Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Old School Tattoo Designs by Norm Collins, aka Sailor Jerry

When you think of classic mid-century sailor tattoos--from swallows and hearts to skulls and tigers--the artwork that most often comes to mind is by Norm Keith Collins, also known as "Sailor Jerry," who is regarded by many as the most influential and important tattoo artist of the 20th century. For 40 years, Collins ran a tattoo parlor in Honolulu, inking his legendary tattoos on sailors on 48-hour shore leave. One of his famous sayings, "Good work ain't cheap, cheap work ain't good," echoed the care he put into his artwork, which featured clear, bold lines and bright colors.

Legend has it that Collins told his wife that upon his death, his shop should either be taken over by one of his protegees, Ed Hardy or Mike Malone, or burned to the ground with all the contents inside. Luckily, Mike Malone took over Collin's Hotel Street shop after Collins' death in 1973, renaming it the China Sea Tattoo Company. Over the years, Malone would occasionally sell off a piece of original Sailor Jerry tattoo flash--the cards of tattoo options that hung on the shop walls. These originals currently sell for an average $5000-$10,000 (if they can be found at all).

The piddix collection of Old School tattoos includes nearly 100 Norm Collins designs, all of which were scanned directly from the original Norm Collins flash from the Mike Malone collection. The ladies above are some of my favorites and I've never seen another copy of them anywhere. A note on the original (left) written by Malone in the 1990s reads "This is a sheet I'd ask $1500 for, it's the real deal from '49 or so, but some dunce used it for a dart board...lots of little holes, still it is something to see."

I've spent nearly two years collecting, researching and meticulously restoring the piddix collection of vintage tattoo flash. This artwork, along with many other Old School tattoo designs, is available for commercial licensing though piddix and as instant downloads for handmade crafters on etsy.

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