MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNDERGROUND BUZZ about Martha Stewart’s big Grand Central Station event is literally that – underground: in the food court, where I am buying a quick chicken caesar. Something (the Brooklyn Artisan tote bag over my shoulder?) must’ve tipped off Maria who is taking food orders at Tri Tip.
“Have you been up to the Martha Stewart exhibit? It’s really fun,” she confides. “I made a key chain and I’m going back after my shift to make a necklace.” Usually she knits or crochets, but she says she has gotten a bunch of new ideas from the show. No, Maria didn’t see Martha Stewart in person, but to know she was there was…a good thing.
Up in Vanderbilt Hall, one long line snakes around to the silkscreening of custom tote bags, another waits on the food tastings, and a third crowd will attend the next class session in a screened off area behind the silver Toyota. Toyota, Westin Hotels, and JCP (as in James Cash Penny) are among the event sponsors. The craft tables are on the eastern side of the hall along with the UPS and Avery sponsor/information tables.
Brooklyn is well represented at the craft tables. Red Hook’s Foxy & Winston display, for instance, shows tea towels, children’s aprons, pillow covers, wispy neck scarves, and letterpress cards printed with whimsical designs by Jane Buck: artichokes, hedgehogs, paddleboats, tugboats, peacocks.
Jane tells us her designs are printed in India on Indian cotton, and then the bolts are cut and the pieces sewn in the USA. She herself is an import, she mentions. As an art history and fashion student in London for five years, she was making a living by waiting tables. She met and was courted by a New Zealander. When his English visa ran out, he had to go home, and the closest spot to her he could find to live was New York. He is a wine importer. They traveled back and forth and then made the leap: 13 years ago on October 1, they were married in Central Park. It’s a love story that stretches halfway round the world and ends up in Brooklyn.
Jane Buck set up her design studio in Red Hook and opened a little retail area in the front. Now through that store and other outlets, her business has enough volume for her to afford an assistant three days a week. “Before that,” she says, laughing, “‘I’d be working in the back and when someone came in, I’d have to pop out from behind the curtain: ‘Hello, may I help you?'”
Enormous Champion, Jordan Provost’s
business, opened in 2008. She, too, is an immigrant to Brooklyn – from New Jersey. Her design base is in Crown Heights, and she sells her cards and wooden silhouettes of animals through a number of shops as well as from her own commerce website and, of course, Etsy.com. She has worked on Martha-related projects before, but it was still a thrill to be invited to this one.
Crystal Sloane works from upstate – Saratoga – but happily made the trek to the city from what Brooklyn Artisan considers Outer Brooklyn. She makes Christmas ornaments and small figures for other seasons, usually incorporating antique or vintage elements in her interesting juxtapositions of materials.
“My mother comes from Germany,” where the Christmas decoration culture is very strong, she explains. “She is an artist. I knew I wanted to do something creative.” Sloane started her business, Vintage by Crystal, about eight years ago.
A bonus for serious shoppers among the craft-obsessed crowd: free shipping provided by UPS. How was business on the second day of the show? “We’re handling about 100 packages so far today,” the UPS rep estimates by mid-afternoon. Even those who didn’t shop heavily were picking up new ideas, including some from the, er, handwork-challenged world, like me. I stop by the table where packages are being imaginatively dressed with Avery Dennison office products.
At the Avery table, Tanya Goldman showed how to take two-inch red hang tags and turn them into flowers to decorate a package. “Fold them in half, trim the ends into a leaf shape, overlap the ends, stick them in place, and it makes a flower!” Red and white twine did the job of ribbon, and red-dot labels (like those marking “sold” in art galleries) held the twine in place. Voila!
How did Tanya think of making this? “Oh, I didn’t design it,’ she said. “I work at Martha Stewart, in marketing, and I volunteered to be here. I think the editors created the designs and I’m demonstrating how to do them. It’s fun for me.”
There’s no doubt that crafts can be done at all levels, but some show talent, even genius, in what they make. The large signs at this show, for instance. The Martha is in the details.