Martha Stewart does NFTs—jack-o’-lantern art and a seductive selfie
Martha Stewart businesses are planning for the market to develop participation from real fans
Martha Stewart wants to be your crypto queen.
The 80-year-old lifestyle guru plans to unveil a collection of NFTs on her e-commerce site Tuesday. Alongside her wares for dining, drinking, and decorating, Ms. Stewart will hawk her first line of digital collectibles, Halloween-themed nonfungible tokens featuring images of her costumes (and other good things) carved into pumpkins.
Unlike celebrities who flocked to the blockchain to do a one-off NFT drop, often making millions from big investors known as crypto whales, the mogul of domestic perfection has a longer term plan. Ms. Stewart will offer regular releases of NFTs tied to seasons and holidays.
And a seductive selfie, known as a thirst trap, Ms. Stewart said in an interview.
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"That portrait will become an NFT," she said, referring to a purposefully enticing viral photo she took last summer with lips pursed at the edge of the pool at her East Hampton home.
While the DIY trailblazer has been a multidecade mainstay for how to prune roses, dress a window, sharpen a chain saw, raise a peacock or make a pie—she released her 99th book, "Fruit Desserts," last week—she has in more recent years wielded her behemoth brand, cheeky wit and street cred to become a pop-culture sensation. The older Ms. Stewart gets, the younger her fan base grows.
NFTs—digital collectibles that are authenticated or "minted" using blockchain technology and usually bought with cryptocurrencies—are part of that trajectory. They have burst into the worlds of art, music, sports and sneakers, appealing to crypto users eager to attach the currency to tradable assets that also have value in the world of dollars and cents. Some have sold for hundreds to millions of dollars.
So far, most NFT buyers are crypto-savvy speculators helping send prices soaring. The music, art and Martha Stewart businesses are planning for the market to develop participation from real fans—at fan-accessible valuations.
Ms. Stewart’s clout already has extended beyond her original homemaker audience, thanks in part to her association with rapper Snoop Dogg and her seminal roast of Justin Bieber in 2015—"Nobody in my company wanted me to do that roast. ‘They’re going to roast you,’ my daughter said." But Ms. Stewart is in on the jokes and well aware of her broader audience.
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"Who would have guessed? I have been cool for a long time but I’m even more cool now," she said.
"These kids love to talk about cryptocurrency," she said "They’re the Reddit crowd. These are real go-getters. They want to be first, they want to be cool, they want to be hip."
NFTs act as virtual deeds, conveying ownership of a digital asset. Each one gets uploaded to a digital ledger where it tracks information such as the date it was created, when it was sold, for how much and to whom. The original creator can set the terms of this digital certificate of authenticity, called a "smart contract," which allows the creator to take a cut of any resales. Owning an NFT doesn’t equate to owning the copyright to a given asset, music or otherwise, but scarcity has helped push up valuations.
As with any venture she undertakes, Ms. Stewart said she did extensive research into NFTs before deciding to launch her own. She spoke to her banker (he is enthusiastic about ethereum), Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd. founder and CEO Mike Novogratz (they are on the Hudson River Park Friends board together and "He’s made so much money, he’s like spokesperson for crypto on CNBC every morning") and of course, Snoop ("If Snoop is doing NFTs, Martha also has to do NFTs.").
Her grandchildren, 9 and 10 years old, were interested in crypto, and so Ms. Stewart decided to spring for some ethereum for them but hit a hiccup in the verification process when trying to get into the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.
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"Finally after about two weeks while [ethereum] went up $1,000 they realized it really was Martha Stewart," she said.
She wants NFTs to be easy for people to access and teamed up with Tokns Commerce Inc., a service that streamlines direct-to-consumer sales of NFTs in sports, music and entertainment. They will help to develop her digital-collectible boutique which Ms. Stewart has named Fresh Mint, where fans and crypto investors alike can transact in both crypto and fiat currencies issued by central banks.
The "Carved Collection," timed for Halloween, will include digitized art versions of some of Ms. Stewart’s favorite jack-o’-lanterns from over the years at $66 a pop. A second group of offerings will feature carved art for auction by Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers of Ms. Stewart’s Halloween costumes on pumpkins handpicked from the farms surrounding her estate in Bedford, N.Y. The artists are expert carvers, blessed by Ms. Stewart, and their work has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum.
She expects her carved homage to artist Richard Prince’s paintings of bloody nurses to be popular. But the ghostly equestrian is "great for people who love horses."
And, in a nod to the popularity of using Crypto Punks and Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs as profile pictures on social media, consumers can bid on the opportunity to have those collectibles—or any picture of the buyer’s choosing—carved into a pumpkin and then digitized into an NFT.
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In all, about 50 NFTs will be available.
"Her whole career has been curating a lot of beautiful things and interesting things," said Jamie Tedford, co-founder and CEO of Tokns. "She’s just doing it in a different format now."
Ms. Stewart said it was important to draw her newer audience to her own website to introduce them to her NFT offerings, rather than put them on a digital collectible marketplace like Opensea or Nifty Gateway.
"We have so many great things," she said. "They’ll certainly buy tableware and pots and pans. They’ll buy my down vest—I call it the new sweater."