About Sailor Jerry

Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins (born 1911, died 1973) is considered the foremost American tattoo artist of the 1920-1930's. He expanded the array of colors available by developing his own safe pigments. He created needle formations that embedded pigment with much less trauma to the skin, and he was one of the first to utilize single-use sterilized needles. Artistically, his influence stems from his union of the roguish attitude of the American sailor with the mysticism and technical prowess of the Far East. He maintained a close correspondence with Japanese tattoo masters during his career. This can be seen in many of his works (and prints). Sailor Jerry regarded tattoos as the ultimate rebellion against "the Squares".

At age 19, Sailor Jerry enlisted in the US Navy. It was during his subsequent travels at sea when he was exposed to the art and imagery of Southeast Asia. He remained a sailor for his entire life thereafter. Even during his career as tattoo artist, he worked as licensed skipper of a large three-masted schooner, on which he conducted tours of the Hawaiian Islands. Sailing and tattooing were only two of his professional endeavors. He played saxophone in his own dance band and for years, Sailor Jerry was the ultra conservative, frequently controversial host of his own night talk show on KTRG radio, where he broadcasted as "Old Ironsides".