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Seven Questions for Martha Stewart

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Martha Stewart was joined by Bravo’s Andy Cohen last night to kick off the second annual American Made, a two-day celebration of ingenuity and craftsmanship that turns Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall into a lively marketplace of handpicked purveyors, crafters, and makers. Among this year’s American Made honorees are lighting designer Lindsey Adelman, Shinola’s Health Carr, and paper crafters Leo Kowal and Mary Rudakas, who took home the audience choice award for their SVGCuts creations. And for Stewart, that’s not even the icing on the cake—she’s got a new book out (about cakes!), an equally delicious PBS TV series in production (more cakes!), and big Halloween plans (Pumpkin Layer Cake…and much more!). We paused in our attempt at her Clementine-Vanilla Bean Loaf Cake to ask her seven questions.

What are some of your favorite finds among the nominees and winners of this year’s American Made awards?
The two-day event celebrates the spirit of innovation and spotlight a new generation of entrepreneurs. Everything we highlight with the American Made program, which is now in its second year, is something I’ve found in my various travels and meetings to be fascinating, unique, and worthy of recognition. 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.

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Which recipe in Martha Stewart’s Cakes would you suggest for an amateur baker who wants to whip up a tasty and visually stunning cake?
The buttermilk cake with chocolate frosting is a great starting point for any amateur. It’s both visually stunning and tasteful. This book also provides a basics section specifically designed for amateurs who are looking to sharpen their baking skills. It provides essential equipment and ingredients for mixing, baking, and finishing!

Any tricks you can share about making a cake look as good as the amazingly beautiful ones featured in the pages of Martha Stewart’s Cakes?
Pairing cakes with accompaniments can be the finishing touch to a baker’s creation. They are served on the side adding richness, to simple cakes.
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Hamilton Wood Type Museum Teams with Erik Spiekermann to Go Hard in New Home

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Strong and Silent Types. The new crew at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum stands in front of a vintage photo of their predecessors.

hard_typefaceWisconsin’s Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum–the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production, and printing of wood type–recently moved into a new home in Two Rivers, and the race is on to reopening day. Helping to inaugurate the new space will be the museum’s annual Wayzgoose type conference, which gets underway November 8. Among the special guest speakers this year is the fontastic Erik Spiekermann, for whom a typographic tribute is in the works: Hamilton will be cutting the Spiekermann-designed font, “HARD” (pictured above), at the conference. “I’m excited to see Hamilton cut this font using traditional methods,” says Spiekermann. “With Hamilton’s vintage pantographs and former type-cutting employees, this will be a chance to see history in the remaking.”
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The Art and Design of Deception: Documentary Tells Story of Secret WWII ‘Ghost Army’

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Friendly Ghost. Bill Blass somewhere in Europe, in a photo taken by his friend Bob Tompkins.

Inflatable tanks, sound effects, elaborately painted faux convoys, carefully crafted illusions. It was all in a day’s work for the American G.I.s—including Bill Blass, Ellsworth Kelly, and Art Kane—who artfully mislead the Axis forces on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. “They conducted 21 different deceptions, often operating within a few hundred yards of enemy lines,” filmmaker and author Rick Beyer tells us. “Their story was hushed up for more than 40 years.” Beyer brings it to light in The Ghost Army, a new documentary that will be screened on Thursday, October 17 at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (register here to attend). Beyer made time to tell us some ghost (army) stories in advance of next week’s screening.

How did you become interested/first learn about the story of this secret WWII unit?
I first learned about it eight years ago when a mutual friend introduced me to Martha Gavin, whose uncle, John Jarvie, served in the unit. Her enthusiasm was the spark that started the whole project. I have always loved quirky history stories, the strange, “can you believe it?” stuff. In fact, I’ve written an entire book series, The Greatest Stories Never Told, that focuses on just that. The idea that American soldiers in World War II went into battle with inflatable tanks and sound effects records was so bizarre, so contrary to every image from every war movie I’ve ever seen, that it immediately attracted my attention.

On top of that was the fact that many of the soldiers in the unit were artists, who used their spare time to paint and sketch what they saw on the battlefield. In fact, the first time I met Martha at a Boston area coffee shop, she was carrying an armload of three-ring binders filled with uncle’s wartime artworks. I was captivated with the way they presented such a unique and intimate perspective of the war. And that’s how I got hooked.

How were GIs selected to serve in this unit?
The Army threw the 23rd together in a hurry, in January 1944, so they assembled it from four pre-existing units. One was the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, which had been formed more than 18 months earlier. The Army had loaded the 603rd with artists, because their initial mission was camouflage. Some were recruited from art schools such as Pratt and Cooper Union. Word quickly spread to other artists interested in finding a way to put their art skills to use in war effort. (Or interested in finding a way to avoid ending up in the infantry!)

Similarly, the Army took a pre-existing radio unit and assigned it to The Ghost Army to handle radio deception. But because they wanted only the very best radio operators to carry out convincing deceptions, they pruned about 100 soldiers from the radio unit, and then plucked skilled men from other units around the country. In general, once it was formed, The Ghost Army had a very high priority status, and could whatever soldiers it wanted.
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Ryan McGinness Creates Artwork for National Coming Out Day

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An activist named Sean Strub convinced Keith Haring to donate his now-famous image of a person dancing out of a closet for National Coming Out Day, which takes place annually on October 11. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that image, and the Human Rights Campaign is celebrating with a colorful new commission: the organization invited New York-based artist Ryan McGinness to create new artwork symbolizing National Coming Out Day.

“I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of Keith Haring,” says McGinness. “I developed three final images and invite you to vote for the one you like the best.” Voting closes at midnight on Thursday, and the design with the most votes will be released as a t-shirt on Friday.
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Christopher Guy Opens New York Showroom, Looks to Web to ‘Add Another Dimension’

You may recognize the deco-inflected globetrotter look of Christopher Guy from the sets of The Thomas Crown Affair and Casino Royale. In the wake of the ribbon-cutting on the brand’s showroom at the New York Design Center, designer Christopher Guy Harrison was on hand to discuss his “contemporary with classical values” style and how he conveys it in an increasingly digital world. We sent writer Nancy Lazarus to pull up a sumptuous chaise longue and observe.

CGuy speaking

CGuy eclairageWhile online platforms have left their mark on interior design in recent years, they’ll never replace the need to discover and experience design in person. Interactive technology has created innovative ways for designers to build their brands and businesses, communicate with clients, go shopping and provide inspiration, said Elledecor.com editor Amy Preiser at last week’s New York Design Center What’s New/What’s Next event.

Digital platforms are certainly not a substitute for perusing a design showroom, especially when it’s a colorful state-of-the-art NYDC penthouse. Christopher Guy Harrison, CEO and founder of Christopher Guy, shared his brand’s approach to digital from his new flagship space. His furnishings have been featured in movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Hangover, and he’s designed hotels like the Bellagio and Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas as well as the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo.

“We need to embrace the internet to add another dimension. At its start, the internet was just an extension of the catalogue,” said Guy. For his business, the web and digital tools have become a priority, and he reported having a dedicated web staff of 20 in his Singapore office. He uses the platforms to showcase interactive spaces, share design influences, and convey different moods.
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Wherefore Art Thou X-Acto Knife? Kevin Stanton’s Cut-Paper Shakespeare Classics

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A cut above. The title page for the Signature Shakespeare edition of Romeo and Juliet, illustrated with hand-cut paper artwork by Kevin Stanton.

hamletKevin Stanton remembers the first time he picked up an X-Acto knife. “In an introductory Chinese class I once took, I obsessively chose the hardest pattern for a cut-paper project we did out of construction paper,” he says. “I was struck by how detailed I could be with that knife.” He ended up with a fish that shimmered with painstakingly cut scales and a taste for slicing paper, a technique he returned to during his freshman year at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. “I’d done a portrait in small strips of color-aid for my LCD class that was ridiculously meticulous, and I’m convinced the only reason I passed my drawing class was because my drawing professor liked it so much.”

Now a few years out of Pratt (he graduated in 2010 with a BFA in communications design), Stanton has honed his knife skills to the point that Sterling Publishing enlisted him to illustrate several volumes of its Signature Shakespeare series with his hand-cut paper artwork, which is reproduced in all its multi-dimensional glory in laser-cut tip-ins and scans. On Saturday, Stanton will be among the mix of established and emerging artists and designers participating in Pratt’s annual Alumni Art and Design Fair, where books, accessories, jewelry, paintings, and photography by more than 40 Pratt alumni will be up for sale. We asked Stanton to tell us about the process of taking a blade to the Bard, his experience at Pratt, and what he’ll turn his sharp eye (and sharp edges) to next.

What was your process like for illustrating new editions of the Shakespeare classics?
The process for the Shakespeare classics started with large lists of ideas for spot illustrations that were put together by Sterling’s Shakespeare expert (a Columbia professor, I believe). Then a ton of thumbnails and discussions about colors and sketches and ideas and revisions. Then better sketches and revisions. And basically by the end, I had two weeks to finish both pairs of books! It was crazy, but amazing.

What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
The sheer quantity of illustrations with the time, I think. But working with a group of people brings its own challenges too, but I think we cobbled something special together so it was worth it!
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Mark Your Calendar: City Modern 2013

Archtober is nearly upon us, and the designtastic autumnal fun gets off to an urbane start with City Modern, celebrating the best in New York design and architecture. Now in its second year, the collaboration between Dwell Media and New York magazine kicks off next Friday with a Meet the Architects celebration, followed by a weekend of City Modern home tours in Manhattan and Brooklyn (the one pictured at right is “Skyhouse,” a project by architect David Hotson and interior designer Ghislaine Viñas that occupies a previously vacant four-story space at the tippy-top of one of the oldest surviving skyscrapers in NYC). The week continues with programming led by New York design editor Wendy Goodman and Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron, including a sure-to-be-stimulating conversation among Paola Antonelli of MoMA, the one and only Michael Bierut, and architecture critic Justin Davidson about “What Design can Do For New York City.” Get the full scoop on all eight event-packed days here.

The Things They Carried: Remembering September 11 Through Objects


The helmet worn by FDNY Engine 16 Lieutenant Mickey Kross, who survived the collapse of the North Tower. (Courtesy Skira Rizzoli)

At the distance of a dozen years from September 11, 2001, a new book relives the tragic events of that day through a selection of artifacts—Minoru Yamasaki‘s World Trade Center model, shattered plane fragments, the four-inch heels worn by Michele Martocci as she walked down from the 62nd floor of the South Tower and onto St. Vincent’s Hospital, and the wallet and wedding ring that once belonged to Robert Gschaar, who worked thirty floors higher.

The Stories They Tell (Skira Rizzoli), edited by Alice M. Greenwald and Clifford Chanin, also offers a preview of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, slated to open early next year. “At the 9/11 Memorial Museum, every object tells a story, bringing history into vivid focus,” writes Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, in the book’s introduction. “The objects connect us to people who owned them, made them, used them, or survived them.”

Explore 3D Printed Fashion, Food Next Week in California

3D-printed guitars, food, and fashion will be displayed and discussed at Mediabistro’s Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo next week, September 17-18 in San Jose, California. Join us there and network with leaders in the Silicon Valley tech community.

Design-oriented sessions include “Tools of Creation” and “The Future of Retail and Materials for 3D Printing,” which will be led by Isaac Katz of Electronic Art Boutique and David L. Bourell of Laboratory for Freeform Fabrication.
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Making Room: Inside Museum of City of New York’s ‘Launch Pad’ Model Micro Apartment

Are even tinier apartments the answer to better accommodating the emerging housing needs of major cities? An exhibition at the Museum of City of New York suggests as much, and the “live smarter and smaller” theme seems to be resonating—the popular show on new housing models has been extended to September 15. We asked writer Nancy Lazarus to head over to the museum’s fully built “micro unit” and make herself at home.

About thirty curious visitors filed into a 325-square-foot full-scale studio apartment model on a recent Friday afternoon. The occasion wasn’t a real estate open house, but a chance to experience a highly touted micro-unit called “The Launch Pad.”

The furnished model (pictured above) serves as the centerpiece of “Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers,” an exhibition on view through September 15 at the Museum of the City of New York. Amie Gross Architects and interior designer Pierluigi Colombo, founder of Resource Furniture, collaborated on the unit’s design.

Architectural models and design solutions from New York and selected cities worldwide are also showcased. These coincide with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiative to offer more affordable, though smaller-scale, housing options for the growing ranks of single city residents.

An open ambience prevailed inside the micro-unit, not claustrophobia, as skeptical attendees may have expected. They soon learned key elements for optimizing space from Jeffrey Phillip, an organizing pro who specializes in blending style and efficiency.

“We all struggle with living in small spaces, but small spaces are also grand spaces,” Phillip said. He showed visuals to illustrate the advice he offers to space-challenged clients. While a few concepts were conventional, others were counterintuitive. Some mini spaces benefit more from design makeovers.
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