Friday, April 30, 2010

Blossom Tote Craft

One of my favourite Mother's Day crafts from the May issue of Martha Stewart Living is the tote bag on page 80 featuring iron-on cherry blossoms in varrying sizes. The simplicity and beauty of the project (two essential components of any craft I undertake) make it an attainable homemade gift idea for mom. She can use it at the grocery store, the beach or at the office. All you need is a plain, cotton tote bag, transfer paper, a printer and an iron.

First, download the templates and print them onto transfer paper. The images will appear in reverse. Using craft scissors or a craft knife, loosely cut around each blossom, leaving an eighth of an inch around each flower.

Here are the links to download the blossom templates in their various sizes.

Then, lay a pillow case on a table or another hard, heat-resistant surface (not an ironing board, which has too much padding to be effective) and then place a plain tote bag onto the pillow case. Begin placing the cut out blossoms onto the bag, face down, avoiding placing them over the bag's seams and stitching. You can opt to place one bold blossom onto the bag, or try mixing the various sizes to create a collage of blossoms. Set your iron to the highest setting with no steam. Begin to slowly iron over the transfer paper, applying firm and even pressure. Follow the transfer-paper manufacturer's instructions. Let it cool and then remove the paper backings to reveal the gorgeous designs.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Martha Stewart Living Thailand

As some of you may have read, Martha Stewart Living is expanding its readership to international audiences. One of the most recent forays is in Thailand. The magazine now publishes there, monthly, with a circulation of 20,000. It is issued by The Post Publishing Company. Below are images of each of the issues that have so far been published in Thailand. Martha Stewart Living now publishes in several countries around the world in languages other than English: Poland, Mexico, the Philippines and Brazil among them. Martha also published magazines in Japan and Israel but those ventures did not succeed.

The October issue is Volume 1, Issue 0. It was released on newsstands in Thailand last September to get readers excited about the magazine. The November issue is considered to be the first subscriber issue, as noted on the cover: Volume 1, Issue 1.

The cover for the March issue is one not yet seen by North American subscribers!

This is the latest, the April issue.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Polka-Dotted Accessories by Martha

What is it about polka-dots that makes people smile? They are intrinsically fun and bouncy, perhaps conjuring latent childhood memories of marbles, bubbles, rubber balls and happy faces. The more colourful they are, too, the more they inspire uplifting moods. As grown-ups we have an opportunity to bring polka-dots into our homes, via textile patterns and decorating motifs, as long as we exercise some restraint and use the bubbly pattern as a punchy accent. Below are some examples of polka-dotted wares from the Martha Stewart Collection, now available at Macy's. Any favourites? I have my eye on the dishtowels...

I actually wish this kids kitchen kit came in an adult size! ($19.99)
I love these tea towels! ($9.99 for a set of three.)

Cookie and cupcake boxes are ideal for spring birthday parties. ($9.99 for a package of six boxes.)Having polka-dots at the beach (or by the bath!) is a surefire way to invite sunshine into your day. (On sale at $14.99)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reusing Wrapping Paper

Several years ago when my grandmother moved from her house into an apartment, one of the tasks we faced was sorting through the boxes in her basement to determine what would go with her and what would be donated. Among the finds was a large box filled with wrapping paper scraps, some fairly substantial in size and most in very good condition. I immediately siezed upon it and went through the scraps with zeal.

There were so many examples of vintage patterns from the 1960s and '70s, which I loved: gold Christmas wrapping with big depictions of a Victorian fireplace setting in black, repeated in a maze of pattern; cherry blossom wrapping paper in pink and white; bright pink and green wrapping paper made up of Andy Warhol style poinsettia plants. I kept all of it and have used it in scrapbooking, card-making, stationery projects and, yes, to wrap small gifts as well.

A couple weeks ago in the Martha Stewart Living newsletter there was a great feature on reusing your wrapping paper scraps. Here are some of the ideas, many of which I've used over the years:The first thing to do is to save the wrapping paper that you are most impressed by: both on gifts that you receive and leftover pieces from rolls that you buy. To keep it organized, keep it in a clear container for easy recognition and store it in a dry, dark place, making sure the lid of the container is firmly sealed. This is a great way to create an instant pencil holder. Clean an old aluminum can and then embellish it with a beautiful strip of wrapping paper, pulling it taut and gluing it firmly at the seam where the edges meet.Making notebooks with used wrapping paper is a great way to customize and personalize your journals.Why spend money on bookmarks when you can very simply make one? Glue pretty wrapping paper strips onto cardstock paper and cut it into a rectangle. Punch a hole at the tip and tie a ribbon or twine through it.If you have any hardcover books that have lost their dust jackets, use wrapping paper to cover them. They will look extra pretty on the bookshelf and you can easily title them by using stick-on labels attached to the spine.Using wrapping paper to make cards is a simple and fast way to create something unique and memorable for your friends and family on special occasions.
Try lining the bottom of a tray with beautiful wrapping paper to make it seasonal or festive. You can shred wrapping paper scraps to package gifts that are breakable by using it as filling inside the box. It's also an attractive way to securely package gifts that you are sending in the mail.
Use small squares of wrapping paper as label inserts on storage boxes to colour-code the contents: pink is stationery, blue is craft supplies, etc.I've always loved this project. Cover clipboards with wrapping paper and then hang them over a work station as an attractive way to keep notes, mail and documents in view but still organized.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Perhaps it is strange for a 33 year-old male to be interested in exuberantly-decorated Victorian ceramics, but I've never been typical. Majolica is a secret obsession of mine and I can't believe it's taken me so long to blog about it. I'm far too poor to collect it (pieces can go as high as $70,000 and many of the most prized are locked in museums) but I am wise enough to admire it. What makes it so prized is that many of the pieces were original and handmade, involving hours of design. Majolica pieces are viewed today more like artistic creations than everyday pottery.

Majolica mania began in 1851 in London when Herbert Minton delighted the public with a stunning display of new, jewel-toned earthenware, inspired to a large extent by the French and Italian maiolica of the Renaissance and later. Majolica, named after the Spanish island of Majorca, where the first examples of this pottery were said to have been created in the fifteenth century, is defined by the process of its formation as much as by its fantastical designs.
It is heavy, richly-coloured clay pottery that is coated with enamel, ornamented with paints and finally glazed.

Its primary allure, however, lies in its peculiar and endearing designs. It is fearlessly inspired by nature, often boldly decorated with three-dimensional animals, flowers and vegetables in unusual shapes and dimensions.

The Victorian English, with their love of all things natural and unusual, quickly filled their dining rooms, parlours, conservatories and gardens with majolica ewers, candelabras, urns, pitchers, fountains and garden seats all glistening in cobalt, turquoise, lavender, gold and every shade of green known to Mother Nature.

Other potters in England, such as Wedgwood, George Jones and Holdcroft, followed Minton's example and offered their own highly-prized majolica collections. Americans, too, caught on and manufactured majolica beginning in the 1890s. Below is some imagery from an article on Majolica that ran in the March, 2005, issue of Martha Stewart Living and from the book Majolica: A Complete History and Illustrated Survey. It may not be love at first sight but I hope you eventually become smitten with these charming creations.

All the components of an English tea service are arranged on these shelves: creamers, pitchers, teapots, jars and serving plates. Teapots, especially those decorated with monkeys and serpents, are highly prized by collectors. The one formed by a monkey hugging a coconut (top shelf) is by Minton. On the center shelves are rare tea cups, once part of a larger service. Majolica teacups usually had vibrant hot-pink or turquoise interiors. The cabbage teapot with the snaky handle and spout (bottom shelf) is Portugese. The bamboo plate next to it is especially rare.

Majolica wares filled every requirement of the Victorian table. The scaloped, speckled tiers and the ferny cup at the apex of this ice stand held shaved ice and sweet sauces.
A wonderful survival, this huge Minton majolica jardiniere was undoubtedly made for a Victorian conservatory. With a base plate that's sixteen inches across, and its cheerful decoration, it easily accommodated potted palms or tall bamboo plants.
Many Majolica plates depict the food that is meant to be served upon them. (Be careful not to serve food on vintage Majolica platters, since the glazes likely contain lead.) Left row, from top down: a leaf-shaped plate, a lotus blossom plate - for ambrosia, perhaps - and corn-shaped pitchers, possibly American. Center row from top down: A corn platter, pear clusters adorning a brown dessert platter, a bread plate is marked by a starburst of wheat, a plate decorated with grapes. Right row from top down: A banana-leaf fruit plate, a berry plate, a strawberry plate adorned with leaves and flowers.
A dome of hay adorned by blackberry branches rests atop a woody-looking base. Lifting the dome in Victorian times would likely have revealed a glorious piece of stilton.
Minton designed this incredible game-pie dish. It is from 1877. Whimsical but classic at the same time, its rich hues, animalistic designs and bold proportions are characteristic of traditional majolica.
These pieces by George Jones & Sons were part of an extensive Calla Lily pattern, circa 1873. I love the lounging cow on top of the cheese bell.
This casserole dish, also by George Jones & Sons from 1880 features an elaborate but placid forest scene, complete with rabbits and a nesting dove, which doubles as the lid's handle.

I love this pair of vases, which look glamorous even without any cut flowers to fill them. They are by Massier at Golfe Juan and date to 1890.
This Minton ice stand from 1865 is more than 16 inches in diameter and over a foot tall.

A beautiful pair of urns by George Jones & Sons, circa 1875.

This book by Marilyn Karmason, published in 1989, remains the 'bible' on collecting majolica. It is out of print, sadly, but is still widely available in used condition. I treasure my copy! It is filled with in-depth history about each of the world's majolica makers and traces the rich history of this incredible form of pottery with plenty of visual reference.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Other Blog

Yes, I have another blog! It's one I've been slowly and quietly working on for the last several weeks. The idea was to create a space where I could share the things I'm interested in (the things I admire and cherish in design, publishing, music, fashion and art) outside of Martha Stewart. It's called, simply, Andrew's Blog. There, you can read about some of my inspirations, some of my excursions and some of the places I frequent - or hope to frequent! I hope you visit it regularly and find it enjoyable!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Martha Expands Into Gaming

Gamasutra is reporting that publisher Majesco has signed a deal with television personality Martha Stewart's media company Martha Stetwart Living Omnimedia, granting Majesco the exclusive rights to publish video games based on the Martha Stewart brand.

Majesco has experience releasing games dedicated to the domestic arts. Its success as the North American publisher of
Cooking Mama has contributed to developer Cooking Mama Ltd. (formerly known as Office Create) creating further Mama games, including Gardening Mama and Crafting Mama.

In a statement, Stewart alluded to Majesco's track record with those titles. "Majesco Entertainment is well respected for bringing consumer-friendly titles to the mass market," she said, "and has a proven track record of tapping the interests of family and non-traditional video game players."
While she did not comment on the nature of the forthcoming games, she specifically pointed to social gaming as an area attractive to female players.

"Women are increasingly engaged in social gaming," Stewart said. "We feel confident that this new offering will delight loyal customers who are active in the space while introducing a new generation to the brand."
Added Majesco CEO Jesse Sutton, "Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia offers a vast wealth of content and has a passionate following. Branching into the interactive entertainment space is a natural next step, and Majesco Entertainment is proud to be the exclusive partner."

-Chris Remo

Monday, April 19, 2010

Skylands Menu and Stationery

From 2007 to 2008, Lila Symons worked at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia as an Associate Art Director for Corporate Communications. Though her job consisted of using her talents to assist the Art Director on various design projects for the communications department, the art department slowly got requested by other departments to help with some other projects. Lila spoke to me about one such "other" project she was asked to work on: designing the menus and stationery for Skylands, Martha's summer home in Maine.

Because of the company's wide-reaching artistic ventures, Lila's role was never limited to one particular department, as she explained to me: "One day we could be working on the printed materials and visuals for an event, and another day we could be working on a wordmark for one of Martha's television shows. It was definitely an unusual job, because the average person assumes that graphic designers are only hired at MSLO to work in publishing, web, or merchandising."

Below are examples of her beautiful Skylands creations with ex
planations from Lila about the process. (Thank you for sharing with us, Lila!) You can visit Lila's website here.

"When I was first assigned the project, all I had to work with was the existing Skylands wordmark, and this large, beautiful map of her property and the land surrounding it. Martha wanted to incorporate the map into the menu somehow. As I started working on concepts for the menu, I took a good look at the map, and found where the Skylands home was. Then, I placed map at a larger scale so the viewer could see where Skylands was marked. Though you only see part of the map on the menu, you get to see all these wonderful details that you wouldn't see if the whole map was featured on the front cover." "Inside, it only felt right to incorporate Martha's faux bois pattern. Then I took elements I liked from the map (such as the sailboats) and make a bunch of different name card concepts. I remember feeling very nervous about showing Martha, because these concepts were a departure from what is usually done. However, she loved everything!" "After designing the menus, we decided to keep her stationery simple, by incorporating the faux bois pattern in the back of the notecards."
"I no longer work at MSLO, so I'm not sure if Martha is still using everything I designed. However, I have a feeling she may be, because the intention of creating stationery and menus for Skylands was to design something that she can use for years, and still look current. Though I would have never turned down an opportunity to visit her Bedford home, Skylands is my personal favorite!"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Everyday Food's Friday Special

What does Friday night dining look like at your house? Is it a big spread prepared for visiting friends and family? Is it something low-key and pared-down for just the immediate household residents? Or... does it involve reservations or a take-out menu?

When I was growing up, Friday nights were about fast and easy meals that could be easily put together by either my mother or father (or both) and usually involved a mélange of ingredients, which served a very practical purpose: using up the last of the week's food before Saturday's grocery-store excursion.

If it was my father cooking, there would always be something creative and innovative on offer, something kind of spicy and a bit exotic that managed to combine what we had left in the fridge and the pantry. Stir-fries were a favourite of dad's, so was goulash or pasta with some sort of peculiar but delicious sauce. No matter what he made, there were never any leftovers. If mom was the cook, it would be more traditional, but still with emphasis on speed and a focus on 'using it up.' It might have been various kinds of sandwiches on various kinds of breads, served buffet style on our island counter with a big salad. It might also have been my mom's favourite: breakfast for dinner.

I've alredy dubbed the May, 2010 issue of Everyday Food "The Friday Night Issue," since it has so many of the components I recognize from the Friday dinners of my youth. There is even an article on the Friday night supper, how to create traditional Italian favourites with laid-back and simple flare. An article on having breakfast for dinner (eggs, hash, French toast, etc.) sealed the deal for me.
The Friday night menu (Italian in theme) is a mouth-watering selection of favourites, including zucchini bruscheta, prosciutto-wrapped bread sticks and pork milanese with arugula salad.

Few things are more satisfying (or as healthy) than having breakfast for dinner. What will you have for dinner on Friday?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Merry Month of May

The May issue of Martha Stewart Living is a burst of vibrant colour. It is the fourth annual special colour issue for the month of May, filled with bright and useful tips by the editors at Living on how to effectively colour your world in a way that is courageous, enabling you to achieve tremendous results.

May has become the spring edition of a decorating issue, in many ways. It plays little sister to the the bigger, more in-depth special decorating issue the editors release each September. For this, I'm grateful, since it gives readers the chance to explore more vibrant palettes, as showcased this year in this issue.
The cover is a delightful depiction of a neutral sofa layered with colourful cushions. Mounted on the wall is an abstract spectrum design made of Martha Stewart Living paint chips. Inside, on the splash page, there is a rainbow of Martha Stewart Living coloured pencils, which I'm now desperately seeking for my collection. This issue also marks the first letter from the new editor-in-chief, Vanessa Holden, who did a fabulous job on her debut issue.

There is so much going on in this issue. My favourites include a story on using "superneutrals" - a new term to define those neutral colours that go with anything and can be multiplied, layered and combined to create a space that feels calm without being static. An article on my favourite flower, the tulip, is a welcome spring read and several Mother's Day crafts will get you inspired to make mom something special this year.

Learning something new is one of the main reasons why I read the magazine. This issue I learned all about collecting Spritzdekor, a bright, modern German dinnerware that reflected a resolute sense of optimism between two devastating World Wars in the 1920s and 1930s.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Editor-in-Chief for Weddings

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has named Elizabeth Graves a VP and Editor-in-Chief of Martha Stewart Weddings, the leading magazine in its category on newsstands. She will work closely with SVP and Weddings editorial director Darcy Miller, a prominent industry expert and a regular presence on The Martha Stewart Show, to further extend MSLO's growing Weddings franchise.

Graves will report to editorial director Gael Towey.
An accomplished editor with expertise in beauty and health, Graves rejoins MSLO from Real Simple, where she has served as the magazine's Beauty and Health director since May 2008. She has appeared as a guest expert on a range of national television shows, including the “Today” show, “Good Morning America” and “The CBS Early Show.” Prior to Real Simple, she was AVP, editorial director of Beauty, Health and Fitness for MSLO. She got her start with the company as the inaugural Beauty, Health and Fitness editor for Blueprint, an award-winning magazine that discontinued publication in 2008. Before joining the Blueprint team, Graves had been a senior editor at Real Simple. She previously held editorial positions at Self and Allure.