Saturday, November 18, 2006

Martha My Dear

I was sitting in bed on Monday when the mail came.

Whop, whop, whop, was the sound of mail falling through the slot in our front door and onto the floor.

"Oh, good, the mail is here!"

WHOOMMPP

"ACK! Did someone mail us a brick?! Geez!"

I slowly got out of bed, fought back an urge to vomit, and made my way to the front door.

No, dear reader, we were not sent a brick, or an early Christmas fruitcake from a well meaning relative. No, it was the December issue of Martha Stewart Living.

I was excited, it arrived much earlier than any other issue since moving here, but goodness it was a good thing the Big O wasn't playing nearby--he could have been hit by it and knocked out.

I have been an admirer of this magazine since I was a sophomore in college, when Miss Nemesis, my roommate, got herself a subscription. She was kind enough to let me peruse it each month, oh-ing and ah-ing at the beautiful photographs of delicious food and amazing crafts. During our time together I believe Nem. and I actually attempted some of the crafts and maybe even some of the recipes with pretty good success. But sadly (for me), Nem. left me and the Martha subscription ended.

I would look at issues in line at Macey's or at the Provo library and wonder if I should just get my own subscription. I loved the magazine. Reading it gave me pleasure. Even if I didn't attempt the crafts or the recipes, or take any of Martha's sage advice on dusting and proper laundry folding, I still enjoyed it. But I was torn. This magazine was mocked slightly within my major. The head of my department would use it as an insult when looking at my spread: "These look very Martha Stewart-y, Lady Steed" he would say with derision in his voice. I was so hurt. I loved Martha. I thought the magazine was designed beautifully and to have someone say my stuff looked like it would normally be a compliment, but coming from him it was clearly not a compliment.

I learned later that he respected the magazine, just wanted more from his students.

During my junior year I was able to take a trip to Manhattan with the other students in my program. We were supposed to be interviewing to get internships for the coming summer, but I just went because I wanted to go to Manhattan and visit all the studios of great graphic designers and magazines, specifically Martha Stewart Living studios.

It was an amazing place. Sparkly, beautiful. I wanted to work there.

But this did not happen. I was married. Had a baby, graduated. A mama with an unused BFA.
But, one of my friends did an internship there and after graduation went on to work there. I was slightly jealous, but happy for her because she felt the same way as I did about Martha Stewart Living.

She still works there now. I've watched her name move up the ranks from 'Assistant Art Director' to her current title of 'Senior Associate Art Director' which is just one below the top of the Art Department list, Deputy Art Director. I'm very proud of her.

After buying single issues off the newsstands--usually October, November and December--for a year or two, I decided it would be more cost effective to just get a subscription. I believe my first issue was January 2003. I am still a subscriber, and will be through August 2008.

That's a lot of Martha.

I have saved every issue and buy old issues at library sales whenever I can. Once or twice I have thought about tossing my old issues, but I can't. I go back and look at them often for recipes, craft ideas and other inspirations.

I have watched the magazine go from thick, packed with advertising, to painfully skinny after advertisers pulled their support during Ms. Stewart's tax debacle. The quality of the magazine throughout always remained excellent. If you are ever looking for a particular article, contact me--chances are I have it and can copy it out for you.

In the beginning, my love for the magazine was something I was ever so slightly afraid to tell people about. I'd be at some Enrichment meeting and some one would bring up the current issue, about how great the cover image was and how they wish they could make something like that. Then I'd say, "I have that one if you want to come over and look at it." Everyone in the group would stop and stare at me for a moment. "You have a subscription?" "Um, yeah, I've been subscribing for about two years now." "Really?" For whatever reason people had a hard time believing that I was a subscriber. "Yes, I love it."

I am no longer afraid to express my love of Martha. I love to see people's look of shock when I tell them I've been subscribing since 2003. What I love even more is when women, after hearing about all my stockpiled issues, approach me later, alone, away form the group, to ask if they can come and look at my old issues. Apparently liking Martha is something a little bit shameful. But lets get back to this December 2006 issue. It's thick. The advertising pages are more than plentiful--it's almost as bad as some of those fashion magazines. So obviously things are good for the magazine. However, lately, I have found my interest waning.

When you've been a subscriber for as long as I have, you notice when photos get reused, which ideas have been done before and you start noticing the focus of the magazine shifting. For example, this year in the features section it seems like there are more spreads devoted to people giving dinner parties. Spread after spread of foodstuffs and happy people. This is all well and good and exceedingly pretty but what I want is less pics of people enjoying great food in a gorgeous setting, and more spreads on collectibles, crafts and decorating.

Sometimes it also feels like they are straining for ideas for the feature spreads. For example,
Dec 2002 feature spread on Pomegranates, yum! Dec 2006 feature spread on Oysters! Um...gross. Really, how many people actually like oysters?! and do they really need 4 spreads worth? Sure, it's beautifully photographed and well designed but the whole thing makes my stomach turn; oysters are not actually pretty no matter how well photographed.

Another thing that bugs me is how much more of the magazine is devoted to alcohol. There is now a monthly column on wine. Since I don't drink this is wasted on me. I find it annoying. I'd rather have a column on collectibles (they used to do this and I miss it, it was really fun).

So, Martha my dear, we seem to be having a little falling out. You have become a little bit boring. I am thinking about ending my subscription, except that I have yet to find another monthly publication that thrills me as much as you used to. This year has been a disappointment, but perhaps that is because it's been a year of reflecting on the past, as this is your fifteenth year (congrats). But Martha, we are on shifting sands; next year better be an improvement or I'm taking my little reading eyes elsewhere.

14 Comments:

Blogger Lady Steed said...

PS: Name the artist and album of the song referenced in the title.

Saturday, November 18, 2006 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Master Fob said...

You could try a monthly subscription to Batman or Justice League of America. Surely either would thrill you just as much as Martha.

Saturday, November 18, 2006 3:18:00 PM  
Blogger Lady Steed said...

Hmmmmm...maybe. But do Batman and Justice League have any great recipes for lemon cake? Can they show me how to make crocheted snowflakes or sand candles? If yes, then 'Welcome Batman and Justice League.'

Saturday, November 18, 2006 3:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to remind you: I have two Martha Stewart Baby magazines if you want to look through them. But first you must sign forms in triplicate swearing that you'll give them back.
By the way: Batman is much better than Justice League. Superman is the best.

Saturday, November 18, 2006 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger Silly Marie said...

I always wished I could have the Martha Christmas mag., but it always seemed so expensive off the rack. And they were always checked out at the library. So I just gave up on her.

But I do remember a scrumptious Martha dark chocolate cake and a lemon cake you made once upon a time in UT. Yum.

I hope Martha reads your blog and takes note because I agree with all your change suggestions.

Sunday, November 19, 2006 4:34:00 PM  
Blogger Nocturne said...

I love Martha's magazine too, but my allegiance has shifted to Real Simple, which I believe is the best designed magazine out there right now. I love it and you really should look into it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006 11:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't like Real Simple, then lots of cool Designy people read Domino. Also there's Blueprint by the MS team but that kind of seems like a Real Simple knock-off to me.

And I'm so excited to be in your blog post! Yay for me!

Monday, November 20, 2006 6:50:00 PM  
Blogger Lady Steed said...

'sposita:yes I would like to borrow your Martha baby magazines. I'll get my pen ready.

silly: You really should have borrowed those issues from me when we lived in the same town. Yet another reason for you to live close to me!

nocturne: welcome! I think this is the first time you've left a comment...
Yes Real Simple is nice, and I do like the design. In fact, I was once told that Real Simple was started by some old employees of Martha Stewart Living who were BYU graduates. Or at least the design people were BYU Design grads. Neat!
I often request free issues of Real Simple. I've done this at least five times, I really really want to like them enough to pay the money to subscribe,and I do enjoy it, I just find that the content does not hold my interest for long enough; I get bored with it pretty quickly. But whenever I come across an old one at a library sale I buy it. I also own one of their books about organizing which I enjoy a lot.

nem: How could I write about Martha without mentioning you? You started my interest and my collection. Thanks! One of my favorite issues was one you let me have.

I've heard of Domino but never actually looked at it, I'll check it out. I have the first two issues of Blueprint, got them for free, they really want me to subscribe. I don't think it's at all like Real Simple. I LOVE the design but find Blueprint to be elitist. They try to make it seem they're a magazine for regular, young, hip moms, but they are not at all realistic. Any product they feature costs at least $200 and what young mom has time for the crafts they feature? They audience is really more hip singletons with good careers and lots of money. I almost got a subscription but after reading the second issue I decided not to-- it left me feeling incredibly poor and very unhip. I am clearly not their audience.

You might say that Martha is the same way, which is somewhat true. But Martha isn't pretending to be something it isn't. You know inside you will find beautiful crafts and foods that will take some time. Martha does not deceive, with her you know what you are getting into, Blueprint is deceptive.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Lady Steed said...

Also, isn't anyone going to guess the title reference?

Thank you all for reading what must be my longest post ever.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Silly Marie said...

Beatles.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 1:46:00 PM  
Blogger Lady Steed said...

You are right Silly Marie! Thank you for playing.

Do you know which album?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 9:46:00 PM  
Blogger Th. said...

.

I didn't get the reference, but ever since you toldme what it was, I can't get it out of my head.

Thursday, November 23, 2006 1:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is The Beatles, also known as the White Album. A song about Paul's dog.

Thursday, November 30, 2006 4:34:00 PM  
Blogger Lady Steed said...

sposita-

yes, you are correct, the song, Marha My Dear, sung and written by Paul McCartney appears on The White album. I did not, however, know that it was a song about his dog. I don't think I like knowing that.

Now I owe you brownies.

Thursday, November 30, 2006 7:38:00 PM  

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