When I Grow Up

As an impressionable and odd 8 year old, watching someone make cute crafts, cook and garden was total nirvana. There was a real live grown-up doing all my favorite things, and as a career. Forget being a doctor or fireman, lawyer or teacher- I selfishly wanted to be Martha Stewart.  I watched her show ‘Martha Stewart Living’ religiously. I didn’t know it was a strange thing to do until my rather edgy third grade teacher handed a paper back to me laughing. It was an essay about what we wanted to be when we grew up and I was only more than happy to tell her about Martha.

Check out this video where Martha's daughter (Alexis) and her friend make fun of Martha, with her blessing. How cool is that? Show is called "Whatever Martha"

Fifteen years later, I had nearly forgotten about my desired career choice until the other day, when visiting New York, I made a (spinach, mushroom and goat cheese) quiche with eggs that someone brought over. I later learned, to my obsessive delight, that they were actually Martha’s eggs. How, you wonder, did this ever come about? Did I sneak into her chicken coup late at night, dodging her perfectly trimmed hedges with my hand crafted basket in hand, waylaying her watch dogs with a rosemary encrusted rack of lamb? Sadly, I only wish I were that cool.  My boyfriend’s uncle works for Martha Stewart and got the eggs from the office, and since his family has chickens of their own, they brought the eggs on over.

Which brings me to the best part. There’s something to be said for being outwardly passionate for once it was known just how deep my appreciation of Martha ran, my boyfriend’s mother (graciously) arranged an ‘unofficial’ office tour the next morning. I was going to see the thing that Martha built, the thing that her organized and creative mind carved out of a city desperately trying to separate the constructive from the chaos.  She is what has inspired, in my eyes, a billion blogs, and even the creative passion behind sites like etsy.com. As a child, once I saw what Martha could do, I was no longer satisfied with store bought Christmas stalkings or untamed back yards.

Main hall of Martha Stewart's offices. Image from archpaper.com

Her company headquarters in New York City were exactly what I thought they’d be, but not dare to actually believe.  Super organized craft room with crisp white walls punctuated by colorful containers of glitter, ribbon and paper? Check. Shiny stainless steel test kitchen with windows overlooking the river, the smell of fresh cookies teasing the air? Check. Four shooting studios with soft boxes, strobes, booms, movable walls? Check. Corresponding prop room that would intimidate most junkers due to it’s extreme organization? Check. Where else would you have a full time collector, or ‘head of craft’? Where else can you think about holidays like Christmas and Easter 365 days a year and have it be OK?

Martha Stewart's Office. Photo by Lisa Kereszi. NY MAG April 2007. Image from redstaplerproject.com

Being able to create something is a gift. In a world of computers and automated factories, we forget about the ‘hand made’.  And it’s not just about buying the hand made or employing the tradesmen, but about being able to create yourself. Anyone can ‘make’ if they chose, we just forget. I feel lucky as an artist to constantly be making and creating things, to spend hours toiling over something that I can take a step back from when done and feel proud. Forgive me for this leap, but I believe that is what Martha gave to me. She wasn’t the inaccessible Picasso hanging on a museum wall. She was the (seemingly) nice lady on my TV telling me about all the cool things I can do with fall leaves. Or the magic that can happen with some cocoa powder, butter and sugar. If I wanted a fairy tale, I could create one in my own back yard using hedges, flower beds and exotic trees.

So I consider myself, in hindsight, a rather insightful young girl for choosing to like Martha Stewart over other obvious idols. I was awkward, for sure yes, oh man was I awkward- but that doesn’t seem like as big of a deal anymore. I left her NYC office with a signed book that I’ll cherish forever.

Now I’m all inspired to start thinking about creative Christmas presents!  I have a niece that gives me a perfect excuse to rev up my sewing machine…

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