Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Martha Martha Martha

I saw Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts the other day and almost bought it on a whim. Instead, I pledged to check it out at the library first. It's very poplar, so I needed to use ILL. It finally arrived and I have been perusing it.

(For the purposes of this review, I am going to treat Martha Stewart as the author, even though we all know there is an army of crafters who are Martha Stewart Omnimedia.)

In the introduction, Martha claims with this book she has "brought these crafts [quilling, marbelizeing paper, candle making, block printing, botanical pressing, silk screening, and soap making] into the twenty-first century." I'm pretty sure that there are quillers, candle and soap makers, and silk screeners who thought they were 21st century crafters, but what of the crafts she has not included, notably embroidery and sewing. Are those so very twentieth-century still?

The over-all sense one gets flipping through the book is that all the projects (over 200, but I quibble) have the Martha Aesthetic: modern, classic, simple, pressed. It's like a bunch of craft sections from MSLiving magazine--which the introduction actually calls "ubiquitous" (humble much?)--have been bound together.

A is for Albums, which is sort of the scrapbooking section. But these are not like the scrapbooks in Creating Keepsakes or even Simple Scrapbooks. Some look like four-color travel brochures, others include baby clothes--whole outfits, which I suppose is better than the cardboard storage box my mother saved ours in, the one the squirrels nested in.

B is for Beading, mostly beaded flowers. This section also includes beaded monograms that I have seen before in a MSLiving Christmas issue. You know this is the one area where I frown on recycling. B is also for block printing, botanical pressing, botanical printing, and botanical rubbings. Now how do you include botanical rubbings but not embroidery. Is there an etsy shop dedicated to botanical rubbings? Probably. Still, you feel my outrage. I've always liked the idea of botanical prints--sunprinting--but I just don't have the right place for them in my house. Maybe in my hypothetical future beach house.

C is for Calligraphy. Here, one of the "projects" is to calligraph* labels for your storage projects. Now there's the Martha-of-useless-household-projects we know and love (or love to hate). C is also for Clay and Candlemaking; don't you just love how some categories are named for the material and some for the craft?

D is for Decoupage. Lovely Martha Stewart botanical prints. Birds for children that are childlike without being cutesy. The kind of projects that elevate craft.

E is for Etching Glass. (A little stretch?) Anyway, etch your glass kitchen canisters. Umm, right.

F is for Fabric Flowers. Here's something I didn't know: If you use fabric stiffener, you can use your punches on fabric. Makes sense now that I see it. Still, my punches are crafty-cute rather than elegant Martha.

G is for Gilding and Glittering. Although she does tell me things I did not know about glitter (who even knew there were things to know about glitter?), you probably don't need the instructions for these projects. Put glue on object, add glitter. I thought not.

J is for Jewelry making. You're probably wondering about H and I. Indeed, K and L are very angry about the whole H and I situation.

M is for Marbleizing and Matting and Framing, the latter can be "often quite fun!" The "matting" section includes instructions for embellishing mats in various ways, just in case you were wondering what was so fun about cutting a mat. M is also for Mosaics; here she's used sea glass in one of her projects. I have a ton of sea glass that I've collected, and I'm always looking for better ways to display it. Still, seems so permanent.

N is for Nature Crafts--acorns, pinecones, and shells. O is for Oragami.

P is for Painting China and Glass, Papercutting and Paper Punching, and Paper Flowers and Birds. There's nothing like spending your time making tissue paper birds...isn't that what we have Chinese prisoners for? To make the tedious crafts so inexpensively we don't have to? This section also contains the paper poms. I wouldn't have noticed them before except Nicole at Pink Loves Brown once put some on her porch and it looked great, until the storm. (Sorry, I couldn't find a link to the exact post.) P is also for Photo Crafts and Pom-pom Animals. Not.Kidding.

Q is for Quilling, which we're happy that Martha brought into the 21st C. When I was making quilled snowflake ornaments for my high school's craft fair that my mother sold for .25 each, it was all the way back in the twentieth century.

R is for Rope Crafts and Rubber Stamping. Maybe rope crafts for the future beach house, but not so much right now.

S is for Silk Screening. I took a class in this with a fairly famous NH silk screener whose name totally escapes me now. Let me just say this: complicated. Not something I'd undertake with just a book for directions. Applying screen filler s.u.c.k.s. S is also for Soap Making, which includes making other bath products as well.

T is for Tin Punching. Martha says that she finds this craft addicting. It's the force, I think.

W is for Wirework and Wreaths. She's so good at the latter. I'd like to make some of these. But with the gumdrop wreath...storage issues? Shouldn't we spray it with something?

XYZ suddenly we're interested in all the letters? This section is for supplies and we take a long look at glues and cutting instruments. There's also a small techniques section which includes how to spread glue. Now there's a service.

This is the second craft encyclopedia I've looked at recently (the encyclopedia of card making was the other) and I'm not enamored of the format. I'm happy I didn't buy this book.

*don't worry. The backformation is almost 200 years old.


Caroline said...

Great review - thanks, I'll pass on this one.

C in DC said...

It appears that anything that involves "pins or needles", other than the beading, has been left out of this book. No sewing, stitching, knitting, quilting, etc.

njm said...

I remember the question being asked when this one came out, and not to defend, but apparently she is working on an A to Z for embroidery and sewing, possibly as 2 separate volumes.

Deb said...

Thanks for the review. I probably wouldn't have even considered it anyway. I've had issues with her stuff in the past (funky, horrible recipes, etc.) so I steer clear of her stuff.

Lee said...

I'm not crazy about the encyclopedia format either, but I have absolutely love my old Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches from 1935.

Coni said...

Thank you! You saved me from having to go to THE MALL to pick this up. Now I won't feel like I'm missing anything. At all.

You'll be happy to know that I've written to Martha Her Very Self repeatedly asking why she doesn't do more with respects to the needle arts.

I'll let you know if I ever hear from her.

mainely stitching said...

I'll resist temptation when I see it in the States this summer. Thanks for saving me a few bucks!!

Kathryn said...

Does anyone remember bread dough sculpture. There was a lot of it in craft fairs of the late 20th century. I had several pieces that I bought in Oregon. The dough is loaded with salt, so that it is not edible, but when we moved to humid New Zealand it softened up and the local weevils did not mind the salt at all. I suppose some bug somewhere would love the gumdrops.

I do crafts that I have a calling for. I would rather have a book just on that craft than a general book that shows the craft without being able to teach you how that craft really works.

Glenna said...

I caught some of "Martha's" embroidery in her overly produced mag. It's every bit as sterile as the rest of her stuff (although I do like some of her recipes). And simple and glum and pretentious. So pray to God she doesn't take on the true needlecrafts because she'll wring all the life out of them.

Bronny said...

Thank you for the humourous review....gave me quite a giggle. I get more craft ideas and inspirations from bloggers than Martha...

doris said...

I'm finally catching up with your posts, and it's worth every second. Oh, you make me laugh. I can just picture you looking through that encyclopedia and making comments. I have to call my sister right now and read this to her so we can laugh about Martha.

LadyDoc said...

There's no chance I would ever buy this, and it's unlikely I would even pick it up long enough to leaf through, so thanks for so many chuckles I would have missed!

Mayté said...

Well I have done crafts for years, when I moved to Europe I lost all my books and magazines, for that reason when I saw MS Encyclopedia, after 2 times I went through it I decide to purchase it.

I think is a nice collection of projects, as I never buy magazines that are not needlework specialist.