creative companions: genevieve dutton

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'me on her'

we met for the first time just a few weeks ago. after a year of mutual nourishment on instagram. the real life gen was much like the one of my virtual impressions. only even more nourishing. melancholic and uplifting. self-deprecating and genuine. gently aglow with creative energy. i wanted to stay near her. warm up, share, ponder, absorb. broken and patched up in the past, she is slowly letting her unique light shine through the cracks. setting her on a radiant path of new creative beginnings. how serendipitous it was to meet gen offline at the start of such heartwarming metamorphosis 

too much and too little is what i fear being constantly

'in her own words'

my story is that i was born in the summer of 1978 on my dad’s birthday. and that i’m a twin. my twin is nearly a foot taller than me. and has an ace of a job with the bbc. he’s one of my favourite people on this planet. so are my two boys and my husband. i haven’t found motherhood easy. people always say they are impressed by my honesty around it (and around my mental health). i sometimes wonder if honesty is a code for ‘too much’. too much and too little is what i fear being constantly. i’m working on that. to be more me. frightening to realise how often we hide not just the bad but the good too

i say i’m an introvert. i need to be alone a lot. i find parties really difficult. even at 6 years old i tried to run away from them. i need early nights and day time adventures. i need order and to walk and a quiet home and books and tea and hot baths. i don’t drink much. people might wonder how on earth the person i’ve described loves london. but i do. there is always something to explore. something new to find. and i do feel safer being amongst a busy city. i am sure statistics would disagree but statistics and feelings don’t need to match. what a lot of ‘i’s’ and a few non sequiturs. i hope i haven’t lost you with them

from berkshire to illinois to somerset to leicester to nottingham to cambridge to london. via schools and psychiatric units and university and jobs and stay-at-home childcare and so life goes. and here i am. turning 40 this year. and feeling like there is a lot of good ahead

'on creative living and feelings' 

making things is when i feel most like me. it is when i am simultaneousy absorbed and present and content. i’m struggling to get close to that feeling as i type but i remember some very clear instances:- knitting squares aged 7 (to be made in to blankets and sent to a charity) and feeling fully content; making paper aged 11 after a visit to a paper mill and wanting with everything in me to be a craftsperson; a day spent learning log-cabin quilting aged 13 and feeling woken up in some way; endless designs for cards in my teenage years/early twenties. lately textiles - weaving and dyeing and sewing - but playing more than worrying about a finished product - is where my attention sits. and I have endless ideas that i scribble down in notebooks to try out once my abilities catch up with my thoughts

i don’t have a fine art degree or even an a level and i was never any good at the things that got measured in art classes and deemed ‘talent’ (ie realistic drawing) so i never thought i had any skill that could be used for anything meaningful. i realise how flawed that point of view is now. what a shame that we bury the things that feel so good because they don’t fit known value/measuring systems

'on how she lets herself know she is loved by her'


the truth is i’m working on that. i have never given any thought to loving myself until very recently. i’ve had a ricocheting and restricting mental health since i was 14. it has made me feel defective and not good enough and the idea that that is all that i am has been limiting. but 18 months ago, after a breakdown, i finally found my way to some of the best help that i think i could have found and so here i am, working through lifelong, learnt, unhelpful patterns and feeling that big, genuine, lasting change is possible. schema therapy is enabling that and has been a priority for over a year now. it’s an integrative therapy combining cbt, attachment theory and gestalt therapy and was developed because it was noticed that people with personality disorders and chronic disorders often relapsed even after having been through other therapies multiple times. to be honest i feel pretty damn privileged to have found it

otherwise i walk. i walked my way through so many difficult feelings as a teenager and all through my twenties and on in to motherhood. it can be pounding the london streets where i live or walking in the nearby woods or climbing a (small) mountain. it allows me time to think and plan and dream and feel and specifically to access more positive emotions. yoga and meditation help too but i am not very good at maintaining a regular practise of either

i use instagram too as a creative prompt and record. and for connection. i try to pull myself up when the balance of real life/virtual connection is getting skewed but the kindness and understanding and inspiration found there is such a pull. i started my table series by mistake really - i’d admired shots from above for a while, the sense of looking at something from an unusual perspective - and i took a photo one day and enjoyed it (although it felt a bit self-indulgent and self-conscious at first as i wasn’t used to setting up photos, especially with me in them). but others gave me positive feedback and so i carried on. sometimes the moments are quite mundane but often they include something fitting with the season or with my emotions or include something i am making. i like them together as a record. i am at home a lot (i’ve been looking after my two boys who are now at school full time) and i’m exploring what to do next and i do a lot of that at the kitchen table so it sits alongside those explorations

i am also fascinated by the idea of the kitchen table as a facilitator. a place where meals are shared, arguments had, sorrows expressed, tears let go of, laughter shared. a place where friends might sit and talk or families gather silently. a place where things are made, drawn, mended, read, learnt, birthday candles blown out, tea spilt, clean washing, so much life, played out

'on three things that are part of her everyday'

tea, books and knitwear, in no particular order

  • tea is my crutch and comfort and if it comes in a nice mug so much the better. we’re talking builder’s tea; i’m not anti herbal tea it just isn’t as consoling
  • i read as much as I can - these are the four i currently have on my bedside table. i always read before i sleep and I love stories that play with language. i will never read enough of jeanette winterson or toni morrison or david mitchell. they surprise me with something every time
  • and knitwear, specifically oversized jumpers. i think I like them because they make me feel smaller (i’m only 5ft2 anyway) which i know probably sounds a weird thing to enjoy. but i do. i live in big tops and jeans pretty much. and I like it

'on how hearing a song she listened to when she was thirteen makes her feel now'

that year was 1991 and i ended up listening to several - each one somehow led to another...but i’ll tell you about what i felt when i listened to 'the wind of change' by scorpions. it’s the autumn and i’ve not long been at my new school. a boarding school. it’s sunday afternoons with a knot in my stomach waiting to start the journey back to school, it’s sunday evenings taping things off the top 40 show before the dj starts speaking over the track, it’s damp kilts in the assembly hall on a monday morning and scooping washing powder in to a top loading washing machine to wash said fusty uniform, it’s homesickness and looking out for the post to arrive and early morning phone calls on the pay phone under the stairs to my parents, it’s the sense of independence and growing up but feeling so small still, it’s a friend making me a mix tape, it’s wanting to hold that girl that i was. but i can hold her in my head now

thank you so very much for joining us