Martha Stewart Talks Maker Movement and Desire for 3D Printed Roses

It might seem strange to see an icon of the do-it-yourself homewares and culinary scene chat about drones and 3D printers, but Martha Stewart calls herself an early adopter of technology.

She took the stage Tuesday as part of the Social Media Week conference here in New York, sharing a few thoughts on the maker movement and her interest in innovation.

Stewart said she has backed startups over the years (via venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers). “I was one of the first investors in Google, through Kleiner Perkins,” she said. “I invested even more money in HomeGrocer, and that was a total flop.” She said if that now-defunct online supermarket had held on, she believes it might have become something akin to what FreshDirect is.

Her interest in innovative ideas has also been part of her company’s evolution. She said when Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia started, nearly 25 years ago, there was little in the way of technology to help make her designs a reality. “We were sewing on sewing machines, carving with tools and blocks of plastic to make prototypes,” she said.

Much has changed since, with her company these days using desktop 3D printers in-house to create prototypes. Her company also recently began a partnership with 3D printer company MakerBot Industries, based in Brooklyn, to develop a line of designs and materials for users to make their own tableware.

There are other ways Stewart said she would like to use 3D printers, such as making sugar roses to decorate cakes. Though she has embraced various technologies, including drones to survey her 150-acre farm, Stewart believes more can be done with the gadgets people fawn over. “I started dreaming a long time ago about what computers could do for us, and I must say I’ve been very disappointed,” she said.

In particular, she wants to see computers serve more as time savers that free people up to create, rather than as time sinks that drain their attention.

Stewart said she has been an advocate of makers across the country through her American Made awards and conference, which highlights artisans and entrepreneurs who create handmade products. She also believes the maker movement will continue to grow as something of a response to the country’s emphasis on services over manufacturing. “The desire to start making things is creeping into our culture again,” she said.

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