HOME: Jeff Quigley
Upcycle artist Jeff Quigley at his workbench
Jeff Quigley, the man behind J.E.R.K. Creations, might not be exactly sure how to describe his work, or even himself, but he’s nonetheless found a niche in the green art world with unique lamps made from found objects. In his basement “studio” in East Aurora, he makes fifty to sixty pieces a year, and confesses he wouldn’t mind giving up his job as a lift operator to be a full-time artist.
Buffalo Spree: How would you describe the things you make?
Jeff Quigley: Recycled, upcycled art, pretty much one-of-a-kind.
What is your art background?
I don’t have any degree, but I’ve done this stuff ever since I was a little kid. Most of my art was drawing, until I was probably in my twenties, and then I started working with metal, and advanced into sculpting and building things. I would look through magazines and see something and say, “That’s kind of neat; I could do that,” and then I went from there and put my own twist on it.
What is that twist?
Really it’s just junk that I find at antique stores, flea markets, or garage sales and I make into something else. I was in Pennsylvania one time, and I found a real long light bulb, and I thought it would be a neat gun for one of my robot lamps, like a laser gun. So sometimes I find one piece, and the rest comes from that. l also go down to Lake Erie and find driftwood. I like recycled stuff. I don’t want to charge people $500 for a lamp because it cost me $300 to make it.
Do you also collect pieces that you don’t know what you’ll do with?
Oh yeah, I have boxes of junk all over. I go through them as I think of something, like “I think I have a piece like that somewhere” and dig through and look for it. I really should organize it.
I wanted to make a nice lamp for the house, so I made one and it went from there. Lamps in stores are boring. These each have their own character and add a nice touch to a room.
What has proven particularly popular with buyers?
“My biggest one is the alcohol bottle lamps; tons of people want those. I have a long, narrow light that fits right down through the top of the bottle. I got the idea because my aunt wanted me to make something for my cousin for his birthday, and was giving me ideas of things he liked. Crown Royal was his favorite drink, so it went from there; I got the bottle and then made robot guys to go with it and hold the light.
Robots also seem to be popular in your pieces.
I think I’ve liked them ever since I was a little kid. I also do little sculptures of robots that aren’t on lamps. I have this one called Rocket Boy that usually has a rocket packet and is standing in different positions. The robot guys are made of scraps of metal, old leather oil cans, even old soup cans, with spoons and forks for hands and feet.
How did you start selling your pieces?
“I was living in Buffalo and my landlord was Brian Nesline, the guy behind Faces of Buffalo. I was about to move out, and he was showing my place and saw all my stuff all over and said, “You should be selling this.” At the time, I was just doing it for something to do, or for gifts for family, but there was quite a bit of it. He had me do a show at Shea’s Shopping Soiree, and that’s when I really started selling stuff.
How did it feel to let it go?
“It’s hard, but I can’t just collect it all here; I like having somebody else have it, too. Last year at Shea’s, one of the food vendors wanted one of the pieces for his restaurant and before I was even set up, he bought it. I was amazed that someone liked it that much; it was so exciting. I don’t even need people to buy it; I just like them saying it looks good.
Are there any pieces you can’t let go?
I have two boys, fourteen and eight, and sometimes they like stuff and won’t let me get rid of it. I made a spider lamp and I was going to take it to Shea’s last year, but my younger son wouldn’t let me. He had some change and he said, “Here, I’ll buy it.”
What has been your favorite piece?
I would have to say my spoon and fork lamp. That one I like the best. I just like the look of it; it was one of the first ones I made and it turned out perfect the way I wanted it to. I sold it to a lady in Buffalo.
Donna Hoke is the editor of the Buffalo Spree Home section.