The First 10 Years of Coral & Tusk
We are excited to be celebrating a DECADE since Stephanie Housley founded Coral & Tusk! What an incredible 10 years it’s been! So much has evolved through her hard work and perseverance to get to where we are today. We wanted to share Stephanie’s story, starting with the leap she took when she purchased her first embroidery machine, working out of her small Brooklyn apartment to hiring her first employees and quitting her day job to captain C&T full time out of our first studio space. From her early start at the Brooklyn Flea, to exhibiting at international trade shows and selling to over 200 stores worldwide, Stephanie’s hand-drawn, embroidered illustrations remain our connecting thread.
Stephanie in her studio. Photo by Will Ellis.
STEPHANIE HOUSLEYBorn and raised in the Ohio Valley, Stephanie comes from a long line of Appalachian women who could make something from nothing. Her great-grandmother made lace while her grandmother made dolls, each instilling Stephanie with a deep appreciation for self-expression through craft. Stephanie always did hand-embroidery for fun, she constantly had a project going. Transferring to the School for Creative & Performing Arts in high school from neighborhood public schools, opened her eyes to a whole new world and she saw opportunities that she never realized existed. After taking a year off in between highschool and college and working as an apprentice making stained glass windows, she applied to Rhode Island School of Design. Much to her delight, she was accepted and received a scholarship to attend. The first in her family to attend college, she received a BFA in Textiles from RISD and moved to NYC in February of 1999, where she worked as a textile designer for a woven fabric mill that produced interior fabrics until October of 2012.
Logo tag evolution from upper left → lower left → today's embroidered tag.
BEGINNINGCoral & Tusk was founded on December 26th, 2007 by Stephanie with the idea of translating her hand-drawn illustrations into tactile embroidered textiles. With the initial partnership of her husband Chris Lacinak, Coral & Tusk began as a side business. First inspired to recreate the beloved childhood game Memory as gift for a friend, she started hand embroidering each alphabet pair. After countless hours stitching, she began to wonder if there was a faster way to embroider 26 sets of matching cards, so she did a little research. She knew she needed something smaller scale that would translate the detail of her drawings and convey the hand-embroidered feel. While flipping through Martha Stewart Living, she noticed a photo of Martha’s own craft room which featured an embroidery machine. After tracking down the same machine, a Husqvarna Viking Designer SE, Stephanie took a leap of faith. The machine itself was a huge investment, inspiring Stephanie to find a way to justify the purchase and support paying the machine off. Setting up shop at the Brooklyn Flea, she embroidered and sold Onesies, T-shirts, Accessories, and the Sea and Match Game, which started it all.
Coral & Tusk's first product! Our Sea themed memory game, Sea and Match.
Stephanie's early embroidered accessories for kids.
Coral & Tusk designs on onesies and T-Shirts.
Above photos by Kate LaceyIn 2008, Stephanie opened our first ever wholesale account with Acorn Toy Shop located on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn. Acorn still carries a wide selection of our products today! Later that year, through serendipitous encounters with friends, Stephanie landed a meeting with John Derian. Before presenting the line, Stephanie developed Coral & Tusk further to include embroidered pillows. When visiting John Derian Dry Goods on 2nd ave in Manhattan, you’ll find a couch devoted to our pillows!
First lifestyle photographs with nautical products. All pictured here have since been retired from the line but continue to inspire our many sea themed embroideries.
Some favorite early photos. Very Hungry Whale on the left was our first pillow and still remains in the collection today!
Sweet shelf scene. Since these first small frames, we have expanded to larger framed embroidered art.
Our first felt accessory collection. Some of these designs can still be found on our updated embroidered badges and medal Pins.
Above photos by Kate Lacey.
The following year brought more orders than Stephanie could handle alone on her own machine and she was still working at her full-time day job. Spending late nights and entire weekends working on Coral & Tusk, Stephanie began to consider other options for production. Stephanie’s career as a textile designer brought her frequently to India for long periods of time and she was extremely familiar with a few textile workshops there. Stephanie was able to find willing partners in India to embroider, cut and sew each Coral & Tusk product. Although Stephanie scaled production, each design retained its handmade look and quality.
Stephanie, Chris and Paco the Mastif in front of their Brooklyn apartment (Coral & Tusk's first workspace).From 2009 on, Stephanie continued to grow our wholesale accounts and develop new products and designs. In 2011 Stephanie hired the first full-time Coral & Tusk employee, Alija Craycroft, who is still an integral part of the team today! Follow us on Instagram? Alija is the one behind our amazing feed! 2011 also marked Coral & Tusk’s first tradeshow! Stephanie and Alija exhibited at the NY NOW Gift Show in August, introducing our line to the international wholesale and press audience. This was a total game changer and the team continued to grow, while still operating out of Stephanie’s one bedroom Brooklyn apartment.
Stephanie's first embroidery machine set up in their livingroom (our first "office").
Above photos by Kate Lacey.
After a couple of NY NOW Gift Show seasons under their belt, it became clear that Coral & Tusk was rapidly outgrowing Stephanie’s small Brooklyn apartment. Additionally the business started demanding more time from her and she realized she was ready to dive in to the business full-time and quit her day job. By the end of 2012 Coral & Tusk moved out of Stephanie’s apartment and into our first studio space in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The space included Stephanie's design studio, Coral & Tusk office space and a showroom space for visitors to shop.
Our first Showroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY. Look at how much smaller our pillow collection was!
Embroidery machine set up on Stephanie's desk at our first studio. What a huge difference it made to have the space to work and keep more stock of products like our signature foxes.
Above studio photos by Kate Lacey.
New York Times article about our Studio and Showroom opening in 2012.
With the opening of our new studio space we welcomed visitors, and were excited to share more about our company and product line with a new brand video by North Sea Air.
Our signature Pocket Dolls were introduced in 2012 with 4 original characters -- Fox, Bear, Owl and Rabbit. We have since added 7 more!
2012 also marked our first table top product, table runners! Feathers was the first Coral & Tusk runner and still remains a best seller.
Early photography of our Feathers Table Runner.
Above photos by Kate Lacey.
A major moment for us in 2013 was a multi- page feature in Martha Stewart Living!! A dream come true after Martha had been such an inspiration to Stephanie in procuring her first embroidery machine.
Coral & Tusk continued to evolve in no small part to our studio expansion and successful trade show exhibitions. Calling on her 13 years of experience as a textile designer, Stephanie designed geometric motifs and decor pillows.
Interior photo above by Kate Lacey.
The addition of the Quill, Herringbone Diamond and Cheyenne designs caught the attention of the design community, and were featured in The World of Interiors.
Along with geometric designs, new lumbar pillows and floor cushions, we also expanded the Coral & Tusk table line to include dinner napkins and tea towels.
LEFT: Chevron Table Runner and Napkins (since discontinued). RIGHT: Some early Love designs embroidered on tea towels (Kit Love, Chipmunk Love and Fox Love remain favorites in the collection)Holiday is an important part of the Coral & Tusk line and it started with just 6 stuffed ornaments and 6 stockings in the fall of 2013. Today there are 30+ ornaments to choose from along with a full line of stockings, cards, gift bags and holiday themed pillows and table linens.
Above lifestyle photos by Kate Lacey.
In May of 2014 we organized and curated our own month long pop-up shop designed to give a full lifestyle vision of what we are about. From an empty store front on South Williamsburg, the raw space was transformed into a truly magical experience, bringing to life the world of Coral & Tusk in addition to showcasing a curated selection of designers. Continually inspired and supportive of our independent design community, it was a dream of Stephanie's to pull together this group of over 25 artists and makers. We had an incredible space an opportunity to work on some custom projects and pieces for the space including embroidered birds, a canoe, tipi, decoupage plates (in collaboration with John Derian), upholstered stools and poufs as well as our first fabric covered couch. We celebrated with a launch party and had various events throughout the month. We love this write up on Design Sponge featuring photos we had taken of the space by photographer Kate Lacey.
Our moss hill installation featuring the hand-made Canoe and Birds in flight.
LEFT: Art wall featuring our framed embroideries with decoupage plates in collaboration with John Derian. RIGHT: Long-time fans of John Robshaw, we were excited to pair his pillows with our embroidered designs.
Pop up shop photos by Kate Lacey.
By 2014, the Coral & Tusk line we know it today was fully formed, including embroidered pillows of all sizes, our full table and holiday collection, along with well loved stuffed animals, merit badges and embroidered cards. In the summer, we participated in our first branded event on One Kings Lane through their Artisanal sales series. Our team and studio were featured on the One Kings Lane blog and our products were made available to our largest retail audience yet.
At work in the studio trimming threads from Baby Cat.
Above photo by Kate Lacey.Travel has long been an important part of Coral & Tusk, serving both as inspiration and as a means for exploring opportunities. After participating in the Playtime Paris trade show in 2012, our hearts were set on exhibiting at Maison et Objet. At her previous job, Stephanie visited the show frequently and always dreamed of one day showing her own collections there. 2014 marked our first year participating in the show and the first time we exhibited at a tradeshow outside the US.
Rabbit and Fox admiring the Seine Riving in Paris. See all of our Pocket Doll travels here.
Settled in our studio in 2015.
LEFT: The team's workspace trimming, tagging, assembling. RIGHT: Stephanie working on an embroidery file.
Above studio photos by Will Ellis.
After spending time developing our line of geometric designs for pillows and introducing three custom woven grounds, Stephanie applied her designs to a collection of fabrics. Starting with 17 styles, we soft-launched Coral & Tusk fabrics in 2015.
Above photos by Martin Scott Powell.
That summer, we took the collection, including pillows, fabric bolts and upholstered furniture, upstate for a photo shoot at Shipley Corner.
Left: Plants Lumbar and Thistle Pillows in the sun room. RIGHT: Black and White Geometrics featured in the master bedroom. BELOW: Plants Table Runner setting.
It was a major moment for us to style out our products in an entire home! We fell in love with the beautiful raw spaces and details at Shipley Corner in Freehold, designed by the incredible team at Jersey Ice Cream Co.
Photos by Kate Lacey.
2015 came to a close with Stephanie’s first trip to Japan! Traveling with our Japanese Accounts Manager, Asumi Tomita, Stephanie discovered the inspiring landscape, architecture, amazing meals and animal folklore of Japan. While in the country, Coral & Tusk conducted workshops, pop up events and more! Still buzzing from the trip when she came back to the states, Stephanie began dreaming up a Japanese inspired collection that was ultimately introduced in Spring 2017.
Goban Cat and Paco Dog at Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo. See all of our Pocket Doll travels here and read about Stephanie's trip to Japan here.
2016 marked another studio move for Coral & Tusk! We arrived in Industry City at the beginning of the year. Our workspace is within a vibrant building complex with a growing community in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Here we still have a showroom space and encourage visitors!
After a successful soft-launch of Coral & Tusk Fabric the year before, we expanded the line to include 60+ designs and even more custom woven grounds. We debuted the entire collection at the Architectural Digest Show in March. By May we exhibited at ICFF with a one of-a-kind embroidered panel and upholstered cushion, both featuring hand cut details, alongside a corresponding furniture piece from O&G.
LEFT: Embroidered textile for our booth at ICFF. RIGHT: Embroidered Black & White fabrics.
Above photos by Will Ellis.
Since she was a child, Stephanie made many trips to Wyoming, visiting National Parks and taking in the scenery. Each outing left a lasting impression on her and inspired many Coral & Tusk designs, from our Plains Fox Pocket Pillow to the Homecoming Table Runner. In 2015, Stephanie and her husband Chris began looking for a home out west and by the end of the year found their dream house located near the Gros Ventre Wilderness, a short drive from Grand Teton National Park. The summer of 2016 marked Stephanie and Chris’s move to live full-time in Bondurant, Wyoming. They each run their respective businesses remotely from their log cabin. Along with phone calls and Facetime, Stephanie travels to New York frequently to connect with the team. After her first few months out West, the entire C&T team went to visit her and check out her new digs on the very first Coral & Tusk retreat!!
LEFT: Stephanie in front of her studio on her land in Wyoming. RIGHT: Stephanie at work.
Stephanie's Wyoming studio photos by Will Ellis.
LEFT: The team hiking the Wind River Range to Sacred Rim. Read all about there trip here. RIGHT: Bear, Owl and Fox hiking the Marion Lake trail in Grand Teton National Park.We all had a blast in Wyoming where we hiked to the Sacred Rim in Wind River Range, floated down the Snake River in the Tetons, and woke up at the crack of dawn to spot wolves at sunrise in Yellowstone. It was the trip of a lifetime and hopefully one of many retreats to come for Coral & Tusk! The start of 2017 brought an exciting opportunity to partner with Sunbrella at DIFFA’s Dining by Design. We’ve collaborated with Sunbrella to create a large scale installation inspired by the American West, including embroidered high performance fabrics. At Coral & Tusk we are fully committed to creating intentional, heirloom quality pieces and are thrilled to apply our designs and ethos to Sunbrella’s durable fabrics, expanding our collection of home items that withstand the test of time and elements.
Front view of the DIFFA booth.
LEFT: Display featuring our fabric collaboration inside the tent. RIGHT: Hand made Bison detail behind dining table.
Dining table featuring hand made ceramics in collaboration with Nicholas Newcomb, hand painted by Stephanie.
DIFFA photos by Will Ellis.
Our signature motifs took on new forms in 2017 with our apparel collection. Coral & Tusk tailored brings bold embroidery to simple silhouettes, creating timeless and refined essentials for the wardrobe. We were lucky to work with an incredibly skilled Japanese seamstress to execute our classic and simple silhouette concepts.
LEFT: Plumes Skirt. RIGHT: Pinnacle Slate Jacket
LEFT: Garden Skirt. RIGHT: Berber Dress.
Coral & Tusk tailored photos by Will Ellis.
We were thrilled to introduce the collection with this printed feature in Elle Decor!
2017 brought a big move to fulfilling orders and inventorying our products in an outside warehouse, giving our team the time to dream up big things for the next ten years! We’ve launched a new and improved website and Stephanie continues to feel at home in the mountains of Wyoming. Finishing out 2017 brings us to December 26th, our TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY!
TODAYWe are incredibly excited about everything 2018 will bring! These past 10 years have brought tremendous growth, a momentum we are enthusiastic to build upon and we can't wait to see where it takes us. We could not have done all we have without your continued support and encouragement! From our very first customers who visited us in Stephanie’s apartment to everyone who likes or comments on an Instagram post today, we cannot thank each and everyone of you enough! Here’s to another decade of Coral & Tusk!
MORE ABOUT OUR PROCESS
Throughout these past 10 years, our companies dedication to product quality has always stayed consistent. Stephanie first creates her irreverent characters and bold pattern designs by putting pencil to paper. Each design stems from her original hand-drawn illustrations. Every collection begins with abundant research, Stephanie gathers inspiration and information from a wide variety of reference materials. Drawing resources from books and shelter magazines, along with her own personal photographs and watercolor studies.
As Stephanie plans each seasonal collection, she refers to her archive of embroidery threads to create a consistent color palette. Every individual design within the collection will utilize the selected colors.
Stephanie then scans her original drawing, creating a digital file. She redraws the design, stitch by stitch, using specialized software. Each stitch is dictated by Stephanie: the length, direction and color. This process captures the quality of Stephanie's hand and retains the spirit of her design.
Stephanie prototypes the piece on her embroidery machine in her Wyoming studio. The machine stitches one color at a time and requires manual thread changes. Paying close attention to design and color details, Stephanie finalizes each piece. Most Coral & Tusk products are embroidered on unbleached, natural linen. Mindful of the environment, we do our best to avoid the harsh chemicals found in fabric dyes.
After the prototype is finalized and all colors are selected, the completed design is machine embroidered by our partners in India. The large scale embroidery machines make it possible for us to scale Stephanie’s creative process with the flexibility of small production runs.
The embroidery process can take anywhere from one to twelve hours for a single design. Once completed, our production partners cut each design per product type.
Sewing is the final step of our production process. Our partners in India embrace our own company standards, maintaining quality working conditions with fair wages and benefits.
Coral & Tusk’s office is based in Brooklyn in Industry City. We spend a great deal of our time here providing customer service and maintaining wholesale and trade accounts. Additionally, all of our social media and marketing campaigns are planned in house in communication with Stephanie in Wyoming. Our team members stay closely connected with our fulfillment center, ensuring every order is packed and shipped with the utmost care.
The entire Coral & Tusk line is also available to view in our showroom located in our Brooklyn office. Please feel free to schedule an appointment to view our product line and place an order with us. e. [email protected] p. 718.388.4188