Words by Andrea Glinn
Ancient methods and materials meet contemporary sculptural lines in two KC studios.
Madison Flitch—and Stitch
ix years ago, John Pryor abandoned his corporate job in Boston to pursue his passion in woodworking, leading him back to Kansas City and to starting the custom furniture business Madison Flitch. He spent several years connecting with clients and honing his skills, and then, like many of us, he was knocked off course by the pandemic. John started selling fabric face masks and as the orders increased, he had to halt all custom furniture projects to keep up with the demand; thus, his second business, Madison Stitch, was born. However, all was not lost for Madison Flitch. In addition to launching its sister business during the pandemic, John also developed a product strategy for Flitch and hired an “apprentice” to help build out a furniture catalog. It’s an understatement to say that he got more than he bargained for with Megan Pace, a second-generation tradesperson, artist and fabricator. In just a year and a half, she would inspire a shift in their business identity from custom furniture makers to an artist collective who does “all things 3D.” In addition to being a woodworker, ceramicist and metalsmith, Megan also has a passion for leather handbags, which has become the foundation of the Madison Stitch product line now that face masks are no longer a hot commodity.
Megan has been named creative director of both Stitch and Flitch, while John drives the marketing, operations and business development. And, of course, both spend ample time making in the studio, John crafting sculptural wood furniture and Megan creating abstract fine art. Madison Flitch’s east Crossroads studio doubles as a gallery for John and Megan’s work, as well as for other local artists whom they curate and showcase.
Similarly inclusive and collaborative, Madison Stitch has a farm-to-table approach to fashion accessories. They source local leather from a regional tannery, Hermann Oak Leather in St. Louis, and enlist local designers for both design and fabrication of their products. John’s goal for Madison Stitch? To become a national brand in the next five years. And for Flitch? John wants the gallery to become a beacon for designers looking for unique sculptures and furniture to highlight in their clients’ homes, workplaces, restaurants and hotels.
iatt Castilleja is an architect-trained-artisan who has built a national luxury furniture business on hard work, goodwill and taking chances. His first chance? Matt, then an apprentice, took over the woodworking shop of his mentor, David Polivka, in 2014—and consequently and casually launched his own business and career. After fabricating custom furniture orders with a solo operation for several years, he decided to take another chance and invested much time and money into producing work to exhibit at the industry-exclusive International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York in 2017. It was exciting and inspiring to present his work to the world, which the design community enthusiastically received. After only two years of traveling to high-end furniture fairs, connecting with designers and creating custom work for their projects across the country, Matt was offered representation by the Una Malan showroom in California. Chance number three. This was a major pivot, and he embraced it. Representation has allowed Matt to scale his business and evolve his process. Rather than traveling to shows and creating bespoke furniture pieces directly for clients, Castilleja has become a branded business with running lines, represented by dealers and visible on their showroom floors year-round in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta.
Castilleja is no longer just Matt, the mad-talented solo furniture fabricator; Castilleja is now a team of seven skilled artisans working with wood, metal and stone to create highly crafted and coveted heirloom furniture. Their work has an elemental beauty that at once feels both timeless and on-trend. While the execution of each flawless piece of furniture takes micro-level precision, the business decisions occur on the macro scale of planning and implementation. Matt is currently dreaming of representation in New York—which seems imminent and obvious—and of international partnerships, which could provide access to new materials and generations-old craftsmen. It’s this type of large-scale thinking that energizes both Matt and the business, accelerating their growth and preventing stagnation.
And though Castilleja seems to have the world at his fingertips with more than 5,000 Instagram followers and features in Architectural Digest and Elle Décor, it is Kansas City that he calls home.