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Successful Bucks graduate Ian Berry talks to students

If you think about what your favourite, most comfortable item of clothing is it will most likely be a nice pair of jeans.ian-berry-lecture

But everyone's favourite fabric isn't just a fashion statement for Bucks graduate Ian Berry who uses it to create the most intricate and unusual works of art.

He graduated from Bucks New University's BA (Hons) Creative Advertising degree in 2006 and it was one simple observation that started his career.

Noticing a pile of old jeans and the contrasting shades of blue, Ian grabbed some scissors and glue and that decision has led to him being named as one of the top 30 artists under 30 in the world.

It's hard to tell from photos just how three dimensional Ian's work is - on first glance they look like blue toned photographs - but like with any good work of art it's when you get close that the magic is revealed. Even at touching distance, many viewers don't realise that they are looking at many layers, and shades, of denim jeans.

Ian-Berry-SennerHis success has caught many eyes and while the works are painstaking to make he had been able to take a few commissioned portraits; Debbie Harry, Jennifer Saunders, Giorgio Armani and Lapo Elkann and Brazilian model Giselle. But his most well-known was one made of another Brazilian, Ayrton Senna, using his family's jeans and in support of the institute in his name.

So how did Ian go from being an Advertising graduate at Bucks to artist? We spoke to him about his rise to denim fame.

How did your course at Bucks New University help you?

Firstly it helped me to think openly and differently. I have been quoted as saying that I think many people in advertising are much more creative than some artists. We were taught to think past the first ideas, and then to be able to present them in the best ways.

The second is the work ethic. At Bucks we had contact time most days, including Wednesday night lectures in London, and we had a heavy workload. This helped us in first being prepared for the real world and industry, and then now, when working, to really be prepared to make all the effort to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.

What key skills did you learn that have helped you?

To those that read this, it may not make sense, but as I say above, to think. How to think, and how to do things differently. I don't know if it is a tangible skill but it is a much undervalued skill.

This can be adapted to many industries and jobs after graduating. You do not always have to go into 'ad land'. I wish however I had grasped opportunities to learn other skills, as the options were there, like on Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Now, if I use any of these I have to outsource it now when often it is in fact rather simple.

You came back and spoke to current students recently, how did it feel being back?

It was the first time I have been back in 10 years, actually since my graduation. I was surprised to see the new building and everything looking pretty nice. It was a bit dated when I was there but it felt like a growing positive place, and a good place to learn. Now the ad department even looks like an agency.

The best thing about being back though was meeting some of the students, especially those that stayed behind afterward. Ad students especially are very enthusiastic, and always looking for opportunities. But like in any walk of life, there are always the loud ones, and the ones that are not so confident.

I was hoping to show a few of those that have not found their confidence, that with a bit of hard work you can get anywhere. I was not actually a naturally confident or quick creative. I would let others shout over me for ideas that I had a few minutes before, but I always made up for it with hard work and commitment. I wish the students the best of luck.

I think it was also important for them to know that there are some transferable skills to other careers and opportunities.

How proud are you of the way your career has developed?

It's really strange. Even five years ago if you were to tell me what I would have achieved in this time, and said it would be over the next thirty years, I probably would have been happy. But you make milestones and you don't appreciate then.

You just look to the next and want to achieve more and get better. If you stagnate it's not good, so it's always good to be progressing. After my last show I actually crashed, so I'm proud that I managed to get back to it, as well as making a family and moving countries three times, so all in all, stepping back, you have to be proud. For the future, who knows, let's not set any targets!

Watch an interview with Ian Berry, here: https://vimeo.com/194534573.

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