Close Menu

Meet The Maker: Autistic Ian

The mind behind visual celebrations of Michelin stars for Jonny Lake and Isa Bal at Trivet, Claude Bosi at Brooklands, Sofian Msetfi at Ormer, as well as bespoke works for Adam Handling at Ugly Butterfly, and Ashley Palmer-Watts for Artisan Coffee, and a celebration of beer at Windsor and Eaton Brewery, talks to Douglas Blyde about his climb out of the abyss of a breakdown…

What is your vintage?

Well, I’m 60. Hate that fact and not sure I look it. Grew up in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall.

Were you a creative child?

I kind of had to be. I was mute until five, so in order to express any need or desire, I used a pencil and an old diary to draw what I needed. My father and I had a beautiful relationship through that.

What did you do before you became an artist?

I went to the Royal College of Art and then worked as an art director, then creative director in advertising, so I’ve always been associated with creativity throughout my life.

How did that previous career come to a conclusion?

I had a massive mental breakdown and I mean massive. I lost absolutely everything in my world. It took me a long time (years) to realise what had happened, where I was, who I was, and where I came from.

What happened next?

That’s a huge question. The short version: I never gave up, and my brain began to re-engage. I found out I was a creative person by chance as I again came across a pen and some paper as I sat in a Starbucks in Marlow…

Noting you lost your home – are you still living on the streets?

Sadly yes. But I hope to change that this year.

How did your friendship with chefs come about?

The first approach and sale I had was with Beth Kerridge, Tom’s wife. I created two pieces of Tom and one of the Kerridge family. They were the start of my Instagram journey. Totally speculative and it was her help and post of my work only two years ago that started this incredible journey. But I also have to mention Ashley Palmer-Watts. He’s been there since the beginning and now I class him as my closest friend. One of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Clever sod too.

Which chefs have subsequently embraced your work?

Well, the short version is most of the world’s best chefs follow me and very many are also my clients, including Clare Smyth, Claude Bosi, Sat Bains, Adam Byatt, Adam Handling, Simon Hulstone, and Matt Abe, to name but a few.

With Clare Smyth

Is the world of hospitality a haven for you?

It’s been incredible, but I also work for a lot of non-chefs too. But with hospitality, there’s such a similar path with art and food. How we both create dishes as art… or art as dishes. It’s a mutual love and respect.

How do you undertake commissions?

Very simple: if it’s a commission, I just ask for a steer, not an idea. Just something to hang my hat on. Then creation usually takes two weeks. Then I frame, and I always like to deliver and present in person. I also create speculative pieces from anything that enters my head. Never with the intention of a certain market in mind, but they seem to be loved too so I’m very fortunate.

Have you ever created commissions for alcohol brands?

Yes. I’ve created “Fr’um”, a unique rum brand created by Fro, bar manager at Tom Kerridge’s The Hand and Flowers, a wine label for Trinity’s Adam Byatt, and a beer brand for Windsor and Eton Brewery.

What are you currently working on?

A few pieces heading to Australia. Mostly food-related art. I have many clients over there.

And what would be your dream project?

To create something huge, something totally out there, something where I exhaust every ounce of my complicated autistic head…

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No