Guest post by Eleanor Edwardes
Following his painterly collages of daily life made entirely from denim offcuts, artist Ian Berry has now created a three-dimensional denim garden for visitors to experience as they cross the bridge space at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York this Spring.
Tendrils of denim ivy hang from the ceiling while ferns, flowers and patchwork animals pave the way into the space. Visitors are greeted with a brief explanation about the cotton plant and how jeans are manufactured – a fitting introduction to this display of a ubiquitous American garment being seemingly ‘reclaimed by nature’.
While the artist's previous works have been made using contributions from jeans companies, friends and charity shops, this project will be particularly poignant for denim-lovers, as its existence results from the closure of Cone Mills’ White Oak Plant in North Carolina; the last US selvedge denim mill. Berry's garden is made using one of their final spools. Founded in 1905 by brothers Moses and Caesar Cone, the mill had operated for over 110 years and closed last December. The company was famed for its continued use of traditional Draper X3 shuttle looms that create unique variations in the texture and weave of denim.
'We may say that jeans are democratic,' Berry posits, 'but do we all want the same? Do we all want it cheap? And at what cost to the workers, to the environment? Of course with a good selvedge, the jeans become unique to the owner with every fade and crinkle, and I try to respect this craftsmanship, heritage and authenticity in all of my work.' Though children and adults alike will enjoy exploring this fantastical urban jungle, it may also serve as a reminder about where our clothes come from, and inspire ideas for re-using old materials to create something new.
‘The Secret Garden’, until 29 April 2018
Children’s Museum of the Arts, 103 Charlton St. New York 10014