Violette, tattoo artist of animal sweetness

It’s midday, the sun is at its peak, and I’m about to meet Violette, a young tattoo art prodigy. I meet up with her in the charming Abesses neighbourhood of Paris, in front of the Bleu Noir shop where she works. Under the trees in the Burcq garden, we talk about how she got to where she is now, her inspirations…

Violette Chabanon has been working at famed Parisian tattoo shop Bleu Noir for the past four years. Full of artistic sensitivity, she is part of the new wave of tattoo artists who each have an inimitable style. Geometric lines and small animals, most often cats, but also plants at times, Violette likes to represent living beings using the dotwork technique.

 We met up with the talented young artist to ask her a few questions.

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Hi Violette! Your tattoo artist name is also your real name. Why did you choose to keep it?

I kept it because I find it unique. On one hand, it’s the name my parents gave me, but I also couldn’t find anything better. I like that floral and luminous feel it has.

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You studied for a graphic design degree at the ECV school in Paris; how did you begin experimenting with tattoo art and end up making it your job?

I got my BA at ECV and then did an MA there. The more you study, the more you get to do work experiences and practice the job you’re meant to do later on. In the end, I really didn’t like the graphics world, I didn’t like what was going on in it, the social relationships and especially the constraints we had to face. You can’t create, you don’t make art, you do what they ask you.

So I told myself I’d like a more artistic job. I’ve always liked drawing on bodies. I liked drawing on my friends when I was younger. So I thought, why not try tattooing.

I had a friend who was just getting started with his uncle, he put the machine in my hand and told me to try it out. I started out on an orange, and then did my first real tattoo on a mutual friend. I knew that was what I wanted to do, so I stopped my Masters there and then. I began tattooing at home in rudimentary conditions.

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You have built your own graphic world, populated with animals and geometric shapes, often using the dotwork technique. How did you come up with this unique style?

When you start out, there are so many different techniques, and I was more at ease with the dotwork one. I always liked playing with shadows, and I found dotwork was a modern version of the grey and black fade, and light play techniques. I’ve always liked dark things and mixing light in with them, so dotwork and black seemed an obvious choice for me.

You also find inspiration in childlike worlds; you often draw Totoro, for example. Do you have a particular bond with children and their world? Do you see yourself as a grown-up kid?

I think we all have that side to us where we want to stay children… It’s a magical, poetic world; you can allow yourself to do things in tattoo design and drawings that you can’t in your real life. That children’s world makes you dream, puts a smile on your face, it’s a way of feeling good.

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You work at Bleu Noir, a famous tattoo shop in Paris. How did you come to meet the Bleu Noir team? How did you feel the first time you were invited to tattoo there?

I met them before starting out with tattooing, as Jeykill tattooed my forearm there. I then began tattooing at home and at the same time, I continued working on my forearm piece with Jeykill. I would ask him loads of questions and showed an interest in how to become a tattoo artist. I asked him if he took on apprentices, he told me I needed to bring in a portfolio and they then advised me on where I should go next.

I kept working on my portfolio and regularly stopped by to show them my work. After a year and a half, they told me they wanted to take me on for a trial period; that was in 2013. After about a month, they decided to hire me.

The first tattoo I ever worked on there was the hardest thing ever: a bike frame. You have to know that the hardest things to tattoo are two parallel lines. I melted, it was quite hard but I did all right, I think I got lucky for my first time. My lines were straight and parallel; it gave me a lot of satisfaction and marked the beginning of a great adventure.

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Could you give us a small list of the artists that inspire you?

I really love Miyazaki’s world, it’s incredibly poetic, takes you on a journey, makes you dream, but is also so magical. And then I also find a lot of inspiration in jungles, ancient civilisations, work that is floral like Douanier-Rousseau’s, compositions with clusters of vegetation. Everything that is living, really; vegetation as well as animals inspire me a lot. I like relaying that in my drawings.

The Bleu Noir team is also a goldmine of inspiration, you learn about new techniques and gain knowledge on a daily basis.

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What was your first tattoo? Who did it for you?

I got my first one during a trip to Thailand; I was with two girlfriends in a small town that had a tattoo shop. We walked into the shop barefoot, it just had mats on the ground. It was our first real trip, we were 18, and I got the inside of my finger tattooed: Ganesh in Thai, she’s the Goddess who takes down anything that isn’t possible. She destroys in order to rebuild, which enables you to go further. I thought that was a beautiful meaning for a first trip and a first tattoo. It was a nice moment.

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You’re part of the new tattoo generation, the one where it has become very common to have at least one tattoo. What do you think of this new trend?

It’s something incredibly positive for us. More and more people want to get tattoos; I have already tattooed lawyers, teachers, nurses… People from worlds that were previously a lot more conservative. I discovered that anybody and everybody has a desire to get tattooed. They can be more or less hidden, as well.

It’s a very positive thing that more and more people want tattoos, and I hope it’ll continue that way.

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You’re still so young, but I guess you must have many projects in the pipeline. What would your craziest one be?

The craziest one?! To continue doing what I love and manage to make a living from it.

Things are changing and I’m going to get more and more free time to do personal projects on the side, notably collaborations with brands, preparing an exhibition that takes a lot of time to set up… I would like to travel a lot, too, go to Biarritz more, often but also do guest appearances in Los Angeles, New York, London, Germany even…

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• More infos about Violette on her website or Instagram page


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Marion Bureau
Marion Bureau
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