Brian Utz's Halloween Magic

My friend Brian Utz (a longtime Martha Moments reader) knows how to do Halloween! It is one of his favourite holidays and he often turns to Martha Stewart Living for inspiration and how-to when planning his Halloween parties and events. I'm always very happy to showcase Brian's work. You can read about Brian's past Halloween parties on the blog by clicking here. Below is a compilation of Brian's great Halloween projects - past and present. There is much more to be read about his inspiring ideas on his website, The Morbid Homemaker. (An appropriate title, don't you think?) If you happen to be in the Philadelphia area, you can also catch occasional radio segments with Brian on "Mornings with Liz Bell" on Warm 103.3. I love seeing Brian's creativity at work and I hope you do too! Enjoy the photographs and get inspired this Halloween!   
Brian often uses Martha's special Halloween issues as inspiration for his costumes. Last year he made this stunning mask of a 'big-headed' French aristocrat, which was featured in the 2013 special Martha Stewart Halloween magazine. The year before that, Brian made his own 'Motha' costume, modeled after the one Martha wore.

This year, Brian held a Halloween Crafternoon Party with some of his young family members. It looks delightful! You can read more about it here.

 When it comes to decorating for Halloween, Brian always goes all out!

 Brian's pumpkin spice whoopie-pies? Yes please!
 If they run out, I'll happily try Brian's pumpkin bread!
This year, Brian held a 'Coven' party - a witch-themed gathering in his backyard. You can read all about the details and the menu here.

 Deliciously-oversized sugar cookies in festive Halloween shapes, smothered with icing!
 Brian's living room was completely transformed for the party! Spooky!
On his front lawn, a pretty scare-crow greets visitors. Happy Halloween!

MSLO Third Quarter Conference Call Recap

At the end of each fiscal quarter, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which is a publicly-traded company, hosts a conference call for its investors and for Wall St. analysts to review its business: earnings, losses, new partnerships, operational changes, etc. My friend Kenn, who is an MSLO investor, sat in on the call and provides a brief recap, below. Among the significant announcements  is the expiration of the deal with Avery and Staples and its Martha Stewart Home Office line, which will expire at the end of the year. Also significant is the announcement that MSLO is in talks with a Canadian retailer to bring some of Martha's home merchandise to Canadian store shelves! (This is obviously very exciting for me! Currently in Canada we have access only to her craft merchandise and the aforementioned home-office line, which will be gone in 2015.) Please read Kenn's thorough review of the call. I think you will find it interesting.


This call was all about preparing for the transition from a media business to a design and content creation company. This Saturday marks the start of a 'new' MSLO as the Meredith agreement goes into effect.

I'm not sure how many people are into the financials… but MSLO did show a loss for the quarter. The 3rd quarter is typically the weakest quarter of the year. Even with the loss, they did beat Wall Street estimates of 'how much loss,' though they did miss revenue estimates. You can read all the financial information via the website under investor relations.

There are several new merchandising opportunities:

An upcoming partnership with "Fat Head," a Michigan based company that specializes in wall art. Think very large repositionable decals for the wall.

There is an upcoming Home Fragrance line. This one surprised me since Martha has frequently mentioned how she doesn't like "scents" in the home.

An expansion of the Macy's line called "Whim Martha Stewart Collection." This will be a new line that is youthful and whimsical, instead of the traditional designs MSLO is known for. Think Blueprint, for those that remember the magazine. Macy's is also beginning distribution into Canada which is a significant opportunity for MSLO to reach consumers to our north. 

MSLO is also in negotiation with a company for a retail partnership in Canada.

In other Merchandising news:

Sales are soft at Home Depot. The partnership is still strong, but the sales are soft. Paint ended at the start of the 4th quarter. Outdoor furniture performed poorly this year. No news of any product expansion.

JC Penney continues to report strong consumer reaction to the Martha Window line. Holiday merchandise is now available on line and in stores. MSLO does NOT expect any merchandise expansion with JC Penney. 

MSLO did confirm the termination of the agreement with Avery. Staples stores will continue to sell existing inventory, though no new inventory is being produced. No new partnership has been announced.

In Publishing, a new book, "Clean Slate" hits store shelves on December 16th. MSLO will continue to publish books. Book publishing is not part of the Meredith deal. 'One Pot' reached number 4 on the New York Times bestseller list. 

The December/January issue of Living, due out in just a couple weeks will be the last issue produced by MSLO.

In Television, viewership for Cooking School and Martha Bakes continues to be strong, with over 1.5 million viewers a week. The new season of Martha Bakes is currently under production and will air beginning in January, 2015.


Shriek or Chic: Martha's Costume Reveal

Martha's costume contest, which was turned into a web series called Shriek or Chic: Martha's Haute Halloween Challenge has a winner! Taylor Ormond, 19, a fashion undergrad at FIT, designed a costume inspired by orchids, Martha's favourite flower. Martha's make-up was the only guide the three contestants had when sitting down to design their costumes. To watch the episodes of Shriek or Chic and see what the other designers came up with (as well as Taylor's adorable reaction when she was chosen as the winner) click here.


Happy 20th Anniversary, Martha Stewart Weddings!

Last week, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia celebrated the 20th anniversary of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine by throwing a glamorous bash at the Pierre Hotel in New York City during bridal fashion week. Martha was in attendance, as was the editorial director of Weddings, Darcy Miller. You can read about the party on Martha's blog.
Martha Stewart Weddings has always been a magazine that has set trends, rather than simply regurgitating them. Unpredictable, with a mix of traditional and modern, as well as a refreshing DIY take on many of the details that go into making a wedding memorable have all contributed to the magazine's enormous success. Weddings is Martha's most profitable magazine at the moment and is the second best-selling weddings magazine in the world after Brides magazine. 

What I've always admired about the magazine is its wide range of topics (fashion, cakes, stationery, decorations, etiquette, venues, flowers, bridal bouquets, favours, etc.), its beautiful, award-winning photography and its timeless, helpful advice - whether you are planning a wedding or any special party. I must also mention how refreshing it is to see a weddings magazine that celebrates inclusion by showcasing same-sex marriages in its pages. As a married gay man, myself, it feels very special to be 'seen' in such a popular magazine. 

It is truly one of the best magazines out there for brides and their families, as well as for party planners, people who love to entertain or for those interested in bridal fashion, flower arranging, table settings and all the details that make an event special. Below is a feast for the eyes: some of my favourite imagery from Martha Stewart Weddings.... Happy Anniversary to the entire Martha Stewart Weddings team!



Meet the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Award Winners

Click here to see all of the 2014 Award Winners and all of the American Made alumni, those who inspire us with their beautiful goods, quality craftsmanship, and innovative ideas. These creative entrepreneurs turned their passion into a thriving business. Read their stories, learn about their process, and find some inspiration of your own.
Also, on November 7 and 8, you can meet many of these creators in person at the American Made event in New York City. Martha Stewart and the team at Martha Stewart Living will welcome you to a can’t-miss networking event and maker lecture series at the MSLO headquarters in Manhattan, where you will be treated to insightful talks about entrepreneurship and craftsmanship, an American Made market, craft stations where you can work with Martha Stewart's craft experts, breakfast and lunch provided by hand-picked artisinal purveyors and a cocktail bash at the end of the two-day summit. The event will not only spotlight American makers but will also share a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creative laboratory of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Space is limited, so act quickly and get your tickets today!


Meredith Corp. to Handle Ads, Circulation & Production of Martha's Magazines

Readers of Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings magazines may not notice the changes once they become effective next month, but there has been a significant internal restructuring at the company that will outsource the handling of the magazines' ad sales, circulation and production, while the in-house editorial team will focus exclusively on content creation.

The new partner handling sales, circulation and production of Martha's magazines is Meredith Corporation, which is a leading media marketing company dedicated to leveraging media platforms that serve American women. Meredith currently handles magazines such as Family Circle, Better Homes & Gardens, Traditional Home and Everyday with Rachel Ray. 

Under the terms of this transformative, multi-year agreement, the Martha Stewart Living editorial team will continue to create all content for print and digital properties.  Meredith will also assume responsibility for the sales and marketing of the www.marthastewart.com and www.marthastewartweddings.com websites and MSLO's related digital assets, including its vast video library. MSLO will retain control over the brand's social media channels.

The agreement, which applies to the United States and Canada, is effective November 1, 2014. Meredith will begin delivering editions starting with the February 2015 issue of Martha Stewart Living and the Winter 2014 special issue of Martha Stewart's Real Weddings.

"We are very excited to partner with a great company like Meredith, which has an excellent track record in advertising sales, operations and production of a library of some of our country's most popular magazines.  Our editorial team can focus entirely on what we do best: the creation of inspirational, original, practical, useful, and trusted content for our superb publications and digital properties - content that continually enhances and improves consumers' lives," said Founder and Non-Executive Chairman, Martha Stewart.

For readers who may be worried about a drastic changes to the magazine's look and feel, fear not! A spokesperson for Meredith noted that "the change will be invisible to the consumer, and strengthen the Martha Stewart brand in the advertising marketplace."

I'm actually quite happy with this news. What I'm hoping it means is that we'll see thicker issues with more content, supported by an increase in ad sales. I'm also glad that the magazine's future now seems more assured than ever. The editorial experts can focus on what they do best while the business aspects are handled by a company with proven success across a multitude of media platforms. This will likely mean layoffs at MSLO, however, as it restructures its business, but I'm confident that this new, ten-year plan will only help the magazine grow and develop in the future. 


Book of the Month: "Collected: Living With the Things You Love"

Most of us - if not all of us - remember Fritz Karch, the fantastic, wizzard-like Collecting editor at Martha Stewart Living, who dressed almost exclusively in vintage plaid suits. Fritz has not been with MSLO for a few years, but I was so happy to learn that he has written a new book about his favourite subject: Collecting! He partnered with another MSL alum, Rebecca Robertson, the former Home editor at the magazine, who helped Fritz edit and style the subject matter. Their new book, "Collected: Living With the Things You Love" serves as a guide to collectors, helping them bring their treasures out of storage and into the rooms they live in so that their collections can be enjoyed every day.
The book teaches readers the basic principles of the hunt while exploring the thoughtful and inventive ways people display their various collections, from the accessible and affordable to the aspirational and extreme. The featured collections range from dice to cafĂ© au lait bowls to 19th-century-French sewing tools to sand from world travels—illustrating collections as expressions of personal style. It is divided into 16 chapters by collector type (The Modest, The Minimalist, The Exceptionalist, The Maximalist, etc.) and presents rooms filled with peculiar, elegant and awe-inspiring collections from around the world that suit the specific type of collector. Make sure to add this volume to your book collection!