AIGA Honours Gael Towey

Tomorrow, the American Institute of Graphic Arts will honour one of the most influencial people in my life, Gael Towey, who is the organization's 2014 Medalist. I have never met Gael, sadly, but she has been a part of my life for well over a decade. Unbeknownst to her, she has taught me so much simply by doing what she does best and I have been fortunate to have seen so much of her work through Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and its various brands. From publication design to product packaging, Gael Towey's partnership with Martha has been, for me, the most consistent source of inspiration as it pertains to the visual presentation of ideas - a theme I'm mildly obsessed with. I was thrilled to learn that the AIGA will be recognizing her talent and her pioneering work at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she worked for over two decades, helping to shape and define the essence of this global brand.

photo by Johnny Miller

Gael began working with Martha in the early 1980s when she was the art director at Clarkson Potter. She collaborated with Martha on many of her early books, including Martha Stewart's Gardening and Martha Stewart's Weddings, building the foundation to the quintessential Martha Stewart underpinnings: bold, lush photography; information that is presented in an organized and pleasing way on the page; those iconic Martha Stewart colours; inspiration and information delivered in a bright, beautiful package.

It was in 1990, however, when Martha hired Gael to design her new magazine, Martha Stewart Living, that their partnership really began to deliver some groundbreaking results. Never before had a women's magazine treated the subjects of domesticity and homemaking with such reverence. This was not simply a throw-away guide to household management. It was a large publication, beautifully designed with dynamic photography and well-researched articles that exhalted the domestic arts in a book-like magazine you wanted to cherish and keep and consistently refer back to.

I cannot emphasize enough how groundbreaking the Martha Stewart Living model really was at the time. No other publication had the founder's name on the cover (Gael encouraged Martha to do so) and no other magazine brought together every home-related subject under one title: cooking, homekeeping, crafting, gardening, decorating, entertaining, holidays, kids, pets... All of these subjects were lyrically articulated on the page through well-researched and engaging texts that were further enhanced by the dazzling photography. Nearly every women's magazine that existed at the time attempted to adopt at least some aspects of the Martha Stewart model because its effect was so inspiring to the reader.

After serving as the company's chief creative director, the magazine's editor-in-chief and the all-round visual guru at Martha Stewart Living, Gael left in 2012 to start a new chapter. Her 60th birthday was the perfect time, she thought, to step away and spend some time with her family. She also had time to develop some new film projects she had been thinking about and has since made a series of videos about creative people, including fashion designer Natalie Chanin and artist Maira Kalman.

I want to congratulate Gael and to thank her for giving me so much to "look at" over the years. My eye has been so dazzled by her beautiful visual presentations and my aesthetic standard has been duly elevated. I have learned so much from her. I was pleased to see her editorial contribution to the May issue of Martha Stewart Living and I hope to see more of her work in future issues. Below are some examples of her collaboration with MSLO over the years.


Domestic Insight: Eggcups

When my brother and I would stay with my grandparents as children, we always looked forward to the breakfasts my grandmother would make for us. Often, that breakfast included soft-boiled eggs served in pretty eggcups with a little plate of ''toast fingers'' for dipping. I now have two of those eggcups in my kitchen cupboard and each time I look at them I remember those sunny mornings at my grandmother's dining room table. They are shown in the photo below.
They were made in the 1950s in England by Wood & Sons in the Clovelly pattern. My mother and my aunt also used these as children and they are very special to me.
Indeed, the collecting of eggcups is so popular today that it has been given its own name: pocillovy, which comes from the Latin pocillum ovi, meaning "a small cup for an egg." Eggcups have existed for centuries. The earliest known examples were unearthed at Pompeii but no individual has been credited with its invention. Their inception was no doubt due to the very difficult task of eating hot eggs cooked in their shells; they are unwieldy on plates and impossible to hold with bare hands. The design of the eggcup is brilliant in its simplicity and functionality, holding a cooked egg firmly upright. With the top of the egg shell removed, the egg can be scooped out with a small spoon and enjoyed at one's leisure.
Nearly every maker of dinnerware has designed a selection of eggcups. Wedgwood, Spode, Royal Doulton, Limoge, Fire King Jadeite, Catherineholm all produced (and still produce) eggcups. The materials used to make eggcups are just as varied as their makers: ceramic, porcelain, wood, plastic, glass and even silver. There are majolica eggcups, Fiestaware eggcups and ebony eggcups. Plenty for the pocillovist to choose from!
There are two basic kinds of eggcups: the single cup and the double cup. The single cup rests upon a decorative pedestal while the double cup can be inverted to offer two different cup sizes, either to accommodate a larger egg type, such as goose or duck, or to act as a serving dish for eggs that have been scooped out of their shells.
That the eggcup has been such a constant in the kitchens of families all over the world for centuries is not surprising. Their beautiful design and purpose ensures the eggcup will be around for a very long time to come. As long as there are eggs, there will be eggcups!
Click here to watch Martha discuss the history of eggcups.
Click here for a very comprehensive collection of links about eggcups and eggcup collecting.
Eggcups are not reserved for eggs only. They can serve many purposes, including acting as tiny vases. Spring flowers in pretty nosegays look lovely arranged in a collection of eggcups shown here. You could also use them to display spring bulbs or store small objects, such as safety pins, stamps or small pieces of jewelry, as shown below. (Photo Martha Stewart Living)
(Left photo by Skona Hem; Right photo by Midwest Living)
Three ironstone double eggcups date to the 1930s and '40s, shown top right. A novelty cup in treen (turned wood) is decorated with a cute painted face and holds a matching egg with a painted-on Orphan Annie hairdo. The single cup holding the blue egg has a plate attached and the one behind it is made of plastic and chrome with a removable lid. Silver luster stripes enhance a streamlined Art Moderne ceramic cup from the 1930s. (Photo Martha Stewart Living)
These beautiful Scandinavian, French and American examples of eggcups are extremely alluring with their darker tones. (The ivory-coloured eggcup shown at far left is actually made of white chocolate, formed in a rare eggcup chocolate mold.) The materials here include ceramic, porcelain, ebony and black glass. (Photo Martha Stewart Living)
In this photo a multitude of eggcup designs is shown, among them a milk-glass cup in the shape of a chick and a chick's head from the 1960s. The eggcup with the green stripe at the top is Japanese lusterware from the 1930s. The double-cup, far left, is by Wedgwood and top right is a cook-and-serve wire eggcup, also from the 1930s. My favourite is the eggcup with the two chatty peeps, made for the Fanny Farmer candy company. (Photo Martha Stewart Living)
During Victorian times, silver eggcups were extremely popular and were often given to children as Easter gifts or at Christenings. They are not very common today since the silver reacts to the sulphur of the egg, resulting in tarnish. Since silver is also a heat conductor, hot eggs would heat the eggcup, making it difficult to handle. In this photo, however, chocolate eggs do very nicely in silver!


My Spring Cleaning Checklist

Unbeknownst to my husband, the weekend of April 26th will be one filled with dusting, sweeping, scrubbing, sorting, polishing and all-round cleaning. He will find out, of course, once I print out the room-by-room Spring Cleaning checklist you see below. The list is specific to our needs and because we live in an apartment with only a few rooms we dodge some pretty scary bullet-points: organizing the garage, for instance, or cleaning the basement.
In the spirit of Martha's wisdom, I consider cleaning house to be rather good for the soul and do not consider it drudgery. Tomas, my husband, has a more difficult time with this philosophy. Spring cleaning is a foreign concept to him (literally) since in Puerto Rico, where he grew up, there really is no such thing as spring cleaning. The tropical climate lessened the need to purge or sort or tidy on a seasonal basis. To help make the process more fun, I designed the checklist below to be pretty and inviting. I will print it on nice paper and have it magnetized to our refrigerator door. It will help us tackle our plan of action and compile any cleaning supplies we may need ahead of time. We will divide the chores between two days (two very full days!) and will feel so much better knowing that we've been thorough in our approach. We'll put on some good music (Tomas will come up with a great playlist, I'm sure) and get down to business! What does your spring cleaning routine look like?


The May Issue

Like a blast of sunshine, a blaze of petaled glory, the May issue of Martha Stewart Living is making its way to the mailboxes of subscribers. The cover is so exuberant and bright that it's impossible not to feel instantly cheery when you look at it. I have not received the issue yet, myself, but I'm anxious to browse its pages. It will be on newsstands April 21.


Book of the Month: Gypsy ~ A World of Colour & Interiors

After spending nearly ten years working as an interior designer and stylist in New York City for clients such as Donna Karan, Vogue Living, Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman, Sibella Court is heading home to Sydney, Australia, where she is opening her first shop, called The Society Inc. The young designer took the world of American interiors by storm by introducing a new and refreshing approach to living: filling a space with the objects you love. Now there's a novel idea! To call Sibella's style ''shabby chic'' or ''boho'' would be to minimize its depth. The rooms she creates are moody and atmospheric with layer upon layer of personal, treasured finds: a minimalist's nightmare and a collector's dream.
The designer-turned-bestselling-author has just released her latest tome, and it is my selection as the Book of the Month - a new feature on Martha Moments I hope to continue. It is called Gypsy: A World of Colour and Interiors and I think it is her best book to date. What makes it special is its global review of style, interpreted by one individual and then translated into beautiful rooms that we can all take lessons from. The book is filled with gorgeous photography and Sibella's own scrapbook of her travels to Scotland, Transylvania, Ecuador and Indonesia. She gives us insight into the people she meets, the food she tastes and all the beautiful objects she collects along the way. The rooms are utterly romantic and unique. Below are some images from the book and I highly suggest you at least browse its pages. Hopefully you will discover a new concept of home, as I did.

Sibella Court has authored several books and each one is a treasure. Bowerbird is a collector's bible. I am not talking about collecting Wedgwood or majolica, mind you. This book will appeal to the individual who collects rocks, feathers, pressed flowers and scraps of textile. The Stylist's Guide to NYC is an essential book for anyone who adores New York and wants to discover some of its hidden retail gems. Sibella breaks the code of silence and shares all the stores that New York's top stylists love to visit. Nomad is for the traveler who fills the empty spaces in her suitcases with found seashells and flea-market finds from far-off places. Etcetera was Sibella's first book and is a fine introduction to her eclectic style with beautiful photographs and notes on surrendering to the idea of living with the things you love.


New "Real Weddings" Special Issue

There is a new special issue of Martha Stewart Weddings on the newsstands today, filled with beautiful, practical wedding ideas and advice you won't find anywhere else. The best thing about Real Weddings (an ongoing special-issue theme for the magazine) is that it highlights numerous details from actual weddings, which makes the publication very accessible and very useful for the bride-to-be. There are 11 'real' weddings featured in this issue, from San Francisco to Colorado Springs, plus several more 'stylized' features: there are sections devoted to gorgeous gowns, flowers, cakes and those personal touches that make a celebration memorable. The casual observer may not notice Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence on the cover but there she is: tall blonde, far right. She was a bridesmaid at her brother's wedding in Kentucky last October.


Great Egg-spectations

Martha’s hosting an Easter contest called Martha's Good Eggs (no bad eggs allowed) and she wants you to enter! She's looking to find the best decorated Easter eggs in the U.S. -- and she has crafty prizes for the ones that really wow her! Do you have what it takes to impress the Queen of Crafts? Whether you create a gorgeous decal egg, a decoupaged masterpiece, a FabergĂ©-inspired stunner, or a glittered egg that shimmers and shines, the editors at Martha Stewart Living want to see you break out of your shell this Easter and craft something egg-straordinary! Martha Stewart Living will be accepting photograph submissions of your best-decorated Easter eggs from April 4th to April 10th. Once the editors select their 50 favorites, they’ll open it up to you for voting, and they’ll announce the grand prize winner on April 17th. The top 50 picks will be featured on MarthaStewart.com to inspire crafters everywhere! Click here for the contest rules and regulations. Click here for a look at some of my favourite Martha Stewart egg crafts from issues past.