By Gina Malone
Even as a child, Tiffany Ownbey knew that she wanted to “make things for a living.” She discovered her passion—papier-mâché—at a young age and never stopped creating. She studied at various colleges, with ceramics and printmaking as a main focus, before coming back home to an 80-year-old cabin that her grandparents built by hand.
“I’ve been slowly fixing it up for years,” says Ownbey. “Five years ago, I finally built a studio behind it. I used to make all of my work in a 10’ x 8’ room in my cabin.”
That woodsy cabin, her pets and the wildlife around her provide inspiration for the sculptures and collages she creates. “As a child, I spent a lot of time in this cabin with my paternal grandmother,” says Ownbey. “She taught me about nature and gardening. She grew a lot of her own food, and I would often help her in the garden. Actually, both of my grandmothers passed on a love for nature and growing things. My maternal grandparents both loved growing flowers and I often spent visits with them walking and talking about all the things they were growing and how beautiful they were. I feel certain these walks and talks with my grandparents influenced my work and gave me a deep appreciation for nature and growing things.”
She creates her papier-mâché from found papers and items, or as she puts it, with materials that “already have a history of their own when I find them.” In this way, viewers of her art must look closely to discover the various elements and how they create a whole. “Everything starts with sewing patterns,” she says. “The sculpture bases are formed from that paper and the collages have drawings on sewing patterns. I collect old books with foxing stains and interesting covers, vintage wallpaper, various stamps (ration, postage, Green), unused old food labels, interesting antique magazines, blueprints and other random papers. These papers are cut and ripped and then adhered to the surface to create texture and color on the sculptures and collages.” The finished works are coated with a matte varnish and a protective coat of wax.
Ideas may come from the materials she finds, but also from something she reads or hears. “Sometimes I’ll have a half-finished piece in my studio for a year before I figure out how to finish it,” says Ownbey.
“Tiffany’s work evokes nostalgia and emphasizes the importance of process in making her work as much as what comes out in physical form,” says Suzanne Camarata, owner of The Gallery at Flat Rock. “It would be wonderful to be the child playing with the menagerie of animals in her paper mâché collages.”
Ownbey looks forward this year to participating in craft shows all over the country, including Art in the Park, in Blowing Rock, on Saturday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To learn more or to schedule a visit to her studio, visit TiffanyOwnbey.com. Find her work on Facebook and Instagram @tiffanyownbeyart. Her artwork is available at regional galleries including The Gallery at Flat Rock located at 2702A Greenville Highway, in Flat Rock.