after Dempsey had already been established in the area since last summer.

"I came down a weeks later to visit and I was charmed by the whole thing - the brickwork, those huge factory windows, the smoke stack. There's something visually appealing about turning this crumbling building into something functional again. Some people tell me the factory is creepy, especially after dark, but I find it oddly calming," Barr said of the Pajama Factory. "It's nice to be around other people who think that creating is important and why it's completely logical not to socialize for a few days because you're trying to finish a piece."

Article Photos

Pajama Factory tenant and Sun-Gazette police and fire reporter Savannah Barr, at left, sews, dyes, weaves, crochets, quilts, embroiders and knits. Some of her homemade scarves are seen at right.

Barr is mostly involved with photography and the fiber arts, which have piqued her interest since she was a child. "I come from a long line of women who quilt, knit or spin," Barr said. The artist was particularly influenced by her aunt, Ruth Covert, who is an active member of a fiber guild and always supported Barr's projects - no matter how bizarre they were.

"One of my earliest childhood memories is of me sitting on my Aunt Ruth's porch on a summer afternoon, frustrated because I was trying to cast on for a knitting project. I can vividly recall that it was frustrating to 5-year-old me because the string and my fingers seemed to want to go in exclusively different directions," Barr said.

Now, she sews, dyes, weaves, crochets, quilts, embroiders and knits. "Sometimes, I use several techniques in one piece and build up layers," Barr said. She currently has a piece hanging in the Pajama Factory that was a piece of undyed mechanized cotton originally.

"I dyed it in several layers: it's painted, then silk-screened, then stamped," she said. "After that, it was washed out and I hand-beaded it and pieced it together," she said.

Barr finished the piece by adding Shisha mirror embroidery work to it, she said.

As for photography, Barr's mother was interested in the art and Barr caught on. "I remember my mom was very into black-and-white film for a long time. She used to drive around taking these nature shots that were really pretty and full of contrast. She bought me a Fisher Price camera when I was probably 5 or 6," she said.

Besides making art, Barr also is the fire and police reporter at the Sun-Gazette and is involved in Pyrogasm, a fire performing trio, comprised of Barr, Dempsey and Mathias Lovemotor. The group spits fire and performs with fire toys, such as fans and pois.

"I'm a sucker for anything circus-y," Barr said. "I got into spinning fire about five years ago. I had been spinning unlit poi and hula-hooping for about a year before I actually lit up. It's kind of an addicting hobby. Nobody's ever bored at a fire performance; there's always this great energy from the crowd."

Pyrogasm has recently performed in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Williamsport, Occupy Harrisburg and at the Blue Heron Festival in Sharon, N.Y.

As part of the Pajama Factory, Barr is encouraging the community to support local artists.

"A true art scene would need to have both the talented artists and the community behind them to support them; the type of people who spend their dollars consciously, who would rather pay the extra buck to have a handmade pair of gloves, rather than a mass-produced pair. You choose, with every dollar you spend, who you want to support. If you want to see the art scene grow in Williamsport, if you want to see more classes and more local studios open up to the public, then buy something handmade or donate your time to help in some way," she said.

Currently, Barr is interested in offering fiber art classes through the Factory.

"I've had several people approach me that want to learn to do fiber arts of some type," she said. "I'm looking forward to getting that off the ground."

Barr said that the creative process empowers people and helps them lead a healthier lifestyle.

"The world would be a significantly better place to exist if more folks got their hands dirty once in a while and created something, even if it's just for themselves," she said. "There's a self-satisfaction with a job well done that I think people miss out on a lot in the hustle and bustle of modern day society."

To contact Barr for information about classes, call 279-7854 or email volundswingtips@gmail .com.



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