Artist Talk Tips, Featuring Helen Gallogly

Helen Gallogly is a textile artist based in Comrie in Perthshire.

A contract working on costumes for the production of the TV series Outlander led to a new fascination with medieval imagery and symbolism.

She applied for (and won) research funding through Creative Scotland, to work at Innerpeffray Library in Perthshire.

Her artist talk last weekend was her opportunity to share her research – all the things which had fascinated her about the place, and the books within it.

Unusually for an artist talk, Helen is not at any final point in her research, but she wanted to share her process so far with the audience.

Helen’s was a presentation in which curiosity shone through. It was a superb event for anyone wanting insight into the artistic process – rather than conclusions.

This leads me to the Artist Talk Tip  – it’s ok not to be certain.

This blog will explore this more.

Artist Talk Tips Featuring Helen Gallogly & innerpeffray library

Remember to Ask Yourself Why Your Audience is Here

In artist talks, it’s ok to not be certain of all the answers.

Many artists believe they need to show confidence, conclusions and certainty when presenting their artwork.

Artist talks are not art school presentations.

In artist talks, the audience wants to learn from your processes, inspirations and even gain glimpses of your lifestyle.

In a good artist talk, you envelop the audience in the story of your making, and that can include errors, problems and obstacles.

Ask yourself, are you comfortable sharing processes rather than finished works?

Are you really?

Check. When was the last time you shared research or process on social media?

If you are not doing this regularly, you are missing an easy way to build a long-lasting and loyal audience. 

See the book Magic Words, by Johan Berger for more on how appearing vulnerable can build audience loyalty.

Artist Talk Tips Featuring Helen Gallogly & innerpeffray library

Maker Stories are Compelling

Maker Stories are Compelling

The making of work is such a powerful story for all artists and designers to share.

Helen’s approach to sharing her research at quite an early point in the story of its making was engaging through its transparency – even vulnerability.

She described her love of the library’s reading pillows – custom-made double-pyramid structures made of a simple material which support the ancient books, protecting them from being damaged by their own weight.

Taken out of the library, reading pillows ARE wonderful sculptural forms, which would scale up to modern loft-conversions style interior decorations.

At one point, the audience members were making suggestions for this direction of work. Even requesting to have human-sized book pillows made for people to read on.

By the end of her talk, I think we all wanted our own reading pillow with one of Helen’s designs printed on it (as well as a private reading loft to go with it).

(Or just a quiet afternoon at Innerpreffray Library for ourselves).

I’m not sure that we would have got to the point of desiring the object, if Helen hadn’t included us in imagining the object, – rather than showing us images of the finished product.

    Artist Talk Tips Featuring Helen Gallogly & innerpeffray library

    Artist Talk Tips | Share Your Wonder

    Throughout her talk, Helen shared slides of things that fascinated her about the site.

    Innerpreffray Library is a place of such timeless wonder. It is a truly remarkable place, but not one I would ever have thought easy to be an artist-in-residence.

    As Scotland’s first lending library, it is already a powerful metaphor.

    The Innerpeffray landscape and chapel are majestic. People travel from all over the world to see individual books, the site’s stone sculptures, and their own ancestors’ names inked into the lending library ledger.

    The wealth of ancient books at Innerpeffray is phenomenal.

    If you can lose yourself in one illustrated letter or frontispiece within one single book, then how can an artist meaningfully process the contents of the library? Not to mention finding artistic resolution which significantly adds to it?

      Artist Talk Tips Featuring Helen Gallogly & innerpeffray library

      Artist Talk Tips | Share Processes

      It turns out that a textile artist can.

      Helen’s artist talk shared that her process at Innerpeffray is to compile an ever-growing list of images and subjects which interest her.

      Currently, she’s got obsessed with medieval scientific diagrams, the way almost pagan faces shine out of Enlightenment schematics. The scientific diagrams proffering mistruths like Physiognomy with such authority.

      Her creative process will eventually distil her list into fabric prints. Fabrics with the power to reshare the individual miracles that form the world inside this ancient library.

      Fabrics can become anything and travel anywhere: as the ancient printed words and illustrations which inspired them once did.

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        Artist Talk Tips | Presenting Uncertainty

        Helen chose to stand in front of an audience before she nailed her ‘anything’ down to what she was going to do – and it worked.

        Her audience left with their minds spinning with wonder and potential.

        In most cases, that’s what an audience WANTS from an artist talk.

        You don’t need to give them answers. You don’t even need to wait until you have resolved artworks, as long as you ignite their curiosity with your own.

           Are you ready to impress in English?

          Don’t let English stall you.

          Practice will propel you.

          How would it feel to communicate freely: say what you mean to say – and answer questions with style?

          Choose an artist English coach to get you fluent.

          Find out about the forthcoming course – Pure | Presentation Skills for Makers.

          Artist Talk Tips Featuring Helen Gallogly - screenshot of facebook

          Further Information

          External links

          Learn more about Helen’s Artwork.

          More about the Innerpeffray Library.

          Blue Noun

          Read our 7 Tips for Second Language Presentations