Featured Woman Of The Month: Meet Sibylle Denis - Designer and Visual Artist
Updated: Jul 6
“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.” - Paul Cézanne
Since the month of May celebrates Mother’s Day in many countries, I thought I’d share an interesting interview my dear mother gave a few days ago in the ShoutOut Miami series.
We had the good fortune of connecting with Sibylle Denis Touat and here is our conversation below.
Hi Sibylle, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today.
I am from Haiti, a country with multiple contradictions, very poor economically but so rich in history, art and culture.
My Afro-Caribbean roots are very present in my work and it is a strong genetic heritage of mine. Just like the many artists of my country who seek the sublime, it’s a way for us to escape a heavy daily life with its share of tragedies, by always searching for the best, the most beautiful, it’s kind of way of also of communicating with something divine.
It is this mixture which constitutes my background and inspires my work. I often consider my jewellery as amulets to defy bad luck, as conceived by my ancestors, the Indians of my island or the Africans who were brought back there in the time of slavery.
Let’s talk shop. Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community? First of all I would describe my art as a sort of quest for identity, an art that is constantly changing, like unlimited experimentation. I am multicultural, and multidisciplinary. I am like an octopus who observes, captures, and plays with its tentacles, to see which will better express what it feels. Could it be music, painting, sculpture, photography, or jewellery? To have all these capacities to express oneself is a gift from God! I feel absolutely privileged and it is even scary sometimes because it is difficult to channel all these energies that are devouring you from within and that you would like to share with the world!
I am an insatiable passionate and, in my opinion, without passion, it is impossible to be successful in a profession. The life of an artist is extremely difficult, and you must constantly find this special thing that will set you apart from others.
A little anecdote in my career I could share with you is when I saw this young lady visiting my exhibit stand once and grabbing almost all of the jewellery I was selling! There was nothing left! My son was witnessing this amazing scene and told me with big eyes: “Mommy, do you know who is buying all your jewellery?” I said no, not at all! And all excited he replied: It’s Kim! Kim Kardashian!” Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t know who this person was at all! She was so enthusiastic, and natural, asking me all kinds of questions about my creations and talking to her mother who was the one paying with the platinum card… It was such an unreal situation!
Also, meeting the well-known Donna Karen who bought pieces of my jewellery as well, or Jean-Paul Gaultier, the famous French designer who I had the privilege of sharing the same runway with at the Dominicana Fashion Week, or Stella Jean, an incredible Haitian-Italian fashion designer at the Universal Exposition in Milano were some unforgettable memories!
I can also say that I have been extremely honoured to be part of these important events in my career such as: « Label d’Excellence » Cuba, « Bienal Nacional de Artes Visuales » Santo Domingo, RD with my polyptic « Metissage », « Bienal Iberoamerica de Diseno » Madrid, « Disenadores de Haiti Exhibit » Mexico, « Exposition Universelle » Milan, « Haiti Fashion Week » Haiti, « Dominicana Moda » Dominican Republic, « Caribbean Export Exhibit » London, « WBFR Women Fair » Romania, « Salon des Créateurs d’Afrique et d’Amérique Latine » Paris, « Exposition des Créateurs d’Haiti » (Foire du Livre Haïtien), Paris.
Kim Kardashian wearing Sibylle Denis' jewellery.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Difficult answer to give because my country of origin, Haiti, is in the grip of violent demonstrations which forced me to flee. However, if things improved, I would take this person to various towns in the province where life is still good and where life is somewhat like the one I have known in my childhood.
The city of Jacmel, for example, where many creators and artists reside, is an extremely inspiring and welcoming city with a colonial architecture, a landscape of green mountains and breathtaking beaches. There is a unique carnival celebration each year, with impressive animal masks of all kinds and frightening black devils! Designs that I have never seen elsewhere. You can enjoy delicious lobster in front of your eyes at Patrice’s, with immaculate sand and turquoise sea at your feet and as far as the eye can see, with the sound of the waves and the wind in the coconut leaves as background music. Rum punch from the hotel Cyvadier and its tropical shrimp sauce are also a must in the area. The “troubadours” evenings by the beach or on the main square in Jacmel are unforgettable moments that I would really enjoy sharing with a good friend!
The Shoutout series is all about recognising that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So, is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would first like to pay a vibrant tribute to my whole family, my kids and my husband who are my greatest support in this incredible adventure, and who believe in me.
My parents gave me the chance to study at an excellent art school in New York. I was also able to travel to Senegal with them and it is certainly this encounter with the African land that totally changed my life. I understood how these roots were deeply embedded in me; it gave me another vision of the world and later influenced my work.
I also owe a large part of my success to “Women in Democracy” and its president, Daniele Saint Lo, who organised the fair “Femmes, création et production “. With this window open to the world, I have been able to exhibit my creations in many countries!
Finally, I can say that if you have a positive attitude, patience, determination, and perseverance, if you are grateful to all and for the good things happening to you, you certainly will have the best of luck to succeed in your life!
You can also view the original interview here.
Sarah The Digital GypSea
Dominican Republic, May 2021