A FORMER Bucks New Uni artist whose pieces sell for thousands said he was first inspired to work with denim after he made a collage out of newspaper cuttings from the Bucks Free Press.
Ian Berry, aka Denimu, cannot believe how far he has come since his uni days in High Wycombe. He studied graphic design and advertising between 2004 and 2006.
But he said that now seems like a world away as he is currently showing his denim artwork in an exhibition for London's Catto Gallery. His largest piece of work carries a price tag of £40,000. He has sold across the US, Europe and Australasia and this summer was voted one of the 30 most influential artists aged under 30 by Art Business News magazine.
I spoke to him six days before his exhibition was due to open. Understandably shaken- someone had tried to break into his studio in Sweden at 2am that morning.
He said: "I was actually here and I scared them off. Luckily most of my work is now in London. "I am making a final piece to take up. I was actually up when I heard them.
"I have been sleeping in my studio expecting to get burgled.
"I have got a few days before I come to London to protect the rest of what I have got."
Ian, who is 29 and originally from Huddersfield, has stitched and glued thousands of pairs of charity shop jeans to make his new collection of pictures.
Two of the larger pieces in Denimu’s latest exhibition will be installations - ‘Berry’s News’ a local newsagent and ‘Ian’s Records’ a retro vinyl store. Among the album covers is Springsteen’s Born in the USA with its jean clad rear, and The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. On the newsstand are magazine covers featuring everyone from Barack Obama to Kate Moss.
Half of the pictures have sold already but he was still feeling nervous about it.
He said: "I am really looking forward to putting it up but I am also quite daunted. "I have spent the year in quiet isolation. On the opening night I will have more human contact than I have had in the last six months."
He moved form Huddesfield Uni to BNU in 2004 because of the course, which he said is one of the best in the country he said.
Ian said it really prepared you for working life as they would be set assignments for 5pm to be ready for the next morning. He said: "I had wanted to be an artist until I was about 15 or 16 and then I started listening to people who told me it wasn't possible, that artists don't make money and you can't have a career in art."
So he decided to go down the commercial art route. However, it was during his time at uni that he started working with denim.
Ian said: "It was my last holiday before the end of uni. Mum knew I was going to move to London and she started clearing my cupboards out.
"One of these cupboards had a big pile of jeans in it and I saw the different shades.
"I did a collage at uni of newspapers using the BFP and I had been working with the different shades. "The link was there. And I thought maybe I could use the shade of jeans to build on a canvas.
"There was no big idea- it was a simple observation."
He seems to have many happy memories from studying at BNU, and some not so good. He remembers parking on his steep drive three weeks after arriving a uni- only for it to roll into a neighbouring house.
Just three weeks later a women lost control of her car and hit a lamp post which then landed on his car. And he said he then continued to have car mishaps every three weeks afterwards.
When he left uni he got a job as an art director in London. By 2008 he had moved to Australia. He went travelling with his friends then got an art director job for about 17 months.
He really didn't enjoy it and he danced in the streets when he was made redundant in 2010. He turned down another job offer and decided to pursue a career as an artist.
He moved to Sweden and set up a studio and hasn't looked back. Ian said: "I am from a background of teachers, of stable jobs. Mum was trying to get me to go back and do a PGCE.
"I was going into a world where it wasn't stable and I didn't know where the next pay cheque would come from.
"But I would definitely encourage more people to do it- just to do something which gets you out of bed every morning- which represents you.
"Money suddenly doesn't seem anywhere near as important. It is probably easier to say that when you are getting it.
"But nobody becomes an artist because they want to get money."
This is Denimu’s second exhibition at Hampstead based Catto – the only UK venue he has shown at - and will feature up to 25 new and original pieces, all from recycled denim, with prices starting from approximately £2,000 and a typical piece costing £6,500. It runs until December 10.
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