April 12, 2009 in Features

Martha crafts stimulus

Book pushes arts, hobbies to offset economic woes
Jura Koncius Washington Post
 

Martha Stewart has a plan for how everyone can endure the economic crisis: by glittering, embossing and beading.

Stewart is doing her part to keep us gilding and quilling with the publication of “Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts” (Potter Craft, $35), a 416-page volume with 700 photos plus templates, lists of tools and materials guides.

This A-to-Z compendium of more than 200 craft projects will be followed next year by volume two, an encyclopedia of sewing-related crafts.

Like just about everything Stewart does, the new book is exhaustive, and it is exhausting.

The encyclopedia speaks to the nearly 60 percent of American households that participate in crafts and hobbies. But it also reaches out to those who aren’t inclined to spend their free time punching tin or decoupaging with Mod Podge, by teaching the traditions in detail.

When checking in with Stewart, you always pick up news of her latest endeavors: a line of home-cleaning products in development that will be formulated to be safe for kids and pets; her growing number of Twitter followers (more than 310,000 as of this writing); and efforts to find a retailer to replace her Kmart contract for linens and tableware that expires at the end of the year.

Stewart spoke by telephone from her ninth-floor office at her company headquarters in the Starrett-Lehigh Building on Manhattan’s West Side.

Q. How is the recession affecting domestic life and people making things at home?

A. People are staying home and enjoying it by crafting and beautifying their home with decorating and cooking. They can’t afford to travel, but they can afford a ($23) glitter kit.

Q. What is the reward of crafting?

A. The satisfaction you gain by doing some of these projects is very important. In this time, when people have lost money in their IRA accounts and they may have lost their jobs and are having trouble making ends meet, they can lose themselves in beautiful projects. People get a huge kick out of doing it themselves. You look at something and say, “I can do this.”

Q. How has the recession affected you personally?

A. I have always been kind of frugal and cautious in terms of extravagance. So I have always turned the lights out when I leave a room. I was brought up like that. I am a serious environmentalist, as is my daughter. I am a serious gardener, and I grow my own food and have my own chickens and eggs. In terms of my daily life, I am just a little more cautious than I have been.

I actually may not be buying the numbers of personal things like clothing that I bought before. But of course I have to do daily TV, so I am not the perfect example. I’m not spending a lot eating out. I have had many more dinner parties personally than I had before. I am not buying as many trees to plant as I would like, but that can wait until next year.

Q. Your daughter, Alexis, and pal Jennifer Koppelman Hutt, who do the Fine Living cable show “Whatever, Martha!,” did an online poll asking if someone was going to visit you, Martha Stewart, which item would they take as a hostess gift: homemade brownies, a bottle of the finest wine, fresh flowers from their garden or a store-bought cake? The flowers got the most votes online, but what would be your choice?

A. My choice would be a bottle of wine. If you bring flowers, it’s like bringing coals to Newcastle. I have more flowers than most people. I certainly don’t need a cake; I would be making the cake. Brownies? No.

Q. What do you bring to hosts?

A. I bring a dozen fresh eggs. I take them honey from my beehive, homemade jams and jellies from my own fruit, a big basket of garden vegetables I grow. If I have been doing my own candlemaking, I may take them six candles that I have made. I recently made a lot of pillows and children’s toys. I have the added benefits of doing crafts on a daily basis.

It should always be joyful to be able to make things. Too many of us are sitting around Twittering. How about knitting? Knit me a sweater or a scarf.

Q. But wait a minute, you’re big on Twitter now!

A. I don’t Twitter more than 10 minutes a day. I like Twitter because it’s really experimental. I try to embrace any new technology so I can see why it’s so appealing. I am very inquisitive and very curious.

Q. How do you manage to do all this Twittering and blogging with everything else you do?

A. I have a BlackBerry and iPhone and a regular cell phone, and I carry all of these around with me. There are laptops everywhere I go, so I don’t carry one.

Q. What is the latest craft project you’re working on?

A. Beautiful little Easter baskets for my table at home.


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