Jeans are something that almost everybody takes for granted. Out of all art mediums that you could have used, why denim?
It was at the end of university, I had gone home and my mum was wanting me to clear the wardrobes and start getting rid of some of my things, as she knew I was never coming home to live. There was a pile of jeans, and while I was sat wondering what to do with all my things I just stared at this pile, all the blues contrasting against one another - and probably because I had just been working on a collage at university, but out of newspaper, the link came to me to use the shades to build up images. So that was the moment, but it developed gradually after, from more simple pictures to more detailed ones. I am coming across new ways to use the fabric all the time. It was also gradual as after uni I got what others would call a 'proper job' so I worked on the art in the evenings and weekends when I got chance.
So it was the aesthetic value of the jean that drew me in at first, but that was probably never going to be enough to keep my persistence. I started really getting into the history, story, and dualities of this amazing fabric so it all grew from there. So in the end it was more, why not Denim!
I feel like denim art is a new style that other artists might try to test out for themselves. Do you hope that other artists will catch on or are you happy that it is sort of an "underground" style?
I recently taught a whole bunch of 11 year olds the techniques. I hope I inspired at least one to carry it on - or to use the skills and apply it to another art. I'm also looking for some new assistants so hope they can do a thing or two, but mainly on the things around the work that will help me focus on the actual work more. It's such a ubiquitous fabric, so why not.
In brief detail, what is the process of creating one of your denim art pieces?
It can depend on each one, however in general I would start with the photography - say finding a model or location. and from that I would use this, often in photoshop to work out the crop and composition. Maybe add or take away a few things, like people. I used to turn it into blue tones to work from, but find it easier to work from colour. I will stretch denim over a wooden frame to make the 'canvas' and then choose seven main shades of jeans as a spectrum for consistency but then use many more secondary shades. I sit in the middle of a big jeans palette. A few hundred spread from light to dark, and then hanging on the wall i have all the different jeans with varying fading which I love to use at the moment.
Going off the image on the computer i start cutting, building up the images - so they become quite thick (and heavy) using glue.
Cutting up and piecing together scraps of denim seems like it would be easier said then done. What is the hardest part of the assembling?
I would have to say finding the right shade probably. Sometimes it can take half a day just to find one piece. I started by using what I call block shades, jeans with only one shade of blue, consistent. I now mainly use the jean with a varied tonal value of shades within the same jean and this is often very hard to find, in piles of hundreds of jeans. I then have to match that shade with other pairs. Not easy. Where I used to be able to make pieces in just a few days, they can now take weeks.
Simply asked, what is your inspiration(s)?
To not work in McDonalds
Most artists have to start somewhere and are driven by another artist/art piece. Do you an artist that you look up to? An art piece (painting, sculpture, etc.)?
I don't know if I have one artist, I love many different ones. I would say living in London while Banksy was becoming well known may have effected me. I then got into a lot of street artists and I loved the attitude and the reclaiming of art, and the background of not having an official art education, although I do have a degree. It gave me the confidence to go out and do it myself.
As a self-proclaimed artist myself, art made by ourselves isn't always seen as perfect in our eye. What is an art piece made by you that you are genuinely proud of? (If this question doesn't pertain to you in general, you don't have to answer it!)
I guess I ought to say all the ones that have been purchased I am genuinely proud of and see as perfect - don't want to fleece the buyer!
I think as time goes on, I improve so normally the latest one is my favourite, and I look back at work that is 6 months or a year old and can see the improvement - and therefore I guess imperfections. But this is good, to see a development and an improvement in the right direction.
Fashion fanatics, I would think, would go crazy over this type of art! Did you plan on making your art for a certain crowd?
Not really no. From early doors I did notice a interesting theme though. The normal person. Yes. Just the normal average person. The phrase (and I dont know if this is a good thing) was 'I'm not into art, but this I love' and it was also nice to find out that it was a persons first visit to the gallery, or they had finally decided to open the door and not just glance at the window. Lets face it, to some people galleries are scary places. I put it down to the jeans. They are so common and people are so comfortable with them that they have a connection - and I think that puts them at ease with the work. Jeans are for everybody, and art also should be.
I actually try and make things that I will like, more than thinking about a certain crowd. I do like the American low brow and street Art movement so guess I can be influenced and gravitate toward this sometimes. The fashion crowd have been interested though, which is great. There are many denim lovers out there too, so that is great for me - as long as I'm not ripping up their own favorite pair.