Vol.01 ARCHIVE - Eric Elms


Artist/designer Eric Elms has long been at the forefront of street culture. A major player for over two decades, he has created graphics for every major streetwear brand, released hundreds of ’zines and curated multiple shows around the globe.

Having featured Elms in very first issue of THE NEW ORDER ten years ago, we thought that this would now be a good time to revisit that conversation.

Have you always lived in New York?

No, I moved here in the late 90's. At this point I feel like it is home. The pace of this city becomes a part of your personality after you are here for a long time. I feel like my work reflects my split upbringing on different coasts more then I do. I like to put double meanings into a lot of my work and create a light-hearted tension in the pieces. 

What made you start drawing and making graphics?

I grew up attracted to skate graphics and such so it has always been a part of my life. Growing up, sub-cultures attracted me both ideologically and graphicly. I was always fascinated by them from afar. I think all of those things influence my work now, but my first one-on-one exposure to things was with Shepard in San Diego. I met him when i was 16 and he knew that I knew how to screenprint. He took me under his wing and i worked printing posters for him in his garage. That opened my eyes to a lot of things. Before that I didn't really know it was possible to create a life out of being creative. 


Where did you study?

I studied design at Pratt in Brooklyn.

How does your location effect your work?

I feel like half of my education came from Pratt and the other half came from New York and the people I met and had the chance to work with when I was younger. I was very fortunate and had the opportunity to work with KAWS and Kevin Lyons a lot in the years after i moved here. To this day those experiences shape what i do and how i think about art and design. 


You have worked with a variety of the industry's elite, how does your approach to each project/client differ from project to project? please explain.

Regardless if there is a job for a "industry elite" or an small project I approach it in the same way. Each company has it's own vibe and message they are trying to send. I try and match that with what i can add to the equation to create a interesting impact for the viewer. Sometimes clients what more of my personality in the project and some less. That is the only time it differs really. 

Do you have a favoured medium of work? why?

Not really. Everything i do usually starts out by hand then evolves into the computer. I like when there are a few rough edges to things at the end. Something too perfect seems too "computery" to me. I actually try and develop new styles and new ways of doing things. It makes things more interesting to work on and just expands what I am able to do in the future. Working one way too many times gets old for anyone. 

Do you skate?

I stopped for awhile when i moved to NY and never really started back into it. A part of me wishes i did, a part of me doesn't care. I mostly ride my bike now. New York is a good biking city. 

People strongly affiliate you with Supreme and your work there, how do you feel about that?

Im good with it. It would never be something I would try and distance myself from. Supreme carries on such a long tradition. They are still making probably the best stuff out there right now. It's pretty impressive. James does an amazing job there. I'm proud of having been a small piece of the pie in their history. 


Is there anyone out there that you desire to work with?

No one very specific. There are people who i admire and I think are very good at what they do. People who really pay attention to details.  Hiroshi is always impressive. Types of projects attract me. I would like to do more jewelry pieces, sculptures and fabric patterns for products. 


Do you travel a lot for inspiration? Where are some of your favourite places you have visited?

I end up traveling a lot for work but i never really go somewhere for that purpose. They always inspire me though. I really enjoy cities where there are people who get really interested and inspired by specific things. Tokyo is amazing for that. Paris is a really fun place to visit. I love Regines. Usually when i make a point to travel somewhere outside of work it is to relax; to read a book on the beach. 

Do you collect anything of interest?

Not too much. Books are probably my biggest vice. They are nice for reference in design work and just to apprieciate for art's sake. I wish i could collect more art but i can't afford it. 


Please tell us about your studio WeAreAdorn that you run? What is the concept?

It is more of a traditional design studio that can encompass more then just my work. It enables me to work on a very small project or bring together a group of talented people to work on larger projects or campaigns. I think we can offer a good base of design and consulting for clients who are looking for interesting ideas.

Where do you see yourself in a few years time?

I don't live that far in advance. I love what i am doing now so hopefully more of the same. I think I will be producing more paintings and art in the near future. 


If not graphic design what would you have become?

No idea. Glad i don't have to think aout that. 

Any closing thoughts?

Thanks for the interview. 

Thanks for your time

Culture, ArtJames Oliver