For multimedia artist Laura Letinsky, home and work go hand in hand. Her porcelain dinnerware, table linens and photographs capturing still-life table scenes serve to capture the joy she finds in cooking, working with plants and being with family.
Here, she reveals her holiday traditions, her morning routine and the ingredients for a perfect paella.
How do you get your creative juices flowing?
Reading, listening to music, making food, clothes, plants…trying to connect to something that makes me pay attention — to see and hear and listen anew.
My morning routine consists of…
Getting up fairly early to run along the lake, followed by a frantic breakfast, and then I’m out the door to get my son to school on time. Then, if I’m lucky, I casually settle into the studio day with emails, looking over proofs, reading and making new work.
Tell us about a piece that turned out differently than how you expected.
Everything I do either turns out way better than what I expected, or way worse — never in between.
Tell us your favorite family tradition and what makes it so special.
My dad, a lapsed Jew and agnostic, decided that to celebrate Christmas in its true spirit, we would decorate not a tree, but an antique brass cash register we had in our home.
If you were given $20,000, how would you spend it?
Right now I’ve got major home renovation desires — to strip old wood, repair plaster walls, and tackle the floors — so I’d probably put any funds into that huge maw. Or, if it were February, and I were getting really sick of Chicago’s winter, I might use some, at least, to escape somewhere warm with my kids.
What’s the story behind the best gift you’ve ever received?
What comes to mind is the small flour mill my mother got me a few years ago so I could grind my own whole wheat for baking. Truly, its flour has a taste not found in store-bought products –richer, nuttier, present!
Which three people, dead or alive, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My father, Italian painter Caravaggio and writer Lydia Davis. My father, because I never got enough time with him; Caravaggio because he’d be sure to be an entertaining guest; and Lydia Davis because what she can do with words is incredible.
What was the last thing you personally cooked in your kitchen? How’d it turn out?
I cook almost every day! I charred a bunch of peppers for a salsa last night while making my weekly sourdough bread, along with a dinner of paella with cod, tomatoes and olives, and roast cauliflower with breadcrumbs, anchovy, raisins, parsley and capers.
The best piece of advice I ever received was…
To remember that this is a long road so to try not to make enemies, and, it’s the last one standing.