Saturday, January 29, 2011
If I could say there was a patron saint of tattooing it'd probably be N.K. Collins, known to most as Sailor Jerry. He was instrumental in bridging the gap between American and Japanese tattooers and technique exchange. He was very innovative as a machine builder not to mention the creation of the mag shading needle. He also corresponded heavily with and shared information with some of the most important people in tattooing in the 20th century and beyond. His design sense, painting style, and work ethic has always been something I've admired greatly.
So I'm angry that this most important man in not only tattooing history, but American history is more remembered because of some fucking rum recipe than any of his contributions to one of the only remaining American folk arts still in wide practice today. In fact I've met a few clients that think Sailor Jerry is a made up character like Captain Morgan! Unacceptable. I've met a few of the people who represent Sailor Jerry Rum in Chicago and I don't even know if they care about tattooing at all, though they seem like decent people in their own right, it just seems like some sort of weird Twilight Zone style paradox that something like this even exists. What does tattooing, Sailor Jerry and all of his accomplishments have to do with alcohol sales, 40 years after the man's passing no less? Sure, I'm straight edge, so maybe I am biased. Actually, I probably wouldn't be bothered by the rum thing if the recipe truly is his, but the worst of it is all the trinkets and "Official Sailor Jerry" merch that they sell connected to the Sailor Jerry Rum brand. Having a Sailor Jerry design on an ashtray some how makes it seem cheaper to me for some reason. Maybe when he painted it he was thinking "This will look good on a shot glass.", who am I to say? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.
I only wonder if Norman Collins' family is receiving any money for the use of his name, images, or rum recipe? If not, then nothing is sacred and there are more snakes in this world than men. The way things are looking I wouldn't be surprised if it were so.