Don't let the blond 'do and the pressed shirt fool you: Martha Stewart has DIY in her DNA. (When was the last time you rewired a lamp or built a lath house?) She's also a gadget freak, buying new digicams and cell phones as fast as manufacturers can spit them out. And when it comes to making things, she's been giving instruction since most of us were messing with Play-Doh. So Stewart seemed perfect to host our 2007 How To issue.
To interview her, we called on Mark Frauenfelder, a Wired correspondent and the editor of Make magazine. As they sat down in her office, Stewart put her RAZR and BlackBerry on the table in front of her — and then geeked out about home music setups, rude technologies, and Marthapedia.
Wired: What can geeks learn from Martha Stewart?
Stewart: First of all, they can learn to prioritize, and they can learn how to make things beautiful. It's about using your hands and your mind to make things work better. Whether you're a programmer or a seamstress, it's all about new techniques, simplifying old techniques, and consolidating steps. Making things go faster — but not worse. Better.
Wired: One reason people like projects is because they get a sense of control over their environment and technology. It gives them ownership.
Stewart: That's why I say, "You own it if you made it." You don't own the pie if you buy it. You just don't. Doing projects really gives people self-confidence. Nothing is better than taking the pie out of the oven. What it does for you personally, and for your family's idea of you, is something you can't buy.
Wired: You've just relaunched your Web site. Will your readers become content contributors?
Stewart: I'm working on Marthapedia right now, which is my version of Wikipedia. If you know how to take red wine out of a white cloth napkin better than I do, that's good to know. We'll be editing user content, and it won't be as freewheeling as Wikipedia. Because a lot of this — you have to really monitor it.
Wired: OK, let's talk tips. What's your home music setup? How do you keep all the wires and cords to a minimum?
Stewart: I live in an old house with no closets and no built-ins. I hate big cupboards. So, where do you put your stereos and all that stuff? The solution is easy: Put an iPod in each room, like in a drawer. Add wireless speakers and the sound system disappears into the room. It's so simple, and you don't have to buy all that crap. You know how many years of crap I had?
Wired: What did you do with all of it?
Stewart: I put it on a shelf in a storage barn. I have the first computer I ever had — my IBM.
Wired: You saved it?
Stewart: Well, not all of it. I'm not like Nathan Myhrvold. He has warehouses full of that stuff.
Wired: Any simple ideas for charging devices?
Stewart: I have something called the servery. It's a room with two long white marble counters on either side and lots of plugs. That's where everything is — I have my cameras, a lot of batteries, everything.
Wired: Do you have a wireless connection like EV-DO so you can check your email while you're in the car?
Stewart: I have this. [Points to BlackBerry.] I'm constantly in touch. Sometimes it's good; sometimes it's bad.
Wired: There are downsides to everything.
Stewart: I think we are insane. I used to get 120 to 140 phone calls a day. And now rarely does the phone ring — other than a few archaic friends who call me — because of the BlackBerry.
Wired: That's nice, though. You can reply at your convenience.
Stewart: No, I think it's awful. My daughter emails me. When your daughter starts to email you instead of talk to you... It's horrible. You cannot forget human communication. When the Walkman first came out, I called it the Rudeman: Everybody who's listening to those is rude to me. I think part of the reason I got divorced was because of the Rudeman.
Stewart: Oh yeah. I'd be in the garden, weeding and chatting away and no answer! [Laughs.] That was like... when was the Walkman?
Wired: The early '80s, I guess.
Stewart: Yeah, that's it. He had one. Boy, he got out of there fast.