Vrindavan, 2106.03.25 (Judy Abel, Malibu Times): A young Malibu artist is taking inspiration from her friendships with children in India and Malibu to launch a new business she hopes will inspire others.
Genevieve Ruddock is currently in Vrindavan, India, for a month-long visit to see children she first met in 2014. She met them when she travelled to the small tourist town near India’s capital, New Delhi, after graduating from Pepperdine University with a degree in art. It was there on the banks of the Yamuna River that she first encountered a group of children who sell flowers and incense as worship items.
“They are small bowls of fresh-cut flowers with a little cotton ball soaked in oil,” Ruddock told The Malibu Times. “The idea is you light it and send it down the river as an offering of prayer. I felt uncomfortable buying from the children because I didn’t want to single one child out, so I made a distraction by drawing portraits of them.”
As she drew their faces, a friendship developed. The loosely knit group of children — many who cannot afford to go to school regularly — played games with her and helped teach her the local language, Hindi. She took them on boat rides and threw them a small surprise party, all funded by the 24-year-old during a six-month stay.
When it became winter, Ruddock started crocheting hats for the children. Her passion for helping the youngsters inspired her to create an alternative fashion and art company, Lavender Jaq — named after her late grandmother, Jacqueline, whose favorite color was lavender and who was also a painter. The first product will be hats similar to the ones she crocheted for the children.
Ruddock will feature small original paintings as her fashion label and plans to collaborate with other artists to promote their work.
“This project is about creating community through art and straying from conventional labels,” Ruddock shared. “The label begins as a blank canvas. Whoever buys a custom made hat will take part in deciding what goes on that canvas. I want to promote the idea of consumers’ involvement in what they wear and make products that help people rather than exploit people — to elevate artists and artisans.”
Upon her return to Malibu, Ruddock started working with the Once Upon A Time Children’s Theater program. The cast members involved in this spring’s production of “The Wiz” conducted a clothing drive for the kids in Vrindavan. The project was sponsored by Malibu’s Eco Hero Kids Foundation, run by local Julia Holland, co-director of the musical.
“[The Eco Hero Kids Foundation] is about kids teaching other kids environmentalism through song and dance, and is now expanding to include other forms of art,” Ruddock explained. “I want the Malibu kids to understand the impact they have and to see positive results of their efforts.”
Holland called Ruddock’s work with both groups of children “a buddy system between the kids in India and Malibu.”
“She is an amazing girl who works well with kids, has heart and brings her artistic vision to projects,” Holland said. “She’s compassionate and has empathy.”
Inspired by children locally and abroad, Ruddock calls her brand “kidcentric,” but hopes to encourage all ages to express the child inside. She has a mascot — a pink bunny named Bubbles — who will represent the Lavender Jaq Instagram account. Bubbles will be posting selfies from Vrindavan so followers can be up to date on Ruddock’s current trip and products for sale.
This time in India, Ruddock will be distributing clothing and bringing new projects for the Vrindavan kids to work on, including tie-dye with environmental awareness and making trinkets that hold Yamuna sand that the children can sell to make money for themselves and their families. She also hopes to teach one of their mothers — who is now a widow — how to crochet hats for Lavender Jaq so that she can make a living from the safety of her home and send her children to school.
“They taught me so much about life,” Ruddock shared. “I feel a great need to teach them how to stay children and to care for their environment, and to care for each other because they are growing up fast and some of them don’t go to school. I want to give back to them the way they gave to me. And I want other people to be involved and inspired to create projects of this nature.”
Follow Ruddock’s journey at instagram.com/lavenderjaq.