Ed Hardy: Beyond the tattoo and T-shirt

November 7th, 2010

Nadine Kam photos
Don Ed Hardy and his wife Francesca, who shares his enthusiasm for arts of the East, including Japanese textiles.

While I was growing up in Waipahu, there was a tattoo shop on Waipahu Depot Road, and every time I passed by, I thought those designs would look great on a T-shirt. Those were the days before technology made it easier for artists to make a D.I.Y. fashion statement. After a while, the tattoo artist did create a couple of logo T-shirts, as did many shops, but nothing on the scale of Ed Hardy for Christian Audigier, a relatively recent phenomenon.

Although Hardy had been “tattooing” bodies since he was 11 years old, at first practicing on neighborhood kids with colored pencils, it took a long time for him to get to this place, first in 2002 when he partnered with a couple of T-shirt manufacturers. It really took off in 2003-04, when Hardy began his collaboration with the entrepreneur Christian Audigier.

These days, the Ed Hardy name is spelled out on many a T-shirt and trucker cap, and in addition to the line’s presence in department stores, there are more than 80 Ed Hardy stores around the world. So when I interviewed Hardy for a story in advance of his fine art show, “Beyond Fashion: The Personal Art of Ed Hardy,”  at Robyn Buntin Gallery, I expected to be speaking to a consummate businessman. It was refreshing to find someone spiritual, humble and awed, surprised and grateful that his work has found a home on diverse canvases and milieus. It was something he would not have dreamed of when he was first introduced tattooing, when it was—to a mainstream audience—a taboo art form.

He credits Audigier’s marketing skills with making his a household name, while he is quite content—in retirement—to work on his personal art.

Hardy with artist Ramsay, left, and gallery owner Robyn Buntin.

He’s made many friends here over the years that he’s divided his time between Honolulu and California. So a who’s who of Honolulu’s art world came out to show their support. They included Jodi Endicott, John Koga, Mary Mitsuda, Jason Teraoka, Franco Salmoiraghi, Lawrence Seward, Ramsay, Jay Jensen and 93-year-old Claude Horan, who wore a Santa Cruz T-shirt to show solidarity with Hardy, a fellow surfer.

Also represented were tattoo artist from several shops from Kailua to Waikiki. Ed greeted everyone warmly and seemed genuinely surprised by the turnout.

If you want to see the show, it’s at 848 S. Beretania St. The Robyn Buntin Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.

While many mentioned seeing the article I had written in the paper, it’s kind of funny what people pick out when reading. Lawrence greeted me with a, “So, you don’t like like facial hair.”

In the same issue, I’d made mention about November as being called Movember, with a movement to encourage men to grown their mustaches for a month, as symbol of support for men’s prostate health, in the same way ribbons convey support for AIDs and breast cancer research and push for cures. So, I did say I wasn’t a fan of facial hair but would overlook it for the sake of the cause.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t have generalized because I have to admit Lawrence is one of those guys who looks quite dashing with facial hair, and he goes, “What if it were Johnny Depp?”

Yeah, yeah, there are always exceptions. But I was thinking more along the lines of Jason Lee in “My Name is Earl,” and the kind of mustache on T-shirts and depicted on the Movember website are the 1970s porno-looking ones, and while it’s an individual’s prerogative to look like porno guy, I’m just not into that, but hey, some women are!

To each, his or her own, I say.

“Tiger in Waves”  and “Red Tiger in Wind,” two of Hardy’s works at the entrance to the Robyn Buntin Gallery.

Mayumi Suzui and her son Skyler, of OC16′s “Ultimate Japan,” are big fans of Ed Hardy apparel.

Tattoo artists Megan Jones of 808 Tattoo, left, and Tania Arens.  Arens said of Hardy’s work, “He takes the tattoo imagery, mixes Japan and traditional American tattooing, and brings it to the level of fine art and expression in a beautiful way.”

Some of Hardy’s flash work, this sheet dated 1961, was also on display.

Arens, Jones, and Terri and Bernd Siedenburg, owner of the Ed Hardy store at the Hyatt Waikiki, listen to the artist talk about his work.

From left, the artists Mary Mitsuda and Claude Horan, and their spouses Suzie Horan and Jesse Christensen.

With a show at Robyn Buntin’s exquisite gallery, it’s easy to get sidetracked, as I was by these circa 1910 silver insects from Korea, by Takase Kozan. The set of 12 is on the market for $65,000.

A view of Ed Hardy works on layered cast resin and porcelain.

Fans Christin Matsushige and Christa Yates get a book signed by the artist.

Hardy talks about his work, “Tiger on Waves.”

More flash.

Kevin Read, of Loyalty Tattoo in Kailua, and Sacred Art in Waikiki, was also documenting the evening in photographs.

Michael Castillo was there to represent Hale Nui Tattoo.

Those who couldn’t afford the $700 to $20,000 for Ed Hardy’s original art could pick up one of his many books. Also displayed is his painting, “Stop & Go (Wheel of Life).”

More about pieces from the show, continuing through Nov. 27, can be found at www. robynbuntin.com. Links describe the pieces in detail.

Check out some of these videos:

Ed Hardy: Child tattooer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4BDLOEvSK0

Forbidden art: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoT2MzAln8E

2,000 dragons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dnwIaHxisU

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One Response to “Ed Hardy: Beyond the tattoo and T-shirt”

  1. michael haloski:

    Ed and i go back to his days in San Deigo . he did a dragon on my left side upper body we started one on the other however has things have it we never finished. when Ed does another beyond show i would like to have a chat with him if it can be aringed mahalo michael haloski

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