MEET THE MAKER SERIES: CORAL AND HIVE
#Designinthetimeofcorona has given me the opportunity to step back and connect with several artists and creatives that I have personally worked with to build my business or for client work. This week we have a very special company Coral and Hive. Meet the partners behind this ethical woman owned rug company as they give some insight into their African craft, tell us more about the beauty of African fibers and also introduce us to their weaving partners in India who specialize in weaving with locally sourced natural fibers.
jmi: Tell us about how Coral and Hive got started!
ch: Jeannine started Coral & Hive in 2016 in Cape town, South Africa. Although her studies were in Psychology, her interest and passion is around art, particularly artisanal craftwork and this inspired her to create a brand which would represent handmade pieces from South Africa. She began with handwoven rugs, spellbound by watching the weavers at work, and although she had intended to include other product offerings, she soon realised that she would rather focus on one product and do it really well. Erica Bartholomae, an artist specialising in fabric design, creates the rug designs, inspired by the nature around her in the Cape countryside and translating designer briefs into patterns. Debs comes from a marketing background and head weaver Nazeema has been weaving for 35 years. As an all-woman business, we pride ourselves on being sustainable, ethical and caring.
jmi : What fibers do you use to create your rugs?
ch: Coral & Hive sources all their fibres locally in South Africa, India and Pakistan.
Karakul wool comes from the Eastern Cape, where it is sourced through a local board representing ethical farmers. Karakul wool is extremely resilient because it contains a high percentage of natural lanolin which acts as nature's scotchgard. Karakul comes in natural tones of white, greys and dark chocolate brown, and can be dyed too.
South Africa produces 80% of the world's mohair and while this unique fibre is mostly used in fashion and textiles, it is incredibly durable and beautiful for rug weaving. The Karoo, which is South Africa’s magical desert space, is home to Mohair farming. Mohair is known as the diamond fibre because it has incredible lustre and sheen. The fibre soaks up dye the way silk does, giving a huge colour range from tonal earthy hues to bright jewel colours.
Rugs in the lox mohair collection are made from raw, uncarded mohair. The fibre has incredible natural texture and the stains have not been mechanically removed. Colours are powdery and warm so the natural textures and unique colourings shine through.
Coral & Hive hand-spin their fibres after a process of washing, dying and hanging in the African sunshine – this creates really imperfectly perfect textures throughout their rugs. Mixing African fibres in the same rug, which is something unique to this company, creates really unique textures, visually exciting yet soft and sensual.
Wool and Mohair are some of nature’s most sustainable products- natural, long lasting, recyclable, and easily biodegradable.
Indian jute rugs combine natural beauty and organic simplicity and, importantly, have minimal impact on the environment. Jute is made from plants grown in the Ganges Delta in India. Here the plants grow quickly with no need for fertilizers or chemicals and the fibre is extracted from the stalks after they have been soaked in running water for about 20 days. Jute is very durable and is also used for hessian sacks and burlap bags.
Jute rugs traditionally come in natural, earthy colours and you can find your perfect tones using the Coral & Hive colour poms or ladders and they’ll even dye the fibre to match a specific scheme. Clients can also choose from a wide range of patterns and weaves, some blended with wool or cotton, and then create their own design. Check out Coral & Hive’s pattern gallery for inspiration. Patterns available through Coral & Hive can be woven in any of their natural fibres.
Local T-shirt factories also have a lot of leftover cotton material which the company weaves into rugs that are often ordered for beach houses or children’s bedrooms.
Choose from this list of fibres to design and weave with Coral & Hive:
South African fibres: (average lead time 8-10 weeks)**once Covid is under control
Pure Karakul Wool
Blended natural fibre mixes of the above
Indian Fibres: (average lead time 10- 12 weeks)**once Covid is under control
Jute + Wool
Wool + Cotton
New Zealand Wool
Afghanistan Wool (soft tufted rugs)
jmi: How do I know which fiber I should select for my home?
ch: For areas of high traffic such as living areas, Karakul wool is perfect. These rugs are reversible and the natural lanolin acts like scotchgard so it’s easy to clean any marks with a soapy solution. Karakul rugs give a cosy finish, are soft underfoot and are very durable so make an ideal investment. If you love a textured rug with a scandinavian look and feel, then karakul rugs are ideal and there are some very inspiring patterns for this collection too, they are also perfect for berber style patterns.
Mohair is really beautiful in bedrooms and Coral & Hive have also made mohair runners for areas of the home where colour and pattern are needed. Mohair is also a very resilient fibre – slightly softer than the karakul wool. The warm and uplifting colour selections, give rise to many design options. Colour ladders are used to choose colour and Coral & Hive have a gallery of patterns, alternatively you can work closely with the team and Erica to design your own.
Cotton rugs are fun for children’s bedrooms but if you’re looking to design a piece to keep and pass down through the family, then wool rugs last longer.
Jute rugs are very popular for most rooms of the home – gorgeous as runners or rugs. Coral & Hive’s new styles of jute rugs combine natural beauty and organic simplicity, always add texture and warmth and are ideal for layering to bring added interest to a neutral palate. These sustainable rugs are surprisingly soft underfoot, low maintenance, hard wearing and animal and kiddie friendly. Jute can slide a bit on bare surfaces so we do suggest underlays or rug gripper tape.
The collection from India is very versatile and includes beautiful flat lying rugs, like the Azaahn collection which has very subtle pattern detailing, which is all hand tufted. This collection comes in gorgeous neutrals and earthy tones, such as olive, amber, rust, ivory and by way of contrast, there is even a bright fuschia pink!
Coral & Hive have worked closely with designers over the years to create original patterns - they can advise which patterns work best in which fibres, so do ask them if you’d like to see their pattern galleries. Their Indian partners have some very unique patterns in their archives which can be woven with modern twists if you’re looking for a modern take on a vintage design.
jmi: We would love to know about the weaving process - how does a rug get made?
ch: Every step from washing, to spinning and carefully finishing the rug once it comes off loom is carried out by hand.
All rugs are made to order and work starts as soon as the quote is approved. Once a client has chosen their pattern, colour and fibre, Coral & Hive work out a quote. Then the fibres are ordered and on arrival, they are spun by hand. The spun fibres are then washed and hung in loops out in the African sun to ‘set’ and stretch the fibres. The wool needed for each rug is weighed out and put into a large basket for the weaver. The next stage is to warp up the loom- strong cotton thread is hooked through nails on the loom, up and down to create the warp. Warping runs vertically and weaving runs horizontally - known as the weft. The artisan draws the design on cotton fabric which is placed behind the looms to act as a template. Then, line-by-line, the wool is passed through the warp thread and the rug starts to take form. The looms vary in size and when weaving a large rug (sizes up to 5 by 8 meters are possible) the weavers sit on a platform which moves up the vertical loom using a pulley system.
Rugs are measured daily to check that dimensions are correct. Once completed the rug is then cut off the loom and the warping tightly knotted to secure the weaving. After tightly knotting the warp and securing the weaving, the finishing team whip the rugs closed. This is a process done with a large needle and a thread of fibre to create a neat ‘seam’ along the edges of the rug. A final comb and quality check is the last step before the rug is packed and ready for shipment.
On the Indian side, you can order off our website, or you can design with us and we can advise what is involved in the process of designing in jute, new zealand wool, afghanistan wool or any of our natural fibre blends. There is an extensive selection of natural rugs in our Indian offering, we have chosen rugs which really showcase the different weaving techniques of the local family weaving businesses that we work with. All the Indian rugs are woven by hand and they follow a similar process to our African rugs - although the Indian rugs are often washed after the weaving process and dried in the Indian sun before being shipped, this gives the colours a chance to settle.
jmi: Your rugs come in a variety of colors, how do you dye the fibers to achieve color variation?
ch: Many of our fibres are available in their organic natural tones but one can dye both mohair and karakul and Coral & Hive can digitally match a client’s special colour.
The beauty and resilience of natural African fibres produces the most creative and textured rugs. Karakul wool is durable and has an imperfect beauty which can only be achieved through hand-spinning- it comes in beautiful natural tones of grey, white, silver and chocolate. Karakul wool is also dyed so you can choose from gentle clay tones, through to forest greens and earthy pinks. Mohair is soft with an incredibly lustrous sheen- this diamond fibre soaks up any dye colour and comes in a myriad of jewel colours.
These rugs are soft and comforting underfoot and fill any rooms with the silent vibrations of African singing.
Jute is a plant material so in its natural form comes in earth tones, but it can be dyed to match a wide range of colours.
In South Africa clients are able to choose from colour ladders for the karakul and mohair fibres - Coral & Hive are able to send colour butterflies or ladders via courier mail. Designers are also able to send fabric swatches and poms for colour matching. In India, Coral & Hive work with their pom system which has over 1400 colours, clients are able to work closely with the team to choose their ideal colours.
jmi: You have teams of weavers in Africa and India - we would love to know more about your weavers!
ch: The sounds of laughter and song echo through the looms in Cape Town. The African weavers are women from nearby townships, many of whom had to leave school at a very young age because of poverty in the rural areas where they grew up. Often they are the sole breadwinner in their family. These women are highly skilled at working with their hands; it is after all, part of their heritage. They take immense pride in the rugs that they create, knowing that they will grace homes all over the world. There is a strong ethos amongst the women to do the best they can with what they have and a great choral tradition in South Africa means the women often sing hymns as they work.
Coral & Hive work with family businesses in India and Pakistan, located in rural villages, that have been handed down, father to son, over several generations. Weaving is an ancient tradition and a speciality of these villages. The men and women weavers are very proud of their skills. Some of the weavers in India and Pakistan have looms built in their homes where they weave the rugs, but Coral & Hive does not work with any weaving businesses that employ children. The Coral & Hive team are in constant contact with their Indian partners, and enjoy collaborating with them on different weave and pattern styles. It's possible to create a piece that is artisanal, exceptional quality, and made precisely to the specifications of the designer’s scheme.
Coral & Hive is a partnership, which honours each member of it’s weaving community and aims to form a bridge between their amazing artisans and the interior designers and clients who appreciate their talents.They love to share pictures of the weavers and spinners as they work on a client order and in that way the client can see their rug take shape. Weavers share these pictures with the clients and encourage an appreciation between weaver/spinner and customer.
jmi How do I care for my natural fiber rug?
ch: Natural fibres are very resilient but they need to be cared for properly. Most rugs are fully reversible so give both sides a chance on top. Coral & Hive recommends customers vacuum clean without the bristles.
Muddy marks: allow mud to dry and use a very soft bristle brush and simply brush off. To spot clean, use cold water and woolite solution with a soft sponge. Coral & Hive recommends professional cleaning with a reputable natural rug cleaning specialist in your area. Please ask for their Care and Maintenance guide for your specific rug. Certain rugs like the curly mohair blend rugs can give off a little fluff before settling, they can also need trimming every couple of months.
jmi How long does it take to make a rug?
ch: Coral & Hive rugs pass through many hands from carding to washing, to spinning to dying and then weaving and finishing. On average, depending on the size, a rug can take between 6-14 weeks, all depending on the intricacy of the weave, size and the fibres selected.
jmi: Are your rugs customizable?
ch: Yes! It is even possible to weave irregular shapes and clients are encouraged to design and get involved in the creative process. Customers can choose: fibre / colour / size / shape and finishing elements like areas for tufting / fibre blending / whipped edges or tassels. All rugs on the Coral & Hive website can be ordered in custom sizes, some can have colour changes and edge adaptations. Patterns can be woven in varied fibres and new designs can be created with the guidance of the Coral & Hive team and Erica Bartholomae.
jmi: Any additional information we should know about your rugs or how to connect with you?
ch: In this new world, luxury has taken on a new meaning- invest in a memorable piece filled with soul and story.
Nazeema, our head weaver says “Weaving flows out of you. You put something of yourself into it. Each piece connects…the way everything in life does.”
Connect with us:
Jeannine (creative director and rug designer) email@example.com
Deborah (partner and head of our looms in South Africa) firstname.lastname@example.org
Erica (pattern maker and designer) email@example.com