Sunday, February 15, 2009


Apprenticed under:
Phil Sparrow, but also cites people such as Bert Grimm, Zeke Owen, Sailor Jerry, Don Nolan, Tom Yeomans, Pinky Yun and Horihide as people who took him under their wings.

Shops: 1972 (?) Ichiban Tattoo in Canada, under the alias Talbot. 1974, Realistic Tattoo in San Fransisco. Tattoo City in San Fransisco, in three different occasions. Opened in 1977 and destroyed by fire in 1978. Second time in 1991 do to the growing demand for tattoos. And finally larger and improved version of Tattoo City opened in 1999.

It is only fitting that I start my tattoo history blog by introducing you the one and only Don Ed Hardy. I consider him to be the sole reason I am even writing about tattooing all together and you reading about it. Because in short: Ed Hardy IS modern tattooing. Here are just a few moments in his life that defined the tattoo culture for the future.

In 1974 he opened the first private, appointment only tattoo shop in the West, called Realistic Tattoo, which started operating in San Fransisco. In Japan tattoo studios were located behind closed doors and hus hus connections, so this wasn't anything new. But unlike in Japan, he made them more open to general public. By doing so he expanded the basic formula of American styled tattoos by starting to do custom tattooing, and also preserved the history by showing people that they in fact were more than just pictures in the wall. Before that it was the street shops that ruled. What you see is what we got! And if you didn't like it, well, too bad motherfucker... (reaches for the HAMMA) I think that's your teeth in the corner there. This attitude was the by product of tattoo shops being in the worst areas in the neighborhood. Mister Hardy changed all this with out loosing none of the integrity of the tattoo designs or the aura of tattoo shops.

In 1982, together with
Leo Zulueta, mister Hardy started publishing a magazine/book called TattooTime which probably made couple of hundred, or even more, young boys (and girls) want to start tattooing. In 1985 he was asked to put together international tattoo exhibit in Rome, Italy. It showcased tattooing being done, art displays - the works. During the one month it was open, it was seen by 40 000 people. At that time you could count the tattoo shops that operated in the whole country by one hand. Two years from that, they were having their own conventions in Italy. What better time for the exhibition to happen than in the 1980's! I can only imagine what type of a boost, shock, punk rock thing it was to see these designs and art that was so powerful, classy and filled with heritage, compared to the stuff that was the norm back then. I take eagles over unicorns any day.

If that isn't enough, he must be respected for being one of the key figures if not THE figure (after Sailor Jerry Collins), in bringing Japanese tattooing to America. If you love Kore Flatmo, Dana Helmuth, Mike Rubendall, Shinji, Dave Fox, Horiyoshi III, Horitaka, who ever, give at least a nod to mister Hardy. Also his mix between Americana and Japanese tattooing was and is highly influential and genre defining. Of course, Sailor Jerry Collins did it before and it was his shop where the first "mini convention" with Hori-Hide was held where mister Hardy saw what tattooing really could become. The dream that Sailor Jerry had, beating the Japanese in their own game, did perhaps happen in a way when mister Hardy continued the legacy, perfecting the craft and that unique blend of those two great styles of tattooing. But unfortunately, Jerry didn't really get to enjoy the "victory", so it was up to Ed (and rest of his peers) the carry the torch and unify the two styles to a perfect harmony. And he still carries the torch with honor and respect.

On top of all this he still continues to publish great books about tattooing and its history and gives lectures about the history of tattooing in various universities. His impact to tattooing, and the expansion of the craft to other countries and cultures, is god like.
He hasn't just earned the respect of everyone in tattooing, be it artists or customers, he is the reason we can even show it.