With a passion for tradition, history, and Christmas, Judi Vaillancourt brings together her talents and interests as the artist and designer behind the local business with world-wide reach, Vaillancourt Folk Art. As a child, Judi first discovered her love of historic details from the time spent perusing antiques at her neighbor’s home on Boston Road in Sutton, MA. In the historic-tavern-turned-home, Vaillancourt soaked up the essence of art, appreciation for the Colonial period and how it integrates within the world around her. It is a rarity to encounter people living out their passions through work, but Judi Vaillancourt has not only proven that it’s possible, but she has created a life-long goal to combine her love for art with her love of the holidays.
“The holidays are not just about the end of the year celebrations. The joy behind spending time with family and friends over a meal should happen all year long and I am lucky to be able to embrace the holidays from January through December through my work,” says Vaillancourt, designer and co-owner of Vaillancourt Folk Art. “During the actual holiday season, of course, it calls for bigger traditions. I try to remember and recapture these memories through my work and through the traditions we invoke within our family.”
Raised with a love of the Colonial period, sparked by a middle school field trip to Old Sturbridge Village and subsequent visits to Colonial Williamsburg, Vaillancourt embraced the early American spirit of simple living. “Dinner cooked on black wood stove was how my meals were made growing up. My mom was not a good cook and my dad was a meat and potatoes kind-of-guy. Beef stew and hamburgers were a usual part of our weekly dinners and I learned quickly that applesauce was invented to help swallow the pork chops,” she jokes. “But my favorite food memory is eating homemade donuts at the sight of the first snowfall. My mom made it a tradition: for every first snowfall, we made a batch of warm donuts and it was magic. A tradition I try to carry out with my family now.”
“During the holidays, I used to transform my home into a holiday classic remembering the olden days. Whether it was the décor or the kinds of sweets I made or even how I cooked everything, the Colonial period was presented in one way or another,” says Vaillancourt. “I used, and still do from time to time, a tin reflector oven in front of the fireplace. It was a full-time job roasting a whole turkey in the tin oven but it was the way I remembered the holidays. We would have up to sixty people in attendance at our holiday gatherings, every year and we would go all out. Appointing someone to turn the turkey two notches in the tin oven and giving horse and carriage rides down the road, the holidays with us became an experience everyone was a part of and the kids loved it.”
When life becomes work and work becomes life, the small line separating the two becomes thin. While the Vaillancourts do not live the usual lifestyle of most within their circle of friends, they make every moment count and during the holidays, it is their way of reuniting and catch up with everyone they were unable to spend time with throughout the year. “We used to make so much food it took a week to prepare,” says Vaillancourt. “But it was all worth it when everyone came over.”
“I love all things sweet and the holidays allow me to really indulge. I drink dessert wine with any meal, because that’s what I like and I eat an unbalanced diet of unhealthy and healthy foods,” she jokes. “Over my life-time and through my work, I have had the opportunity to travel overseas and visit places that appreciate a good dessert. In Italy, the panna cotta is an all-time favorite. Not traditional to the Colonial times but something I must have by my side on my death bed along with a peach pizza from a little shop in Atlanta and a big bag of Lay’s potato chips.”