Coral and Tusk - A Chat With Designer Stephanie Housley

Coral and Tusk’s sweet, mostly seafaring motifs are inspired by designer Stephanie Housley’s intrigue with the mysteries of the deep; many of the hand-drawn tableaus depict enchanting undersea scenes featuring buried treasure, hungry whales, and messages in bottles on pillows, t-shirts, pouches, and more.

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I asked Stephanie about how she makes her art, and the allure of the textile.

What is your process like?

In terms of process, I generally begin with a drawing on paper or a hand embroidery. I then scan my sketch (or embroidery) and redraw the concept in stitches (literally stitch by stitch!) with software attached to my small embroidery machine. The software allows me to maintain my own style of mark-making, which is essential. After I draw the stitching file, I use the embroidery machine to stitch the image, one color at a time. It is a Husqvarna Designer SE embroidery machine. It's basically a slightly bigger tabletop sewing machine. I come from a long line of Appalachian women who were always involved in some type of handiwork. I followed suit, but eventually became interested in finding a way to bring the integrity and special feeling of a "hand embroidery" to a process of mass production. These embroideries can go on many different types of objects: clothing, pillows, wallets, aprons… you name it. I design a specific collection, and I also collaborate with some stockists on special pieces, such as the aprons with anchor embroideries I recently created for John Derian.

So much of your work is nautically themed. What draws you to the sea?

I feel my absolute happiest when I am by the sea and everything surrounding it. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. My family vacationed at the beach one week every summer. The contrast was so stark, and it was really a magical time for me. Aside from the obvious–the light, the water, the invigorating salty air–the mystery of the underwater world, full of bizarre characters and events, was fascinating. Later, while I was at RISD, I took trips to beaches in Rhode Island and Cape Cod, and my curiosity grew, and I started developing illustrations.

What do you like most about working with textiles?

Textiles are a perfect combination of drawing, painting, and design. I like thinking about how fabric relates to an object as well as to various crafts–weaving, printing, embroidering, for example. Fabric is ubiquitous, found in contexts ranging from the menial and inconspicuous to the sacred. We will always use and produce it. I find great satisfaction in considering such an essential element.

Contact Stephanie via her website, Coral and Tusk, for more information and purchasing details.

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