When we decided on this month’s family theme, the first person I thought to interview was Darcy Miller Nussbaum. Darcy is perhaps best known as the editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings, but I think of her as the most dedicated documenter of special moments I know. In addition to her work with Weddings, Darcy is a talented and committed scrapbooker and throws some of the sweetest and most well-planned celebrations in the business. From fun children’s parties to elegant weddings, Darcy is constantly coming up with clever ways to celebrate the people you love most in your life. So today I’m thrilled to share her interview about families, celebrations, scrapbooking and how she loves to honor special moments or times in her family’s life.
As a very special surprise, Darcy was kind enough to help us coordinate a huge giveaway to go with her post! In addition to goodies from Martha Stewart’s Craft line and Avery, one lucky winner will receive a package with a signed copy of Darcy’s Our Wedding Scrapbook, gifts from Pinhole Press, Graphic Image, Paper Source and a Dennis Daniels Scrapbox. These are all of Darcy’s hand-chosen favorites, so this is a very special prize to receive. To be eligible, please leave a comment below (the deadline is Monday at 10am EST) about a memory or moment in time that is special to you and why you’d like to commemorate it (and how, if you already have an idea).
The full interview continues below!
Name: Darcy Miller
Occupation: Editorial Director, Martha Stewart Weddings and celebrations expert, author and illustrator
Years in the business: 22 (Martha Stewart Living was my first job out of college!)
Design*Sponge: I’m always intrigued to see how someone’s hometown (or adopted hometown) affects their style or influences. How does New York (or your hometown) shape who you are and what you do?
Darcy: Aside from my four years in Philly attending UPenn, I’ve lived in New York City my entire life. I think the incredible culture here, plus the opportunities this city has to offer, influenced my passion for all things creative. My dad was in men’s wear, based in the Empire State Building, and I can remember as far back as five years old just loving going to work with him, even if it meant organizing fabric swatches. My mom also brought me to all her favorite spots — there was the amazing Denison Paper Goods store on Fifth Avenue we’d visit to search for the perfect stickers and embellishments to make my birthday party invitations (my favorite were these little 3D birthday cakes). And then just up the avenue on 39th Street there was a bead store named Sheru where I’d buy beads to make earrings and necklaces. I’d put them in Ziploc bags and sell them to a small kids’ clothing store on Madison Avenue along with a card that read, embarrassingly enough now, “Darcy Miller Original” (!!!). But it’s kind of crazy that three decades later (don’t do the math please), my work takes me to that same millenary district in Manhattan to shop M&J Trimming, Tinsel Trading and all the other great stores in that area. Most recently I bought the greatest pleated ribbon from M&J that I used to make the favors for celebrity event designer Preston Bailey.
Some afternoons after school, my mom would also bring me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she volunteered. I’d sit and sketch and do my homework in the corner. She helped mount the Met’s Diana Vreeland’s Costume Institute shows for many years. How could that not influence someone? I wish I could go back in time and relive one of those afternoons — Simon Doonan, Harold Koda . . . extraordinary talents all in one room. Too bad we didn’t have Instagram back then!
D*S: How did you get started making scrapbooks and photo albums that celebrate families?
Darcy: I’ve made scrapbooks for as long as I can remember — probably even before I can remember. My mom always made them of our travels. On our first family trip, to Disney Land, she kept a travel journal, which was a combo of her writing and drawings both my sister and I did (scribbles is more like it). Since then, I’ve been a lifelong “collector” of ticket stubs, postcards, notes, pressed flowers from special places — anything that documents where I’ve been and what I’ve experienced. [From] my semester abroad in Italy to a safari to ski trips with friends. And once I met my husband, Andy, I just kept going — I documented our wedding, our travels and life with our daughters. When I found out I was pregnant with my third child, it actually crossed my mind, How am I going to keep up with a third set of scrapbooks?!?
D*S: In today’s digital world, what it is about physically scrapbooking that is so important to celebrating memories?
Darcy: There is something about having a physical memento that is special — being able to hold the menu from a great restaurant you visited on your honeymoon or a note that your daughter scribbled the first time she wrote her name. There is also something about the process of assembling a scrapbook that reminds you of the special occasion and helps document that eventful day through your eyes and hands. When we were planning our wedding, I kept every last note and scrap. It has everything from notes of congratulations on our engagement (including printed-out emails — who would search for those electronically ten years later?), shower invitations, the seating plan for our reception and the notecards our vows were written out on. It even includes our marriage license, a list of wedding gifts and notes and mementos from how we have spent our wedding anniversary each year.
I think it’s so important to document your wedding in a way that is not just the photos, and most people don’t keep everything in one place (a copy of your vows, your invitation, etc). Plus, I think the memories of the wedding are as much about the process of the planning and being engaged as the day itself, so jotting down those funny moments (and some not so funny) is important to have as a keepsake. To inspire others to document their wedding, I published an easy DIY scrapbook, “Our Wedding Scrapbook,” which allows couples to document their wedding in a fun and easy way.
D*S: How would you describe the type of scrapbooking you do?
Darcy: I guess I’d say it’s all about celebrating life’s experiences in a very personal, individual way. All my scrapbooks document something specific: a trip, our wedding, each of our daughters’ school experience (first day of school and class photos, report cards, stories the girls wrote or scripts from school plays or any other type of memento). Photos are a big part of my scrapbooks. I love to play with scale: either I blow them up big or shrink them so there are lots of small photos. Mementos are also important. I use lots of archival sleeves from ClearBags.com that allow me to slip in special notes, birthday cards, a onesie, toasts from our wedding, a coaster from a bar, a ticket from an amusement park or anything else that you don’t want to or can’t paste down onto a page (or that you might want to pull out to read).
Scrapbooks often make the most priceless gifts. (Pinhole Press is one of my favorite sources for online books that are easy and look great.)
D*S: What was the first scrapbook you made, and who was it for?
Darcy: I’m not sure I can say if there was one first, since I began scrapbooking with my mom when she documented our family travels. So my passion for scrapbooking really did begin in childhood and carried over into my adult life. Over time my scrapbooks have evolved, not only in style and size, but also in content. As my daughters grow up, I keep finding things I want to scrapbook, but the contents sometimes do not fit flat in a book. That’s when I came up with “scrap boxes.” I’d been collecting everything from my daughters’ first ballet shoes to artwork. These scrap boxes have been a fun way to not only store some of these mementos, but also to live with them as artwork in our home. We have them up in our apartment, and nothing is more personal.
D*S: What are your work/craft room essentials? What sort of creative objects and/or work tools can you not live without?
Darcy: It’s hard to say what my “essentials” are because I love crafting with so many different types of craft materials, but I guess I’d start with my markers. As an illustrator, hardly a day goes by without the markers being used, which is why they sit in CB2 glasses on top of my desk. For drawing, I love the Sakura Micron markers that come with tips in a range of sizes, and Prismacolor and Zig Kurecolor, both of which have a different tip on each side: one broad, one fine. I use them to doodle a sketch on a thank you note, a party invite or a decoration.
I also use a wide range of colored papers. Most celebrations I host have a color palette, so I’m a big fan of Paper Source since they have so many choices of paper in different colors, sizes, shapes and weights.
And punches — I’m not just saying this because I work at MSLO, but Martha Stewart Craft punches are pretty amazing. I especially like the circle punch. I designed a Nutcracker-inspired party and used this circle edge punch to make angels for décor.
Even though I do so much by hand, technology has helped on that front so much, too. Thanks to my Epson scanner and HP printer, I am always playing with photos and using them to create crafts. Last year I hosted a birthday dinner at my apartment for Martha, and I sent photos of her French bulldogs Sharkey and Francesca to Shutterfly, and they produced oversized and removable wall decals, so her dogs could “attend” the party.
Most of my scrapbooks are from Graphic Image. I have a range of different types, some that you paste directly on the page and some with sleeves, which is slightly easier for a working mom with three children because it lets me just slip in a memento when I don’t have time to craft the whole page. Just knowing it’s there and in place is a step in the right direction. And I get all my scrap boxes from Dennis Daniels.
D*S: What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you typically look for inspiration?
Darcy: I get my inspiration from people whether I am celebrating or documenting — usually the people for whom I’m creating the scrapbooks. I love celebrating and documenting friends and family, and that’s a jumping-off point for anything. Recently in Martha Stewart Weddings, I wrote a list of “20 Questions” as a way to inspire couples to personalize their big day. And although it was geared toward a wedding, really, thinking about the person you are celebrating is the best source of inspiration. I recommend downloading it because it’s a great starting place for how to personalize something for a friend, whether you’re celebrating them or looking for a special gift.
After that, it’s all about color. Everything gets inspired by color.
D*S: When do you feel the most creative or inspired?
Darcy: My family and my friends inspire me. I love to be out there seeing new things, traveling and always meeting new people, experts and artisans. The talented people I work with at MSLO are always an inspiration, as well. I always have fun collaborating with others and have fun along the way. Sometimes we have to laugh at ourselves about the amount of conversation we have over the shade of pink or a favor box, but it’s important to keep things in perspective and keep laughing (which, by the way, Anthony Luscia, our special Projects Editor at MSLO, and I do. A LOT.). It’s also about remembering why we craft and celebrate: my Thanksgiving entertaining ideas were not just crafts for the sake of crafting. I made a “thankful tree,” which was meant to remind people of what the holiday is really about. Guests wrote what they were thankful for on a paper leaf and attached it to the branch centerpiece.
One of the people I regularly collaborate with is the stationer Cheree Berry, who is always very inspirational to me. When I hosted a bridal shower for Dylan Lauren, Cheree took my illustrations and designed a chocolate bar wrap invite. It was a huge hit (although one friend did miss the party because she ate the invitation and forgot about the party).
D*S: What do you do to keep yourself, your space and your time organized?
Darcy: Organization is important. I try to be as organized as possible, although sometimes I think I look more organized than I really am. Everything in my craft room has a place where it belongs, and every once in a while, I have to stay up at night to attempt to put everything away.
I also like Michael Roger Press because they make binders and boxes in so many shapes and sizes that coordinate. I use them to store my photos and artwork. I even have three extra-large oversized keepsake boxes that are labeled with each of my daughters’ names to hold mementos (baby blankets, etc.) that don’t fit in a book.
D*S: How do you combat creative blocks?
Darcy: Just being out and around people inspires me and helps to combat those blocks. I always turn to others for inspiration. When we were not sure what to do for my daughter Pippa’s third birthday party, it was actually her big sister, Daisy, who came up with the idea of “Pippa’s Purple Party” (you can guess what her favorite color is).
I get inspired every day by the world around me, either in New York City or wherever I’m lucky enough to travel. And Instagram has become one of my favorite ways of documenting special moments and inspiration. (On Instagram: darcymillernussbaum and Martha_weddings)
D*S: What is next for you with your work? What can we look forward to from you?
Darcy: Who knows exactly what’s next? More celebrations, and more documenting them in a special way. The funny thing is that I’m still kind of doing what I did in the fourth grade: going to the bead store, drawing pictures and creating things. So the “what” hasn’t (and never will) change much, but I’ll always keep evolving how I do what I’ve always loved doing. So I’m excited about what’s next, even though I never know just what it might be.
You can find Darcy online at: