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.
Born 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.
Coral & 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.