Q&A with Jack Risley

Broadcast, 2001. Fabric, metal, broom handle.

What is your favorite tool, material, and/or process?
My Bernina sewing machine. I’ve owned it for about 35 years now.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received about your work?
Oh, here’s one: Jessica Stockholder told me that there is too much art in the world. All these years, we are taught to think that there isn’t enough art. That got my attention. That said, I’m always looking for good advice.

What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone about their work?
Start with a stupid idea. Anything can be made interesting.

Where do you make work?
Where no one is looking.

What do you listen to/watch while you work?
Music on WFMU out of Jersey City, NJ. Artists run that station, and artists listen all day long. How do I know? One day Cindy Sherman called in to make a pledge.

What’s your top studio jam?
Sweeping.

Best studio hack OR the skill you’d be most lost without?
I find it really hard to work without my Japanese tape measure. It costs the same, but is from another planet.

What food can be used to bribe you?
A really well-made cup of coffee—smooth, a hint of cacao, a bit of crema, and the viscosity of a root beer float.

Do you have a studio uniform? Please describe.
Two: coveralls, or jeans and a T-shirt.

It’s the 11th hour before your opening. What are you doing?
One time I was late to my opening because I was working out at the gym. There is no danger of that happening at the moment.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on your work?
The clowns I’ve had the good fortune to know well—that would be Pickle, Petula, and Parsnip.

A book you’ve read more than twice is...?
The diary of Bernal Diaz and I, Claudius.

How do you stay motivated?
Anger.

How do you procrastinate?
Oh, let me tell you the ways. I’m really rather talented at procrastinating, if I do say so.

Early Bird or Night Owl?
The early bird catches the worm.

Do you have pets? If so, what are their species and names?
Standard poodles. They are as close as you can come to having a real-life clown living in your house, wearing a funny suit. All of their names begin with the letter "P."

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
The architecture and public park system.

Epoxy, mineral spirits, or Command-Z?
All of the above. Bring it on.

Tell us something we forgot to ask.
Animal, vegetable or mineral?