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  • Thank you to Philly.com for including us in their lifestyle section!

    Thank you to Philly.com for including us in their lifestyle section!

    Read the whole article here.

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    Philly Made: Port Richmond's Peg and Awl reclaims materials, ideas

    Shortly after World War II, firearms manufacturer Heckler & Koch began development on what ultimately would become the G-3 assault rifle, designing along with it the various bolts, straps, and accouterment that typically come with any well-manufactured war machine. Of particular note was the weapon’s sling, owing the honor to its thick, robust leather construction and simple design.

    By the looks of it, the sling was designed solely to carry the full nine pounds of the G-3’s form, and that’s what it did up until H&K stopped production on the model in 1997. Still, though, the slings float around, a surplus left over for enthusiasts to sift through thanks to the G-3’s enormous international popularity and H&K’s formidable manufacturing output.

    But while the simple sling was once intended to carry devices that forced people out of their lives, it has since been repurposed to carry devices that bring them back in. Namely house keys, shopping club cards, and perhaps the occasional bottle opener in the form of a keychain. A small gesture, yes, but in reclaiming an object’s material, we also reclaim it’s idea.

    “Reclaimed materials are my obsession,” says Margaux Kent, one half of the husband and wife duo that makes up the creative nucleus of Port Richmond-based home good makers Peg and Awl. “I have no idea where it came from, it just has always been. It’s amazing how much weight in old stuff we have.”

    Started in 2010 out of Margaux and husband Walter’s Philadelphia home after the latter returned home from a tour in Iraq, Peg and Awl has since ballooned into a two-floor production housed in the old Atlas Casket Company building in Port Richmond. Like the materials it stores, the space itself has too been reclaimed—its casket conveyor now used to move wood (and sometimes Walter at the end of a long day), the coffin inventory area repurposed into a fully equipped carpentry shop.

    In one area of the building, floor joists from old Philly row homes or boards from water towers wait to be turned into desk caddies or tree swings. In another, a box of old Victorian-style shoes and leather leftovers sit until they meet their fate as leather journal covers. The result to most would look akin to a home goods scrapyard, but for the Kents, it’s closer to a garden of decay waiting to be made beautiful—an aspect that both credit to the inspiration they take from history.

    “So much of what we see when we go to make something comes from that historical influence,” says Margaux. “I’m quite fond of the ‘time machine’ aspect, which is easy for us since so much started here in Philly.” Walter, for his part, was homeschooled with a strong focus in history, his family even focusing their vacations on historical places.

    Peg and Awl’s output reflects that in what Walter calls a “timeless quality” thanks to a combination of period styles that highlight simple, elegant design while still being functional and long lasting. And in today’s increasingly impersonal, object-based society, that return to timeless, small batch goods with a story seems to be an ever-increasing movement. For the Kents, that simply makes sense.

    “You don’t have to replace something every year,” Margaux says. “It will evolve with you as it shows wear. It’s like inheriting something.”

    After all, when we buy an antique for a flea market or cherish an object handed down through generations, we are valuing the pockmarks and visual history that has developed over time. Increasingly, especially in cities like Philadelphia, it is those historical specks that we look for after centuries of industrialization, seemingly as a way to reclaim our idea of Americana. And, again, as we reclaim materials, we can reclaim those ideas.

    “It definitely stems from the madness that has been happening since the first canned good happened,” Margaux says. “There are a lot of failings in making things in such multiples. With the internet and its ability to bring people together, people are seeing that we can do things in a small way and get the word out.”

    Indeed, that is why Peg and Awl includes a tag about the material that makes up the object you’re buying—an idea that came from Margaux’s dad after he saw her having trouble peddling her wares at a craft show. Now, whether it’s a decoupage candleholder or a sturdy canvas bag, you’ll know exactly where you’re thing came from, so to speak.

    “Without those stories, Peg and Awl wouldn’t exist,” she says. “People would just wonder how we got our leather to look so old.”

    Philly.com

    Thank you to Philly.com for including us in their lifestyle section! Rea...

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  • A huge thank you to Julie and the whole team at Etsy for featuring us on their blog today. Etsy has been a huge support to our business and our growth and we are thrilled to be sharing our story with them.

    A huge thank you to Julie and the whole team at Etsy for featuring us on their blog today. Etsy has been a huge support to our business and our growth and we are thrilled to be sharing our story with them.

    See the whole article here

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    Quit Your Day Job: Peg and Awl

    Margaux and Walter Kent’s shop, Peg and Awl, exudes an old-world mercantile charm, with handmade waxed canvas bags, leather-bound journals and multi-purpose wooden kitchen implements lining their virtual shelves. In their workshop in an old casket factory in Philadelphia, the couple breathes new life into discarded materials to create beautiful products for daily life, including swings made from 19th century wooden floor joists and carry-all totes with leather straps made from reclaimed World War II gun slings.

    Early on in their relationship, Margaux tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Walter to start a business with her. “It was not within his realm of belief that we could make something happen on our own,” she says. A lifelong artist with a passion for photography, jewelry, bookbinding and writing, Margaux had started several businesses, including a vintage clothing and record store, an online CD business and a bookbinding and jewelry shop on Etsy. Walter worked with his father as a carpenter, starting as an apprentice when he was 11 years old, and served with the U.S. Army for seven years. The couple got married in Iceland in 2008. 

    After returning home from a year in Iraq, Walter began to think about what he would do next. While working out a plan, he and Margaux started renovating their house, using wood salvaged from houses being torn down in their neighborhood. Walter made a tub caddy for Margaux using the reclaimed wood. It turned out so nicely that they decided to make another, open an Etsy shop and list the tub caddy for sale, along with a few other products. Within the first week of opening shop in 2010, a boutique in Madrid, Spain requested a large number of their reclaimed wood candle blocks. This initial wholesale order came as a surprise, but today, approximately 60 percent of Peg and Awl’s business comes from wholesale clients.

    Since then, Walter and Margaux have sold more than 7,000 items in their retail Etsy shop. Over time, many of Walter’s 11 siblings have worked with them. Currently, the business employs ten staff members who help sew bags, make jewelry, bind books, tie rope swings and manage the production process. The couple now has two sons, ages 3 and 6. Margaux recently spoke to Julie Schneider, writer-editor for Etsy’s Seller Handbook, to discuss what she has learned while building a business from scratch.

    What inspires your product designs?

    Our products are mostly based on what we need or want in our own lives. Our boys break plates all the time, so we decided to make wooden plates. When we got married in Iceland, we went to a lot of old house museums and saw simple objects made for multiple uses. Without really realizing it, I think we picked up on that when we started to design for Peg and Awl. We aim to create timeless things that will endure and are useful for different purposes, such as sandwich plates that double as cutting boards and book necklaces with miniature functional journals as pendants. I’d say, instead of making what you think will sell or what’s easy, make things that you need in your life. For us, that’s the best way to work.

    How did you handle your unexpected pivot into the wholesale business?

    From the start, stores just came to us. Not only were we not thinking about wholesale, we certainly weren’t planning price-wise for it. But, we decided to make it work. In the beginning, we made a series of mistakes. Rather than creating wholesale prices that informed the retail price, we were discounting off of our retail prices. Initially, we thought, “Oh, the wood was free, so anything we sell it for is a profit!” But we were not counting for time, electricity, rent and other expenses. We were losing money on wholesale, and it wasn’t a pattern that could continue. But we learned from our mistakes and from talking to other business owners, who shared formulas and ways to price things out. Understanding the cost of a product from start to finish is a very important first step in wholesale.

    How do you decide which products to sell wholesale?

    In a word: pricing. Using the best quality materials possible and keeping the products made in America is a decision we’ve made — but it’s also a huge cost. When it gets to the point where an item would be too expensive for what it is after the wholesale markup, we give it a fair price and sell it only through our retail shop. For example, our log carrier would not be a good fit for wholesale, because the retail price would be around $280 after factoring in the markup. Instead, we keep it retail-only and sell it for $125. 

    Describe some of the challenges you’ve faced working with wholesale clients.

    When a small store contacts us, they’re happy and say, “We love your stuff. We’d love to carry it.” It’s a partnership and it’s very mutual. When a big company contacts us, we know it might be more challenging. We had been talking with a big company about carrying our stuff for a few years when they finally put a few of our products, including our tree swings, in their catalog. When we sent them the swings, they said, “These have mistakes all through them! We need to replace them.” But they’re not mistakes — it’s reclaimed wood. Going forward, we’ve made an effort to send them our most consistent pieces. Some aspects of the wholesale business aren’t always efficient or sustainable. For instance, when selling to retail customers, we use minimal packaging to cut down on waste, which is a core part of our business. But when we work with huge companies, we have to package each item individually and pay for the company’s labels. A lot of big companies also have manuals with 80-plus pages that you have to read.

    Despite the challenges, so many people on the wholesale side are incredibly supportive and just as excited about what we make as we are. They are buying our products for their own stores, restaurants and spaces. From these business relationships, friendships really can develop. In fact, we just went on a trip to Denmark and Sweden to see people we met through a wholesale order. 

    What do you love most about running your own business?

    We get to make what we want, and make a living from it. It’s exciting when people are as happy to have what we made as we are to make it. From Instagram to Facebook, the people we’ve met through Peg and Awl are incredible. When we were planning to get married in Iceland, we looked all over trying to figure out who could perform the ceremony. No one was getting back to us, and we felt stuck. Then, we went to Etsy. At the time, there were 12 people from Iceland on Etsy, and we emailed all of them. We heard back from eight people and half of them told us the same guy. And, he ended up marrying us! There are real, good humans involved in this world that we’re in, and it’s amazing.

    The Etsy Blog

    A huge thank you to Julie and the whole team at Etsy for featuring us on th...

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  • Thank you to Selectism for featuring us in their design blog today!

    Thank you to Selectism for featuring us in their design blog today!

    See the whole article here

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    BEAUTIFUL HANDCRAFTED WOODWORKS BY PHILADELPHIA’S PEG AND AWL

    By Stephanie Smith-Strickland

    Where trade shows are concerned, we all have our weaknesses. My personal weakness is anything handcrafted, wooden, cat-proof and made for the home. This led me to Peg and Awl, whose booth I stumbled upon at Liberty Fairs trade show, while I was still half-sleepingly calibrating myself to the endless parade of menswear and dandy suiting around me.

    Conceived by a Philadelphia-based husband and wife team, Peg and Awl salvages abandoned materials, and with a touch of whimsy, transforms them into precious wearables and home objects. As a company dedicated to craftsmanship, the items it designs are for the most part made the old fashioned way, by hand.

    Aside from artisanal leanings, perhaps the most unique thing about the brand is the stories attached to each product. For instance, the team offers an assortment of waxed canvas bags, many of which have vintage zippers and handles made from reclaimed World War II era gun slings. Having inquired how one sources WWII gun slings, I can say it’s no easy feat; yet it is these small touches that make the product special.

    For those of us who have an affinity for woodworks rather than leather goods, there are many options in this category, too. Here, the collection runs the gamut from reclaimed oak tub caddys which promise to induce the “skin pruning” candle-lighting kind of relaxation of bath time dreams, to chalk tablets crafted from reclaimed wood dating back to the 1800s. For the desktop, Peg and Awl caters to lovers of classic literature with a clever Poe-inspired collection of small wooden storage options featuring antique decoupage of 1800s medical skull drawings, and of course, a raven.

    Selectism

    Thank you to Selectism for featuring us in their design blog today! See th...

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  • Thank you Martha Stewart.com for featuring our apothecary cabinet in Valentine’s day gifts for her.

    Thank you Martha Stewart.com for featuring our apothecary cabinet in Valentine’s day gifts for her.

    Read the whole article here.

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    One-of-a-Kind Gifts for Her

    If your valentine has eyes for the unique and handcrafted, this artisanal Valentine’s Day gift guide offers perfect tokens of love for the lady who appreciates detail, workmanship, and a little American-made luxury.

     

    Peg and Awl Apothecary Cabinet

    If the way to her heart is through the bath, this American-made reclaimed-wood apothecary cabinet is a thoughtful way to indulge. It’s perfect for keeping her bath salts, body oils, and bud vases artfully displayed and easily accessible.

     

    Martha Stewart.com

    Thank you Martha Stewart.com for featuring our apothecary cabinet in Vale...

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  • We are in a BuzzFeed list! 31 Things that will instantly make you feel cozy. We are #29.

    We are in a BuzzFeed list! 31 Things that will instantly make you feel cozy. We are #29.

    See the whole article here

    BuzzFeed

    We are in a BuzzFeed list! 31 Things that will instantly make you feel cozy...

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  • Thank you to Terrain for including our botanical rings in their “Natural Beauties” email!

    Thank you to Terrain for including our botanical rings in their “Natural Beauties” email!

    See the full email here

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    Terrain

    Thank you to Terrain for including our botanical rings in their “Natural Be...

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