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Heidi Worcester, 61: Creating for a Better Future

Inspired by her entrepreneurial family, Heidi Worcester has had a lifelong drive to create, whether designing furniture and landscapes, writing children’s books, or starting businesses. She discusses her latest endeavor, her strong foremothers, and her definition of “good design.”

There are people who see problems where others don’t, then there are those who see problems and manifest solutions. It takes vision, capability, and drive to create an entirely new solution to a problem that has been quite literally sitting in front of us for decades; someone who says to themselves: we can do better than this. It helps to have the confidence that comes with age that one can pull it off. Heidi Worcester is one of those people: a woman not easily dissuaded when she sets a path forward.

The problem in question was the incredible waste coming from using paper plates — something we have all been using probably our entire lives. Her solution was to use the leaf of a plant, press it and mold it so that it holds it shape and is entirely biodegradable. Manifesting something like this is not as simple as just buying some big leaves; it takes a lot of innovation, organizing, and skill to pull it off. She did, and they look and feel great. We have the feeling this is not the last problem she will address and solve. She is one of those people who can make things happen.

What is your age?
61.

You have had a lifelong drive to create. Could you tell us about that?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I have always been encouraged to follow a unique path and think outside the box. After a few years of working in the corporate world, I returned to grad school. I received a master’s in Landscape Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. What I took away was the idea that good design is not a one-liner but composed of layers of meaning. Since then, I have applied that concept to other areas such as furniture, writing, accessories and, now, tableware. My goal is to create products that are beautiful, function better, and achieve the highest level of sustainability.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I have always been encouraged to follow a unique path”

Your latest innovation is maaterra, plates made from a leaf. How do you make them and what was the motivation?
My motivation was to create disposable plates that don’t compromise on design or sustainability. I researched every material I could find — bagasse, bamboo, and wood pulp are just a few. Palm leaves provided us with a beautiful aesthetic and the most sustainable option. Our product is a fallen leaf that is collected, cleansed with water and light, molded with heat, and etched with light. We have met our goal of creating a product that matches what you desire, what you need, and what you value.

Maaterra plates.

What have been some of your other initiatives over the years?
You name it… I started in PR, then went back to school in Landscape Architecture. After practicing for a while, I had the opportunity to partner with a national furniture brand. When I had kids, I wanted more time to focus on family and so I wrote a series of children’s books for HarperCollins. From there, I started HEALgoods, a men’s accessories line; then NEATGOODS, exceptionally designed, everyday goods; and now my favorite endeavor, maaterra.

Maaterra plates.

Tell us about the influence of the strong women in your life.
I come from a line of strong women. My grandmother was a dynamo. My grandfather was a “Nose” and created fragrances for designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Valentino but it was my grandmother who would go into the field and train the women at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf’s counters. She could befriend anyone. My mother was more subtle and understated. She had grace and style, which she complemented with competence and strength. She started several businesses as well. My grandmother and mother were very philanthropic and involved in the community, especially in the areas of children, education, and art. While I lost both of them in the past five years, their presence in my life has only grown, and their values guide me in the decisions I make.

Heidi with her mother & siblings.

“My children have always been my priority and, ironically, that is part of the reason I have consistently worked”

You have 3 children. How does your creativity intersect with being a mom?
My children have always been my priority and, ironically, that is part of the reason I have consistently worked. There is no better way to teach your children than to lead by example. Ultimately, I want them to have the confidence to make their own decisions and find their individual creativity.

What are your thoughts on chaos vs order?
Both are necessary. I need an ordered space to counter the chaotic thoughts I experience running a business. Our kitchen is a perfect example: white Shaker cabinets, slate counters— the aesthetic is simple, clean and calming. The focus is a huge island, and I love it when everyone is in the space cooking or adding to the conversation. My husband, on the other hand, wants everyone out of the kitchen and prefers to cook alone. While you never want to be on his clean-up duty because he uses every pan, he is able to focus and thus is the better chef.

What are your creative influences?
I get great joy out of finding exceptional design in the everyday. I love good packaging — a book cover, a candy wrapper, a wine label, a can of San Marzano tomatoes. I love visiting galleries and museums. I never realized how much I NEED art until COVID. It is one thing to look at a picture in a book or online, but another to be in its presence. Nature has also had a profound influence on me. I’m constantly overwhelmed and inspired by its beauty.

“I get great joy out of finding exceptional design in the everyday”

Tell us about your relationship to nature.
I have the fortune of living in two beautiful places: the Rocky Mountains in the summer and near the CT River the rest of the year. As an entrepreneur, I could spend 24 hours a day at my desk. Some weeks, I realize I have not gotten in my car or seen another person (besides my husband) all week. Design can be obsessive and there is always a detail that can be tweaked. Getting outside, into nature, gets me out of my head. It gives me perspective.

What sort of activities, sports, and such are you involved with?
I grew up on downhill skis and love snow sports like snowshoeing and cross-country. I hike or walk almost every day. On weekends, I enjoy a trip with my husband to visit museums and galleries. I get fulfillment from working with philanthropies, but I prefer more hands-on activities, like interacting with the community, than sitting in a meeting. I bake a lot, and then I give it away. 

What music are you listening to these days?
I enjoy covers, new artists interpretations of my generation’s music. The other day, I heard a country version of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” I prefer the original but appreciate a new perspective. I do love Miley Cyrus. She has such a great voice and an old soul. Hope Sandoval is another favorite. I am enjoying the soundtrack from Daisy Jones & the Six, which we recently watched.

What are the 3 non-negotiables in your life?
Family time.
Kindness.
Respect for the environment.

Connect with Heidi:
maaterra
LinkedIn

See medical disclaimer below. ↓

4 COMMENTS

  1. Jane McCann
    Heidi I love your entrepreneurship but without your incredible artistic vison it couldn’t be a success. I love your the design, and the practicality of your products. Not to mention the save the planet goal. Carry on.

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David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

 

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