Episode 24 // Deborah Needleman: Reinvented by Hand

May 5, 2020

“I wanted the rhythm of my life to be in tune with the seasons”

Deborah Needleman speaking to Unpaused founder Judy Stewart in New York City, March 2020 

Doyenne of the high-pressure magazine world of New York, Deborah Needleman shares her enchantment with the world of the composed and handmade on Unpaused. It’s a timely reflection of how time was once measured: when a basket, woven by hand, was the diary of a person’s day. ⁠



Deborah Needleman has been Editor in Chief of three critically acclaimed magazines: she was founding Editor in Chief of domino, which garnered over 1 million subscribers in under 4 years; led WSJ magazine, taking it from an under-the-radar quarterly into an esteemed fashion and lifestyle monthly; and then to T: The New York Times Style Magazine, which she also successfully re-conceived and relaunched.

In the interest of building these brands to be beautiful and powerful in every iteration beyond their essential editorial core, Needleman co-authored books, created events, conferences, digital platforms, and advertising and marketing campaigns. Some of these include co-launching the New York Times annual International Luxury Summit, creating and designing the Wall Street Journal’s popular Saturday Off Duty section, WSJ’s annual Innovators Awards, and the bestselling book, Domino: The Book of Decorating.

Prior to this, Needleman pursued her passion for gardens working as a garden editor at House & Garden, traveling the world in search of the world’s finest gardens, and as gardening columnist for Slate, recounting her travails in her own rather prosaic plot. Today, she is pursuing a newer, but connected, passion for craft, as an artisan and as well as a researcher and writer. She maintains a studio in the Hudson Valley and NYC, and writes the Material Culture column for T magazine to celebrate the ancient skills, techniques, cultures and communities that continue to be embedded in beautiful handcrafted objects in regions around the world. 

Needleman serves on the board of the National Book Foundation, The World Monument Fund’s Modernism Committee and PEN America’s Gala Committee.


Show Notes: 

6:11 – Organising a life into a different rhythm which in Deborah’s case resulted in her resignation at T Magazine.

15:30 – Craft traditions and the alignment of craft in its purest form with the rhythm of a human life.

20:09 – Deborah’s network became smaller but stronger, being true to her personal perception of success rather than someone else’s takes maturity, experience, self knowledge and confidence.