Thursday, November 7, 2013

PENN & FLETCHER, Master Artisans of Custom Embroidery By Polly Guerin

Throughout history hand crafted embroidery has been treasured, like “Fine Jewelry,” says Ernie Allen Smith, custom embroidery artisan of Penn & Fletcher, Inc. This is a firm that stands in league of its own, a one-of-a-kind establishment that fashions creative embroideries using patterns and techniques of antique vintage, the work far too fantastic in its scoop, too unique and complicated for others to produce.

TALENTED ARTISANS Today with its staff of 13 talented artisans, the company, located in Long Island City, is internationally renowned for creating custom embroidery for museums, artists, architects, interior designers, artistic directors of fashion houses, the theater and even exquisite costumes for epic movie productions such as The Aviator, Enchanted and Mirror Mirror. Private clientele and the ladies, who lunch, also engage Penn & Fletcher’s artisans to create high end embroidery pieces to adorn their most luxurious possessions.

EMBROIDERY JARGON Descriptive words like appliqué, couching, chenille, satin stitch, French knots, trap unto, cord work, crewel, soutache and passamenterie describe the diversified embroider’s techniques that adorn some of the firm’s commissioned pieces. “We use a combination of handiwork, hand-guided embroidery machinery equipment from the 1870’s, and computerized machines,” says Smith. All work is crafted by artisans who are a lost breed of visionaries determined to keep the art of embroidery flourishing for generations to come. To that end the firm has future plans to schedule adjunct embroidery classes for young artisans to learn the trade.

FOUNDING REMARKS While embroidery is an old, revered hand-crafted industry, Penn & Fletcher is relatively new. The company was formed in 1986 from the remnants of old embroidery studios and much of the company’s equipment, the architects of design and the embroidery heritage it maintains dates back to 1878 and earlier. Case in point, on view recently at GSMT, The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesman’s Lecture Series, was an embroidery machine in black metal with a mother-of-pearl inlay border. The architects of design of this embroidery machine made it to last and it is still used today in hand guided designs.

All the work, any size job and type of custom work, as well as historical pieces, is done in Penn & Fletcher’s Long Island City workroom at 21-07 41st Avenue, 5th Floor; 212.239.6868. For more information about the GSMT Lecture Series, held at 20West 44th Street contact the General Society at 212.840.1840, ext 2. Or e-mail the program director Karin Taylor at; visit

Polly Guerin is author of the book: THE COOPER HEWITT DYNASTY OF NEW YORK (History Press 2012)

1 comment:

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