Catching up with artist, author, decorator, and TV host Mark Montano as he continues to hone his craft. The latest chapter? Recycled paper
by Steven Foster
You don’t need to go any farther than Michael’s (or your TV’s remote) to know that crafting is big in America—and that Mark Montano is one of the medium’s biggest stars. While Montano’s career had its genesis in fashion, deftly moved to interiors, and made sly stops as TV host for shows on TLC, ABC, FOX, and the Style Network, he never once dropped his obsession with craftwork. His latest book, Pulp Fiction, a thin, sassy little how-to on how to recycle paper in ways both rad (Mona Lisa bookcase, very cool) and bad (honeycomb bracelet, not so much) is a nice aperitif before his October release, The Big-Ass Book of Crafts II, his sequel to one of the bestselling craft books of all time. OutSmart caught up with Montano and asked him to recycle some old OutSmart pages just for us, and give us another reason—besides you—to keep putting ink to paper.
Steven Foster: Pat (Sex and the City fashionista) Fields kickstarted your career, didn’t she?
Mark Montano: I moved to New York when I was 19 and wanted to be a famous fashion designer. That was my goal. The minute I graduated from college, I started taking around my first collection, which was about 12 pieces that I designed, and Pat Fields was the first person to order my collection.
It was. And I don’t know if I should say this or not, but she had me meet her at about 8:30 in the morning at the store—this was when she had a store on 8th Street, in between the East and West Village—and she came downstairs and she was smoking this really big joint and she said, “Do you want some?!” And she was like, “Let’s see what you got!” And I showed her the collection and she was like, “Awesome, I really dig this. What are your influences?” So we had this really fabulous breakfast of marijuana and juice and this really fantastic conversation. She bought my collections for the next 15 years.
Two years later you showed at Bryant Park?
I did. Things just really started to evolve for me, which was wonderful.
How did the TLC While You Were Out gig come about?
Totally by accident. I had been writing for Cosmo Girl magazine and I had an article called “Cool Room” and turned that article, much like Carry Bradshaw did, into a book called Super Suites: The Ultimate Bedroom Makeover Guide for Teen Girls. And a producer from BBC America who produced While You Were Out was at his dentist’s office, saw my book, found my name, got my number, called me, and asked me if I wanted to be on this show. I told him I was a fashion designer—I did this interior stuff pretty much just on the side—and he said, “Just come in and audition.” And I did and I got the part. And it was a blast.
Did everybody respond well to your room makeovers?
[Pause] Yes and no. But I felt that if I spent a lot of time worrying about me and what people thought of me and my work that I probably wouldn’t get a lot of joy from creating it in the first place. And so some people really loved my work and some people really hated my work. And that was okay. Because that same producer gave me some really good advice. He told me, “No one cares if they like your room or not. This isn’t about a room, this is about an hour of entertainment.” And he was right.
Tell me about one of the rooms that just bombed.
We did a room for this woman and she had found out that we were coming, which is totally against the rules, and she basically thought, Well, now I don’t have to do that last room in my house. So we turned the room in her house that she wanted decorated into a chicken coop. We built what was basically this six-foot by six-foot bird cage over a bed. We made chicken coop walls, and we took these papasan chairs and turned them into these giant bird nests and we sewed egg pillows. And it was so obnoxious and crazy and weird, and she was so pissed.
Back to your books. Weren’t you the #1-selling craft book in the U.S.?
The Big-Ass Book of Crafts has been the #1-selling craft book in the U.S. for about three years.
Do you still craft? For fun, I mean. Is there still a thrill to it? Will you make someone a homemade card?
I only make homemade cards. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. If I couldn’t be doing something creative, I would probably be a smoker. I would probably drink more heavily. For me, being creative is keeping my hands busy. Doing something creative.
I was not gonna go there, but that answer kinda begs the question. Are you single?
[Long pause. Long sigh.] Let’s not go into that.
Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.