Well guys, I got to see Martha Stewart last night – in person! I got a pretty good seat last minute (since I only heard she was in Toronto THAT MORNING) and was in row G on the floor – so what’s that, like seven rows back? The event was hosted at Roy Thompson Hall as part of a lecture series with all different types of people with fascinating lives.
This was my second real-life encounter with my decor/lifestyle mentor Martha – I actually got to meet her when she came to Canada Blooms. Here I am with Martha.
I was more than a little nervous, but there she was being just herself and chatting us up about paint and all of her exciting new products at The Home Depot. At the time I gushed about how I had always appreciated the way she mixes clean, fresh colours with muddy ones for her signature combinations to which she replied, “You get it, you get it”. Apparently lots of people don’t, so I was more than a little chuffed.
At Canada Blooms we had a great meeting on behalf of House & Home and she spoke so well and wowed her Canadian fans when she spoke. Alas, last night I was not able to get an interview, although believe me, I tried! Next time Martha!
Last night’s speech (accompanied by great slides and some very funny videos) was all about how, as Martha put it, “Martha Stewart happened“. I have to admit I knew almost all of the details in her speech because I’ve followed her career for so long, but it was so great to hear them from Martha herself. She told lots of funny jokes and was very warm and friendly, while still being in control and self-assured.
There were her humble beginnings in Nutley, New Jersey in a family of eight where she learned how to garden with her father and how to cook and sew and craft with her mother (big Martha as she was called). The two shared a special bond that reminds me of mine with my maternal grandmother and a special aunt.
Martha told the crowd all about her first real job (after babysitting) as a model in New York city – a job that would help her pay for a university degree in architectural history and economics. Funny how I found myself studying art history and especially architectural art history at Queen’s University.
But she soon found herself fostering her domestic talents and renovating first an old school house and then a gracious center hall American Colonial farmhouse in Westport Connecticut. This was to be the famous Turkey Hill.
Here Martha cooked and crafted and gardened and even turned her talents into a business selling gourmet pies to the likes of Paul Newman and Robert Redford at an upscale clothing boutique (where Ralph Lauren first sold his wares). The pie-selling enterprise would grow, flourish and turn into Martha’s first big business venture, a catering company called, “The Uncatered Affair” which would go on to service New York and the surrounding areas.
The Uncatered Affair was run out of Martha’s renovated farmhouse at Turkey Hill and she worked her tail off to be the best and set herself apart from the the competition with her signature style and panache.
Martha explained how the catering business turned into an opportunity to write her very first book entitled simply, “Entertaining” in 1982. She was 40 years old and just getting started. The book would revolutionize the genre by combining detailed instructions with mouth-watering recipes and lush, full-colour photographs of parties she’d catered. Martha created the book she wanted to read but couldn’t find. And the rest, as they say, is history.
And I’m sorry but that table looks just as lovely today as it did in 1982 – THE YEAR OF MY BIRTH! We would be happy to create something so beautiful today at the magazine! Those poppies are so luscious and unusual and the turquoise glassware is totally current.
After the success of Entertaining, Martha would continue to promote herself and hone her skills as an expert in the field of homemaking, and making that noble genre something to take pride and yes, even pleasure in. Martha was able to elevate what seemed like everyday chores to others and make them something worth savouring. Soon she had the big idea to create a whole magazine dedicated to teaching the art of (what else?) LIVING.
Martha Stewart Living premiered in 1990 when Martha was 50 years old. At the event last night she described herself as a late bloomer. She said it was actually a wonderful time to kick-start a career because in your 40’s and 50’s you certainly know who you are, what you want and what you don’t want. She assembled a dream team (many of whom are still with MSL) and partnered with Time to launch the magazine. Of course the magazine launched an army of products, television shows, websites, a radio channel, blogs, twitter, facebook page and so much more. Martha’s brought good taste and a can-do attitude into our homes and shown us, with her own two hands, how-to-do-it.
Martha’s talk at Roy Thompson hall was totally entertaining, full of wit and charm and warmth. She spoke candidly about her time in Alderson prison and made no bones about the fact that it was a useless waste of time. Someone asked if she believed that everything – even the bad things – happen for a reason. Martha answered, “No.” There was nothing to do but she dust herself off and get back to the work of teaching and inspiring us all.
I’ve long been inspired by Martha and the beautiful world she and her team have created for us to dream about. Today when I look around my home, it’s far from perfect, but I see her influence everywhere. I find myself taking some time to enjoy my life and the world around me and to cultivate something just a little bit better or more beautiful to live in. You certainly don’t have to do everything Martha does – she’s never suggested it. Instead, she’s taught us to be mindful of the lives we lead and to take care with the small moments and pleasures that can mean so much.