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Chicken Lady
Violette : Interview with Violette (July 2005)

Interview with Folk Artist Violette

Interview by Chris Dunmire

Magic follows you wherever you go by Violette

Q: Your name, Violette. As I watched 'Weird Homes' and 'HGTV's Creative Decor', I noticed that your name was pronounced Vee-o-let instead of Vi-o-let. Is this a result of Canadian dialect, or just another wonderful thing that makes you so unique? By the way, how do YOU pronounce 'violet' (the flower with heart shaped leaves)?

A: The Vee-o-let pronunciation of my name is French. My Mom named me after the tiny bouquet of violets my Dad used to bring her when they were courting. She was to wear them as a broach on her lapel. If you wore them a certain way it meant you were "taken" if you wore it the other way around it meant you were "available." One day my Mom who was very young at the time (17 years old) decided she didn't like it the way she was "supposed to" have it and pinned the violets the other way around. My father who was insanely jealous ripped the flowers off of her lapel and stomped on them. I was told the story recently by my Mom when I asked "Where in fact did my name come from?" It was unfortunate that she mentioned the stomping incident... lol... So that's where my name came from!

Oh there is something else important attached to my name. When we first came to Canada from Morocco I was 4 years old, my Mom would stand on the back porch and call my sister and I for dinner. She would yell "Vee-o-Lettttttttttttt!" Anyways one day I was very embarrassed to hear this because I so desperately wanted to be like the little Canadian kids. I asked my mom to call me "Violet" so I would be like the Canadian kids. So she did and so did my sisters.

Just before my father died when I was 33 years old I was taking my Lay Counsellors certificate. When the participants in the program asked me my name I surprised myself by saying "My name is Violet but my REAL name is Violette." From that point on they called me Vee-o-let which felt like home. I tried getting my family to call me by my real name but my sisters refused. And to this day (18 years later) they still call me Violet. I often say "Violet is dead, I'm Violette" but it makes no difference.

Q: Tell me more about the 'Chickenlady' you mentioned in 'Weird Homes.'

Violette's ChickenladyA: I was in a very dysfunctional relationship. My partner had brought me to Mexico for a vacation. There I was in an incredibly beautiful spot, Saint Miguel de Allende, an artist's mecca and I was freaking out. As I surveyed the beautiful landscape and architecture from our veranda I was thinking "Oh my God... I could lose my home, my parents and family are never going to accept me as an artist, I might end up a Wal-Mart Greeter, I may end up a baglady, I'm in a very dysfunctional relationship!"

So there I sat in PARADISE worried... I was such a chicken. I told myself that I'm a chicken... no... not just a chicken but the Chickenlady! I started to furiously draw a chickenlady. She became my mascot. I noticed that at first she looked very timid. Her pose was very vulnerable in the beginning. As I matured as an artist and finally left my dysfunctional relationship the Chickenlady's pose became much more determined which mirrored my life.

One of the last paintings I did was called "Don't Mess with the Chickenlady!" She is on my kitchen door forever asking me "Now what are you afraid of Violette?" The Chickenlady challenges me to embrace my fears and move forward. She never gives me a break, she is unrelenting. I can't even butter a slice of bread without noticing her questioning glare. I like it that way... she keeps me on my toes. Just recently she is encouraging me to drive by myself to Mt. Shasta where I'm being called.

Q: We all have authors and artists who impact us in some uplifting way. Who are some of the luminaries that inspire you artistically?

A: Wow... I have been inspired by so many authors and artists! My home library is just brimming with books. Some of my favourites are:

  • Jim Henson of the Muppet Fame
  • Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way
  • Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor by Gail McMeekin
  • A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger Van Oech
  • Kathy Murrillo Cano (Crafty Chica)
  • The Lost Soul Companion by Susan Brackney
  • Women who Run with Wolves
  • I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood
  • Somerset Studio Magazines
  • Collage for the Soul by Holly Harrison and Paula Grasdal
  • Moonlight Chronicles by Dan Price
  • Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory
  • Living out Loud by Keri Smith
  • The Artful Spirit by Nancy Drew
  • Eric Maisel's books on Creativity
  • The Journey is the Destination by Dan Eldon
  • Artist's Journals and Sketchbooks by Lynne Perrella
  • Sabrina Ward Harrison's Spilling Open
  • and all of the SARK books!

By far I think the author/artist who has been the most influential in my life is SARK (Susan Kennedy). My life opened up in a brilliantly hue-d way when I discovered SARK about 12 years ago. It was as if I was given permission to PLAY, to be myself and to be the eccentric soul that I am! Now that's Liberation!

Q: Journaling. If someone asked you how to do it, what would you say?

A: Oh Gosh... it's hard to know where to begin. Since I'm more process orientated than anything sometimes it's difficult to know how to convey "just let your intuition tell you what to do next!"

Often when I begin giving a workshop I tell the story of how when I kept a written journal and revisited it I was appalled by the months and months of negative and depressive writing. I noticed that I stayed in the same negative place for quite a while. When I discovered Visual Journaling several years ago it was absolutely incredible. The entire process of using imagery along with words became alchemical! I was aware that I was still stuck, sad or depressed but the simple combination of mixed media and words transformed the feelings much more quickly. I was not as morose as I used to be for long periods of time. The depression lifted much quicker. I was able to come to terms with negative situations more readily.

Using art in my journals gave me the opportunity to physically manifest my feelings, to extricate them from my body and mind and get them down on paper. I would encourage people to use all kinds of media in their journals, paints, pencils, felt pens, pencil crayons, rubberstamps, photocopied pictures, collaging, ephemera (add ons such as feathers, tags, paperclips, glitter, sewing, buttons etc.). Sit in front of your open journal with your materials by your side and ask yourself what's inside of you that needs a voice. Then intuitively start using words, imagery, colours or whatever jumps out at you. Do not Judge... JUST DO and enjoy the process!

I was so excited by my transformation that I wanted to share Visual Journaling with as many people as I could. It's as if I wanted to say "Listen... give a voice to all that is deep within you and you'll begin to notice yourself blossoming!"

Visual journaling is also a wonderful opportunity to document the joys in your life. It's great if you take the time to illustrate your bliss with all manner of ephemera. Just watch your journal become "poofy", colourful and sparkly as you add the moments of your life. Your book will resemble something pulled from a Pirates Chest just waiting to be discovered!

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Updated 12/23/13