DENIM is an unusual material for artists to work with but one man has made a name for himself using old jeans – quite literally.

Ian Berry is best known as Denimu and the Netherton-born artist, who now lives in Sweden, is returning to the UK for his first exhibition on homeground at the Catto Gallery, London, from April 19.

But while it’s the first exhibition of his work in the UK, Denimu is already an emerging name in the international art world with top galleries lining-up to stage his collections and his work fetching thousands on the art market.

Not bad for someone who first had the idea to make his collections out of denim while clearing out his old room at the Huddersfield home of parents, Christine and Eddie.

Ian went to Newsome High School and Greenhead College and spent two years at Huddersfield University before transferring to Buckinghamshire to study advertising.

He worked in advertising until the call came from mum Christine to clear out his old room – and it’s there he discovered piles of old jeans which have now become his signature.

Denimu takes a fabric most commonly worn as jeans or a jacket, and makes works of art with it – he sometimes cuts up his own jeans to add to his stunning creations.

And they have to be seen to be believed – for his stunning cityscape, snapshots of everyday life or iconic images leave people amazed that such images are created from pieces of discarded denim.

Ian, who continues to follow Huddersfield Town from afar, spoke to the Examiner from his home in Skåne, southern Sweden.

He said: “It was about six or seven years ago my mum was clearing out my old room and she wanted me to go through my things.

“I found loads of old jeans and denims and I noticed the different colours and shades.

“I kept hold of them but it was only about 18 months later I began to do something with them.”

In fact it was after he took a massive risk to leave his job and work full time as an artist that he finally dug out his old jeans.

“My girlfriend’s parents asked at the time if artists could make a living out of art,” he added. “It was a big risk to leave a job behind because art was something of a hobby before then.”

Ian had previously worked as a creative artist for advertising agencies in London and Sydney and whilst in Australia he met his Swedish partner, Asa.

He worked creating campaigns for brands such as Nissan, Guinness and Talisker Whiskey, but the call of the old, ripped up denim was too deafening to ignore.

He began to create visual art with the materials and the art-loving public caught on and his gamble to leave a steady job paid off.

Two near sell-out shows in Sweden were followed by shows in the US and Portugal.

His work has since sold across Europe, America and Australasia to private, public and corporate collections, and has been featured in art and fashion magazines from Elle to Playboy.

But although Ian has exhibited all over the world, his work has never been on show in his home country – until now.

Ian admitted to feeling nervous about the launch, saying: “I’m more nervous than excited at the moment, everything is being transferred there by plane so the nerves may ease once the pieces arrive.

“But I feel nervous because when I’ve exhibited before I’ve not been known to people.

“But in London my old acquaintances and work colleagues will see my work.

“My family and friends will be there too, and even though I’d had some brilliant feedback and the reaction has been really good, I always worry about what people I know will think.

“It’s my first exhibition at home, it’s the city where I used to work, so it feels more personal.”

But work keeps him busy, often he spends seven days a week creating his artwork and as demand rises so to does his workload.

“If a good opportunity comes along it’s often hard to say no,” he added.

“I’m showing in Portugal in September for my first big solo show and there’s huge wall spaces to fill.

“There’s also the potential to show at the National Gallery of Monaco, I can’t say too much about that at the moment but that was one opportunity too good to turn down.”

An acquaintance in New Orleans is taking his work to the US market.

But his feet remain firmly on the ground – his parents and sister Fiona follow his career from home and he remains a keen Huddersfield Town fan.

Last year he rallied Swedish friends to watch the Town play-off final on TV.

“By the end of the game when Town lost I think they couldn’t wait to leave,” he joked. It was the weekend an exhibition launched in Sweden and was meant to be a celebration until Town’s loss.

The previous year he booked flights from Australia to go to the play-off final – but sadly Town just failed to get to the final.

Football keeps him in touch with his hometown, but life back in Huddersfield is very much a distant memory for Ian: “It feels like so long since I was at Newsome High School. I remember doing art there and at Greenhead College and people were saying no-one could make money out of it. That’s why I went down the commercial art route and into advertising.

“I enjoyed advertising, I had some adverts in the papers and it was something I was proud of, but I felt it was no longer for me.

“This is what I want to do.

“I think I can only work with denim, people have asked if I’d consider using other materials but to me that would seem like collage, I know some artists who do it and it looks cool, but I always think collage as something I did at school.”

He’s certainly come a long way since, as an 11-year-old, he won an Examiner competition and his designs were so good they were transferred onto tea towels and cups.

Now his work will be on show in a top London contemporary art gallery.

Iain Barratt, director of the Catto Gallery, told the Examiner: “It’s extraordinary what Ian does, it’s not until people see it close up and touch it they can see how he’s created these wonderful scenes.

“And what absolute treasures they are. Ian conjures remarkably detailed portraits and urban landscapes using nothing more than discarded jeans – the effect is extraordinary.”

For more details visit The Catto Gallery, Hampstead, London / .