Johnny “King Nerd” Dowell is sure to leave a lasting impression on everything he touches. Known for specializing in luxury engravings, the London-based master engraver has worked to perfect his craft over the past 15 years. To celebrate our limited-edition collaboration of ten exclusive King Nerd x MH40 Over-Ear Headphones, The 10,000 sat down with Johnny to chat about his career, newborn son and alter ego. The ten hand-engraved headphones will be available for purchase for $999 each at masterdynamic.com.
What was the first thing you ever engraved?
The first thing I ever engraved was a coin. I engraved it with Commes des Garçons hearts, which I then accidentally used to buy sandwich!
How did your upbringing and surroundings influence your career choice and artistic aesthetic?
I’ve always been artistic; I feel it’s my only talent. I get my artistic tendencies from my Dad. Originally I was planning to study fashion, but ended up taking a different direction entirely.
Typically, how intricate and detailed is your engraving work and how long does an average project take?
It really depends on the material I’m working and cutting. Some things can take me a short five hours and other projects can exceed 250 hours! My headphone collaboration with Master & Dynamic was great fun but they weren’t a quick project.
What are your favorite materials to engrave?
That’s a hard question! I’d say mild steel or aluminum. The product ultimately gets me more excited. I’ve engraved grade five titanium, which is horrible to cut (similar to trying to engrave Iron Man’s suit).
How did you come up with your alter-ego / artist name King Nerd?
I’ve always loved “nerdy” things: comics, computer games, cartoons and dinosaurs. This paired with my love for street art, fashion, graffiti, hip-hop and sneaker culture created the name really. I always felt like the nerd in my friend groups, especially when I was younger, so I made myself the King Nerd which stuck. People actually refer to me as King Nerd, which I find very weird but ultimately I’ve only got myself to blame!
What has your favorite project been to-date, and is there anything you haven’t engraved that you’d like to?
This is a hard question to answer as I am unable to name many things I’ve worked on. I would like to mention the many watch companies I’ve been lucky enough to engrave for. Recently I engraved a custom Harley Davidson bike for The Mooneyes show in Japan, which was an especially challenging project due to all the large motorbike parts!
Describe the process of engraving for us. Is everything done by-hand?
Every single thing I engrave is done completely by hand. I typically spend plenty of time going back-and-forth on design work before I’m ready to make a single cut.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever engraved?
I’m not entirely sure what the craziest thing that I engraved is but it is crazy to know that my art coins now belong to the likes of Paul Smith, Dylan Jones, Cath Kidston and Marc Jacobs. It makes me very proud that they have own my work.
On a personal note, you recently welcomed a baby boy. What’s the first thing you engraved for your new son?
Honestly I haven’t engraved anything just yet. I’m more concerned with finding time to sleep due to the fact he’s kept me up all night. He’ll have to wait!