I first discovered Lena Corwin when her unconventional wedding was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings in 2006. I liked her mismatched plates, the oak branch canopy, the floral dresses. In the years since, through her blog, her textile designs, her series with Maria Vettese Lines and Shapes, her books, Printing by Hand & Maps…her photography, her food, her finds, her illustrations to name just a few, I’ve found these small bits of Lena’s world to be so original and cognizant of the simplest beauty.
Her natural sensibility is thoughtful, quiet; her mark is hers. Her hands work so well in so many hand-making arenas. Lounging on her printed pillows late last year, I was happy to read on her wee textile site her first child, a son, Eli had been born. I was so excited for her, not even knowing her, but I knew she’d fall into motherhood with ease and her son would be comforted into the warmest home.
I’m so happy to have her share more of her days here:
Give us a little background on yourself…I’m a designer, though these days I am working a limited amount and mostly spending my days with my 10 month old son Eli. The balance between work and parenting is a new challenge for me! And it will have to be adjusted again soon, since I am about to take on my first big work project since Eli was born. My husband (web developer, drummer, and partner of 14 years) Josh and I are both self-employed. We live in a 160 year old brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Our apartment is on the bottom two floors and our offices are on the top floor, with friends/tenants living between– it feels a little bit like a commune, and I love that. I was born in San Francisco, went to college for a couple years in Oregon, and then moved to New York City when I was twenty. I worked in fashion as a graphic and textile designer, and left my job at Jill Stuart to work independently. Since then, I’ve worked as an illustrator, textile designer, author, and teacher. I love having variety in my work and my days. It took me three years to get pregnant with Eli, which was incredibly difficult to go through.
Who cooks? Josh and I both do. In the past, I’ve done more of the cooking, but lately he’s been doing a lot. He hates to see food go to waste, so he’ll rummage through the fridge and make something out of it, like yummy fried rice.
What’s a typical weeknight? I start Eli in the bath and Josh finishes up work and joins us. We give Eli dinner and then play and cuddle in his room until his bedtime at 7pm. We just recently moved Eli into his own room (I loved having him in our bedroom, so we kept his crib in our room longer than I thought we would–but he started to wake up from our noise and I could tell he was ready for his own dark, quiet space). After Eli’s asleep, Josh and I cook dinner together, or we have our friends in the house down for dinner and wine and we all cook together. Occasionally we bring the baby monitor up to our friends upstairs, and Josh and I go out to dinner at a restaurant in the neighborhood.
Do you have a go-to dinner that appears weekly? Lately, we only cook our go-to, easy dinners– there hasn’t been much experimenting or recipe following. Our staples are: pasta with lots of vegetables, fish tacos, turkey burgers, salads, soups, and we do a lot of barbecuing in the summer. And, being in New York City, of course we order in a lot too… sushi, Mexican, Thai, etc.
Regarding screen time, would you say you’re very conservative, easy breezy, or completely confused as to what is appropriate… We haven’t had to deal with this issue with Eli yet, but I think on the spectrum of tv watching we will fall somewhere between the conservative end and the middle. We don’t have cable TV, but we are looking forward to getting Eli some of the classic videos we grew up watching, like Popeye and the Muppets. Josh and I watched a lot of TV as kids and it didn’t seem to rot our brains too terribly, so some TV is fine when he’s older.
What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life?
Tell us about a typical weekend: Josh and I both have family in NYC so we hang out with them, and see friends. Owning a building, we always have work we want to (or have to) do. In the summer we barbecue and have a vegetable garden. We explore the city… there’s so much to do here. Some favorite and recent weekend activities: the Noguchi Museum, SriPraPhai Thai food in Queens, The East River Park in Williamsburg, Play in Greenpoint, Fort Tilden beach, and The NY Art Book Fair.
Any family rituals you carry on, or that you have created? Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and we usually have a great mix of friends and family at our house. We celebrate some of the Jewish holidays (Josh and I are both culturally Jewish, but not actively religious) like Passover and Hannukah. We adapt them to new rituals that we are comfortable with. I grew up celebrating Christmas too and I love that time of year. A new family ritual is having dinner on The Highline when my parents are in town.
How has your creative upbringing informed your life as a mother? Eli is still so young, it’s hard for me to say… but I want to encourage him to be artistic in the ways that interest him. I love children’s artwork so I’m excited for when he starts drawing and creating. Josh is a musician and I hope Eli picks that up from him! One of our Lines & Shapes books (a small publishing company I started with Maria Vettese), Brooklyn Diary, features artists Tim and Anna Harrington and their family, and the photos from their shoot were so free and fun, you can tell they’ve created a home where their two boys use their imagination and laugh a lot– that’s very inspiring.
Why did you start your wee textile site? I wanted to keep my main blog as a place for non-baby inspiration, but I also knew I would be naturally thinking and focusing a lot on baby things. I started a second blog as an outlet for my new world of kid related inspiration.
What are some of your favorite finds for Eli? I fawn over gorgeous, small children’s lines like Bobo Chooses, Muny, and Estella, and I buy a special piece here and there. But, I love going to thrift and secondhand stores. It feels good to reuse instead of buying everything new. On a recent trip to Northern California I found a cool Peruvian “arpillera” wall hanging. It’s three dimensional and is soccer playing scene. It’s hanging above his crib now. (Here’s a link to it!)
Favorite activities for when you’re stuck indoors, or do you not let the elements get in the way? We go to a museum, a friend’s house, or the library… though I do like to brave the elements.
What kind of music are you into…for Eli, for you? I’ve been buying some great children’s records on eBay… mostly stuff I listened to when I was a kid, like Ella Jenkins and Pete Seeger. I love children’s folk music. For myself, lately I’ve been listening to The Yellowbirds, Kurt Vile, and The Be Gulls.
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you? Taking old clothes to Salvation Army!
Top 3 favorite books—for Eli, top 3 for yourself? Last book you read?
1. My Friends, by Taro Gomi
2. Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty
3. Whistle for Willie, by Ezra Jack Keats
1. Meridian, by Alice Walker
2. Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer
3. Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukoski
I’m currently reading Just Kids, by Patti Smith and Operating Instructions, A Journal of My Son’s First Year, by Anne Lamott.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine or something that just makes you feel armed for the day when you leave the house, or do you have a routine before you go to bed? I don’t do much– but putting on mascara in the morning makes me feel like I’ve made a small effort. Also, I recently started using sunflower oil on my body after a shower. I bought a plain cosmetic bottle from Muji, to keep in my medicine cabinet, and I rub a quarter size amount on my arms and legs after toweling off. I learned this tip from my mom’s yoga teacher who follows an Ayurvedic practice. It keeps my skin from getting flaky and the oil doesn’t rub off on my clothes.
Your favorite family trip ever? We’ve only visited family in the 10 months since Eli was born, which has been great, but we are planning a trip to Austin in January that I’m excited about. We have a lot of friends there, some who used to live in NYC, and it will be heaven to escape the cold winter here.
Do you have any personal a-ha tip that you want to tell us about? My friend Maia and I say, “It’s working– until it’s not”, which I’ve found to be a great mantra for the first year. On subjects like breastfeeding and sleeping, what I’m doing might not be what’s recommended in a book, but if it’s working for me then it’s the right thing… until I realize it’s not anymore and I need to try something new. Basically, it means follow your gut.
You feel your best when? In the morning. I always have the most energy in the early morning.
Favorite clothing item and why? Dresses from my friend’s clothing line Mociun. The textile patterns make me happy and I love wearing something a friend created.
Proudest moment in parenting? Making it through Eli’s birth without pain meds was my first moment of pride as a mom.
What do you feel you could be better at? Switching between work and child time. I have a hard time focusing on work lately– so that is something I’m trying to do better.
What makes you feel guilty? When I’m on my iPhone while with Eli. I try not too, but it’s hard to resist sometimes. It can be a savior, making me feel connected to the rest of the world and not completely absorbed in my new life as a mom, but I definitely feel guilty about it too.
Jaime Rugh is an artist and author of the blog Found While Walking.