Born in 1945 in Iowa, where he lived before his family moved to California, Don attended the San Francisco Art Institude and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking. Hardy was an honour student of Sailor Jerry Collins and, through his direct association, was able to study tattooing formally. He studied tattooing in Japan in 1973 with classical Japanese tattoo master, Horihide and thus became well known for incorporating Japanese aesthetics and techniques into his generally American style tattoo work.
In 1982 he formed Hardy Marks Publications with his wife and they began self-publishing the five-book series called “Tattootime”. Since then they have gone on to publish more than 25 books on all different kinds of alternative art-forms. These books also include catalogues
of Hardy’s tattoo work and some pieces by Sailor Jerry Collins. By the turn of the millenium Hardy had already been appointed to the city’s Cultural Art Commission by Oakland mayor, Jerry Brown.
Today he is retired from tattooing. Whilst overseeing, mentoring and tutoring the artists
at Tattoo City, his studio in San Francisco, he focuses heavily on non-tattooing art-forms.
While Tattoo City is his studio, he spends his time concentrating on art-forms like printmaking, painting and drawing. He has been doing these arts since the 1960’s.
Not only is he mentor to new and young artists, Hardy also has a clothing line based on his art and designs. Since the early 2000s, he has licenced KU USA, Inc. Within only two years the collection line drew the interest of Saks companies. Thereafter KU USA and Ed formed
Hardy Life clothing. However, his clothing and accessory lines closed in 2010. Ed blames the collapse of this company on creative and marketing decisions by the company he was associated with in these collaborations.
Apart from being a teacher and role model to his apprentices at Tattoo City, Hardy now retains a 15% minority stake in all Ed Hardy brands and trademarks since 2011.