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Canary Wharf: How Ian Berry is set to create a new artwork from donated denim

The Poplar-based artist’s piece will be unveiled on the estate for World Environment Day on June 5

Artist Ian Berry, pictured surrounded by jeans in Cabot Square
Artist Ian Berry, pictured surrounded by jeans in Cabot Square

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Artist Ian Berry wants his work to be seen in real life – so apologies to anyone reading the this.

These reproductions might give you an idea of the kind of pieces he creates, but 2D reproductions on paper or digital screens just don’t cut it.

Based in Poplar, but hailing from Huddersfield via High Wycombe, Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands, the constant in Ian’s life is also his medium – denim.

Cutting, layering and gluing, he creates images and installations using a palette of jeans, constantly pushing to make the material accurately depict all manner of scenes, lighting effects, substances and surfaces.

The reason you’re looking at one of the pieces from Ian’s Behind Closed Doors series is that he’s just embarked on a project in partnership with Canary Wharf Group.

With used clothes donated at Jubilee Place last week, he’ll be stripping out the denim and using it to create an artwork, which will be unveiled on World Environment Day – June 5.

Detail for one of Ian's pieces for his Behind Closed Doors series
Detail for one of Ian’s pieces for his Behind Closed Doors series

“My work needs to be seen in real life to be understood,” said Ian, who works from a studio overlooking the Limehouse Cut canal.

“I don’t really feel like a real artist to those who haven’t seen my work in that way.

“I’d spent the pandemic having seven different shows in other countries – most of them solo and that was tough with all the quarantines and shipping issues.

“I’d just got back from Chile when I got an email from Canary Wharf asking about this project.

“At first I thought it would be great just because I could walk there rather than having to take pieces on aeroplanes.

“I walk through the estate when I catch the Jubilee line, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my work seen by more people in real life.

“But it also sounded interesting because of the estate’s sustainability credentials – it’s something that’s taken very seriously whereas some other places just use it for marketing. I’ve not spoken much about sustainability in the context of my work.

“Others have – as recycling or upcycling – but when I started 16 years ago it wasn’t the buzzword it is now.

“The project I’m doing with Canary Wharf Group reflects sustainability and the environment – denim’s terrible in its impact at the end of the day – but there are also good things happening in the industry.

“I don’t believe there’s a material that better reflects contemporary times, good or bad.”

Detail from Ian's Secret Garden
Detail from Ian’s Secret Garden

That really is the crux of things for Ian. While we talk it becomes clear there are all sorts of tensions at work between the artist, his medium and the subjects he chooses.

He tells me denim stands for freedom, democracy and the West to the point where it was banned in Russia and Belarus, where it’s still worn symbolically by dissenters.

Then again, it’s also the clothing of capitalism, excess and greed, with designer jeans selling for astronomical sums.

“I’m interested in people and in the denim industry, in workers’ rights,” said Ian. “I know everyone in the sector and there’s a lot of greenwashing going on – a lot of lying and they even tell me what their lies and exaggerations are. It’s frustrating.”

While Ian’s pieces are necessarily shot through with such issues – how noble attempts to pass on clothing to do good can come unstuck as second-hand garments wind up flooding foreign markets or simply get dumped overseas, for example – the denim he uses is also, importantly, just the stuff he uses to capture the world.

“I use it literally as my paint to represent contemporary life and issues you see every day,” he said.

“I have struggled for 16 years to know what to call them –  they’re not paintings, they’re collages, but using just one medium.

“In some there are 16 layers of denim, so they are very sculptural, 3D pieces, and they can be very effective, with the texture of the denim as well. All that gets lost if people look on their phones or laptops.

“The magic in my work is finding the gradients in the denim, the fades, the cat’s whiskers – where it goes from indigo to lighter shades. You can connect them together and get quite a photo-realistic piece.

“Sometimes I achieve that too well and people don’t realise it’s jeans, but you need that ‘aha’ factor for people to connect.

“It happens in America especially, where people look for a while and then get closer and closer and, at about 50cm away, they say: ‘Oh, my God, it’s blue jeans’. I don’t want it to be seen as a gimmick, though.

“I hope people appreciate the craft, the love and attention to detail and they are amazed that the piece is made out of denim.

“I do set myself technical challenges – how to depict shiny, metallic objects or water using this matt material. But the main thing is the subject.

“With the Behind Closed Doors series I wanted to depict this busy city we’re living in, which can be lonely. 

“That really connected with people – two out of three were saying: ‘Wow, that’s me’ – and it was kind of special.”

Detail from The Game by Ian Berry
Detail from The Game by Ian Berry

Ian, whose granddad was from east London, said he wasn’t sure what kind of piece he would create from the jeans donated in Canary Wharf.

He said: “Hopefully the piece I create will cause discussion and make people think. 

“I can’t give too much away at this stage in case the idea changes but I think it’s going to have an element of my hanging Secret Garden, which turns plants into cotton, into jeans and then back into plants again. 

“There’s a nod to sustainability in that – it’s nice because we can make something permanent out of the jeans. 

“If you wear a pair for 10 years and then throw them away, it might be just about OK, but now we have a world where people buy them, wear them two or three times and throw them out.”

Ian’s piece will be added to the Wharf’s permanent art collection.

Detail from The Roosevelt, LA, by Ian Berry
Detail from The Roosevelt, LA, by Ian Berry

Read more: Find out where to make your own cloth with Freeweaver Saori Studio

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Jon Hala’s salon is all set to get you looking your best for Christmas

Hair and makeup package offered for those special events alongside range of aesthetic treatments

Jon Hala opened his salon in Jubilee Place in 2019
Jon Hala opened his salon in Jubilee Place in 2019 – image Matt Grayson

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You can feel it, can’t you? With the decorations up throughout Canary Wharf’s malls, the festive season is upon us and, with last year’s celebrations curtailed by the pandemic, the estate is almost vibrating with anticipation for the parties and events to come. 

Anyone who had previously taken winter festivities for granted has had a long 18 months of restrictions and lockdowns to provide a bit of perspective for 2021.

Little wonder then that venues are already reporting a surge of bookings with home and office workers alike apparently desperate for a bit of real-life face time.

The gyms’ treadmills and weights machines are working overtime as bodies softened by Zoom calls in bed and too many takeaways are honed back towards something approaching shredded perfection.

With serious pent up demand, everybody wants to look and feel their best – after all, Christmas comes but once a year and this one has even more traction that usual.

“People in Canary Wharf want glamour,” said Jon Hala. “And that’s what we’re all about.

“That means bouncy, beach wave and editorial-style blow-dries – the kind of thing you’d see in Vogue. 

“Our aim is to make everyone feel amazing – totally comfortable in their own skin.”

The salon specialises in colour treatments
The salon specialises in colour treatments – image Matt Grayson

Jon opened his eponymous salon at Jubilee Place in October 2019 as the culmination of decades working at the very top of the industry.

Training with Vidal Sassoon was followed by about 16 years at Nicky Clarke’s Mayfair salon, before going on to style A-list clients from the worlds of film and fashion. 

As workers return to the estate’s offices and an increasing number of residents move to homes both on and close to the estate, Jon remains as determined as ever to deliver cutting edge services while remaining agile and adaptive to his client’s needs.

“We want to serve the people of Canary Wharf, to give them what they want as well as a great experience along the way,” he said. “We never turn clients away – we are very accommodating.

“If someone wants to come at 7am, they can – we call it the early bird appointment. It’s the same if it’s after hours and we never rush anybody.

“We’re independent and completely focused on customer service – we’re certainly not an average salon. We give clients little gifts, something they can take away as a thank you for coming here.

“It’s about bringing Knightsbridge to Canary Wharf – we have an amazing team who are all highly skilled and have worked in films, advertising and editorial.”

Those considering having their locks tamed by the salon can also be confident as staff regularly take time to consider trends, styles and fashions clients might want.

“Part of our training here is to hold monthly soirees, looking at magazines and working out what the next trends will be,” said Jon.

“The evenings are fun but educational – we put bullet points on a mirror and discuss what’s coming through.

“As a result of lockdown, for example, men have become used to having longer hair and many found they liked it.

“For women, it’s been a case of short bobs in case another lockdown happened. As a business we work with a lot of high end brands including haute couture house Balmain, which we’re ambassadors for, so we’re very up on the latest trends – we have to be.”

The salon specialises in colour services and offers products from brands such as Shu Uemura, Oribe, Sknhead, Kerastase and American Crew as well as making its own Miracle Masque.

Jon has also tailored his business to meet the very specific demands Canary Wharf generates and, having spotted a niche, the salon has launched a hair and beauty package designed to get clients ready for events, whether that’s for Christmas or at any other time over the course of a year.

“We’ve come up with an affordable combination of hair and makeup – inspired by salons in west London that offer everything under one roof,” he said.

“It costs £100 and that’s split equally between a blow-dry and make-up. It’s a good deal because just having the latter done professionally can be more than £70 alone.”

Violeta Hala oversees the aesthetic treatments
Violeta Hala oversees the aesthetic treatments – image Matt Grayson

The salon also now offers a range of aesthetic treatments overseen and delivered by Jon’s wife, Violeta. 

Chief among the services it offers are a wide range of treatments using a NeoGen Plasma machine, which uses pulses of nitrogen plasma aimed at stimulating collagen production.

“When people are over 30 or 35, they start to realise that they have to take care of their skin, so we are providing a range of needle-free treatments using this machine,” said Violeta, right.

“It can be used to improve darker patches of skin, to lessen the appearance of rosacea and even to lift the eyebrows.

“There is literally no pain and, after a few treatments, people will start to see the results.

“It’s ideal for anyone who is scared of needles and doesn’t want to risk bruising on their face.

“There’s no downtime, so people can even pop in and have a treatment during their lunchbreak. It depends what we’re treating, but the process takes no longer than 40 minutes. 

“The results are quite quick too – I would say three or four treatments to see improvements, so there’s still time to get it in time for Christmas.”

A client having a NeoGen Plasma treatment
A client having a NeoGen Plasma treatment – image Matt Grayson

The salon also offers Mesotherapy for both beauty applications and to fight hair loss.

Violeta said: “We use nano-needles that are so small – so soft and tiny – that they don’t leave any bruising.

“We’re injecting 55 different vitamins, which includes four different amino acids into areas that require it. After three treatments you see amazing results and I would advise that it is repeated every four to six weeks.

“At the salon we also offer fat dissolving injections, which is a revolutionary new treatment that can be especially helpful after people have been sitting at home for long periods during the pandemic.

“It can be used to target anywhere on the body where fat has been stored – the legs, hips, chests, lower back, the arms, the knees and the chin – to break down the fat cells.

“Clients should see results after the second or third session but it has to be done gradually so your skin has time to adjust.”

Staff at the salon are happy to talk potential clients through the various aesthetic treatments offered and to explain in greater detail the sorts of results that can be expected.

Back on the hair side of the business, that’s also true as Jon always aims to give his customers what they want.

He said: “You can only ever suggest things to people – it’s about meeting halfway. I don’t ask a client: ‘What are we doing today?’.

“But I will recommend styles that will suit them. Then we do a two-step haircut where we take some off, then decide whether to go further. It always works out.”

Follow this link to make a booking at Jon Hala online

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