Genevieve turns forty this year, though you wouldn’t know it. Hers is an ageless face, its hard lines and piercing blue eyes softened by a milky complexion and freckles. The older she gets, she says, the stronger her instinct to “shed stuff” and think carefully about what she buys. I can see evidence of this in her home in London’s Crouch End, which is astoundingly clear of clutter – impressive given that she is the mum of two young boys. The things she does have give away her interests in textiles and plants – bright rugs, mudcloth cushions, a colour-coded bookcase and much greenery. The kitchen sink is lined with an avocado grown from a leftover stone, sprigs of hellebore in a milk bottle, and money plants so healthy that stems grow upon stems.She has recently started to make things. Not prolifically, but more a delicate effort to find a new vocation. In her hallways there are big wreaths, giant hula-hoops of branches, that Genevieve has made from clematis seed heads collected along the railway line in Finsbury Park. She has also started a short course called ‘plants and people’ with the Open University, about how plants relate to the likes of food, fuel, conservation, crime and culture – and does occasional workshops at the Handweavers Studio nearby. She shows me one of the wall hangings she has made, explaining that though she has a preference for simple, muted colours, she likes to go to town on textures, using different fibres, knots, types of stitch and shapes. Instagram, she tells me, is a valuable source of weaving inspiration, pointing me in the direction of @maryannemoodie, @christabelbalfour and @amyilic, all of whose work she admires.
Before she had children, Genevieve worked at indie publisher Persephone Books. She also had a stint working on the design of careers journals for universities, but took a pause from both to have her sons. She admits to having found early parenthood “baffling and lonely”, and I sense her relief at having found a community of parents now that the boys, 8 and 5, are at school. “I always wanted to do something with my hands, but wasn’t a fine artist or a gardener. I don’t think I was ever encouraged to find my thing…” We talk about the value systems that surrounded us when we were at school, the emphasis on succeeding academically, the lesser regard for the arts. We like to think things will be different for our children. The time is ripe for her, it seems, to find something new.
Goddesses who weave and spin abound in mythology, and their apparatus – such as the distaff and the spindle – have long been associated with women’s creations (just think of The Sleeping Beauty). It feels fitting somehow, symbolic even, that a new phase in Genevieve's life comes in the form of textiles.