An Interview With Violet Gatensby
By Alexander “River” Gatensby
It’s no secret that the Yukon is overflowing with artistic creativity. The territory is jam packed, side to side with aspiring young artists. But, one painter and carver really stands out from the crowd:
Violet, from Carcross, Yukon, is a traditional NorthWest Coast artist and carver (also my cousin. Just wanted to get that out of the way). She started painting as a hobby when she was only 14 years old. In 2015 she went off to the Northwest Community College; enrolling in the Freda Diesing Fine Arts programme where she developed skills in carving and graduated in 2017. Coinciding with her enrollment, she received YVR scholarship award: “It’s the youth scholarship. You get a year to create something that they’ll display in the Vancouver Airport, and they’ll give you $5000 to get all of the materials and everything to work with it, and you get a mentor on the project. My mentor for the project was Demci Bob.” she explained.
“I excelled at carving and I got the YVR scholarship award from it. I was kind-of balancing doing both at the same time.”
Her art has been displayed in places such as the Vancouver airport, Spirit Wrestler Gallery, Terrace Gallery, and the Yukon Permanent Art Collection.
She learned “mostly through school [but did] spend some time doing it at home”. She explained to me that school more or less “accentuated” what she already knew how to do. Her art is phenomenal, from her painting depicting Butterflies in traditional First Nation style, to her massive Carved Panel. It’s really extraordinary.
It is difficult to explain just how amazing her pieces are. I guess it’s just one of those things that you just have to see for yourself, though she had a few interesting things to say about her artistic process. When I asked her how she goes about making her art, she explained that in a way, her art in a way creates itself through her: “Sometimes you start something and it ends up totally different from what you thought it was going to be. I usually like to start out with just the idea of what I want to do with it … I have an intention to make it something, but by the end of it, it becomes its own.” She also added that she draws inspiration from places like the animals, old stories from around Carcross, Tlingit Stories, and her family.
To close our interview, I asked her what she would say to aspiring young artists that are trying to make it in the artistic community, and she had something pretty inspiring to say.
“Don’t get discouraged, and even if you do, just keep working. Just keep plugging away at it. No-one becomes a professional overnight. Just keep working towards something, y’know? Your work right now is the best work you’ve ever done, and it’ll only continue to get better. Just stick with it. If no-one has faith in you have faith in yourself.”
That’s some pretty solid advice if you ask me. I can only imagine that many artists give up too soon, and never get their name out there, but it’s really reassuring to hear somebody like Violet say such positive things.
Clearly Violet Gatensby is going to spark a positive change in her community. I know she already has a positive influence on many people. Even outside of my family circle, I hear murmurings of Violet’s beautiful work. I know, for a fact, that she works very hard to do what she does. It’s inspiring to see such a talented artist so ready to make a change in the world. I wish her the best of luck in her artistic endeavours and I’m sure that she’ll reach all of her goals in her field, as a successful Carver and Painter.