Among the many Martha Stewart books that line my bookshelves, there are several that I recommend to just about everyone who has an interest in the subjects of home and lifestyle. One of them is Great American Wreaths, a slim 144-page volume that was issued in 1996. It is one of the most inspired - and inspiring - books that Martha has ever created. The vision behind its theme is one that was clearly guided by passion (a true love of the United States) and a concise devotion to celebrating the myriad natural wonders of each state through the creation of over 50 beautifully unique wreaths, swags and garlands.
The idea came to Martha while she was interviewing then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House in Washington, D.C., helping her plan the holiday themes and decorations that would adorn the estate's many rooms, balconies and hallways: "Wouldn't it be wonderful to make a wreath representing each U.S. state?" Hillary Clinton and her staff loved the idea and Martha decided then and there that she would do it.
Martha enlisted the help of her magazine's style editor at the time, Hannah Milman - a superb crafter who is now the executive director of the crafts department at Martha Stewart Living. Hannah and Martha worked very closely on this book, writing a list of the 50 states and territories and their capitals, followed by lists of their official state trees and flowers, major agricultural products, minerals and produce. The process took over a year of intense research and investigation to determine what materials to use, as well as to develop a true understanding of the history and purpose of wreath-making in American culture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture was consulted, as was its forestry service. The National Parks service, state agencies and universities were also brought into the fold. Finally, growers, farmers, gardeners, friends and editors were sourced to help design and make the wreaths, determining which method of wreath formation was best suited for the materials being used.
The book is organized into wreath types: wire wreaths, straw forms, living wreaths, swags and garlands, twig wreaths, molded forms, thatched forms and gathered wreaths. Detailed instructions on how to make the wreaths are included, along with informative historical facts about each state and its natural wonders.
I think this book is a brilliant articulation of America's bounty and a touching tribute to its union. It is also a wonderful reflection of Martha's sincere and devoted love for the country she calls home, as well as her incredible talent to turn the inspiration behind a dream into the creation of something beautiful.