ABOVE: MARTHA STEWART SPEAKING AT THE AMERICAN MADE AWARDS. IMAGE COURTESY OF DAVID X. PRUTTING/BFANYC.COM
Martha Stewart, America’s doyenne of cooking, entertaining, and decorating, is commandeering Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Station today, October 16, and tomorrow, October 17, for her second annual American Made Market, a fair celebrating the makers of local and handmade crafts, gifts, foods, gardens, projects, and designs. Free and open to the public, there are events each day, including Stewart signing her new cake book, tips on topics including wedding planning and travel, demos, workshops, and hands-on crafting. Stewart created the program in 2012 to highlight America’s most innovative creators. The workshops and panels will be led by the Martha Stewart Living editors and populated by the various artisans of food, design, craft, garden, style, and technology. You can buy products made by the craftspeople, and there’s a tasting room where you can sample foods and beverages from culinary experts and mixologists. The Grand Central eateries will be serving special menus and offering deals to coincide with the events.
For the past 25 years, Stewart has been profiling makers in her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, so it’s her area of expertise. Her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, a conglomerate which reaches approximately 100 million consumers every month, also includes Martha Stewart Weddings, Everyday Food, her books and apps, and television, radio, and video programs like Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, the Martha Bakes series on PBS, and Martha Live, the daily weekday SIRIUS radio show she hosts. This spring, she published Living the Good Long Life, her book on aging gracefully, which coincided with a gala event for the Martha Stewart Center for Living, a geriatric medical center at Mount Sinai Hospital she established.
Apart from being a brand unto herself, Martha Stewart is human. Earlier this year, she went out on some exploratory dates that she set up herself on Match.com—but didn’t get lucky. And she recently accidentally smashed her iPad. “I cannot believe that Apple Public Relations is mad at me for tweeting about my iPad and how to get it fixed! Steve Jobs gave it to me!” she Tweeted in frustration. And apart from traditional household duties, Martha knows how to roll the perfect joint, which she revealed during an interview earlier this year at the 92nd Street Y. She even graciously taught her prison mates how to crochet during her five-month sentence in the West Virginia penitentiary in 2004.
We sat down with Stewart the night before American Made for the red-carpet celebration announcing the American Made Award winners, who will be showing their wares at Grand Central. Makers from all over the United States were stationed by their products, proudly offering samples, including farm-raised oysters, homemade Long Island iced tea spiked with Troy & Sons hand-crafted American moonshine, cheeses, and meats.
GERRY VISCO: For more than 20 years, your books and magazine and appearances have inspired Americans to regain their hands-on skills in crafts, cooking, the arts. Is American Made the first large-scale event of its kind?
MARTHA STEWART: American Made is not just an event. It’s a movement to spotlight and support the next generation of creative entrepreneurs who are turning their passion for making into thriving small businesses.
VISCO: Is this year going to be different from last year?
STEWART: No, this is evolving from last year. Again, we have 10 honorees, plus an audience honoree that was chosen by five million votes cast in a field of 2,400. It was an excellent contest, and you’ll be introduced to the winner tonight. It’s a little more diverse than last year. We tried to do it geographically as well as by subject matter.
VISCO: What would you suggest to the average person who doesn’t have time—how can they get involved with American Made?
STEWART: Fifty-seven percent of Americans are do-it-yourselfers, craftspeople, and artisans and makers. We’re calling everyone a maker now; and if you’re doing it was a hobby or in a professional way and selling your goods, 57 percent of American adults are involved in some sort of making.
VISCO: Would you say the younger generation is getting involved, too?
STEWART: I think so, but I’m not positive yet. They’re still having to get through college and searching for jobs, but they’re seeing the success of these entrepreneurs in technology and fashion and they’re thinking, “Wow, maybe I could do it myself.”
VISCO: I heard you had 500,000 visitors last year.
STEWART: Well, this hall is very well situated.
VISCO: Was it hard to get Grand Central as your venue?
STEWART: Last year they were very accommodating. It’s difficult because they want to protect the landmark, so they’re very fussy about what you can and cannot do. We’ve had an excellent experience with them. I love Vanderbilt Hall.
VISCO: How do we get the large chain stores of America to include some of these crafts?
STEWART: They are getting involved more and more. Macy’s has been very curious about the whole program.
VISCO: In other words, you could help change the entire retail environment?
STEWART: Yes. A lot of these makers are small, so they can’t produce the giant quantities that a large retailer like a Macy’s could handle, but they are working very well.
VISCO: And you’re providing tools for them to figure out how to do it?
STEWART: Oh, yes.
VISCO: Is this going to be like one of the medieval crafts guilds?
STEWART: Well, it is already. We’re not doing the training so much as we are helping them. And we want to encourage this maker’s movement and build on it. We’re making a big announcement at the end about opening up a store for these people.
VISCO: What made you create American Made as an event, and what are your goals for it?
STEWART: Everywhere I go, I always look for creative entrepreneurs, whether it’s artisans and craftsmen, small farmers and gardeners, or restaurateurs who use fresh, locally sourced ingredients. I admire the courage and self-reliance it takes to start your own business and make it succeed. Being able to put them in the spotlight and give them wider recognition is a great feeling for me. My goal with our American Made program is to inspire people of all ages to become “doers,” whether it’s them learning how to make an easy weekday dinner or starting their own business.
VISCO: What were some of your favorites from the American Made makers?
STEWART: It’s impossible to pick a favorite. They all bring their own unique talents to the table. Last year’s honorees were so inspiring and hard-working. Flora Grubb from San Francisco has a beautiful business that embodies the hard-working entrepreneurial spirit in the world of gardening. It’s been wonderful to see her business really flourish after last year’s awards. This year, I have my eye on Back to the Roots, which is a grow-your-own-mushroom kit company out of Oakland, California, as well as Spoonflower, a custom fabric printing company in Durham, North Carolina.
VISCO: What those of us spending the entire day at American Made on the Creative Makers pass expect?
STEWART: The Creative Makers Series is a networking-filled day of panels and workshops. Beginning at 9 a.m., attendees will have exclusive access to sessions covering topics such as what it takes to become a creative leader and philanthropic entrepreneur, and how to build a successful brand. We have some great business leaders hosting these sessions such as Jessica Alba, actress and co-founder of the Honest Company; Bobbi Brown, founder and CCO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics; and Dominique Ansel, chef and creator of the Cronut. I’ll even be hosting a baking demonstration with techniques and recipes from my new book, Martha Stewart’s Cakes. In between panels, attendees will have the chance to meet and learn from the editors of Martha Stewart Living, and network with other creative entrepreneurs.
MARTHA STEWART’S AMERICAN MADE IS CURRENTLY TAKING PLACE AT VANDERBILT HALL IN GRAND CENTRAL STATION AND RUNS THROUGH TOMORROW, OCTOBER 17.