Sunday, August 29, 2010

White Owl Jewelry

Some of you longtime readers of this blog may recognize a link at the very bottom of the Blog Highlights category to the right called "working." I feel now is as good a time as any to explain its presence here.

Periodically, I like to feature women who have taken their hobbies or interests and put them to wonderful use on a larger, more public platform - something Martha Stewart has always done. It is the most classic of "Martha Moments" to put one's interests to work in a beautiful way - either for the purposes of business, pleasure, community, or all of these elements combined. Please have a look at the link to explore some of the women I've featured here in the past, women who are harnessing their talents and dreams and putting them into practice.

To add to the notable group, I will name the following women: Courtney and Christina Spivak, two sisters who live and work in Michigan. I discovered their Etsy shop recently (called White Owl) and knew I had to feature them on Martha Moments the minute I saw their incredible handmade jewelry. Upon further examination, I fell more in love with their inspirations, the combination of their shared talents and the way it all comes together to create something so beautiful and meaningful.

Both share a love of vintage things and both recognize the intimacy and special meaning of all things handmade. Their interest in making their own jewelry and accessories began at an early age and never really diminished. Their talents as crafters in adulthood were further enhanced by their deep understanding of presentation and marketing. Courtney is a communications instructor and an independent filmmaker, while Christina is a professional commercial photographer. These talents combine to create a business that is beautifully rendered, gorgeously presented and lovingly handcrafted. Please have a look at their amazing work, below, and visit their White Owl Etsy shop to further explore their brand.

A dramatic spray of lacy blooms, dotted with petite aqua beads and hung from antiqued brass chain.
Two stormy grey lace blooms hang asymmetrically, accented by antiqued brass chain.

A duo of dusky blue-grey oversized blooms are joined asymmetrically and balanced by a single champagne pearl.
Lacy ebony blooms sway, hung with apple green faceted vintage beads.

Gracefully curving ivory vines and leaves surround lacy blooms balanced by a single petite daisy hung with a cocoa faceted swarovski crystal bead.
Courtney and Christina Spivak, creators of the White Owl boutique on Etsy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

For the love of Leaves

One of the components I love most about Martha Stewart products is the repeat use of one elemental design or motif, carried across various products in various departments. Take the leaf, for example. An iconic symbol of either summer or fall, its shapes can vary, but the style is always very simple and classic. This makes the use of leafy patterns on towels, sheets, plates and serveware an effective design motif that can work in any room - simply and beautifully. Below are some examples of Martha's leaf-patterned wares from the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy's.
These trousseau leaf towels are all about affordable luxe. I love the fine embroidery of the leaves, which come in silver, a gentle green, a light teal and a subtle pink. Definitely must-haves!
Carry the leaf theme forward in the bathroom with this maidenhair leaf tissue-box cover made of glazed ceramic.
I am generally not a fan of patterned bedspreads, comforters and quilts, but this Folklore Quilt from the Martha Stewart Collection is simple and classic enough to catch my eye. It also looks beautiful when paired with the Turkey Hill Nickel Bed from the Martha Stewart Signature furniture collection.
Combine the quilt above with these Stenciled Leaves sheets from the Martha Stewart Collection for a subtle, nature-inspired room.These leaf-shaped aluminum serving dishes are all about the unity of form and function. I love the vibrancy of these blue maidenhair leaves on this set of Martha Stewart dishes. The effect is clean but whimsical.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Martha's Halloween Handbook

When I was a child - maybe 8 or 9 years old - I lived for Halloween! I planned my costumes with my mother and father months in advance. (My mom would usually make them for my brother and I, since she was aghast at spending money on a pre-made costume that would only be worn once a year. At least this way, there was sentiment involved.)

In adulthood, nothing gets me quite as excited about this Pagan holiday than Martha Stewart, her editors and photographers, and all those wizzards at MSLO who dream up the most magical ideas possible. I have, of course, every single special issue ever released by the publisher and I will have the new one coming out next week too! Below is the amazingly fantastic cover of the Halloween Handbook, a compilation of the best 150 Halloween ideas you could possibly imagine. The issue hits newsstands on August 31rst. (Yes, that's Martha on the cover as the "Spellbinding Sourceress!") Many thanks to the kind people at Martha Stewart Living for the photograph.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ayesha's Memorable-Meals Scrapbook

Ayesha Patel, the style director at Martha Stewart Living magazine, savours all things food-related. Her job involves styling those glorious photographs of beautifully-set tables and mouthwatering food we swoon over each month in the pages of the magazine. Some of her inspiration is drawn from her travels, as well as the many restaurants she visits on her journeys abroad. Her love of pretty packaging led to the creation of this beautiful scrapbook that documents some of her most memorable restaurant meals. Paper muffin cups, tags, tea-bag packages, bakery twine and paper shopping bags with lovely designs are all fashioned onto the beautiful pages. Ayesha used a simple blank ledger with blank pages for her book, which I find so inspiring. Below are some examples.

Materials associated with food are used to embellish the book. A strip of waxed paper decorates the cover, sealing an assortment of compressed paper cupcake wrappers.

Tabs, made from book-binding tape that was rubber stamped with numbers, were cut into two-inch strips, folded and secured to the pages using glue. They mark each page with an easy reference.

Paper bags that once contained delicious pastries or chocolates will add a further note of nostalgia through smell; many of the tantalizing aromas associated with restaurants linger inside the packaging for an even more evocative experience.

Ayesha has arranged these cupcake wrappers beautifully, fastening them to the page using glue and twine. Other additions to a Memorable-Meals scrapbook might be coasters, pretty paper place mats or business cards. The key is to arrange them artfully.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Succulents in Containers

On a recent trip to a local garden shop, I noticed these beautiful potted succulents and couldn't help but be taken in by the layers of texture and the various gradations of green, which work together to create a miniature landscape.

Planting succulents in large groups within a single container is a great way to unite some of your favourite varieties. The portability of a container means you can also bring the pot indoors once the cooler weather sets in, although many forms of succulents can tolerate cooler temperatures.

The key to keeping succulents in containers is ensuring sufficient drainage. A blend of coarse sand, crushed gravel and a soil-less potting mix will be best. Succulents grow in arid climates, such as deserts or alpines, and are tolerant of significant periods of drought since they store water in their dense bracts. They can stand more watering during their growing season, but generally prefer dry to slightly moist soil, never wet. Their roots should always be kept dry. Succulents also prefer bright light.

A blend of Orostachys and Sempervivum look beautiful when crowded into this vintage container. Succulents do well in dense plantings such as these.
The black of this iron urn makes the colours and textures of these succulents pop.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Martha's Portrait in National Gallery

This digital photograph of Martha Stewart by William Abranowicz will join a rendering of Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. (This is the first time an solo portrait of a first lady has been displayed.) Both portraits are part of an exhibition called "Americans Now."

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Wedding in Michigan

My friend and colleague, Beth Mancuso, was married to her husband, Nick Chekaway, in Millburg, Michigan, in late May. Beth is the home department manager at the Anthropologie store in Troy, Michigan. When I saw the photographs of her special day recently, I knew I had to blog about them here. I wanted to share with you some of the whimsical, personal and all-together charming details of this very personalized and very lovely wedding; handmade, hand-painted and hand-crafted details were everywhere in evidence, bringing beautiful touches of character and delight to her special day.
She was married to her husband Nick at The Blue Dress Barn, a beautiful and historic Milburg landmark known for its gardens and quaint entertaining spaces. Below are some of the details that made the day unique and memorable. I hope you find them inspiring! Congratulations, Beth and Nick!

A charming handmade sign with handmade paper decorations greet the arriving guests.
More of the beautiful paper decorations are layered in beautiful, bright shades and hang from tree limbs around the grounds.
Beth fastened some of the fanned paper decorations at the center with adorable heart-shaped buttons.

The decorations continue along the aisle where the ceremony will take place, dangling from the crisp, white chairs and the iron arbor at the center.

The entrance to the barn.

Inside, Beth decorated the space with hanging paper lanterns and large swatches of patterned fabric.
Straws from Anthropologie and large mason jars for a rustic touch.

Beth handmade each of the place cards, using faux-bois paper.
Homemade meringue mushrooms (a Martha Stewart recipe!) were used as favours. They were placed inside these small paper bags, stamped with a mushroom design and tied with yellow yarn.

The succulent centerpieces were embellished with tiny little wooden toadstools, hand painted.

Each centerpiece was slightly unique.
Throughout the barn, Beth scattered lovely arrangements. She used hollowed out birch logs as vases.
The tables were numbered with wooden discs with the numbers carved into them. A jar of natural honey was available for each guest.

The cake was a gorgeous three-tier. It was vanilla with raspberry filling made by Dee's Specialty Cakes. It was adorned with Martha Stewart's meringue mushrooms and topped by two owl ornaments which were made by Beth.
The cake looks lovely in its rustic setting.
The bridal bouquet.Beth inspects the wedding party's bouquets before the big moment.
The men's coursages.Her dress was lovely, part of the Diamond Collection by Casablanca Bridal.
The first kiss as husband and wife!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mad Hungry with Lucinda

There is a lot going on at the MSLO Television department as fall approaches. The move to Hallmark has inspired a roster of new television shows, including Martha Stewart Presents, Whatever With Alexis & Jennifer and Mad Hungry with Lucinda Scala Quinn, in addition to new episodes of The Martha Stewart Show and Everyday Food. Lucinda's new program is going to be one of the most exciting. Based on her fantastic book of the same name, the show will have a down-to-earth, family approach to cooking for busy moms on the go - without sacrificing great taste and presentation. You can see photos of the new set at Lucinda's blog by clicking here. I love how it looks: warm, familiar and comforting. The show will air weekdays at 12:00/11:00 central.

Lucinda Scala Quinn, editorial director for food at MSLO, preps a dish with her producers on set.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Martha Stewart Presents: Sep. 19

The first prime-time Martha Stewart special for the Hallmark Channel will premier on September 19th. This first installment in a series of specials called Martha Stewart Presents will be called "The Women Who Dress America" and will focus on female fashion designers, including Donna Karan, Dian Von Furstenburg and Tory Burch. The special is timed to coincide with the finale of New York Fashion Week. Martha will speak one on one with these amazing, entrepreneurial women, among others, and will discuss their passions, ideals and dreams, as well as forecast some of the style trends for women in America for the years to come.

Guests of the ongoing specials (there is another one planned for November) may include renowned American chefs, architects, politicians, restauranteurs or gardeners.

Bill Abbott, the president and CEO of Hallmark Channels, said, "Martha Stewart is one of the most emulated and influential people of our time. Guests on Martha's prime-time specials will come from many different arenas, and with Martha starting the conversation, Martha Stewart Presents will be one of the most interesting and entertaining hours on television."

Mark your calendars!

Photographer: Paulette Tavormina

When I first saw the photographs of Paulette Tavormina, I was gobsmacked. I could simply not believe that these lush, painterly still-life compositions were photos, not the masterpieces of Dutch and Spanish painters of the 1700's. As fine-art photography goes, Tavormina, who is represented by the Robert Klein Gallery in Boston, occupies a rarified place of artistic excellence, elevating the medium to a level of gorgeous execution not seen elsewhere.

She is responsible for those sumptuous images in the Sotheby's catalog (a contributor since 2007) that have bidders drooling over priceless works of art and collectible sculptures. She has also worked as a food stylist for several Hollywood productions, including The Perfect Storm, Nixon and The Phantom. Currently, she is helping some friends of ours (Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell of Beekman 1802 fame) photograph heirloom vegetables from their garden for their upcoming cookbook; Brent and Josh tell me the new cookbook will be their main winter project. How beautiful it will be to see such amazing photographic work in their first book!

In getting to know Paulette, I found her to be as generous and inquisitive as I imagined such an artist to be. Below are some examples of her incredible work, courtesy of the Robert Klein Gallery. To read more about her, including a great essay about her work by Wayne Andersen, and see more examples of her work, please visit her website.

Artichokes ©Paulette Tavormina courtesy Robert Klein Gallery

Lemons and Pomegranates ©Paulette Tavormina courtesy Robert Klein Gallery

Crab Apple ©Paulette Tavormina courtesy Robert Klein Gallery

Watermelon Radishes ©Paulette Tavormina courtesy Robert Klein Gallery

Strawberries ©Paulette Tavormina courtesy Robert Klein Gallery

This particular still-life of strawberries has an interesting story attached to it. Paulette explains:

For Strawberries, I spent day and night of the 4th of July weekend just setting it up. As soon as I had cut the leaves from the stems, they wilted and died, so I had to cut off lots of leaves as replacements. Because it was dead and as dry as a mummy, I had to steam the large insect to soften it so with tweezers I could separate the legs and the antennae that were stuck together. When I placed the lifelike insect in the composition, the strawberry above it came crashing down and broke off one of the antennae ... (that would have happened in nature, too, I suppose).

Insects often play a role in Paulette's compositions.

Walking the streets of New York City, I look for dead bugs to put in my pictures. Once I found a praying mantis that was intact, and the butterfly that’s in Peonies. I found a huge queen bumblebee that must have bumbled into a passing car, and on another day, I saw a grasshopper where for blocks around there was no grass to hop over. I was about to pick it up when I saw that it was plastic. On a recent trip to Nantucket, I found a horseshoe crab and other dead crabs. I put them in a box and took them back with me to Manhattan. I had to soak them in my bathtub with Clorox to get rid of the awful smell.

To illustrate just how painterly her compositions are, have a look at her photograph of oysters (below) and the Dutch still-life painting below it.
Oysters ©Paulette Tavormina courtesy Robert Klein Gallery