Martha Stewart’s craftiness knows no bounds. News that her beleaguered business sputtered to a quarterly loss of a $50.7 million–on revenue of $43.5 million–provided a peg for much Martha-bashing, most notably by James B. Stewart (no relation!), who earlier this month delievered quite the smackdown via his New York Times business-section column. Clearly, Martha was not amused. But rather than waste time crying over spilled milk (award-winning, certified organic milk from family farmers, in a reusable glass bottle, we suspect), she rallied the forces of PR, and emerged with two major features in the Thanksgiving weekend papers.
On the front page of Sunday’s New York Times, sandwiched between news of shivering Syrian refugees and gridlock in the Senate, was “Martha Stewart Clicks with a Tattooed Crowd,” in which writer Christine Haughney dubs Martha a “patron saint for entrepreneurial hipsters” looking to carve out a living selling, say, t-shirts created from vintage children’s sheets. One devotee, whose “vintage-inspired spun cotton ornaments and figures” have been spotlighted in various MSLO media properties, likens Martha to “the Jesus of the craft world.” Some MarthaStewart.com web stats are proffered to offset the widely publicized disappointments on the print side, and Haughney even finds a way to put a positive spin on Martha’s five-month incarceration, which no one will ever stop talking about, ever. “She’s such a Suzy homemaker and also did some time in the joint,” says Luis Illades, an owner of Brooklyn food-craft purveyor Urban Rustic. “That has helped cement her iconic image. Before, she was someone your mother would follow.”
But it’s Vanessa Friedman who takes the cake (moist devil’s food, as we imagine it). The Financial Times fashion editor sat down with Martha for the latest “Lunch with the FT” feature and crafted a nuanced portrait that doesn’t shy away from the mogul’s complexities. Friedman takes note of seeming contradictions, as when shortly after bemoaning the Internet-fueled abridgment of the human mind (“We think with our thumbs instead of our minds,” says Martha. “It’s very damaging.”), Martha is tweeting photos of her meal–although she draws the line at Pinterest. “I don’t pin. I refuse to,” she says. “I think it’s a faulty business. I have a very good visual memory.” But the real triumph of this profile is its capturing of one of Stewart’s greatest strengths: her insatiable curiosity. After lunch at ABC Kitchen, where the chef stumps her with a French lettuce called saucine, she browses the adjoining retail emporium and enthuses on the trendy twig tree. Having checked the interview off her to-do list, she leaves with a crafty new plan:
“You know what this is?” she says, turning a white twig number upside down to scope out the bottom: “It’s the top part of a dead tree that has been spray-painted.” She chuckles. “Now I know what to do with all my fir trees that have lost their needles.”