What happens when two founders meet, each of whom is already breaking new ground with her products, and whose similarities seem to leap to mind even before they’ve had a chance to talk? Exactly! Only good things can come out of it! And that’s exactly how things went between Wildling founder Anna Yona and Margaux Kent, who created the Peg and Awl brand together with her husband Walter. In a virtual meeting, the two founders chat about their brands, their everyday work life, and their collaboration.
Margaux, tell me... what do you do at Peg and Awl? And how did you come up with the idea of founding a company together?
Walter and I have always enjoyed doing things ourselves. My great passion is bookbinding, and Walter loves working with wood. In the beginning we rummaged around at a bunch of flea markets and rescued old wood from the rubble of torn down houses using Walter’s rusty pickup truck. We then used our finds to craft beautiful and useful items for our home.
A little over a year later our first son, Søren, was born and Walter and I got married in Iceland.
But barely a year went by before we founded Peg and Awl. I was pregnant with our second son, Silas, and Walter had just returned from a mission in Iraq. After celebrating our reunion, Walter headed straight for the workbench in the basement and built me a new book rest for the bathtub – a long-standing wish of mine. This gave rise to the idea of producing useful items that weren’t just for us, but for everyone.
Over the past ten years, Peg and Awl has grown significantly. What’s different now?
We started our company as a couple, and now we are a 15-person team handling all the work ourselves, from accounting and product design to production and sales. We’re still small but we’ve become much more efficient.
On top of that, we have most likely exhausted the local supply of old raw materials. In the beginning, we recycled antique leather – which was formerly used for rifle straps – to make our bags, and worked with reclaimed wood. But at a certain point we had to look for alternatives. I was even close to abandoning everything because I didn’t like the idea of buying conventional leather.
Fortunately I managed to find a producer virtually around the corner who offers vegetable-tanned organic leather – that’s something I can stand by personally and that’s what we’re working with now. The search for wood ended ten miles south of Pennsylvania, where we work. We found a 17th century sawmill that is still in operation and has processed hardwoods from the region for two decades.
While the sources for raw materials have changed a little, the rustic look of Peg and Awl products has been preserved and is also reflected in the Wildling model Griffin and the matching Silva bag that was inspired by it. How did this actually come about, Anna?
I’ve been following Peg and Awl for a very, very long time. Margaux’s newsletter is one of Wildling’s best-practice examples, and a picture of her tote bag is pinned on the mood board for our very first collection. I also have two bags and a backpack because I love the design, the rugged look and the materials. (At this point we can picture Anna enthusiastically holding a black canvas bag in front of the camera).
The approach of taking something old, something that at first glance may seem outdated, and creating something new that is not only beautiful but also becomes a part of your everyday life – that approach resonated with me immediately. Learning to value things again instead of just throwing them away is also one of the directions we want to pursue at Wildling. It was clear to me relatively quickly that I absolutely wanted to work with Margaux and her family to develop a new product.
You produced the Silva bag in Pennsylvania. What do you think of Griffin – the new Peg and Awl inspired Wildling? And how was the collaboration for you, Margaux?
Unfortunately I haven’t held a pair in my hands yet, but they look great in the photos! I can hardly wait to finally wear them. We like to walk barefoot a lot and we wear barefoot shoes, but I have never had a pair of Wildlings on before and I am really excited.
Our collaboration actually turned out to be kind of a blend of cooperation and contract work since we unfortunately couldn’t coordinate things with each other live and on site. If we ever work together on something again, I hope that we can meet in person. In that case, I would love to come to Germany, visit the studio, and fine-tune the designs together.
What do you think, Anna? Will there be a sequel?
I would be delighted if these two products were the first step and if they laid the foundation for further joint projects. I know that you originally wanted to make shoes at Peg and Awl – maybe someday there will be a Wildling that will help us bring your perfect shoe to life.
That sounds like things are going to remain interesting. We are looking forward to seeing more from both of you and are already so excited about where the journey is heading, dear Margaux and Anna!
Photographs by @wildling.shoes
Susan Sommers says...
On April 22, 2021
I am so glad I found your website—very atmospheric and inspirational. I’m a history professor out in Western PA, and have two queries for you—I know a fellow with multiple barns and outbuildings full of reclaimed 18th & 19th century timbers and lumber out this way—are you interested in being in touch? Also, my 86 year old father recently relocated to PA, and is making 18th century style bentwood storage boxes from reclaimed local wood. Any interest in seeing his work? He’s been making and selling at historic sites and events since the 1970s, and does amazing work.