Zibby Owens: I’m here today with Darcy Miller who’s the founder of Darcy Miller Designs. She’s the author and illustrator of Celebrate Everything!: Fun Ideas to Bring Your Parties to Life and also Our Wedding Scrapbook. She has been an editor at Martha Stewart for twenty-five years including as editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings for twenty-three years. Now she’s editor-at-large. She collaborates with Chasing Paper, Lenox, Graphic Image, Frances Valentine, Masion Labiche, Amazon, Georgetown Cupcakes, and many other brands. She was recruited by Serena Williams to make custom goodie bags for Meghan Markle’s baby shower. She currently lives in New York with her husband and three daughters.

Welcome, Darcy. Thanks for coming on the show.

Darcy Miller: Thanks for having me.

Zibby: Your book, Celebrate Everything, is so great for so many reasons. The visual part of it, the idea that you just have to celebrate life because you never know what’s going to happen next and you might as well, I just love it. I love everything about it. I’m so excited to talk to you about it. Now that I’ve summarized it, can you just talk a little more about what it’s about, how you ended up illustrating and putting it together, and the whole backstory of this book?

Darcy: I have always loved to celebrate. For me, celebrate is less about actual parties, but more about just celebrating people you love. It can be a big party like a fiftieth birthday or an anniversary party or wedding, but it can be something as simple as making the breakfast table festive on Valentine’s Day. My mom is super creative. Growing up, she always was making our Halloween costumes and making our birthday invitations. Growing up, it was just part of me that I had parents who spent the time to do something that was appreciated. It was a way of showing a token of your love and affection. When I was a kid, I started to make things, and make things for people. I actually had a party favor business when I was in seventh grade. Then I used to take earrings and poke them into a little picture of me and sell them. There’s a store on 83rd and . It was called for Kids. Maybe it was 81st. I used to go to the bead store and sell earrings. I was always making these things. I had a party favor business.

I went to University of Pennsylvania. I did it there. Then when I graduated, my parents were like, “You have to get a real job before you do your business. You should get some work experience.” I actually had a handful of interviews. I interviewed with Anna Wintour to be her assistant. I interviewed with his new magazine called Martha Stewart that was just launching. I looked at it. I was like, oh, my gosh, I can dye Easter eggs for a living. This is it. I started there in ’92 and did a little bit of everything. Over the time there as a stylist, I really loved the entertaining stories. I continued to throw parties. I did it at work. I styled Easter stories, Passover stories, and then was always entertaining on my own. The whole time I was entertaining, people would say, “You should write a book. I love your parties. I’d love to see them.” I was full time at Martha Stewart for many, many years. I am now the editor-at-large there.

I finally decided, how can I share all these parties? Many people said to me, “Do it as a website. Just figure a way to do it digitally.” For me, I’m a book person. I felt like I really want to put them in a book. That’s kind of how it happened. It was a combination of a lot of parties that I really threw. My daughter’s name is Daisy, so a Daisy birthday party. Martha, I threw a seventieth birthday for her. It’s a bunch of real parties, but then it’s really, really packed with tons and tons of service and ideas. For me, what was really important is that people get it, that it inspires people, and that they can do a whole party or they could take one idea, or they take no ideas but it inspires them to do something else. The title says it all, celebrate everything. There’s a spread in the beginning of the book that has reasons to celebrate. It has, obviously, birthday, anniversary, but it’s like, you lost your tooth, you got a new job, you quit your job, whatever. There’s a lot of negative things in the world. It’s nice to appreciate and take time to celebrate.

Zibby: I love all that. I feel like one of my bigger expenses is paper goods. Any holiday or occasion, I’m like, let’s get fun plates and put them out for breakfast. Why not? Oscar movie plates, and let’s get Valentine’s plates, like you said. It’s so fun. It’s just so fun to inject a little bit of whimsy into the everyday chaos.

Darcy: Definitely. I think that your point about just adding the Oscar plates is that for me, it’s really about creating traditions and creating memories. Again, not that that paper plate is — that’s a material thing. I remember my mom doing these little things or writing little notes or tying a ribbon on my napkin or whatever it is. I really do feel like my kids appreciate it. If anything, what brings me joy is — this morning, actually, my daughter wanted to go to school early. She’s like, “It’s my teacher’s birthday. I’m in charge. We’re going to surprise her.” She had some god knows what in her knapsack, party hats stuffed in there. The fact that she wanted to make the effort to celebrate a teacher who does so much for them, I felt like, okay, I’ve done a good job. She’s throwing a party for a teacher. Again, no matter how big or small, just showing a little appreciation goes a long way.

Zibby: It’s so true. Your book is so great with — there’s a bazillion ideas in here. I was going through with my kids. My daughter’s like, “Ooh, I want to do the sleepover party.” The other one’s like, “I want to do the spa party.” Some are more run of the mill, but some are so fun. So many ideas in here. I was like, oh, my gosh, I’ve been wasting all my time with other events. These are so creative.

Darcy: Thank you. It’s funny you say that because when we were doing it, we’re like, wait, should the book be just four parties that we break down? Within just the swim party, there’s different food ideas. There’s game ideas. There’s swimming. The swim party could almost be its own book.

Zibby: I love that. It’s true. I would never think to a put a Swedish Fish and then full of gumballs. Was that what it was?

Darcy: Exactly.

Zibby: It looks so cool. You have just the most creative ideas.

Darcy: I have to say that for me I just wanted to pack it in so that there was so many different options for people. I also felt it was important to have different levels of takeaways. Some things are a little more crafty. Some are like, anyone can do. Speaking of the pool party, there’s one, blue donut swimming pool.

Zibby: Yes, that was so cool.

Darcy: You are given the choice. You can buy donuts. You can have custom donuts made. You could also get just regular donuts and put a little dye and some frosting and make them blue or put sprinkles. It’s a jumping-off point for other people to celebrate.

Zibby: And just your fifty different kinds of confetti. You’re like, you can use this as — I’m like, oh, my gosh, how does she come up with all these things? It’s amazing. Just visually, the photography in this book, it’s so aesthetically pleasing. It’s so fun. You just can’t help but feel joyful when you read it because it’s all these colors.

Darcy: Thank you. I do think that that’s, hopefully, the mood and feeling that I can help inspire in other people. As I said, I really love to entertain. It’s something that I grew up with. It’s something that I’m doing with my kids and is a big part of my life. For me, I love it when we’ll post something on Instagram and then I’ll see how people have interpreted it. People will say to me, “I’m not a crafty person,” or “I don’t normally do this stuff,” or “I’m someone who always buys a card, but I just saw your Valentine thing. It was so easy. I just printed it out. I didn’t even have to buy anything. It was so easy.” I hope that that little — there is a lot of confetti on the cover — that little spark of joy is sparked in other people.

Zibby: Totally. Tell me how your editorial experience played into this. Did you look at this as if it was a magazine? You must be looking at things in a certain way after all these years in the magazine world.

Darcy: It was probably, obviously, the magazine experience at weddings and helps to figure out telling a story. Do you want how-to’s? What are the details? What’s the pacing of it? Given even that I had all that experience, I would not say that it was a smooth road to get it done. As you can tell from the book, I’m a more is more kind of person. There was a lot to figure out and how I could get it all in and how you divide it up. At one point, it was going to be A through Z of parties, an idea for A, an idea for B. There were so many different ways to break it up.

Zibby: You could do those next, you know.

Darcy: Exactly. Well, I don’t know if my kids will still be talking to me if I do another book. I will say that it was a lot of work.

Zibby: How long did it take to put it together?

Darcy: When people say, how long did you work on the book? I’m like, I’m worked on the book all my life because it’s all the tips and ideas that’s been building. I probably spent maybe two years actually working on the book. As I said, I also wanted it to be so packed with information that when I show you an anniversary party, I was like, wait, but then I want all the sources. Then I want the recipe. I was going back and figuring out. I knew that for the source guide, there might be an Etsy company that that person’s not doing, but I figured it’s still better to give everyone all the sources. If a handful are out of business or don’t make that product, at least it’s pointing you to a company that you can look to for other party hats or for other customized chocolates. For me, a big part of my brand and what we do at Darcy Miller Designs, it’s inspiring people but also bringing in all these amazing experts and sources and ideas that are out there. People say thanks for sharing. I’m like, what do you mean thanks for sharing? Of course I’m going to share. That’s half of it. Great that I’m showing you this cookie with a photo on it, but don’t you want to know? I want you to know that great Etsy person or that you can get these right on Amazon. You were talking about the fishbowl, that one favor that looks like a fishbowl filled with blue candy and one gummy, which is great for a centerpiece, but sometimes people don’t realize easy. You could literally click on Amazon and have that in five. You could have that favor here tomorrow. People sometimes look and they’re like, “This looks so good. How can I do it? Where is it from?” It’s important to me to share all those sources and vendors.

Zibby: Tell me about how you transitioned from being a magazine editor to your own brand. Now you’re a thing of yourself.

Darcy: Well…

Zibby: You are. No, it’s true.

Darcy: Okay, mom. As I said, I have always, in me, been celebrating. For my high school, I would making some photobooth props for an event that they’re doing. One of the teachers said to me, “These look just like what you made for when you made the twelfth grade –” I don’t even remember. I guess I made a field day T-shirt. She’s like, “Remember you had the posters that you had on the front?” I was like, “No, I don’t remember anything.” I feel like I have been doing it. I will say that as Martha Stewart as a company has grown and evolved over the years, there was a transition when the magazines went to Meredith. There was a little bit of shift. Some people stayed on. Some people went and did other things. It was kind of a good, natural time for me to move on to do my own thing. I feel lucky because I still get to dabble. As editor-at-large, I still get to have my toe in the weddings world, which I love.

Zibby: What does that mean, editor-at-large? I always see that.

Darcy: I think it depends. There’s probably a lot of different kinds of editors-at-large. For me, I just still have a presence. I’ll have a column in an issue or I bring some ideas, depending. I do an appearance. I think it’s different wherever. Obviously, Martha Stewart Weddings is my baby. It’s nice to be able to still be involved in some way. All the team at Martha is so talented. There were many of us for many years. This is the thirtieth anniversary of Martha Stewart Living. I had dinner recently with two of my friends from Martha. We were saying we’ve known each other for thirty years. That’s crazy. We’ve all gotten married, had children, gone through good times, bad times. It’s nice to still be connected to that group. A lot of my coworkers — I don’t even want to say coworkers because I feel like Martha Stewart was a family. It was a team. A lot of them, in different ways, I still work with, even ones who are not at Martha. I was mentioning Eleni Gage before to you who has a book, Lucky in Love. We worked together. It’s made a lot of friendships too.

Zibby: That’s so nice. You’re doing all these collaborations now with different companies.

Darcy: I think that for me, the brand really launched with Celebrate Everything. That was three years ago. I’ve been spending the last couple years starting to build the brand and, like all things, figuring out what it is, prioritizing. I was lucky because so many opportunities just kind of came to us, everything from merchandise — I curated a love shop for Bloomingdale’s last year, and so produced everything from Lenox china and Estée Lauder. We’ve done everything from that to sponsored content. For eBay, we did a satellite media tour about how you throw a royal wedding and giving people ideas. Really though, the thread through all these different projects and opportunities has been inspiring people to celebrate everything, whether it’s through the Instagram, through Pinterest pictures, through TV segments. I did a segment with Ryan and Kelly. Kelly wasn’t there that day. It was Elizabeth Banks, but I did a segment on their show about kicking off the holiday season and cocktails. Although, I did not tell them, I will tell you, I actually don’t drink, which was funny. Not that I’m against it, I’m not a big drinker. My husband thought it was funny that I was mixing cocktails at eight o’clock in the morning. It’s been fun to have these partnerships. We have a really fun Chasing Paper, which is a removable wall decal, line. We make frames, again, inspiring you to be personal. There are decal frames. You can put your kid’s art in it. You could put a nail and hang your keys in it. It’s an easy way, whether you’re in a college room, a kid’s room, an office, or you’re having a party — if you were having a birthday party at a location you’re not allowed to hang anything on the walls, you can just put these decals, tape some pictures on. We have a window, a view of Paris, a view of New York. We have a bunch of different fun decals. That’s one collaboration. For the month of February, we have a Georgetown Cupcake collaboration.

Zibby: Thank you so much. The cupcakes were so good. They were so cute, the box, everything. All of your presentation is amazing.

Darcy: It’s fun. I will say that one of the things about the brand is the attention to detail. It may be something, as I grow my brand, that I may need to let go of a little more. It’s always, for me, it’s that attention and that other little surprise. When Georgetown said, “We would love to collaborate on this cupcake,” I said great. Then I was like, “Can we personalize the box? Can we put a sticker in it? Can the sticker have foil? Can it be multiple stickers?” I do think that when you’re receiving a gift, whether you’re a design-oriented person or not, that little extra detail makes the difference.

Zibby: I totally agree. The thoughtfulness, it makes you feel good. It makes you feel like people took the time.

Darcy: I like to think so. As I said, I see in my kids that they — they’ll say, “Mom, it’s this person’s birthday. I’m getting a group together. We’re doing this.” It’s really about doing things for people you love and making them feel good. It doesn’t have to be your husband. It could be your dog walker. It could be your doorman. It could be your yoga instructor, but just making sure you show appreciation for people around you and creating the memories.

Zibby: That’s true. That’s true too. That’s what life is all about.

Darcy: Yeah. Actually, one thing that is in the book — I don’t know if you’ve read every word. One big thing for me is this idea of DIT.

Zibby: I did read every word. Thank you very much. Yes, I did.

Darcy: I’m looking around this office here and seeing — oh, my god, this is amazing. I’m having trouble focusing because I just want to look at the books that you’ve read.

Zibby: I have not read every single book, every single word, in this whole room. I have not. I have a lot of books I would really like to read.

Darcy: I’m really, really impressed. I want to go fill up my bookshelves. Although, I do have a lot of party books. When we were putting the book together and I was talking to the writer about the essence of it, I kept on saying it’s really about creating memories with people that you want to create them with, whether it’s your girlfriends for Gal-entine’s. That’s where DIT came. Yes, there’s a lot of DIY. There’s a lot of projects that you can make from the book, a kiss crown where you just cut out a paper crown and take lipstick and kiss it. Then that could be a centerpiece. It could be, again, a Gal-entine. It could be a bachelorette hat. Forget the tiara. On top of it being DIY, this idea that DIT, do it together. Finding these little things, whether it’s finding some tradition that you do — it could be making a playlist. For everyone, it’s different. Some people are crafty. Some people like to cook.

I love the idea of — one person told me that they have a tradition that the dad, with the kid, always makes their birthday cake the night before. They look at cookbooks. They figure out what it’s going to be this year. Not that it’s anything elaborate, but it’s part of their childhood of baking these cakes, which I love. I’m like, uh oh, is it too late to start that? My kids are sixteen and fourteen and eleven. I better get going. This year we sent a digital invitation out for my eleven-year-old’s birthday. She said, “Mom, are we going to make something and send it too?” For her, it wasn’t that she cared about the invitation itself. It was the process. We draw it. Then we get some stickers or we put some confetti in it. It’s just the process of this project that we do together. Again, I felt like I’ve done a good job. The fact that she was actually missing making the invitation together, to me, was a good sign. I was like, we can make something else. Let’s make the favors.

Zibby: I know you can buy a lot of the things on your website. Do you do parties? If somebody was like, I want you to do my party, would you?

Darcy: I’m not a party planner.

Zibby: I know.

Darcy: I do more partnered or corporate kind of favors only because I’m not set up to be doing one-off favors, and the time. When someone will say they really want them, I’m like, it will be really expensive, which doesn’t make sense for most people. Occasionally, I’ll do something on a bigger budget event. I would love to because I love the challenge of someone telling me, “My kid loves — this is the dog, but they also love soccer.” I love that challenge. Actually, Dylan Dreyer from The Today Show, they had a baby shower for her. They asked me to help with some details. I was like, okay, she does the weather, but she likes sports. I ended up doing this page which was really cute which was a newspaper that you filled in. It had the weather section, but it was like the sports section. I do like that, making it personal. I try to have the website have as many of those ideas as possible. Then we have an Amazon shop. When we do all this party stuff, you can just go, Darcy Miller, Amazon, and you can see where I get my canisters, where I get my candy. As I said, all for sharing all my sources. That’s part of what you’re here for.

Zibby: What is coming next for you? Do you think you’ll do another book?

Darcy: As I said, I have to think about my relationship with my family before I do another book because it was a lot of work. I would like to do a lot of work. I’m taking this little bit of time right now to try to get organized as a small business. I’ve worked with so many talented people, both outside cookie bakers, to David Stark the event designer, to amazing freelancers who’ve worked within my team. I have a handful of a lean group of amazing young women who have worked with me over the years, but I don’t have a lot of full-time people. I’m taking this little moment to try to get organized and hire an assistant. When you’re a startup, you want to be conservative about it, but then you get to the point that you need to put in the infrastructure to actually grow at a faster pace. Then I have a fun collaboration coming up this summer with the Minions. You’ll have to look out for that.

Zibby: Interesting. That’s very cool.

Darcy: That was a super exciting project. I’m excited for that.

Zibby: Do you have any advice to someone who’s trying to embark on a book like this, a project like this?

Darcy: My advice for people who tell people not to do a book is, yes, do it. It is, I feel like, a fun project. I would say my only advice is, from my experience, talk to people. Get advice. Every book is different. Do your research. For me, I actually didn’t really look at it — I mean, I know what’s out there. I love all my friends’ books in the space. I always take everything I do with a point of view is, what do I really want? If I’m having a party, what do I really want, as opposed to, what’s been done? I approached the book with, I would want pictures of parties. I’d want to know where this stuff is from. I’d want to know some advice along the way. And sticking to your vision, obviously with the help of a good editor. Every book publisher — I work with HarperCollins. It was great to have my editor to bounce things off of. I’m like, should the parties be split up? What do you think? It’s great to have that partnership. At the end of day, there were some things I stood on, which is maybe why it took a little longer, but I’m glad that I did.

Zibby: Excellent. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Darcy: Thank you. I love your podcast. I love listening. I love your joy and passion for books. In this digital world, I love that you love books.

Zibby: Thank you. Me too.

Darcy: Thank you.

Zibby: You’re welcome. Thank you.