The Dialectic of Martha Stewart

We happen to adore Martha Stewart. Perhaps it’s her insatiable appetite for knowledge, her preferred shade of green, or simply the fact that she allocates parcels of time to things like dipping the handles of her tools in enamel (for a variety of excellent reasons that we don’t have time to get into here). But while we can name all of Stewart’s houses and and at least half of her pets (oh, that Paw Paw!), our age-matched peers tend to demonize the domestic diva. But this is particularly tricky for the growing demographic of young, crafty types, for whom it is all but impossible to escape the influence of Stewart, the ur-crafter.

Jamie Passaro explores this cruel irony in the March/April issue of the Utne Reader (you know, the favorite magazine of Lisa Simpson?). After admitting that she both associates Stewart “with baby-boomer corporate badness” and regularly reads Living, Passaro parses the distinct generations of DIY and concludes:

Perhaps the association with Stewart or the stereotype that links domestic craft with housewives is what has prompted a lot of today’s crafters to make items that are imperfect or a little shocking to Grandma: a knitted vibrator cozy or a baby hat embroidered with a skull and crossbones.

But subtract the irony, and the crocheted sushi, knitted sweater vests, and latch-hooked pornography of DIY crafts don’t look that different from the items displayed in county fair textiles exhibits. They use the same techniques and derive from the same impulse: to make things with one’s own hands.

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