Nina Lalli and Jennifer Fiore of Mondays
Jennifer Fiore and Nina Lalli’s relationship might be the best representation of what serendipity truly means. The two met at a Monday night ceramics class and instantly became friends. In 2012 they moved into a Brooklyn-based studio and founded their own line, given the most fitting name possible—MONDAYS. Their entire collection is handmade and one-of-a-kind, inspired by organic shapes, colors, and textures.
For these ceramicists, working remotely is not entirely feasible, so they’re trying to make do where they can. Jennifer and Nina, both mothers, opened up to us about what parenting has been like during these days at home and how they’ve been attempting to take some much deserved space for themselves.
Have you started practicing a new daily ritual that you didn’t have time for or that you didn’t feel the need for previously?
Jennifer Fiore: Two days in I had a dream of drawing and writing every day with my son. We made it one day. Maybe two. I'm hoping I can get back to it when it doesn't feel so contrived.
Nina Lalli: I am home with my husband and our 1 1/2 year old daughter, and we have been watching "Papa Tom," Tom Chapin, who is doing free live performances for kids every weekday at 11am on Facebook (and Instagram). My husband grew up listening to his albums, and I became friends with his daughter, Abigail, about ten years ago. She and her sister Lily are also folk singers (The Chapin Sisters!) and the three of them sing beautifully together. Sometimes Gia, our daughter, is way too busy to pay attention, and sometimes she is rapt and sings random sounds all day afterwards. We are always moved and entertained, and it's really helpful to have something happen at a certain time. (But you can watch them later too!)
Did you start reading or watching anything recently that brings you comfort?
JF: I just renewed my paper New Yorker subscription and ordered some books I've been wanting to read, but my brain is still so cluttered I have trouble starting, and then once I do I'm so easily distracted. My son is 11 and he stays up too late, so I don't have a lot of time to watch anything I can't watch with him. I'm embarrassed by how soothing I’ve found Baby Yoda to be.
NL: Better Things (FX/Hulu) is back, thank god. When I'm really overwhelmed and sad about what's happening I need a Seinfeld. If it's really bleak, maybe even Sex and the City. We pretend we are going to watch a good movie basically every day, but it is always too late. I'm reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a novel following seven generations of an African family tree, through slavery in West Africa and in the South. There's a lot of sadness, but I don't think a beach read could hold my attention right now, and reading is always calming for me.
Staying home has meant more time to be in the kitchen for us. Have you been cooking? Have you discovered any nourishing recipes that are your favorite right now?
JF: I've become the worst quarantine cliché—I've been making bread as often as my flour supply allows. I started with Jim Lahey's no-knead, which we liked but soon got bored of. I inherited a sourdough starter so I'm learning how to keep that alive and be creative with all the discarded starter from each feeding (sourdough pancakes and waffles and crackers have been favorite quarantine treats). I've been making a lot of simple soups and rice bowls, which use whatever I have around and don't require a lot of planning or thought. Sam Sifton suggested garnishing a bowl of rice with a pat of butter and some soy sauce and that has been a revelation. Luckily it is still easy to find fresh fruits and vegetables.
NL: I always cook and I love cooking, but I am truly bored of my food now (Italian, basically). And I don't need to see another bean for a while. I miss the variety of foods I'm used to as a lifelong New Yorker so I have been branching out a bit (a Jamican chicken curry, a Filipino Adobo, a kimchi stew, flipping through Madhur Jaffrey and Fuchsia Dunlop), but still pining the real thing. I spend a huge amount of time just trying to figure out how to safely buy food, which has been humbling and stressful.
“I can't set boundaries, but I can try to be patient and gentle with myself and my family. Today I decided to let my son work at his own pace with as many play breaks as he needed and we were all 10,000 times happier.”
Any playlists or artists you can share for focusing while working, unwinding in the evening, or releasing pent up energy any time of day?
JF: My musical cravings are all over the place right now, but generally i want quiet: Joanna Newsom, Sufjan Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Gregory Isaacs...
NL: Well of course we're on a John Prine kick. What an incredible gift he was. I usually listen to WNYC and newsy podcasts all day long at the studio, but my husband can only take so much, which is probably healthy right now.
It can be hard to get exercise when we’re inside most of the day. Have you found fun ways to get physical activity in?
JF: Paradoxically, I find I'm better about making time to exercise in quarantine than I was before staying "safe at home.” I've always been too self-conscious for dance classes, but now my new favorite thing is the classes streaming live every day on Instagram—it gets me out of my head in a way I really desperately need these days.
NL: I am not a workout person and I'm used to just walking a ton and doing physical work, so I am trying to compensate but it's pretty unnatural. I have done 4 yoga videos in about as many weeks. My only window is my daughter's 2-hour nap, and I'm usually hungry or doing dishes or trying to order food.
Have you begun any unexpected projects?
JF: Ummm my commitment to sourdough and dance are both very unexpected.
NL: I wish.
If you’re currently working from home, what helps you balance home life from work life? Do you have any boundaries between the two that keep you productive?
JF: Honestly there is no balance right now. My husband and I are supervising my son's remote learning while trying to stay on top of our own work, and I'm also taking care of most of the cooking and cleaning. I can't set boundaries, but I can try to be patient and gentle with myself and my family. Today I decided to let my son work at his own pace with as many play breaks as he needed and we were all 10,000 times happier, so maybe that is the answer?
NL: My husband and I are both unable to work from home, but I'm trying to figure out a way to work with clay at home. Trying! I've been into the studio a few times just to pack orders for shipping, and I have found myself so energized even from a couple of hours of a change of scenery and the break from being on Mama-duty.
How have you been staying connected to family, friends, and the outside world?
JF: So grateful for Zoom. We do weekly family reunions with my siblings and their kids and my parents; I had a long overdue grad school mini-reunion via Zoom, and this week I have a Zoom book club, scrabble, and a birthday party. If I ignore how fucking strange it is, it's lovely.
NL: I generally hate FaceTime but i'm grateful for it now. I generally am not pleased with how much more time I'm spending on my phone. It was already too much. That's the project I want to work on, but I miss my friends and family so much, I keep wanting to connect but the rabbit hole gets me every time.
Any tips for boosting our immune systems and staying healthy?
JF: I think all this home cooking is inherently healthier. I’ve been trying to make sure to eat citrus fruits and leafy greens every day, and to make sure I'm moving and breathing. Also just getting to sleep later feels really good.
NL: What Jennifer said!
Do you have any general/overall advice for remaining calm during this period? What has felt restorative for you?
JF: Allow yourself to be unproductive if that is what feels right. We are in this for a very long time and we all need to allow ourselves the time and space to ease into this slowly and not feel pressure to do everything all at once. I think we all need time to grieve too, it's definitely been a roller coaster around here.
NL: Wine? I think I feel more sad than anxious at this point. I feel so very aware of how fortunate we are, who can really stay home and be cautious. I feel like I can't complain, but I know it's taking a toll on us all. I'm angry and worried about what is happening to people, and how much worse it is than it had to be. We are financially fucked of course, but I have to be hopeful that we will get support and get back to having an income. Being locked up with a toddler is exhausting, but she's also blissfully unaware and demands fun and joy even when I'm not feeling it. So I muster it. She is also experimenting with making loud sounds like roaring and screaming, which I've joined in on, and recommend highly.
SEE MONDAYS' COLLECTION ON OUR WEBSITE
Editorial Images by Chelsea Lane White and Portrait Image by MONDAYS
Interview by Ivy Schneider