Abandoning the Nine to Five

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When we asked Walter and Margaux Kent why they chose Philadelphia as a home base for family and business, Walter didn’t hesitate answering—“Margeaux has a crush on Ben Franklin.”

But in all seriousness, the saying “You are what you surround yourself with,” rings remarkably true here. Philadelphia is sprinkled with buildings that have been standing for over three hundred years—which isn’t something that happens without a profound level of craft and consideration. That last bit has seeped into Margeaux and Walter’s business, Peg and Awl, too. We met them in their handmade goods workshop that specializes in upcycling abandoned materials, turning them into note books bound in the leather of iconic camera cases of yesteryear, canvas bags with straps made from WW2 gun slings, jewelry, furniture, and the like.

“We’re in a good spot to access (materials),” Margaux says. “With the exception of leather, it just makes sense to get everything local given the nature of our history and because we look for other tidbits that are antique or vintage in abandoned houses, flea markets and sales.”

“It’s not strictly Philadelphia, but by nature that’s where most of it comes from.” Walter explains. “The leather comes from all over the world—and that’s an extension of what we do when we travel somewhere, the scavenger hunt is part of the fun.”

That scavenger hunt played as big a part in the founding of Peg and Awl as it did its proliferation. The couple would sift through the various markets and sales of wherever their travels took them, only keeping items that had a story and history to them. And sometimes those travels were not far from home.

“We just collected materials from homes that were being torn down in our neighborhood—brick, wood and things like that,” says Margaux. “From there we had a lot of excess materials we stored in the basement; we started making objects for our house and ourselves and that’s how Peg and Awl developed.”

Walter, a carpenter; and Margaux with a background in crafts—the two couldn’t be more equipped to run a business like this.

“I was working with my dad as a cabinet maker when I went away to Iraq. I came home a year later and Margaux sort of forced me into making something,” Walter laughs. “(Peg and Awl) just took off.”

And by take off, Walter is referring to a wholesale order from Madrid within the first week of the company’s existence. The two hit the ground running and, between the business and a couple of sons, they haven’t really slowed down since.

“If Peg and Awl didn’t work out, we’d be making something in a different way with a different name. So the making is really what we love,” Walter says. “And I don’t know if we can separate ourselves from it.”

That name, if you were wondering, comes from an old song about craftsman losing their jobs to industrialization. But maybe it’s a nice reminder that the endless, gear-churning pursuit of progress our world has become accustomed to isn’t all there is to life; that there is still something to be said for slowing down and taking the time to make something beautiful.

“I’ve never filled out an application for an actual job,” Margaux says. “I tremble at the thought of that. So it’s ‘how do I live the way I want to live and incorporate that into all sorts of living’—not just how I live after five and before nine.”

“I have to say I’m more fearful of the ‘normal way;’ there’s this strange existence that humanity has had for the past hundred years now, where we have these lives that we get through and then we enjoy ourselves on weekends,” Margaux continues. “And I think, in a small way, we’re in a place where we get to extend our ideas for a passionate life to other people who feel the same but haven’t had the opportunity with other jobs. That’s where we are now, extending and sharing the passion—how to make it go further than just us.”

We discovered Peg and Awl on our road trip in the Lincoln MKC. Discover more about the MKC here.

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