Gael Towey: A life in stories beyond Martha Stewart Living

After spending nearly 22 years at the creative helm of Martha Stewart Living, Gael Towey left in late 2012 to pursue something different, though she didn’t know what that would be at the time. She and Martha had practically invented the DIY revolution, encouraging their readers to craft their own lives, from cooking to sewing to entertaining. Towey led the brand strategy for everything Martha, including magazines, books, and products.

She took a much needed hiatus for six months, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and pondering her next move. Since Towey is so adept at storytelling, she decided to do documentary shorts, thus she started her next venture, Portraits in Creativity, which features artists and artisans doing what they do best. It’s an intimate look at the creative journey, through the experiences of the makers.

Here we talk to her about the creative journey from Martha Stewart Living to now, and the inherent challenges and benefits of being so intimately linked to a brand everyone identifies with.

Was it hard going out on your own after being at Martha Stewart Living for so long?

It was time to go. I knew that they were going to downsize and start closing magazines, and I didn’t really want to stick around for that. It was the end of 2012, I had just turned 60, and I thought, I’m still young and energetic and have lots of ideas, I need to have time for myself so that I can do something that’s really from my heart.

I’m so glad that I had the nerve to think that I could do something for myself. When I left, I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I knew I wanted to keep working but I gave myself six months to just decompress, travel, get together with friends who I had not seen in a long time. I almost never had time go out to lunch with friends for 22 years! That’s a slight exaggeration, but being able to do that opened a world of building relationships, and reconnecting and networking, which is good. I needed that.

I had amazing experiences at Martha Stewart. I was there for all the inventions and creativity and I feel enormously lucky. I learned so much and I was exposed to so much. Some of my happiest days at Martha Stewart Living were out shooting stories around the country: flowers and gardens, profiles of farmers, chefs and entertainers. Whether it was shooting peonies in Illinois or cheese making in Vermont or a new chef in Colorado, the opportunity to get around America and learn about makers and growers was enormously gratifying. I worked with incredible photographers, editors, and stylists to create our iconic photographs and tell stories in visually stunning ways.

At Martha Stewart I learned about creative, visually seductive storytelling. I bring that sensibility into my Portraits in Creativity series, where I have tried to capture the essence of a person in a profile that is only eight to twelve minutes long.

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

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Hypno-Baco-Tool-Rific!

Many design shops create calendars that get sent out once a year, or drip campaigns that are more frequent but typically no fun. Fifth Letter in Winston Salem, NC combined the best of both worlds and had some fun doing it, creating quarterly calendars that celebrate under-rated holidays in a beautiful, tactile format.

According to Fifth Letter’s ringleader, Elliot Strunk, his team started working on this concept in fall 2015, researching a list of odd holidays, and finding ways to loosely tie them together. “We tried to find ones that would not only be fun to spotlight but would also fit together into some sort of theme,” he says. Who knew people worshipped their tools on March 11? Read the rest of the article here.

fifth letter collage

Expert Tips on How to Create a Killer Digital Portfolio

Online portfolios are of the utmost importance for creative professionals today. If you’re in the process of developing a digital portfolio, you can’t afford to view it as a mere collection of work samples; you need to think of it as your preeminent marketing piece. Following are expert tips on strategically developing a digital portfolio that pops.

Ram Castillo is an award-winning designer and art director, and author of How to Get a Job as a Designer, Guaranteed. He’s also the instructor of a CreativeLive course titled Create a Knockout Design Portfolio. Here, Castillo walks us through his top digital portfolio tips — what to include, what not to include, and how to put it all together to land that next creative job. Read the article, here.

Job Interviewing Tips for Recent Grads

With so many recent graduates vying for jobs in the creative industry, it’s integral that you bring your A-game to the job interview. Here, leaders from three prominent creative agencies offer interviewing tips and weigh in on what they look for in entry-level talent.

Brian Collins (founder of COLLINS), Amy Marshall (talent director at Hornall Anderson) and Michael Osborne (principal of Michael Osborne Design) are always on the lookout for strong creative job candidates to join their respective — and highly respected — firms. We spoke to them about what newly minted graduates need to know when they walk through an employer’s door. Gain an edge in today’s competitive job market by considering their interviewing tips:

What advice do you have for recent graduates going on their first interview? What materials should they prepare? 

Collins: It’s simple: Bring the kind of work you long to do.

Marshall: They really need to be prepared to talk through their work. Not just what the assignment or project was, but why they made the decisions they did regarding the design or strategy. What was the concept or idea behind the creative decision? Even if they think it may be obvious, they need to be able to articulate the idea.

Osborne: Good candidates know how to articulate their ideas and solutions for the projects in their portfolio. In the presentation, you can pretty much tell who loves what they’re doing. I’d rather get someone who’s passionate and has great potential. I can teach the person to be a great designer, but I can never teach them to be passionate or professional. Read the rest of the advice here.

7 Freelancing Tips You Need To Read Before You Give Notice

Arianna Orland’s innate curiosity has gotten her far in her career. Never satisfied with the status quo, she continually uses both inquiry and hustle to propel herself to grow and acquire the necessary skills to be successful. She refers to this process as “reinvention.”

Arianna has worked for several companies as a designer in many different capacities over in the past 15+ years—either as a full-time employee or consultant, and what she learned in the process is that she likes the independence and freedom associated with working for herself, because it keeps her perspective sharp and allows her to create across the breadth of her expertise. All of this freedom is not without its challenges. Arianna acknowledges “As a freelancer, you’re your only advocate. You have to understand what your time is worth and how to negotiate the best fees to maintain your business, no one else will do this for you but you.”

After leaving her last full-time job a year ago as Senior Director Creative of Global Brand at Zynga, she now runs her own consulting business, working with startups and Fortune 500 companies on creative direction, brand strategy, and user experience. Of course, never satisfied with just doing one thing, she also is the founder and proprietress behind Paper Jam Press, a letterpress poster and apparel business she founded in 2009.

“You know that expression if you really love something, it doesn’t feel like work? Paper Jam Press never feels like work to me. It feels like a source of inspiration, teaches me things all the time, and consistently reminds me why making things with our hands for other people to enjoy is the most magical thing we as designers can do.” she says.

Reinvention isn’t easy, especially when it comes to freelancing. Here, Arianna shares some advice for those adventurous souls looking to make the move from full-time employment to being self-employed. Read her tips here.

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