It was the Summer of 2015 when Derek Christensen decided to move to Chicago, after spending years in the suburbs. At the time, money was tight, but optimism was high as he moved into his new home in the city. After getting settled, Derek wanted to find a cost effective way to fill his walls with art. The notion of creating something himself came to mind, but he wasn't exactly sure what to create.
The "ah ha moment" didn't arrive until he noticed an American flag a friend had made. Looking closer, it wasn't painted; it was made from something else... license plates. A wave of nostalgia came over Derek, bringing him back to art class as a kid and remembering how much he loved those times. Ideas began to arise in his head, as he thought to himself "I could do this, but do it in my own way."
"The idea was just to make a piece for my apartment, thinking that will be the end of it. Then all my friends saw it and asked me to make something for them. Then they started telling their friends and before I knew it, I'm making stuff for people I've never met before."
Allyson Felix made from recycled license plates
While the snowball effect took place, the now in demand artist divided his time between his day job, as a high school social studies teacher and cutting metal at night to create new works of art. He later found himself displaying artwork in self-represented shows within the Chicagoland area. The momentum for a Derek Christensen original continued to grow and as the summer of 2019 approached, he couldn't help but feel his time was coming.
Then months later an unforeseeable moment in history took place which drastically made an impact on the artist's daily schedule. Public schools began to shutdown, as the Covid-19 pandemic began to spike.
A social studies teacher by day, Derek began to transition his normal routine to revolve more around the work he was creating in his free time. What felt like an unfortunate turn of events later became a blessing in disguise. The additional free time gave Christensen the ability to improve his technique and work on ideas that were frequently kept in the back of his mind.
His most recent collection is a series of work in dedication to Women's History Month, with a focus on renowned female athletes. The artist meticulously cuts a variety of hand selected plates to reveal unique portraits, like Allyson Felix. His attention to detail goes as far as using license plates containing the birth state of each selected individual he creates.
Derek Christensen's breakout year may have been delayed by the pandemic but that hasn't stopped him from continuously evolving his unique style. A style that was built on snowballing demand from the start of his journey.
To see more the artists work checkout his current collection page. This marks the first time the artists made his work available online to the public.