Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Holiday Craft Sale at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

Posted by Brooklyn Bill

I went to a craft fair yesterday at Martha Stewart's headquarters in the Starrett-Lehigh Building in far-west Chelsea with my pal Mark, a gay man who's a crafting enthusiast and a former professional crafter,* and Joyce, my straight girlfriend who, like me, enjoys cooking and baking but isn't one to make handicrafts. Though we enjoy buying them.

Until this year, the fair was open only to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia employees. A friend of mine who works at MSLO told me about the fair last weekend. She and her co-workers got first dibs on Friday. She said that jewelry was the predominant offering but there were plenty of other neat items** to be had.

We arrived separately and met up inside the large exhibit space shortly after noon, when the fair began. M&J hadn't previously met. Mark is from North Dakota and rode downtown from the Upper West Side on his bike. Joyce is from Ohio and took a "little yellow thing" (Joyce-speak for a cab) from Brooklyn Heights. Both of them have lived in the city for many years, and one other thing they have in common (besides their longtime residency here and their friendship with me) is that they always make sure to check out the department store window displays around Christmastime. Joyce took her Mom to view them while her Mom was visiting from Kent for Thanksgiving. And Mark scoped out the windows at three stores—Macy's, Lord & Taylor, and Saks—after he left the fair before succumbing to the rain, cold, and crowds.

Mark enjoyed the fair, but he didn't buy anything. He'd been expecting to see lots of wreaths—because Martha is big on wreaths—but there wasn't a single one for sale. He might not have bought one anyway, he said, because he's very anti-clutter. And very anti-presents for himself and others. (If I'd known that from the get-go, I'd never have become friends with him. Hah!)

Mark commented that all of the sellers seemed Martha Stewart–ish and flowed together seamlessly from table to table except for one guy whose offerings looked kinda flea-market-y. I don't want to slag on that guy***—he had some beautiful old glass for sale—but his wares did seem out of place.

Joyce and I lamented that some of the cutest stuff was for kids—or pets. Various knitted things:

And the most adorable onesie ever:

Joyce and I both bought kids' T-shirts from the maker of the onesie, Winter Water Factory, which is based in Brooklyn. I was hoping to get this firefly one in an 8—and in a different background color—for my best-straight-friends' daughter Abbe, but the pickings were very slim in that size. I got her a pink flowery one instead.

OK, enough with the children's clothing. I'm usually drawn to stationery, soaps, and food. I purchased a beautiful set of 10 cards from a sweet woman named Bella Foster, who said she used to work at MSLO. She's now able to make a living from her art. And she blogs too. As she says in the subtitle of her blog, she makes "paintings of other people's stuff."

I got a good deal on goat-milk soap from Beekman 1802, which I discovered just now, when I went to its Web site, is run by writer Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his partner, Dr. Brent Ridge. I'd been intrigued at the occasional mentions JKP made of his goat-farming life in his columns for Out magazine, given that I'd had a short but memorable stint as a goat-and-vegetable farmer/B&B operator with an ex in the early aughts. JKP and his sweetie produce 12 kinds of soap, each one scented to evoke a different month of the year on Beekman Farm. September, for instance, smells like tomato leaves, basil, and rosemary.

At the fair, the guy manning the B1802 table said I could have a bag of soap for all 12 months—two bars per bag—for $100. Each bag would have cost $13 individually. Winnah!

Dr. Ridge, who's a fantastic writer in his own right, was previously vice president of healthy living at MSLO.

Joyce was able to resist the table of homemade stockings, but she bought a Christmas tree ornament from a woman whose products were all made from repurposed cashmere sweaters and a linen calendar towel for a friend.

I couldn't resist these oh-so-purty cookie ornaments:

And finally, this vintage-looking, spun cotton narwhal ornament, made by a woman who's appeared on Martha's show, demanded I buy it:

*In my next post, I'll write about Mark's professional-crafting past. He made a nice living from 1984 to '96 making soft-sculpture dolls from recycled and found materials.

**I almost said "good things" there but then thought better of it.

***OK, maybe I do a little. Everyone knows Martha has a reputation for wanting everything to be perfect, and we gay men sure love to ... well, I won't say "criticize." I prefer "evaluate. In a critical manner." :-)


  1. Mark didn't include Bergdorf's in his tour of windows??!!

    You know, there is a Martha Stewart employee who is an invited contributor to this blog. She has yet to announce herself....

  2. Dang!!! The fair sounds brilliant. I'm all about MS, MSO, and crafts so this would have been a great event to attend. I'm so glad you went and mentioned it.

    Isn't her headquarters gorgeous? In a city with corporate offices full of stodgy old white dude wood paneling and sound absorbing carpets, I found her loft of clean cement, an open white floor plan, and fantastic photography from her magazine really beautiful.

  3. Anyone know how tall Mark is? He comes over rather short..

  4. Replies
    1. Well hello...Welcome back after your long slumber...Saying he is not short is saying nothing...Short could be 4'or 5'or 5'6...So what is he 5'8???