Proudly Made: Peg + Awl
In the riverside neighborhood of Port Richmond, Philadelphia, husand and wife team Margaux and Walter Kent of Peg + Awl craft everything from tiny books and leather bags to cutting boards and even full-size chicken coops. Working alongside other Philly artists in the historic Atlas Casket Co. building, the creative duo looks to the treasures of the past to craft heirloom-worthy new objects. Our favorite Peg + Awl creation? An old-fashioned tree swing made of wood reclaimed from houses and barns in the Philadelphia area. Eager to learn more about these American makers, we asked Margaux a few questions.
terrain: How did you decide to start Peg + Awl? What inspires you to create?
Margaux: Walter and I have always been makers of things. Walter was a cabinet maker alongside his pop, and he’s also a painter. I am a photographer and general tinkerer with no specific expertise outside of being passionate. Together, we are a fantastic team, though it took me a bit to convince Walter that our “good team-liness” and varied skills could create a successful business. As for inspiration, we find it everywhere: in the past, the future, and everyday life. Peg + Awl exists as a result of us wanting things in our lives and being too particular to go out and fetch.
terrain: Your work is often informed by the past—are there particular eras or historic sites that you find most inspiring?
Margaux: We are both fond of history and the sense of time travel it offers; what we make is enlivened by the past of our materials. For historical interests, Walter is based in fact while I’m most interested in fiction; he is a constant guide to America’s military past, and I love dreaming and digging into specific faces and stories. Philadelphia is a wonderful place for inspiration as well! Exploring the city gives us ideas from the past that involve materials, process, functionality, and more.
terrain: Why do you prefer to use reclaimed wood? Do you think it adds a particular character to the finished product?
Margaux: Absolutely-- the grain is old growth, creating beautiful patterns that we do not see in new trees. Additionally, the character and evidence of the past adds another layer of story with burn holes, saw marks, bug paths, etc. A lot of our designs are very simple, so the history of the wood ends up being a super important part of our aesthetic!
terrain: What locations have provided some of your best reclaimed wood? Do different building types provide specific kinds of wood, or materials for particular projects?
Margaux: Part of the fun in reclaiming materials is the surprise. The past life of a tree’s growth and use adds so much interest (and some challenges) to our work! We use materials from barns, mills, and homes-- predominantly 19th-century structures. Sometimes we happen upon weird finds like 18th-century poplar that was amazingly green and from trees that germinated 500 years ago. Currently, we are using wood from the old Ortleib’s Brewing Company building in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood. It’s an exquisite heart pine, almost amber-like in its sappiness and full of knots color and character.
To celebrate the Fourth of July, we’re saluting some of our favorite American makers with Proudly Made. See all of their stories here.