Malibu Woman Crafts Blankets With Love

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2012
Lifelong Malibuite Barbie Herron Conkling sew bohemian style kantha quilts and blankets that Herron Conkling sells in her for-profit business, Coconut Haus, and distributes through her nonprofit, Cozy Courage.

Barbie Herron Conkling’s family roots have been in Malibu since the 1940s. 

“We’re very old school Malibu,” Herron Conkling commented on growing up by the beach and attending Point Dume, Juan Cabrillo, and Our Lady of Malibu schools.  

It was here in Malibu that Herron Conkling started a business making blankets when her son, Lyon, now 29, was diagnosed with Gardner Syndrome, a rare form of cancer, in 1996. While her then young son was undergoing surgeries and chemotherapy at the Cleveland Clinic, a friend sent them both cozy blankets. 

“It was a piece of comfort,” Herron Conkling reminisced. “It meant so much to us. It was this fuzzy, warm blanket.”

In 2012, Herron Conkling decided to follow her passion for textiles and home décor to start her company called The Coconut Haus. It specializes in handcrafted, luxurious yet cozy bohemian style kantha quilts and blankets. Her nonprofit, Cozy Courage, was born the same year. That was also the year her son’s cancer reoccurred.

After Herron Conkling made her son a cozy blanket during his health crisis, she said she realized, “how many kids could use these warm, comforting, loving shields.” So, Herron Conkling started making blankets for pediatric cancer patients, before expanding to adults. People with sick relatives and friends reached out to the Malibu native with their stories and the nonprofit was launched from there. 

Cozy Courage was soon invited to the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital, and more donations were made. 

“We would go to the men’s and women’s combat trauma unit,” Herron Conkling described. Now, the nonprofit accepts donation requests for anyone who needs a cozy blanket.

Along with her husband, Rich Conkling, the Malibu mom travels the world to find the rich textiles used to craft the quilts. Many are backed with what Herron Conkling describes as “minky faux fur that creates a luxurious, weighted feel.” The couple sew the textiles themselves using sewing machines—”we make them with love in our home.” 

Though for years, that meant they were produced right here in Malibu, unfortunately, the Herron Conkling home is currently in Thousand Oaks. The family was burned out in the Woolsey Fire and is currently among the hundreds of community members still in the process of rebuilding.

“It’s a creative outlet because life has been hard for us, emotionally,” Herron Conkling said. “We are creating these beautiful things and giving back and doing it together. They’re comforting. They’re soothing for people. It’s amazing how many blankets people have said people have taken their last breath in and their souls have passed through these blankets. Then the family gets to keep them. They become a memorial keepsake. 

“We make these blankets with so much love and intention knowing that when someone is sick, this is a kind of final piece of comfort that’s going to bring them home,” she continued. “It’s emotional for us. Every time my son goes into the hospital,  we always make sure we have one of the blankets that we’ve made. He says he can’t do a hospital stay without one of these blankets. It’s a piece of home. We create these blankets by hand, knowing that whatever home they’re going to it’s like a shield of love, protection, and comfort. We put a lot of intention into them.”

All the material used is hand sourced from India, Mexico, Guatemala, and Africa.  Herron Conkling said the couple then blesses the fabrics. 

“We clear any old energy. We don’t want anything factory-made,” Herron Conkling said. “We don’t want cheap labor. We want to know the families and villages where they [the fabric] come from. We know they’re going to special families. They’re a piece of us going to them.”