Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Experience on The Martha Stewart Show

I went on The Martha Stewart Show! Here is a link to my segment on making polymer clay covered eggs:
Liz Smith on The Martha Stewart Show, March 24, 2010

The experience was completely overwhelming so instead of flooding you with random ramblings, I will try to answer some FAQ I have been getting, and please let me know if you have more Q after, I will do my best to answer!

(For another point of view, check out my husband's blog post.)

Q: How did this happen? How did they find you? Did they contact you or did you contact them?

A: They contacted me through Etsy. The producers at The Martha Stewart Show [TMSS] know about Etsy; apparently Martha loves technology plus craft. They look at Etsy for crafters, who knew? I was told by the producer who contacted me that she saw my shop and liked my eggs, then she saw my name again, in Kari Chapin's book, The Handmade Marketplace (I am part of Kari's "Creative Collective"). Seeing my name in the book made the producer feel confident to contact me, I was bona fide. (A thousand thank yous, Kari!!)

I was asked to submit a video and a written how-to for the polymer clay covered eggs I've been making for 15 or 20 years. I devised a design for the egg that was straight forward that I thought I could teach quickly and would make the average person feel confident enough to try it.

Once the producer, Noel, saw the video I submitted, she asked for samples of completed eggs, which I sent to her.

I only waited a day while they decided whether or not this would work for their show and lucky for me, they said yes! The whole process from start to air date took one month.

Q: Where did you have to go?

A: TMSS is filmed in New York! We drove there, 4 1/2 hours in a downpour at night, flooded roads, wow. That was awful. Dell, my husband, was heroic! We made it there safely and stayed at a Holiday Inn in Manhattan. Everyone at the hotel was super nice and professional and we had an amazing 20th floor view of the Empire State Building.

Q: Did you rehearse?

A: I spent two days with TMSS. Day one was prep, day two was the show. They have an AMAZING craft room where professional crafters/set designers work on crafts for the show. I worked with Kirsten, who was incredibly nice and patient. We had to figure out which steps would be the ones we did on camera and which ones would be "swap outs" (completed steps we could jump to). I cannot say enough nice things about TMSS crafters, wow, talented, friendly and down to earth. They were so kind to me, I really appreciated it.

I loved discovering that everyone there was genuinely interested in crafts. They really wanted to know how I made the eggs. They loved seeing the process and I think some of them are going to try the project themselves!

BTW, I brought all the craft supplies I would need for the segment with me.

The second day was rehearsal and show. The project was moved over to the set for me, which is in a different building across the street.

The set was decorated beautifully! (That was my egg tree they used). Chip and Kirsten (and others, I'm sure) created that Easter wonderland you see on camera. Gorgeous! Kirsten made sure the work area was set up exactly how we'd need it. She took care of details like seeing that the pasta machines were attached to the tables correctly, that we used anti-glare work surfaces, and that the plexi would stay put when we worked on it. Details like that were crucial in making this work.

I rehearsed with Lenore, my segment producer, she stood in for Martha and went over the steps with me. First I went through the moves for the cameras so they knew what to expect when we filmed later that morning.

I don't know how they do it, those camera people are pros because it's all live and sorta unpredictable. After the cameras moved on to rehearse another segment in the kitchen, Lenore stayed behind with me and we went over the steps again. I would have loved to go through the steps a thousand times, but time was short and makeup wasn't done with me yet.

As an added bonus of awesomeness, the art department had seen my mom's watercolor cards in my Etsy shop and asked for some to decorate the set!! I was so focused on my tasks there, I didn't even notice they had hung them on the wall of the craft set until we looked at Dell's pictures.

Q: Uh huh, that's interesting, wait, it's LIVE??

A: Yes. It's shot live and you get one chance to do it right.

Q: So they dress you? Do hair and makeup?

A: They told me to wear what I wanted as long as it was appropriate and colorful, no stripes or patterns. They did do my hair and makeup and wow, I wish I could experience that again, it was so much fun!! I started to feel like a princess.

A very nice guy, Jim, steamed my shirt while nice ladies preened me, wow. The makeup lady cleaned up my eyebrows. She was like, "Is it OK if I do this?" I was like "What?? A professional New York TV makeup artist wants to do my brows? YES!!" The producers said I was lucky, everyone wants their brows done but there's never any time because all the people who are going on the show go through that chair and she is constantly busy with makeup and touch-ups.

Mary was the woman who miked me. She was kind enough to put the battery pack up high on the back of my bra instead of inside the back of my pants so I could continue to use the bathroom every 15 minutes like I had been doing all morning.

Q: Were you nervous?

A: I was so freaked out the night before, I woke up at 4 in the morning. I became more and more terrified as air time approached. I had a strong fight-or-flight response with emphasis on the flight part and poor Dell had to witness it. At one point in the green room I was mumbling "I don't think this is for me, I don't think I am suited for this..." He grabbed both my hands and said "I know it's scary." And just held my hands. Man I love him! While we were in this standing-double-hand-hold, someone peeked their head into the room and ducked out quickly. We realized they must have thought we were having a moment of prayer which cracked us up and broke the tension.

Q: What was it like to actually be on the show?

A: Joel, a guy with a headset and clipboard plus a warm friendly smile and easy laugh, came to get me to go on set. The sweet woman who did my hair followed me all the way to the stage door trying desperately to tame my cowlick seconds before I went onstage.

The giant stage door opened and Joel guided me across a writhing maze of camera cables between the audience and the backs of the cameras. As I quickly walked through I glanced up at the elevated audience of smiling (mostly) women in bright colored clothes, it was a pretty sight under the super bright lights.

This is how far away the regular audience sat:

Joel put me in position behind the craft table and I locked eyes with Dell, whom they had placed in the VIP seats right in front of me, about 15 or 20 feet away. That made me calm and gave me strength.

I was only there a few seconds before someone counted down and Martha came over, greeted me and we were off! She started reading the teleprompter and I tried to keep smiling at her.

Q: What's Martha like?

A: I have no idea! I spent as much time with her as you see in the clip. All I know is she is a PRO and she is fearless and I don't know how she does that every day. I find it very charming that she just barrels forward no matter what happens. That is a great skill.

I also want to mention how I think she made it OK for women to be strong in business and still like crafting. We don't have to give up our love of creating to be savvy entrepeneurs. And look at this crafting community! We are all doing both and being taken seriously. I love it.

Q: Did it go really fast?

A: It was like being pushed to the edge of a superhighway with cars zipping by at 80 miles an hour and they tell you, "Cross the road! Don't worry, you've crossed a road a million times before, go ahead, you'll do great! Oh, and we're timing you." Hahaha! Wow. It happened really fast. Luckily only one person got injured.

My producer, Lenore, was flashing cards I could see just out of the corner of my eye that told me how many minutes were left in the bit and maybe a keyword that told me where I needed to get to fast, for example to the last part of the segment, go go go! Meanwhile Martha was off on her own adventure, ha!

The most important skills I needed were to be able to talk and "do" at the same time, which I was OK at but also to point at things so the camera could focus on them instead of picking them up which I still need to work on :)

Then it was over! Several people came to give Martha bandaids and she asked to keep an egg. I gave her the finished version of the one she was working on in "Martha green". A professional photographer took a shot of us together and I was whisked offstage.

Lenore said I did a great job, which I was thrilled to hear, I had NO IDEA how it looked to the audience. I asked her if it "made good TV" and she said yes, so I felt like I did her proud. I wanted her to feel she made a good choice picking me to craft on the show. The crafters I met the day before also said it went well and I really appreciated them taking the time to tell me that.

Q: Did you get any swag?

A: I did! A bag full of Martha's new cleaning supplies. Being chemically sensitive, I was hopeful they wouldn't make me allergic, and they don't! I put the liquid soap in the ladies room at Western Avenue Studios and when it runs out, I think I will get more.

For being in the audience, Dell got a cookbook and the free pasta machine and polymer clay the show had wrangled for the attendees. Do you think he'll mind if I snag the craft supplies?

Q: Did you get to meet Rob Corddry?

A: Nope, but I was in the hall when he went flying by after his segment ended. He was saying something like "That was actually a lot of fun!"

Q: What did you do after taping finished?

A: They packed up all my stuff for me and we went to get our car which was buried in a subterranean parking garage two blocks away. Then we drove into Manhattan noon traffic. Wow. Can I mention Dell's heroic driving again? OK, then yes, the man was fantastic! In New York, it seems to me like the pedestrians and the cars are different types of cells all flowing in the same veins, curling around each other in narrow chutes. It's kind of amazing and completely cringe-inducing at the same time. I thought for sure I was going to witness grisly carnage many times per block, but no accidents happened while I was looking.

I called my mom from the gridlock, then we busted loose from the grip of the city and drove straight home. I think I exhaled in Connecticut.


I would like to take a moment to express my complete gratitude for the outpouring of support and encouragement I have received during this whole surreal experience. You all have been so gracious, so kind, so excited for me, I am completely humbled and honored. Thank you.

Photo by Liz of Lush Beads

I wanted to do that show more than anything I've wanted in a long time. And it was harder than anything I've ever done in my life. I'm so grateful I had the chance to do it and for all the people at the show who helped me look good for 7 minutes. So much work goes into those 7 minutes, it's pretty incredible.

I am so glad I did it and I am so glad to be back home with my cat and my pajamas. Back in Lowell where I can go to my studio every day and see my good friends, talented artists all. My studio where I can make my little felty things and build up my inventory and complete custom orders and interact with my online crafting community. I live a peaceful, mostly uncomplicated life of making things and selling them, then going home and cooking my husband dinner. A lot of people helped get me here. It's exactly what I want and I couldn't be more lucky. Thank you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm going on The Martha Stewart Show!

I know, it's sorta insane, right? But producers at The Martha Stewart Show asked me to come on and show Martha how I make my polymer clay eggs, so here I go!

The show will be on Wednesday, March 24th. It's syndicated instead of being on any one network, so check your local listings.


BTW, they also asked for mom's cards to decorate the set for spring! They requested Chickens and Iris, go mom!