Don Ed Hardy
Don Ed Hardy
|Born||January 1945 (age 76)|
|Known for||Painting, Drawing, Tattoo|
|Movement||Body art, Postmodern art|
Don Ed Hardy (1945) is an American tattoo artist born in Newport Beach, California, known for his tattoos, strong influence in the development of modern tattoo styles, and his eponymous apparel and accessories brand.
Hardy was born in 1945 in Costa Mesa, California. As a preteen a young Ed Hardy was interested in tattoos: one of his friends' father had army tattoos, and it intrigued him so much that he took pens and colored pencils to other neighborhood kids (in what would become a precursor to his future artistic endeavors).  Hardy also credits his mother, who was a huge supporter of his work and encouraged him to follow his passions. 
Hardy had his first art exhibit, the Laguna Beach Art Festival, after graduating from high school.  He attended the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking.  While there, Hardy studied under some of the most well known art aficionados and connoisseurs: he learned drawing from Joan Brown, etching from Gordon Cook, and sculpting from Manuel Neri.  He was later offered and earned a full scholarship and post graduate position at Yale’s school of arts. He declined and instead pursued other goals and aspirations, namely tattoos. 
Hardy was mentored by several famous and prolific tattoo artists, among them Samuel Steward (also known by his nickname “Professor” Phil Sparrow). Sparrow was a former novelist, poet and academic turned tattoo artist who had made a name for himself in this very seedy underground lifestyle. This was surreal for Hardy; In his youth, he had copied the designs of the aforementioned legendary artist.
Not only would Hardy learn under the watchful eyes of Steward (at the latter's Oakland California studio), under the former's tutelage the latter's career would be indelibly marked and changed. At some point, Steward showed his young ingenue a book of Japanese tattoos. Hardy, who had already been interested in Japanese history, culture and woodblock prints, had an epiphany; he described it as being struck by “lightning.”  This would become the genesis for his incorporation of eastern styles, methods and modes into his own repertoire and reserve of knowledge and skills.
While Steward can be seen as one of the earliest and most prominent figures in Hardy’s life, experiences in other studios honed and sharpened his skills, allowing him to cut his teeth and earn his proverbial bones. When Hardy finished his apprenticeship with Steward, he moved all around North America, from the Bay Area to Vancouver. He worked under famed artists Zeke Owen (in Seattle) and Doc Webb (in San Diego). 
Eventually Hardy formed a relationship with one of the pioneers of modern tattoo culture, Sailor Jerry Collins, who would have an immense impact and outcome on his then-current and future endeavors. He met with and began a long correspondence with Sailor Jerry, which paved the way for an introduction into a world previously closed off to outsiders. Through Jerry’s connections, Hardy began an association, in 1973, with the classical tattoo master Horihide. Hardy studied and tattooed in Japan off and on through the '70s and '80s. According to Hardy, his clientele at the time included bikers and Yakuza members; individuals on the fringes of society (renegades, rebels and mavericks). Hardy soon became recognized for being the main influence and driver in incorporating Japanese tattoo aesthetics and techniques into American styles of work.
One of the defining characteristics of Hardy’s work is the elevation of tattoos from flash, preset and preformed tattoos, to customized and personalized work. Before this, it was very common for individuals, often those in the U.S. Navy, to walk into studios/or the back of other businesses and select art work off of a wall. Hardy’s motivations were more aesthetically simple: to focus on ones self expression, the resulting tattoos reflecting the individual's taste and preferences. This would be collaborative, done in consultation between tattoo artists and client. For Hardy this was about customization and personalization, thus the wearer would have an emotional connection. This fine art mentality helped elevate tattoos from a subculture to pop culture, taking it from fringe culture to main culture.
In 1982, Hardy and his long time friend Ernie Carafa, formed Hardy Marks Publications. Under this marque, they began publishing the five-book series Tattootime. Hardy Marks has gone on to publish more than 25 books about alternative art, including catalogs of Hardy's work and that of Sailor Jerry Collins. EEE Productions (Ed Hardy, Ed Nolte, and Ernie Carafa) put together the first tattoo convention on the Queen Mary, as well as organizing many other tattoo conventions and expos.
Today, Hardy is retired from tattooing. He oversees and mentors the artists at his San Francisco studio, Tattoo City. One of Hardy’s last apprentices or mentees was Mary Joy Scott, featured on Tattoo Age (a short lived documentary by VICE Media profiling tattoo artists who have gained fame and, welcomed, notoriety within the profession at large).
In the early 2000s, Hardy licensed Ku USA, Inc. to produce a clothing line based on his artwork. Within two years, the collection had drawn the interest of Saks Incorporated. Hardy and Ku USA formed Hardy Life, now Hardy Way LLC, which owns the Ed Hardy brand and trademarks. The brand has subsequently been extensively licensed, at one point having 70 sublicensees, selling clothing, accessories, lighters, perfume, hair styling tools, and condoms.
The most famous licensee was Christian Audigier, previously of Von Dutch Originals, which marketed the imagery of Kenny Howard (aka Von Dutch), another noted American subculture artist. Audigier licensed the worldwide rights to the Ed Hardy brand in 2005 through his holding company, Nervous Tattoo, and employed the marketing techniques employed by Von Dutch Originals, marketing directly to celebrity clients and by opening stores in high-profile fashion districts. Ed Hardy stores were located in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Honolulu, Scottsdale, Tucson, Vancouver, Dubai, Johannesburg, Kuwait, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Gurgaon, Delhi, Mumbai, and Qatar.
The face of the brand (from 2008) was Sarah Larson. The brand gained significant popularity under Audigier, peaking at more than $700 million in gross revenue in 2009, but collapsed quickly in the following two years, leading to the closure of many stores. Among others, the Australian sublicensee of Ed Hardy (owned and operated by Gary Berman) entered administration and closed in 2010.
Hardy blamed the collapse on creative and marketing decisions by Audigier, such as Audigier featuring his own name prominently on branded items (on one item 14 times, compared to Hardy's once), and prominent association with short-lived reality TV celebrity Jon Gosselin. Following legal battles, Hardy regained control of the brand in 2010, though as part of the settlement Nervous remained a licensee for T-shirts, hats, and hoodies.
In May 2009, Iconix Brand Group announced it had acquired a 50 percent interest in Hardy Way, LLC, the owner of the Ed Hardy brand and trademarks, which it increased to 85% in 2011. Hardy retains a 15% minority stake.
In 2018, the brand successfully relaunched in Europe, and collaborations were presented with Missguided and Illustrated People amongst other brands, the latter sold via Selfridges, Asos and Topshop. In 2019, the brand carried out a further global collaboration with Rose In Good Faith.
- Bull's Eyes & Black Eyes, Hardy Marks Publications 2003.
- The Elephants' Graveyard, Frederick Spratt Gallery 2002.
- Smart art press - by Don Ed Hardy, Smart Art Press 2000.
- Tattooing the Invisible Man, Bodies of Work, Hardy Marks Publications/Smart Art Press 2000.
- Permanent Curios, Smart Art Press 1997.
- tattoo-time, ART FROM THE HEART, Hardy Marks Publications, Hawaii 1991.
- tattoo-time 4, LIVE AND DEATH TATTOS, Hardy Marks Publications, Hawaii 1988.
- tattoo-time 3, MUSIC & SEA TATTOOS, Hardy Marks Publications, Hawaii 1988.
- tattoo-time 2, TATTOO MAGIC, Hardy Marks Publications, Hawaii 1988.
- tattoo-time 1, NEW TRIBALISM, Hardy Marks Publications, Hawaii 1988.
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- Juli Weiner (May 26, 2010). "Ed Hardy, Terrible Clothing Company Popular with Terrible People, Introduces Line of Condoms". Vanity Fair.
- Norm Clark (June 15, 2008). "Larson the face of new clothing line". Review Journal. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
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- Bhattacharjee, Nivedita (May 5, 2009), "UPDATE 1-Iconix Q1 tops market; buys 50 pct in Hardy Way", Reuters, retrieved March 26, 2010
- Wong, Allison (2006) 10 Years - The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center - Tenth Anniversary Exhibition, Honolulu, Hawaii: The Contemporary Museum. p. 47 ISBN 9781888254075