Illustrated Poster Reveals the Meanings Behind Traditional Sailor Tattoos

Traditional Sailor Tattoos

Have you ever wondered about the meanings of traditional sailor tattoos? You can now decode what the diving swallows, crossed anchors, and nautical stars signify with a helpful illustration by “Adventure Cartoonist” Lucy Bellwood. She’s created The Art of the Sailor, a diagram that depicts a tattooed sea traveler whose body art is both named and defined.

From the sailor's hands to his feet, the symbols tell the stories of journeys made along the open water. A swallow, for instance, represents 5,000 nautical miles traveled, while a hula girl means a U.S. sea man who has been to Hawaii. There are also tattoos that are intended to bring good luck. Having the words Hold and Fast inked across the knuckles is done in hopes of having a tight grip in rigging, while a nautical star is so that they can always find their way home.

The Art of the Sailor is now available as a limited edition letterpress print through Buyolympia.

Find out what traditional sailor tattoos mean in this revealing poster illustrated by Lucy Bellwood.

Traditional Sailor Tattoos

Lucy Bellwood: Website | Instagram | Facebook
h/t: [Boing Boing]

All images via Buyolympia.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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