If you  live in New York City and have kids, nephews, nieces etc. then here’s a super cool place to visit: The Secret Garden in the Children’s Museum downtown, which is all made of denim.

I have written about Ian Berry a few times before and seen his work only online, but it was a pleasure to see his work at New York Denim Days only a couple of months ago. The depth and texture was just something that was remarkably lost when duplicated. It was awesome, three-dimensional, really impressive.

And his latest creation is absolutely one that has to be viewed in person. At the Children’s Museum of the Arts in Manhattan he has made a whole garden in denim. The trellis above the denim pathway is just beautiful, and then you see denim plants and even a rabbit, or is it a hare? All made in denim.

Ian Berry explains:

“I was asked to make a installation for the bridge at the Museum, and I was thinking about the space and also New York and as a city. Also, obviously, it is to encourage and inspire children, so I was thinking a lot about them.

When I think of kids now I see them wrapped in cotton, wool and all inside playing on gadgets. When I was a kid I was playing out in the woods, gardens, playing sport. So while I thought about the kids in New York I thought many may not even have a garden. Yes, they have amazing parks and outdoor spaces, notably the new High Line. I may get killed for saying this and it takes one to know one, but I also find that parents spend less time with their kids, and when they do, can be often just seen typing away on their phones, distracted. I wanted to create a space what could be played in, and I have often found I have created everyday scenes, what people see all the time, but they see it like “new”. I’d love for that interaction between child and parent/carer and for them to spend the time looking and also comparing to a real garden.”

It was also an easy option to say yes to the commission, not only is it a museum in New York, but one that inspires and focuses on children. This has been something that Ian has been interested in for many years, especially because of his own background. He has always created art and was destined for an art career, but then at the last minute decided to study to go into advertising.

“I listened to those who said there was no career in the arts, now that I am making a career in it I feel it is a duty to show young people that there are other options in life.”

Over the years he has done school projects and also TV shows for kids. He gets mails from teachers and students who ask for help and advice when they do projects based on him. Here in the States he was in Scholastic that went to most of the schools in the US, so it was a natural progression and he will go back to the museum in the April and give some lessons.

Ian himself got more of an education this time however, and it was so good to see many in the denim industry get behind him.

In fact when I first met him at an event before the Kingpins show, much of the collaborations started to happen then. He was talking to Kara Nicholas at Cone Denim and they have provided the denim for the installation.

I love that this happening is a fitting tribute  – the use of some of the last denim to have come from White Oak.

Ian also met Christine Rucci that night, and they became friends and she offered to help him with this New York project with contacts, as well as with the installation at the museum.

One brand that was instrumental in creating the whole project is Tonello. Ian was flying back and forth to Italy from his East London studio to work both with their laundry technology and their laser machines.

Says Ian: “They have been great, and while in my other work I pride myself on it all being just jeans, glue, scissors and my hands, this worked out perfectly.

But this was not an option for the work at the Children’s Museum. There was just no way to cut out all the pieces by hand.

When I first knew of laser machines years ago I showed so little interest. I didn’t like the burnt effect and I just saw it as “cheating”, but what the Tonello people have been doing is literally a form of art. I think the combination of both our different technologies turned out to be really creative and showed excellent results. I can’t thank Alice Tonello and her team there enough!”

{note from the editor: I have met Alice Tonello and her team @Denimdays in NYC, and their laser techniques were simply awesome}

The installation is up until April 2018 at 103 Charlton Street, in a museum with one of my favorite pieces in the window. His “Behind Closed Doors” is the work that you see so if you are in the area, make sure you go and see this wonderful installation behind the doors of the museum.

The mission of the Children’s Museum of the Arts is to introduce children and their families to the transformative power of the arts by providing opportunities to make art side-by-side with working artists. Founded in 1988, it moved to its new 10,000 sq ft. location on Charlton Street in 2011. Since then, the CMA has served hundreds of thousands of children and families, 27% free of charge.

{images: Lucinda Grange}


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