Don Ed Hardy front/back pieces, late 1970s.
Scanned from 35mm prints from the Sailor Sid Diller collection.
Donald Edward Talbot Hardy was born on 6th January, 1945.
Almost his entire life has been devoted to tattooing. Happy birthday, Ed!
This photo, scanned from a 3″x5″ print, dates back to the 1970s and features Ed tattooing a unicorn on his client’s hand.
I hate that, to most people, the name Ed Hardy is synonymous with heavily cologned, spraytanned douchebags who hang out on the Jersey shore or at overpriced bars with stabbing problems. I prepare myself, every time I bring him up to non-tattooed friends, for the onslaught of easy jokes and snide comments about the t-shirts and hats and Valentine’s cards and perfumes that were adorned with his name/artwork during the Audigier years.
What we’re concerned about here at OV is his legacy as a tattooer; the artists he inspired with his work and with the Tattoo Time book series and that when you look at a 35+ year old photo of a ‘golden era’ Hardy tattoo you still think “man that’s cool.”
This photo was scanned from a 3×5 print that could date from the late 70s/early 80s that had no annotation. Other artists unknown.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of his iconic Tattoo Time series, Hardy Marks Publications will be releasing a deluxe two volume set of all five legendary issues available for the first time in hard cover. Priced at $50, this collection is a steal. Even if you have all of the individual issues (My copy of New Tribalism has gone missing!) this will be worth picking up.
The impact of this series was astounding; when Tattoo magazines were published as part of a Biker magazine family, Ed came along and brought his ‘high art’ sensibilities to publishing; The New Tribalism, Tattoo Magic, Life and Death, Music and Sea and finally Art from the Heart all presented a snapshot at various disciplines of tattoo art. DeVita, Deustche, Higgs, Malone, Shaw… everyone who was doing something interesting in tattooing got the Tattoo Time treatment and a whole generation of artists were inspired.
The set is expected to drop in early December, so check Hardy Marks Publications for more information!
All tattooing is folk art.
Vice.com has finally begun airing the Thom DeVita arc of their ‘Tattoo Age’ series, with episode 1 currently streaming.
You can check it out here.
The first episode features Ed Hardy, Nick Bubash, Clayton Patterson, Scott Harrison, Angelo Scotto, John Wyatt, Robert Ryan, Bubba Reeves and of course Thom. If you use the Freddy Corbin arc of season 1 as a yardstick for quality, it’s really hard to imaging it getting any better. But seeing the enthusiasm that other people have for Thom and his work wins you over. Harrison’s face lights up when he talks about his ‘bad’ DeVita tattoos. These episodes- five in total- will end up being a once in a lifetime view into the life of an iconic artist.
Check it out.
In the 1990s, Tattooist Jonathan Shaw interviewed an iconic lineup of Tattoo Legends for ITA magazine. With his kind permission, Occult Vibrations is going to be digitizing these must-read interviews.
The first interview is between Jonathan and Col. Todd.
It originally ran in ITA Vol 1. No. 1, 1992.
Back in the early 1970’s, when I first became interested in the mystery of tattoos, tattooing was a closed world, almost a secret society. Most tattooers were very tight-lipped about their secrets, and tattoo supplies weren’t openly available. Col. William L. Todd was working alongside his long-standing partner, Bob Shaw, at Long Beach, in California’s famous Nu-Pike, a sprawling amusement park surrounded by military bases and studded with a dozen tattoo parlors- a very different scene from today’s genteel tattoo/art studio scene. The Pike is an important location in tattoo history, a place where history and tradition came aline for those of us who were fortunate enough to be around the the words, action and technically superior tattooing of guys like Col. Todd.
A tattooer’s tattooer of the old school, Todd is a perfect southern gentleman with a streak of the badass bootcamp drill sergeant. He always ran a tight ship!
Today, the amusement area of the Pikee is gone, paved over by developers in the endless drive for progress. All that remains of the glory days is one lone tattoo shop where the famous Bert Grimm tattooed for so many years.
Jonathan Shaw: We’re at the Bert Grimm Studio, probably the oldest tattoo shop in the country.
Col. Todd: That’s what they say.
JS: Col. Todd, when did you first start tattooing?
CT: I started in 1947. I was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I’d always been interested in tattooing. I had a couple of officers who were heavily tattooed, one of them having been in the Navy. I was raised on a farm where you didn’t see tattooing unless it was with a carnival or something like that passing through. I went into town in San Antonio, went up and down Houston street, where all the tattooers were, and down toward the end of the street was a circus trailer set up on blocks by itself that said “Tattoo”. It belonged to a gentleman named Jack Tyron. Anyway, Jack told me that he was tattooed all over when he was 16 by Charlie Wagner. He traveled with the circus for years then he bought a commercial lot and the circus trailer and set up shop. It’d be odd to see something like that today.
I went in, and after talking to him I got a little tattoo and asked him about buying a machine. Oh yeah, he said he’d sell me a machine. He started telling me about the mail order places.
JS: Zeis? Was it Zeis back then?
CT: Yeah, Zeis was in business in those days. I didn’t know the connections. I didn’t know how to go about it. It wasn’t as easy in those days. It wasn’t easy to learn, it wasn’t publicized in magazines like today. And the tattoo artists weren’t giving up their secrets. They wouldn’t give you any information.
It’s a very exciting time for people who collect tattoo books; Yellow Beak Press preparing to ship the long awaited Zeis book and Hardy Marks is dropping a 48 page reprint of a 2002 Thom deVita portfolio. Normally I’d tell you why you should spend your hard earned money on something, but in the case of these two… just buy them. I assure you that you’ll regret not picking them up once you see that dreaded SOLD OUT.
I have a feeling that there’s going to be a renewed interest in deVita’s work this year….
From Nick Bubash:
The original loose-leaf portfolio, that is replicated by this book, was made in an edition of 30 copies. It was housed in a hand made (by me) wooden box and the lid was held on with wing nuts and a clevis pin. The entire box, inside and out, was painted by deVita and me and was decorated with various wooden and metal fixtures. The contents consisted of 5 essays a number of lithographs, four photographs printed from the original negatives and 4 original works of art by deVita totaling 32 pages. Each portfolio was slightly different given it’s nature.
I began working on this book in the fall of 2001 and I published it on its completion in Pittsburgh Pa. in the spring 2003.
Thanks, Nick Bubash. Pittsburgh Pa.
From Hardy Marks:
A Manhattan native (b. 1932), Thom deVita showed at open-air art fairs in Washington Square Park In the 1950s and mingled with famous New York School painters at the Cedar Tavern. Interested in tattooing from an early age, he began tattooing in the 1960s soon after it was declared illegal in all the boroughs of New York (the ban was finally overturned in 1997). Although he pursued that as an underground career for nearly forty years, he continues to work in drawings, montage, and constructions.
deVita’s bootleg tattoo studio apartments were densely-packed installations of found art and objects, assemblages, works on paper, wood, and photographs. This complex and inclusive work/live environment, mixing history and cultures, transcended boundaries of High and Low, Art and Craft. deVita’s tattoo customers became moving visual components in the living assemblage of the city. As Willem deKooning, Franz Kline, and Joseph Cornell—all artists he admires— drew sustenance from sights and objects encountered on the streets, de Vita brings seeming chaos into a personal and mysterious order. All elements are combined and transformed to create a swarm of dark visual jazz.
Deep, sophisticated and unclassifiable, deVita is a great treasure who has not yet gained the recognition he deserves in the art world at large. deVita Unauthorized reproduces a loose-leaf portfolio issued in a unique limited edition in 2002
48 pp., casebound, 16″ x 10 ¾”
Hardy Marks Publications, Spring 2012
700 Lombard Street
San Francisco, CA