TATTOOING JUST AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE
The following article from the New York Post (NYpost.com) is all about how Don Ed Hardy’s business associates screwed the pooch and upended the cash flow to the folks who made and sold Ed Hardy tattoo products (hats, T-shirts, coffee cups, key chains, etc., etc., etc.). I think we’ve heard this story before, how certain people get crazy when money and celebrities are waived in front of their noses. But beyond the who-did-what-to-whom aspect of the story, what surprised me is what Ed Hardy was quoted as saying, in an interview regarding the current tattoo scene in North America. Mr. Hardy, with all due respect, referred to tattoos as “tats”! OMG, Ed, everybody knows using that word is a super no no; right in there with calling a tattoo machine a “gun.” Maybe Mr. Hardy has been away from the actual tattooing part of tattooing for so long that he forgot these time-honored rules. Maybe he was misquoted. Maybe he just forgot. Maybe I’m just trying to create a controversy where there is none. In any case, read the following article, learn what happened and… be sure to wear gloves, do monthly spore testing of your autoclave and remember the amazing pioneers, like Ed Hardy, who had the courage to bring this wondrous art form out of the shadows and into the (for many, profitable) light of day.
THAT INKING FEELING
By Kirsten Fleming (NYPost.com)
The real Ed Hardy muses on the douche-ification of his life’s work
Perhaps it was Jon Gosselin, the reviled reality TV dad of eight, who first turned us against Ed Hardy. In 2009, when photos of him frolicking on a yacht in Cannes wearing an array of T-shirts with Hardy’s signature tattoo art appeared on blogs everywhere, any credibility the ink-stained legend had went out the window.
It didn’t matter that Madonna and Adrien Brody also wore clothes with his art. Gosselin was the uncoolest person on the planet, and now he was synonymous with Ed Hardy.
“That Jon Gosselin thing was the nail in the coffin,” says the actual Ed Hardy. “That’s what tanked it. Macy’s used to have a huge window display with Ed Hardy, and it filtered down and that’s why Macy’s dropped the brand.”
Update: By Tamara Beckwith/NY Post
Ed Hardy reflects on his journey as a tattoo artist in his new memoir.
The 68-year-old tattoo visionary is sitting in Soho’s Thom Bar in a classic pink buttondown and sharp navy blazer with his extensive tattoos — which stop at his wrists — peeking out from under his cuffs.
He is good-humored, like a cool uncle. And no, he’s not dripping with bling and aggressive cologne.
That dude would be Christian Audigier, the celebrity-obsessed French businessman who licensed Hardy’s art onto everything from T-shirts to air fresheners and energy drinks. He accompanied Gosselin on that ill-fated trip to Cannes.
“Christian worships celebrities so much, he will get next to anyone who is famous for anything,” says Hardy, who says people thought Hardy was made up — like Aunt Jemima. “If he could have gotten Charles Manson in a shirt, he would have.”
But who is really the man whose name has become synonymous with the word “douchey”?
Hardy, who just penned a fascinating new memoir, “Wear your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos,” chronicling his journey from artist provocateur to accidental fashion mogul, is a Southern California-raised collector of art books. He attended art school and even turned down a full ride at Yale grad school to became one of the world’s leading ink artists.
As a youngster in Corona Del Mar, Calif., Donald Edward Talbott Hardy was precociously obsessed with tattoos, even drawing them on neighborhood kids with the caveat that they were at least 9 years old.
“In those days you wanted to be a fireman or jet pilot,” he says. “I would say, ‘I am going to be a tattoo artist.’ ”
But as he hit high school, his interest in ink waned and he became engrossed in fine art and surfing.
He attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where he earned a degree in printmaking in 1967. Hardy then applied to East Coast grad schools and was offered a full ride to Yale for its MFA program.
But before he enrolled, a buddy arrived in town and cajoled him to get a tattoo. He did — and was once again seduced by the taboo art form that captivated him as a child.
“I thought I could always go back to grad school,” he recalls.
He doggedly pursued the art, moving between Vancouver, Seattle and San Diego, inking thousands of servicemen before ending up in Honolulu in 1969 to study under tattoo master Sailor Jerry.
“It was a challenge of developing it as a medium as no one had. I sort of started the thing where tattoos were commissioned instead of going and picking off the menu on the wall.”
Interested in Japanese body art, he studied there for six months. Upon his return stateside, he opened a shop in San Francisco with a private atelier, and he became internationally known for his Japanese aesthetic.
At the forefront of the movement, he was eager to spread the gospel. In 1982, he started a magazine, “Tattoo-time,” while also experimenting with different art forms, like painting with acrylics.
But life changed in 2003 when two garmentos saw his designs in an art magazine and approached him about launching a clothing line.
“We had done some T-shirts for my shop — but my art on clothing? Eh,” says Hardy, who relented after he was shown some “tasteful” samples. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ll license some of these designs for a percentage.’ ” A small line was born.
In 2005, Christian Audigier, who had blown out the Von Dutch brand, got his hands on a shirt and decided it would be his next venture. Hardy’s business associate made the introduction. “Christian wanted me to be the figurehead, telling me I was going to be famous because he was a guy who worshipped bling and fame and he lives in that world. I didn’t even know who these [celebrities] were. I said, ‘Nah, that’s cool, just pay me,’ ” recalls Hardy, who handed the master license to Audigier. “It got surreal. I would go into a store to get a magazine and see an Ed Hardy lighter. At one point, there were 70 sublicensees.”
Within a couple of years, the brand’s popularity reached dizzying heights — grossing more than $700 million in 2009 — and Audigier began changing the look. He put his own name on the T-shirts, tweaking the designs and color schemes.
“[My associate] saw one shirt that had Christian’s name on it 14 times and mine once,” says Hardy. “Then I thought it was a mistake to say I don’t want anything to do with it publicly.”
Nasty legal entanglements ensued, and eventually Hardy and his wife, Francesca, wrested back creative control of the name in 2010. He signed with Iconix and is currently moving forward with the brand. He doesn’t speak to Audigier, although he makes it clear he never had much contact with him, even during the Hardy heyday.
And although he’s covered in colorful tats, he thinks the culture now is “bizarre.” Hardy has never watched shows like “LA Ink,” and his son Doug has taken over his San Francisco tattoo shop.
“When I first started, I think there were 500 tattooers in all of North America. Right now there’s about 5,000 in LA County,” he says. “Tattooers are so full of themselves now. They’re so much like rock stars, as if they were sprung from the womb like the savior of mankind.”
But then Hardy just shakes his head and grins. “They’re just tats. There are more serious things in life.”