Stephanie Housley - Brooklyn based founder of Coral & Tusk
Stephanie Housley is founder and designer at the Brooklyn based studio Coral & Tusk. Along with her husband and their team they create embroidered homewares which retain a hand drawn quality and are truly beautiful. Feathers, bears and botanics are a recurring theme in her magical work and we are very pleased to call her a friend.
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE ART OF EMBROIDERY? AND WHAT SORT OF PROCESS DO YOU GO THROUGH TO CREATE A PIECE?
I started doing hand-embroidery on my own when I was a little kid. I would take a line drawing I made and “draw” over it in thread. My Grammy made super simple dolls out of old clothes and would embroider their faces, so I suppose that’s how I discovered embroidery. For my process now, I’ll do a pencil drawing on paper of original artwork and then create the embroidery file stitch-by-stitch using software. We prototype when possible in Brooklyn, and then send the final file and colour selection to India for initial sampling. Once approved we go into production: anywhere from 12 to 120 pieces. The pieces come back from India to our Brooklyn loft where they are finished by hand and shipped.
AT SALT-WATER EUROPE WE LOVE ANIMALS IN CLOTHING AND ARE BIG BEATRIX POTTER FANS. WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
My inspiration comes from everywhere!! But mostly, animals and feelings. It may sound silly but I love love. And loving things and being loved makes me want to make things!!! I am lucky enough to be in a constant stream of feeling inspired and so excited to make the next thing. Everyday brings such magic and I love being able to experience and enjoy all that magic!
My love and fascination with animals is abundant and obvious in almost every design I make. Within using animal imagery, there are several recurring themes that I work with collection to collection. I am ceaselessly happy to ponder what any given animal might wear, where they might live, how they decorate this imaginary habitat, who their friends and family are and what do they look like and where do they live - on and on and on!
WHERE IS HOME?
We live in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL WORK DAY FOR YOU?
In the morning, Paco (dog) and I go to the park for an hour and then hit the studio in South Williamsburg. Each day brings different projects and many of them! Right now I’m working on our Spring collection and it can take a couple of days to transform an illustration into an embroidery pattern, stitch-by-stitch. Along with designing, I spend time answering emails, working on business development, and communicating with our workshop in India. At lunch we all take a break and eat together. The team leaves at about 6 and I stay later to design and work. I meet my husband at home for dinner and then either spend downtime at home together, or go out!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
My favourite fashion designer is Gary Graham, and I wear his amazing work for all special occasions. I almost only wear solid colours, very few patterns. I wear jeans every day that it is not hot. When it is hot, I wear dresses and skirts and Salt-Water Sandals. I love to wear whites and blues and blacks.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE NOVEL?
No! - I never read.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
I try to be outside doing something as much as possible when I am not working. Take the dog to the park, go to Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, go on a bike ride to Red Hook, go to Robert Moses Beach if it’s summer, hike at Harriman State Park in the Spring and Fall, etc.
WHO ARE YOU LISTENING TO AT THE MOMENT?
I listen to a lot of podcasts - Radio Lab and Freakonomics. My favorite is Splendid Table.
WHERE WERE THE LAST THREE PLACES YOU TRAVELLED TO?
Paris, Big Sur in California, and Wyoming
WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?
TV!!! I love to watch TV but I feel so lazy when I do, so I usually catch up on emails when I indulge.
IF THE SALT-WATER EUROPE TEAM WERE COMING FOR A LONG WEEKEND TO NEW YORK WHAT TOP FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND WE DO?
In Brooklyn, there are so many areas to explore that are spread out, so I’d suggest a few itineraries:
1. Start on Atlantic Avenue - the blocks between Nevins and Smith have the most exciting stores. Store highlights include: The Primary Essentials, Acorn, Layla, GRDN. There are loads more, but those are my favourites.
Then you can head all the way down Atlantic Avenue to the end and you’ll be at the most southern end of a beautiful park that runs all along the East River waterfront in Dumbo. On your way, you will pass a small outpost of Ample Hills Ice Cream. You will not find better ice cream in Brooklyn. Snap, Mallow, Pop is my personal favourite. You can follow the path North to explore all parts of this great park. You’ll end up in the main part of Dumbo. If you are into Chocolate or Chocolate Cookies, go to Jacques Torres (you ARE doing a lot of walking after all)! Powerhouse Arena is a great book store there. It’s a really cool area under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and the mix of the parks and waterfront make it feel super fun! And for dinner head over to Vinegar Hill House tucked in a small street in Dumbo.
2. Brooklyn. Williamsburg - Bedford Ave stop - it lets out at the corner of Bedford and N 7th. If you head north - Bedford ends at McCarren Park - and you can continue to Manhattan Avenue to head into Greenpoint. If you head south from the stop - there will be lots of shops to check out!
On the way you’ll intersect with Grand St which is also terrific to explore.
Here is a short list! FOOD: Five Leaves, Caracas, Bakeri, Marlowe, Broadway Diner, Walter Food, Isa, Pies & Thighs SHOPS: Catbird, Sharktooth, Oroboro, Sweet William, Joinery, Sprout, Coral & Tusk (of course!)
And then if you go on a Saturday there is the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg!
And Greenpoint has lots of great stuff too! Homecoming, In God We Trust, Pipsqueak Chapeau, Wolves Within for shopping. Duke’s Liquor Box for very helpful advice when purchasing liquor with a great variety.
3. Red Hook You can take the NY Water Taxi - the Ikea Express - from the city to Red Hook. Red Hook is far from anything else and is a really cool spot. It is the best place to see the Statue of Liberty! Walk all along the different piers - there are all different views from each of them.
Here are some highlights:
My absolute favourite store in all of NY is Erie Basin. Russell is the owner and is the top best at finding the most unique treasures. My husband has given me the best presents from there.
Nearby is Foxy & Winston - Jane Buck is the shop owner and also creates her incredible line of stationery and textiles of the same name.
That strip of shops full of fun stuff - Baked is an incredible bakery; Fairway is the best grocery store in NY and there's Steve’s Key Lime pie - the shop- along the piers. The Good Fork is great for dinner.
4. Pick your favorite Exhibition and GO TO A MUSEUM! I love MoMA - their drawing and printmaking floors are always interesting! Aside from their special events!
5. Manhattan - The Sky Line
Follow Stephanie and the Coral & Tusk team on Instagram @coralandtusk