Inspiration: Interview

Real Hackney Dave: Artist’s Triumph passion

“You have one life, grab it”

FTR Bio:, Real Hackney Dave

Name: Dave Buonaguidi. In advertising for 30 years

Location: London. Founder of St Luke’s, the world’s first Co-operative ad agency and most recently Karmarama in 2000

Iconic work: Make Tea Not War poster. The image now sits in London's V&A museum

Dave Buonaguidi makes no bones about the fact that he likes the occasional swear.

“It’s all about self-expression and freedom. Real people swear in everyday life so I want my work to reflect reality and not some corporate view of the world,” he says.

His is an attitude born of spending more than three decades in an advertising. It was an industry he grew to despise because of a ‘churn it out, sell it high’ mentality he insists is the enemy of creativity and purity.

Now, after quitting the corporate grind, he splits his time three ways doing “real things that make me happy” – helping small start-ups flourish, riding his “heavily chopped” 2011 Bonneville and creating some of the most talked about word-based screen prints in the motorcycle art world.

Going analogue

Dave was the man behind London-based Karmarama, one of the best known advertising agencies in the world for its devising creative ad and marketing campaigns.

He says: “I founded and built the company into a huge business and there were some highlights like the Make Tea Not War Tony Blair campaign. But slowly I started realising I wasn’t enjoying it. In meetings, I was always thinking about something else like being out on my bike. I wanted to have fun rather than make as much money as possible.

“So, after 14 years I was on gardening leave and decided to go on a screen print course at Print Club London. It was all very different, analogue and a total contrast to the digital world, but it was also pure, charming and made by hand.”

Triumph – local, English and charming

That’s what has always drawn Instagram guru RealHackneyDave to Triumph: “Yeah, they’re corporate but they’ve stuck to the same principles they had when they were launched and still have men and women – human beings who care – involved in every step of the build.

“They are passionate about what they do and continuously looking to improve and improve while sticking to the heritage that’s made them great. Triumph, despite being global, feel local, English and charming.”

Despite the profanities his artwork is too, and it’s attracting a cult audience for its simple yet intriguing blend of photography, individually sourced vintage maps and pop culture images brought together in a series of wryly observed, eye-catching prints.

The latest, a simple typography-based piece with the legend ‘Progress only happens when you tell someone to f**k off’, is pretty much a mantra for how the Londoner lives his life.

“Let’s face it most riders swear, but a company would have to be brave to go down that route with its marketing. I’m free of those restrictions now and it’s very liberating,” he says.

Bike Shed buddies

His ‘hand made is better made” prints for last year’s Bike Shed London and the previous event in Paris have cemented a firm friendship with the venue’s founder Dutch van Someren and earned a certain cache in the capital’s art scene.

“My work is all based around audience, so knowing what people want and what they want to buy to cut through the thousands of messages that bombard us in the market place each day, is critical,” says Dave.

One-off maps of New York, London and beyond with type-based ‘nail on the head’ legends dominate his work, with people paying in the high hundreds of pounds for the originals.

He embraces different and unique, so when he had to bid farewell to his original 1963 Bonneville which was “insane, smelled good and rode so well”, he bought a 2011 T100 upgrade… and, inevitably, deconstructed it.


Straight outta the 70s

“I made the fuel injectors look like carburettors, put some brace bars on it, chopped it, added some Firestone Classic Deluxes, a side mount for the headlamps and now everywhere I go people love it because it looks like something straight out of the 70s,” he beams.

“For me riding a Triumph is about identity, being different, living to ride and losing myself either physically or spiritually, which is what I try to capture in my prints.”

Regrets? I’ve never been happier

Does he regret his decision to quit the “faceless” advertising world? “No f*****g way. I want people to have a reaction to what I do and to enjoy what I do and for the last few years I’ve never been happier.

“Integrity and values mean a lot because you have one life, so grab it. If you want to ride, ride. If you want to do something that sets your pulse racing, do it, but don’t sit around and be a slave to the corporate world and thinking ‘what if’.”

Check out the Bonneville T100