I still remember the moment I saw an Ed Hardy shirt for the first time. On Sixth Avenue in Manhattan on a hot, sunny day. Within months, it seemed they were everywhere.
Honestly, my introduction to Hardy was an amazing volume he edited that was based on his correspondence with Sailor Jerry. As an up-and-coming tattoo blogger, I learned more from that volume, than any other.
When all is said and done, there are two Ed Hardys - the great tattooer who learned from the legendary Sailor Jerry (and others), and the brand. The Brand turns any self-respecting tattoo artist's smile into a frown, but the wave of Hardy clothing and paraphernalia cannot drown out the artist's contribution to the craft.
That said, when I got my copy of Wear Your Dreams: My Life in Tattoos, Ed Hardy's autobiography, I wondered how he would address this vast disconnect. He didn't waste any time. The first line of the book reveals:
"Today there have been nearly one billion Ed Hardy retail items unleashed on an unsuspecting but highly receptive public. That staggering sum makes no more sense to me than it does to you."What follows is a veritable feast of tattoo history. As one would expect from a biography, we watch Hardy grow up from a school boy in Southern California with a makeshift tattoo shop for his friends where he would draw designs om classmates, to his days as an aspiring art student heading to Yale, up to the present day, where Ed Hardy is known to more people as a brand.
I'm always fascinated by the stories of tattoo artists and their craft, back before the "reality" show mentality crashed into our culture in the last twenty years. You really don't get the sense of the hard work and difficulties faced by artists nowadays, where a contestant spot on Inkmaster gives one more recognition than true masters of the art form, who have been slaving away, somewhat anonymously, for decades.
It only seems fitting that we are getting the Ed Hardy story now, as tattooing is an industry that continues to grow by leaps and bounds. It's a way for people who are truly interested in the history of the modern American tattoo to discover how pivotal this one artist is.
The book is a great read. Hardy's narration, with Joel Selvin, is matter-of-fact and delivered poignantly. He just tells it like it is, and the reader is rewarded with a narrative of an amazing life, from humble beginnings to the last tattoo. I particularly liked the tales of Hardy's early days, working with Sailor Jerry, his interaction with Phil Sparrow, and his experiences tattooing yakuza in Japan.
Not only can you grab Wear Your Dreams, which is officially released today, but Hardy is on a modest tour, starting tonight in New York, popping over to California, and ending in Honolulu next month. You can see the full schedule with venue details here.
This entry is ©2013 Tattoosday.