Dalston Darlings November : A very Grande Dame

November 19, 2012 · 2 comments

in Dalston Darlings

As part of the Dalston Darlings Women’s Institute I’ve been lucky enough to have met some incredible and inspirational women who have been speakers at our monthly meetings. Ranging from taxidermists to vintage aficionados, celebrity chefs to gardening personalities, burlesquers to world class mixologists and crafty makers, their chosen professions and paths in life are all vastly and wonderfully different. What unifies them isn’t just that they are all exceptional at what they do, but as self-starters they have worked damned hard to get where they are today, making what they have to say to us Darlings, invaluable advice.

Our speaker for last week’s Dalston Darlings November Meeting was no exception. Self-taught audio-visual storyteller and multimedia artist Tiff McGinnis, known by the moniker Grande Dame, in her own words, “creates things, and then turns them into other things, to give the things longevity”. Those things, in the first instance, are brightly coloured, intricately detailed, psychedelic 2-D animations to accompany and bring to life the music she writes and performs. Her videos feature a cast of colourful characters and a select few are then reincarnated, and go on to become Wedgewood plates, light boxes, giclée prints or record sleeves and, very recently, a range of footwear. Collaborating with rock ‘n roll cobbler, Terry de Havilland, Grande Dame has designed a range of lust-worthy shoes launching next year and all adorned with her vibrant prints that she brought along to show us all. Cue a great deal of cooing, fawning and stroking when they were passed around!

Our Darlings were all curious to know which came first in her creative process, the music or the animation? In her charming Deep-Southern drawl, which I could’ve listened to for hours, Tiff told us that as a musician foremost, the music always came first and the visuals next. From a musical background, her parents had always encouraged her to listen to records, and upon doing so she found that a rich and vivid story instantly played out in her mind. She thought in music videos before music videos existed! It was only much later in life though, that she put this fascinating talent to use. From a programme she’d downloaded she taught herself how to animate and was at last finally able to re-create the stories she’d visualised. As a self-confessed perfectionist with OCD leanings, each piece takes her months to create and what is truly inspiring is that she does all of this whilst being virtually blind in her right eye, something she believes is a help and certainly not a hindrance, as it encourages her to work the right hand side of her brain, the part in charge of creativity.

Personally what I found exciting about Grande Dame’s work was that it’s ever-evolving. Rather than stay put in one medium she prefers to extend the life of her characters so they can adorn a whole range of “things”. Inspired by a cocktail of cultures, musical genres, religions, eras and movements, instead of focussing one one she blends them all together with her tongue very firmly in cheek to create unique pieces that are a kaleidoscope of colour and print.

If you’d like to buy a Grande Dame piece, my particular favourites were the “Madam & Eve” and “Adam & Steve” gay wedding plates (!) then you should visit her etsy shop here. Grande Dame is also having a sale of her bespoke pop-art Giclèe portraits, to find out more click here. Finally I’ll be interviewing Grande Dame so do check back for an insight into what inspires her and why.

The Dalston Darlings Women’s Institute meet on the first Wednesday of the month at Pub on the Park in London Fields. Visit www.dalstondarlings.net for more info.

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