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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The Owl Dancers – Porcelain Plates by Tiff McGinnis aka Grande Dame

Tiff McGinnis first came to my attention as Crazygirl, appearing in the first ever print issue of Amelia's Magazine. Now she's back with a grand new project combining music and art. And to celebrate the launch of Grande Dame she's produced a limited edition range of porcelain plates featuring Dancing Owls. Fab.

Written by Amelia Gregory

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Who remembers the very first issue of Amelia’s Magazine? Come on, store I know I only printed 1000 of the buggers but there’s got to be a few people out there still hoarding a copy. They’re worth a bob or two these days so I’d hold on to yours if you do have one.

All of this preamble is leading somewhere… because Tiff McGinnis featured in my very first issue under the guise of Crazygirl… since then she’s been busy busy busy – on art and animation projects as well as music – and she’s recently launched a limited edition porcelain plate which I just love. Meet the Dancing Owls…

Future Owl Dancer Plate Colourway
Future Owl Dancer Plate Colourway

Your artwork style is pretty inimitable… how have you ended up working this way? 
Thank You! I’m a self taught animator/ video director. I started making animated videos 13 years ago, health because I couldn’t afford to film. The videos are very labor intensive, and the detail I put into them borders on insanity. So, all of my images I use to make things come from my animations. In a way it’s like recycling. I put in so much work, it seems a shame that people can only see an image for a second, so this way it has more longevity. 

Cherokee Nation by Tiff McGinnis
Cherokee Nation by Tiff McGinnis.

What inspires you, and why are your creatures always a strange shade of green… where does that come from?!
Again it all starts with music. When I was little, before music videos, I would create scenes in my mind. I can still see all the images from Sgt. Peppers, that I dreamed up when I was 4 years old so clearly. I thought everyone did that. Recently I was talking to a friend and said “Remember before music videos, when you would create the video in your mind” and he said “no Tiff, only you did that.” Ha Ha! I was shocked, I thought everyone did. So it starts with music, and from music comes the images. 

Harmonium Harmony by Tiff McGinnis
Harmonium Harmony by Tiff McGinnis.

Colour is a big deal to me. I respond to it. It’s a mood elevator. It lifts you up and transports you to another world. I am blind in my right eye, well, actually my optic nerve isnt connected to my brain, so it doesn’t work, born that way. Recently I was fitted for glasses and given a colour test. The doctor was amazed at my results and said it was the highest score he’s seen, so perhaps my left eye compensates with colour? Who knows. Turquoise and Jade are my favorite colours, that’s why I always use them. For the last 20 years everywhere I have lived the walls are painted turquoise.

kali by Tiff McGinnis
Kali by Tiff McGinnis.

What prompted you to produce a range of fine porcelain plates?! It’s quite a novel way of producing your artwork for consumption, but I guess there is a grand tradition of decorative plates that might go on a wall. However I understand that your plate is also usable?
I made up some giclee prints last summer of other images, and got a really good response from people. Then my best friend Kirsten said “I want to see your designs on plates.” So, she planted the seed. In a short time the response from the plates has been much greater than the prints. Probably because they are more of a bespoke item. The plates are 100% food & dishwasher safe. 

Future Owl Dancer Plate Colourway
Future Owl Dancer Plate Colourway.

Can you tell us a bit more about the story behind the dancing owls…. what inspired them?
The first plate design I did was for my new audio/ visual project Grande Dame. The first single Im releasing is called Black Leather, the video has a strong bondage theme, so I made up a bondage plate, but since Im not releasing it for a few months, I thought about doing a design that would appeal to a broader spectrum of consumer. Hence the owls!! The owls are from the video I directed for Patrick and Eugene’s cover of “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” back in 2007

How has the process been of working with a china factory in the UK? Is it an easy thing to do? What have you learnt from the process?
I had to try a few different places until I was happy with the product. The first round took 2 months and the samples were awful, so I searched around for somewhere else. It’s very expensive, and takes ages, but they look absolutely gorgeous. There’s not much of a profit to be made, but Im hoping that they will garner some attention and help to establish me as an artist. 

LSDiva by Tiff McGinnis
LSDiva by Tiff McGinnis.

You appeared in the first ever issue of Amelia’s Magazine with your Crazygirl musical project. How is the music these days? 
The music is great! I recorded an album last year with an amazing roster of players. It’s a purely analogue album steeped in roots rock & roll and sounds of the Mississippi Delta. String arrangements, pedal steel guitar, brass fanfare (with some of the horn players from Amy Winehouse and Primal Scream) and I even have some of the singers from PFUNK singing back up on a few tracks! It’s a very big sound, big production. Hence the name – Grande Dame. The first release Black Leather will be available on my own label – Burnt Offerings, in early Oct. I have 4 tracks up on the facebook page. You can hear them here.

Blotter Design by Tiff McGinnis
Blotter Design by Tiff McGinnis.

Art has always been a major part of what you do, are you still doing your animations to accompany music?
Yes, I still am… This is the first video I did for the project – The Shakes. It’s the B side for the single. The music is kind of swampy blues meets exotica and the style of the video is Mughal on acid.

What can we expect next, apart from more colourways?
Right now my main project is Grande Dame – a boutique creative powerhouse manufacturing cultural artefacts and curating live audio/ visual experiences. So I’m focusing on launching that. My living room has been turned into a print shop where my husband is making screen printed t shirts and bags from my images, I have more plates coming out, and then in October I’ll be releasing the first single – Black Leather. I had 300 limited edition pink splatter vinyl 7′s pressed up. Each comes with a sheet of blotter acid (undipped unfortunately) designed by me and made by the Institute of Illegal Images, San Francisco. Look out Grande Dame live!

Wedded Bliss by Tiff McGinnis
Wedded Bliss by Tiff McGinnis.

Grande Dame Black Leather

You can buy The Owl Dancers on Etsy here. Who’s in? I’m so having one. Screw Wedgewood, it’s all about the psychedelic owls.

Future Owl Dancer Plate Colourway
Future Owl Dancer Plate Colourway.

Here’s the Grande Dame website and find Grande Dame on Facebook and Twitter.

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