Sailor Jerry

Tuesday 10th of February 2009 07:55:52 AM [Add To This Article]

Sailor Jerry is one of the most respected American tattoo artists of all time. He was born as Norman Collins in 1911. He sadly left this world and died in 1973. He was a terrific artist and tattooist. However, he is considered to be one of the most famous American tattoo artists because of the expansion and creation of the tattoo market he created. Because of the way he was able to expand and improve on the existing tattoo industry, he is considered to be the most important tattoo artist of his time and is still highly respected. The most amazing thing Sailor Jerry did involved expanding the colors which were commonly used in tattoos by artists. He began developing his own safe pigments which could be used to do tattoos, expanding the entire industry of tattooing forever. Therefore, many of the colors which are used today are derived from Sailor Jerry and his need for more colorful expressive tools and colors. His colors are safe and easy to use because of his careful and well planned color expansion experiments.

In addition, Sailor Jerry is well known for creating needle formations which put the color in the skin with much less trauma to it. While tattooing still obviously comes with a bit of pain, he wanted to be sure the skin wasn’t as damaged throughout the process. Skin which is less traumatized will hold color better and heal faster. Thus, his discovery wasn’t really to take the pain out of the process but to yield a better end result. He was one of the first people to use needles which were designed for single use and to create hospital-quality sterilization for the needles and tattoo equipment. The quality of sterilization he introduced allowed the tattoo industry to be much healthier and safer for all who get tattooed. While tattoo fans of the past worried about disease transfer through tattoo needles, with new sterilization practices there was no longer a need for worry. Thus, people could get more tattoos with less worry about contaminated needle exposure. Sailor Jerry was also known for his attention to detail, which was incredibly precise. He created nautical tattoos which had riggings which were perfectly accurate. He also did other designs with absolutely no flaws and was known for her perfectionist style and application. 

Sailor Jerry's influences and his tattoo styles came from his own union of the attitude of the American sailor, mixed together with the power and mysticism of the Far East. The combination of the two brought forth a beautiful and artistic style which Sailor Jerry was well known for. Many times during his career, Sailor Jerry was in contact with Japanese tattoo masters. These masters helped him to further define his style and create a better tattoo design portfolio and a better tattoo industry overall. While working with some of the best in the world, he learned things to bring back to the United States. When it came to tattoos, in general Sailor Jerry regarded them as the ultimate rebellion against what he felt was "the Squares."

The last place Sailor Jerry had a tattoo studio was in Honolulu at Chinatown, which was then the only place tattoo studios were located on the island. In that area, there was a lot of competition. But, he seemed to do well and his work was so popular it was often copied and appreciated in many ways. To stand apart from his impostures he started printing "The Original Sailor Jerry" on his business cards, to let people know it was actually him. One of the most interesting elements in Sailor Jerry's tattoo work is the element of humor. One of his most famous designs was the Aloha Chimpanzee. The tattoo was of a monkey bent over and looking out from between his legs, with the word ALOHA spelled out on his backside. However, even though his designs might have been informal and funny, he was an avid proponent of craft and also professionalism. He wanted to portray a very professional attitude when it came to tattoos and he often spoke out against tattoo artists who were not as professional as he felt they should be, calling them Scab Artists. Also, Sailor Jerry went out of his way in order to mentor the up and coming tattoo artists he respected. These artists included Don Ed Hardy, Don Nolan, Cliff Raven and Mike Malone. He entrusted his legacy of designs and ideas to those he mentored and to his fans.

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