Last summer I discovered an article on denim artist Ian Berry while tearing up magazines for a collage, I was completely blown away. Ian works entirely in denim to create absolutely stunning artwork that will cause you to do a double take. He somehow manages to achieve a wonderful sense of realism, no mean feat in this medium. The attention to detail is incredible, I love the areas of light and dark and the resulting tactile finish that makes you want to reach out and touch. The main reaction when I have shown others his work is Wow, just, wow!
It is incredibly inspiring to come across an international artist working so proficiently in reclaimed materials, having had sell out shows in Sweden, where he now resides, London & Portugal. Ian’s work has been shown in the US, Copenhagen and Amsterdam and sells worldwide.
Ian didn’t consciously decide to upcycle but rather chose this medium because he thought “it would look really awesome” well we agree, it does! Whether consciously or sub consciously we love to see the use of reclaimed materials and you will struggle to find a more impressive example.
We asked Ian about how it all began, his thoughts on the upcycling trend and his tips for aspiring artists …
What first inspired you to upcycle denim to create your art?
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t really from an up-cycling or recycling perspective in the obvious way, its just what it is. It’s funny though actually thinking back to the time when I started I was thinking of going on another university course to study climate change. Anyway.. the inspiration came from purely an aesthetic – I thought it would look really awesome – after I saw a pile of jeans at my old home and in the childhood bedroom. Once I started cutting them up however, I did notice the memories coming back wearing the jeans (the first ones were mine) and then I realised my own connection with jeans – and that of others to especially there favourite jeans – I also saw people were so comfortable with jeans so it was a great opening into a communication with them. Its such a symbol of today’s society and the globalised world, while it has rural origins see it now as a very urban fabric and it is the urban life I am most interested in.
Do you have any thoughts as to why there has been an increase in the upcycling trend?
Maybe we live in a time of fast fashion and big consumer societies so there is a lot left over. In the past a lot of the skills were used on re sizing clothes for example, getting passed to younger siblings and making things last longer. Perhaps going hand in hand with that, more people are wanting things that are hand made – rather than the same mass produced crap that has nothing unique or special. I have really noticed a big shift in people really appreciated things that have had time spent on them.
Can you tell us about the first piece you created?
Yes I can. This last week I was back in London and thought about it as I passed my former apartment and it made me remember working on my bedroom floor making the pieces. It was a piece on Debbie Harry – I had been interested in doing a few portraits of the people who had a strong link to denim – Dean and Monroe followed. It was nice then, when I was asked to do Blondie’s portrait for real especially as she was such a part of the scene that were all down the Bowery in New York that really help changed the denim story.
Do you have a favourite piece?
Maybe.. But you really shouldn’t say. And of course they keep changing as you develop and improve and move on. I do love doing the interiors however and it will be something I will build on – making bigger and curating scenes in interesting interiors. I also do love doing the portraits, however I would love to do more of them incorporated into a scene – like someone in their living room – or their natural environment.
Which artists inspire you?
Lots of artists inspire me and I think it is important to appreciate other artists and it is a great feeling to be excited by someone else’s work. I am naturally drawn to people who use other materials in there work – like Mark Evans who blows my mind – he etches into leather with stunning effects. I’d often wondered about introducing leather into my work but after seeing his work, never! Portuguese artist Vhils is just incredible – kinda etching but by drilling into walls created amazing faces. Nick Gentry’s portraits on floppy disks is also a favourite as well as his experimentation with ‘old media’ and the list would go on and on..
Do you have any advice/tips for aspiring artists?
There could be many of the clichés but my one I will say here is think about 20, 30, 40 years time not always about tomorrow.
Any tips for artists on how to price their work?
Think about the time and costs of your work and value your own time in creating something and why you are creating something. If you are lucky enough, let someone who knows more about this kind of thing to worry about it and take care of it – like a gallery – so you are left just to worry about making great work.
Where can your work be seen and purchased?
At the Catto Gallery in London. At the moment there is no work available – but soon there will be news of the next solo show. You can see the work on www.ian-berry.com
When browsing through Ian’s work I really struggled to decide which pieces to include here, I highly recommend you visit his website and browse further. Make time to watch the videos, they give a greater visual of his pieces, the 3D tactile nature is much more apparent. *Warning to artists, viewing may result in serious studio envy!