Color Outside the Lines

Color Outside the Lines

Jacci Gresham (photo from her Instagram account @aartaccenttat2. The handwritten note at the bottom refers to Margot Mifflin’s history of women and tattoos, Bodies of Subversion)

In the ‘80s (the time period of my novel, Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair), tattoo shops in the U.S. were mostly male—and mostly white. It took a lot of tenacious, passionate artists to change that, and one of the very first was a Black woman named Jacci Gresham, who started tattooing in New Orleans in 1976 (and continues to this day).

Jacci Gresham in Color Outside the Lines

A decade ago, Artemus Jenkins and Miya Bailey created an extraordinary documentary titled Color Outside the Lines which pays homage to the brilliance & dedication of several Black tattoo artists, including Ms. Gresham. I LOVE this documentary. Give it a watch (they’ve now made it available for free on YouTube, here) and you’ll see why.

Besides the pure pleasure of watching it, just as someone who loves tattoos… As a writer & researcher, listening to these interviews with Gresham gave me a fuller picture of what it was like to be a woman artist back then. It also drove home the truth that if I was going to conjure this time period with historical accuracy, I would have to find a way to acknowledge the racism likely to occur in a 1980s tattoo shop. And also, Jacci Gresham is just flat-out inspiring and it was important to mention her as someone my character would’ve looked up to.
Jacci Gresham at her studio Aart Accent in New Orleans (from Color Outside the Lines)

All this is woven into the fabric of the novel… but it’s only the tip of the iceberg, and I hope with all my heart that readers see Ms. Gresham’s name (and Color Outside the Lines in the acknowledgements) and take the time to learn more about this important part of American tattoo history & culture. 

Finally: Artemus Jenkins recorded such a gracious and kind message today mentioning JOBS FOR GIRLS (embedded below). I was really humbled and blown away, and if you’ve read this far, then you’ll understand why.


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📸All screenshots from COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES, director & producer Artemus Jenkins (seen in the video above) & executive producer Miya Bailey (pictured below).

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