We recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with artist Hiiro Tomita, for our first segment of Cap Talk – a new feature on the site where we will be interviewing those with an involvement in and an appreciation of the New Era Cap industry and culture. Hiiro has been making a name for himself with his custom hat artwork. He has worked with well-known brands, such as Diamond Supply Co., Dissizit and Dope Couture.
-How did you get into art and graffiti?
I started drawing when I first held a pencil. My parents were both artistic so I was encouraged to draw in my free time. Since my mom would encourage me to go to the library and check out new books to read, I’d always get out through a loophole by checking out “How-to draw” books and teaching myself how to draw all kinds of new things instead of reading novels like the other kids.
Graffiti isnt something I have gotten into yet. I’m interested in it because its a different type of art. Its a “looked-down-upon” type of artwork but its growing in popularity. I personally enjoy art in any form so someone expressing themselves on a wall, to me, is just the artist finding a way to share to the world what they are feeling/thinking/experiencing.
-More specifically how did you get into hats?
I got into hats through my love for hip hop music. My first hat was a white on white Yankees fitted hat that my mom bought for me. After wearing it a few times, I started to realize that other people owned the same hat and that started to bother me. Moving on a few more years, the hat got dirty and go to the point where it was not in any shape to be worn. Since it would just collect dust on my shelf, I decided to draw on it and see if I could throw on some artwork that would make the hat unique. My custom hats are a way for me to express my ambition and passion, similar to how a rapper freestyles on the street. My canvas is just an unorthodox material which helps me be different.
-Can you name some of the brands and artists that you’ve worked with?
The first official brand to help support me was Diamond Supply Co. Nick Tershay, the owner of Diamond, was probably the chillest guy and he was down with helping me display the custom hats in his store. He also helped get my hats to Curren$y, YG, and the Marciano family (the owners of Guess). Other brands I’ve worked with include Headliners in San Jose, Hall of Fame, Dissizit, Halloway, IMKING, TRUE, and DOPE Couture.
-Do you attribute your success to raw talent or is it something that you developed over the years?
I’d say my success is due to my hardwork and ambition. I’ve been turned down by multiple brands and people throughout the years. But if you’re passionate and determined to get your work out to the world, nothing is going to get in your way. I’m just an artist with a dream and I’m finally starting to see my work get the recognition I’ve always wanted.
-When growing up who did you look upto in terms of your passion for art?
I grew up with influence from classical artists such as Monet and Van Gogh. As I grew older however, I started liking street artists like KAWS and other modern artists like Takashi Murakami.
-What tips do you have for any other aspiring artists out there?
Tip for artists or anyone in general is find something you love to do, and just run with it. Don’t stop running, and see how far you can take your passion. Once you find your ambition, work harder than everyone around you but don’t forget to work smart. Always remember that whenever you are not on your grind, there’s someone out there gunning for the same spot that you are. Aim for self-accomplishment and love for your work and don’t get lost by the money.
-What do you want to say to anyone thinking about getting some art done by you?
I am always open to make art for anyone who is interested. Every type of idea has come in the shape of an order by clients so I’m open to anything they ask for. I’ve done custom hats, tattoos, skateboards, canvases, shoes, and body art. Check out my website for more details.
-Have you ever worked on a cap for Nectalk?
I’ve worked on two hats for Nectalk. The first hat I did was a NASA inspired piece I did on a blue and black LA fitted hat. The second piece was a black custom Nectalk fitted. On that one, I drew artwork displaying robotic arms analyzing a hat to symbolize the work that the blog does. (Found at the end)
Yes, I’ll be a part of the giveaway this year. I’m looking forward to creating another custom hat for the winner.
-What would someone need to do to work with you?
They would just need to email me at email@example.com and simply ask for what it is they want me to draw. From there we can go ahead and finalize the order and get all the info needed to get the artwork started. I’m hoping in a year from now I’ll have a website with an online order form so that I can start to help streamline the process to get artwork done.
-Do you have any other brands that your collaborating with in 2013
I am currently working with Metal Mulisha, Connetic, and Headliners at the moment. There are some new surprises on the way so stay tuned! If there are brands out there that are interested in doing collabs on hats, shirts, or any other ideas you have, I’m all ears.
-Are you a cap collector?
Not intentionally. haha Just because I draw on hats and thats become my specialty, a lot of brands send me hats to draw on the and I get a few extra just as a thank you gift. Since I’m constantly getting hats, the number of hats I have that are waiting to be drawn on is about 20-30 including ones for myself. I’d say my collection of my own personal hats is about 50 or so. Custom hats wise, I am at 190 custom hats since I’ve started. I’m really looking forward to hitting the 200 mark.
-Any Closing Words?
To anyone that sees my work, I appreciate your comments and support. I guess the most amusing part of what I do is when I get comments on my hats from people thinking that I had it printed on the hats. In a sense it’s a compliment but I just wish to have everyone appreciate the fact that my hats are all custom hand drawn directly onto the hat material and are never replicated. Each hat is a 1 of 1 and meant to promote each client’s individuality. My artwork is a way for me to express my thoughts and ideas and I’m thankful for all the people who have supported me so far. 2013 is planned to be a big year so look forward to what I have cooked up and lets see what we can make of it!