Martha Stewart, Alleged Hipster Icon

Jen Doll
Martha Stewart, Alleged Hipster Icon

There are as many "types" of hipsters as there are unique and beautiful-in-their-way Tupperware containers. Some of those hipsters, as it turns out, are inspired by Martha Stewart, who happens to be in the business of selling food-storage containers, among other things. On the front page of Monday's New York Times, Christine Haughney examines this new breed of unlikely Martha devotees. For example, "Tony Stinkmetal, a many-tattooed East Village artist and a fixture at the Artists and Fleas craft bazaar in Brooklyn" who "changed his name from Michilini for professional reasons." These are tough-in-appearance guys and gals with secret soft cores of yarn; tattooed, edgy residents of places like New York City's Alphabet City ... who also like making things, decorating, baking — and perhaps selling those things, for money. Who woulda thunk. (Have you been to a flea market in any urban enclave lately? Looked at Etsy.com? Ordered from an artisanal food truck?)

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Anyway. Stinkmetal and his business partner Keith Bishop created the brand Golly NYC, "a brand of T-shirts and lamps created from vintage children’s sheets (depicting cartoons or superheroes), inspired by Ms. Stewart’s emphasis on craftsmanship and perfectionism." They learned it all from watching Martha, specifically, "a 5 a.m. rerun of a Martha Stewart program on how to turn a castoff men’s jacket into a throw blanket." Which means, obviously, Martha <3 hipsters <3 Martha. Further evidence of the connective tissue between two who might be otherwise seen as strangers or frenemies, from Haughney's piece:

“She’s such a Suzy homemaker and also did some time in the joint,” said Luis Illades, an owner of Urban Rustic, where some of Ms. Stewart’s store-bought decorations appeared.

“The truth is, in my own little Alphabet City tattooed way, I’m uptight too, and I like to do things right,” said Mr. Stinkmetal.

As Haughney writes, "Ms. Stewart, the 71-year-old founder, has emerged as something of a patron saint for entrepreneurial hipsters, 20- and 30-somethings who, in a post-recessionary world, have begun their own pickling, cupcake and letterpress businesses and are selling crafty goods online." Even Martha Stewart Living magazine's editor in chief Pilar Guzman identifies a demographic that's somewhere between Colonial and The Other Williamsburg. The folks in the latter group are reading their tips and getting project ideas online — and then, possibly, meeting up in real life to work on those projects, and probably blogging about them, too. DIY, freedom from mass-market merchandise, having something original that you made for yourself, or purchased from a local establishment, maybe online ... It's the circle of life, Pinterest-style. And what's really so different about Martha Stewart and the crafty and creative types who make their own food and possibly clothing from scratch, design their own tattoos, buy or sell things that are artisanal, possibly on Etsy, or out of food trucks? Nothing! Well, maybe not nothing, but they share a few things, sure.

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“She’s like the Jesus of the craft world,” said one fan to Haughney. Yet, Haughney writes, "Despite all of this encouraging news, Ms. Stewart’s company still has not figured out how to make these loyal fans lift it out of its deep financial troubles, no matter how many costs are cut." The problem is that no matter how much so-called hipsters love Martha, these hipsters are not terribly likely to buy her merch at (or set foot in) the big department stores. And then there's that whole problem with print. Yet following someone for craft or recipe inspiration and buying what they mass produce are two very different things. Maybe the trouble here isn't really about any of that, a dichotomy in Martha's career that's existed pre-Internet, the difference between admiring or using for inspiration and actually buying. Maybe it's about insisting on wrapping her new model fans into the homemade refurbished blanket of hipsters, a word that manages to mean both everything and nothing. Imagine: If we stop throwing around the label hipster to mean whatever we want it to, to add shock value or fun to a story that's really just about crafty people liking crafts, and maybe selling them, despite a propensity toward tattoos, where would we be? We'd just be talking about Martha Stewart.