DELVE Interview–Peg Bauer, archivist at the Design Library

Welcome to DELVE Interviews, a look into the unique paths of artistic and creative individuals. These conversations are a branch of our DELVE Workshops and Networking Events, where we celebrate and discover everyone's unique paths as artistic and creative forces. It's a chance to learn from others, meet new people and see where our worlds overlap. We're finishing out our month of devoting all of our blog posts to the theme fabric(ation) (#delvefabrication).

The Design Library

The Design Library

This week we are very happy to have had the chance to speak with Peg Bauer, an archivist at the Design Library, located in the Hudson Valley. From the Design Library's website:

"The Design Library's business is the sale and licensing of antique, vintage, modern and contemporary textile designs for inspiration to the fashion, home furnishings, textile, wall covering, graphic arts, and paper product industries. The Design Library has the world's largest and best organized collections of documentary fabrics, original paintings, wallpapers, embroideries and yarn dyes, numbering over seven million designs. The collections date from the 1750s to the late 20th century and are sorted into over 900 categories for easy access."

The Design Library is accessible by appointment only to professional designers.

Peg Bauer, archivist at The Design Library

Peg Bauer, archivist at The Design Library

Let's have Peg introduce herself!

Hello, my name is Peg. Some might say that I have an unhealthy obsession with paper and textiles. I absolutely love engaging in creative projects and always seem to be scheming my next idea. My inspiration is everywhere! Time is my biggest enemy, as I wish I could create beautiful things all day long. When not working my regular job as an archivist of antique textiles, I can be found dabbling in whatever craft tickles my proverbial fancy. I especially enjoy sewing and making one-of-a-kind greeting cards, but really, any creative venture will do!

I live in an old house in Kingston, NY with my charming and photographically talented fiancé. I enjoy farmer's markets, browsing antique stores, petting goats, eating tacos and organizing everything in sight.

Can you describe your path in the creative industry- from where and when you began, until now?

It's funny to think about it now, but I simply answered a help wanted ad. I had been working in litigation research and feeling really uninspired. While I enjoyed the challenges of the job, the nationwide travel and meeting new people, my spirit was being crushed by gruesome lawsuit details and I knew I needed to do something different. At exactly the right moment, I came across a job opportunity for the head archivist at The Design Library. It was a far leap from what I was doing at the time, but was such an intriguing job. I am probably the most organized person I know, so when the opportunity to harness that energy and passion for order in an interesting environment was in front of me, I just about passed out. I never really gave much thought to surface design and certainly didn't know that a place like The Design Library even existed before I started working here. Although I consider myself a creative person, I do not have any formal art education. When I accepted the position, I was tasked with overseeing the organization and upkeep of an archive of over 7 million designs that fall into over 900 categories. Thus began my art education.

Can you describe a day, or week, in your professional life?

My days are spent in the archive and I pretty much operate in a constant state of "tidying up" as I move from one place to another and from task to task. In a way, it's no different than keeping my house organized. Because I am (almost annoyingly) neat, this is quite enjoyable for me. The main responsibilities that I have here involve preparing and categorizing new designs, maintaining order in the Library's vast collections and supervising interns. Beyond that, it depends on the day. If we've just landed a new collection, I will unpack it, assess the condition of it, determine what categories the designs fall under, and finally decide where they will be displayed in the archive. The beauty of our archive is that everything is easily accessible. If a client is looking for something very specific, for example, an 18th century block-printed flower motif or an Art Deco geometric border, we can point them right to a shelf or several areas that will have a selection of designs that we've categorized as similar. 

When preparing new collections, I assess how the designs will be best preserved and presented. We often get collections that have been locked away somewhere for a very long time and are often wrinkled, ripped or folded. My team and I will reinforce the designs, iron fabrics if necessary and make them look as good as possible while preserving it's integrity. I often say that working here is like being at a museum where you can touch everything. It is so gratifying to see so many great examples of art right in front of you. Whether it's an actual painted work, a printed or woven fabric, a paper impression or even a wallpaper - it's history in your hands. My boss once said to me that he considers us the stewards of these pieces of history that were created mostly by now anonymous artists. It is truly a privilege! 

What is your favorite project that you've worked on?

It's always exciting to get new collections. Some take a lot more planning and hands-on time than others and that can be exciting to know that you are going to be working on it for a few weeks. What I really enjoy though is the setting up and strategizing of our space. We renovated and expanded the archive a few years ago, and I helped in the planning process and execution of the transition. We had to decide where all the shelving was going to go, where to hang lights, what to hang on the walls - pretty much everything, including building the shelves and loading them back up with millions of designs. It was fairly grueling at the time, but I take immense satisfaction in looking around now and knowing that I helped make this place beautiful and functional. The Design Library has a small archive in London that recently moved and expanded it's size. I just had the amazing opportunity to travel and work in London to help with that process. While it was on a much smaller scale, it was just as fun and rewarding. If you need any shelving built, I'm your lady!

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What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from managing all of your projects?

That everything will be there tomorrow. My personality and work ethic often push me to want to complete tasks in their entirety and not stop until they are done. The beauty of working with designs is that they can wait. In fact, I've often come up with better ideas and strategies on how to handle a particular collection by walking away from it for a while and doing something else. I also used to be pretty intolerant of messes. Because we have the good fortune at the Design Library of being visited by clients often while also obtaining new collections to sort out, it is sometimes hard to keep all the fires burning at once. I often have to move back and forth from project to project. My very rigid ways of approaching tasks have become more relaxed and personally, I feel like I have developed newer and more effective work habits.

And finally, where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

I really have to look no further than the view from my desk to be inspired. Admittedly, because I am here every day, the designs tend to be my background and not always at the forefront. My go to for inspiration is almost always the outdoors. When I moved to the Hudson Valley from Long Island I really fell in love with nature quite hard. Going for hikes and meandering in the woods always brings me some form of wonder. I am very lucky to live in such a beautiful area. Whether it's noticing early budding flowers and greenery in the spring or bold and bright leaves changing in the autumn, I am hands-down always impressed by nature. I am particularly drawn to line drawings of flowers, leaves and other nature-based imagery like birds and botanicals. 

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