FREE shipping on all U.S. orders over $200!

County Studio Tour 2023 | Peg and Awl

Smudge and Other Pandemic Pages

“If you like to write or draw or dance or sing, do it because it’s great: as long as we’re playing around like that, we don’t feel lonely, and our hearts warm up.”
–from The Woman Who Killed the Fish by Clarice Lispector


I’ve been making books and filling them for as long as I can remember. The books pile up – a slow and steady drip of ink on paper that may someday push us out of our home. One of the gifts of the pandemic is a clear time frame. I’ve decided to go back into my journals – specifically, into the pandemic pages, to see what I could find. I found the patterns of our lives on repeat, everything obsessively documented as if we wouldn’t live without record of it. I found Pearl, and plants, grief and illness, disappearance and disappointment, homeschooling, camping, movement, and details so small I needed the quiet of a pandemic to experience them. It is a strange vocation, to be this kind of capturer of the quotidian.

“What is the conversation?” asks Claire, a few times. Conversation? I don’t know how to answer that. The conversation is on the pages, extracted from life, fragments rearranged, stories imagined, reimagined. Patterns, tatters. Is there ever an actual anything, or is everything imagined? There isn’t a conversation – there are infinite conversations and there are no conversations. It depends on who stands in front of what, and where. It depends on who is next to them. How engaged they are. How curious. It depends on what I say here, if anything, and whether you read it. Will you?

Just before the pandemic, I chose a word for the year, for 2020: The word was lightness. I wrote:

“My word for the year is lightness. I love this idea of finding a word to live alongside. So far, (so early but so far), it has freed me from the fear of not making the right marks. It has led me to say yes to a wintry adventure at the seashore where with wet knees and raisoned fingers, we searched for Cape May diamonds with the enthusiasm of children whilst the actual children played with drones, dipped their feet (and pants) into the frigid water, gathered a few specimens, and made their way back to the warm car. These are things that I love, but the weight of obligation and difference and the world’s expectations make it difficult to be so light. The more I forget this, the longer I sit. The longer I sit, the heavier I get – the weight of the dust settling upon me. Lightness. The word, my companion, reminds me to hover and to float – to move and to keep moving.”

It was the right choice, this word, and it came just in time.

From A Tear and A Seed
A sneaky peek!
The Things That I remember Are Not in These Photographs
SMUDGE! Left-handed (non-dominant) hand drawings.
A Tear and A Seed... drawings from a book I didn’t illustrate.
A stack of my smudge journals!

Our First Storefront! 

Shop Our Shop!

“...the impeded stream is the one that sings.”
–from Our Real Work by Wendell Berry

The pileup is usually an effective way of moving us into high speed. We will open our barn doors tomorrow, for the first time, as a Peg and Awl storefront! It will also be filled with our art, which is most often squirreled away under our rounded bodies as we scribble, cut, or swish with whatever materials are at hand upon our pages.

We are still scrambling, but hope you come by and say hey! Email us for the address or find it at the Chester County Studio Tour website. Parking is limited – if ours is filled, park in the nearby neighborhood! If I have time, I’ll mow some roadside invasives for side-of-the-road parking.

We have a new batch of A Rural Pen ink!
Seaside Tote, Caddies, &c.
Some of our Last Chance waxed canvas bags are in the storefront!
New Prints from A Tear and A Seed (coming soon to our website, maybe...) 
We will stock our jewelry in this old treasure!

Walter, Søren, and Silas!

We are still working and will share updates on Instagram! 

Søren has been working on this gigantic map for months! Come see it in progress or on Instagram @sorenscoutkent

Silas has been working with Copic markers and recently has been drawing cars, an interest he shares with his Pop – his grandfather!
Walter will be sharing portraits and landscapes in oil and pencil. He is still navigating his space! @pegandawlbuilt and @pegandawl


Everywhere, Astonishments!

The Chester County Studio Tour features 200 artists including one of my very favourite humans – Claire Rosen, at her home, Warwick Furnace Farm. 
Heidi, whom I trust I’ll meet in person someday, is another wondrous being whom I am grateful to know. This book is gorgeous. Her language, exploration, and connection to the earth has inspired me for years. Now, in book form, tis utter magic!


Leave a Comment
Add A Comments Cancel Comment
Leave a Comment

I’m enjoying reading about your adventures and all the “fun” of moving to West Chester. Turns out you are only a hop/skip away from us. I bought one of the Sendak scrolls for my son-in-law who does some graphic illustrations when he is not helping buy and sell rare books.

I have the desk stand sitting here at my desk (well, the dining room table) and it has done a wonderful job of straightening all the stuff lying around.

Now the important question of request: tell me a bit about Pearl. We love dogs. We have had all kinds. The senior member of the family is Pippi, a 12 year old English Cocker. She is the last of 3 generations we raises. Our other is a 7 year old beagle rescue, Pepper. We got her about 4 or 5 months ago. She is a doll. Took her about 30 seconds to adopt our home. PIppi and Pepper are buddies. They sleep on the same bed.

Time to get back to my book collection (a story for another time) and Mary Ann’s greenhouses with lots of orchids and other things that are inside so the long legged rats (deer) cannot eat them.

Chuck and Mary Ann Ulmann