A Tattoo Debut

I got a new Tattoo! Perhaps not a big deal since I have 6 others but this one has a pretty cool story behind it so bear with me.

My brooding tattoo look.
My brooding tattoo look.

Years ago I told my dad that when he died I’d get a tattoo in his honor. His response was, “Why not get it when I’m alive so I can see it?” Touché, Dad. Touché.

When I asked him about his first “piece” (cool lingo, eh?) he explained that he had gotten it when he was 16-years-old by a local artist named Jacci. It’s a Tweety Bird on his left shoulder. Jacci also inked a Parrot on his right shoulder years later (it has two hearts with me and my sister’s names in them). Both of these tattoos make perfect sense if you know that my dad’s nickname is “Bird”. He’s been called that since he was a kid and most people don’t even know his real name since he only ever introduces himself as such.

My dad's very first tattoo by Jacci Gresham in 1979.
My dad’s very first tattoo by Jacci Gresham in 1979.
My dad's second tattoo by Jacci Gresham in 1983-ish.
My dad’s second tattoo by Jacci Gresham in 1983-ish.

For this reason, I knew that I wanted a bird on my shoulder too and I wanted it done by Jacci. However, my dad got his last tattoo by her over 30 years ago so tracking her down now wasn’t going to be an easy feat.

Turns out it was pretty easy.

After a quick search of the Internets I found out that not only is she still around but she’s also kind of a badass. She moved to New Orleans in 1976 as a budding Tattoo Artist. Today, she owns the oldest Tattoo Shop in New Orleans and is recognized as being the first African American, female Tattoo Artist in the country.

You can read all about Jacci Gresham here.

I was planning a trip home and knew I had to schedule an appointment. Not only was this the woman that gave my dad his very first tattoo but she was also a living legend!

I called the shop and talked to a fella name “Chopper”.

Me: “I’m coming to town and want to schedule an appointment with Jacci. She gave my Dad his very first tattoo when he was 16.”

Chopper: “Honey, Jacci has given half of New Orleans their first tattoos.”

I liked Chopper.

We exchanged numbers and texted back and forth to pin down the details leading up to my appointment.

I always get nervous the day I’m getting a new tattoo. It’s a pretty long-term commitment. But my excitement outweighed my nervousness in spades this time because it has been something that I wanted for so long.

Jacci's Shot, Aart Accent 1041 N Rampart St, New Orleans)
Jacci’s Shop, Aart Accent 1041 N Rampart St, New Orleans

Her shop, Art Accent, is on N. Rampart Street and is as colorful as the rest of my beloved city. My dad was beaming as we entered. It was quite obvious that the 67-year-old woman sitting behind the counter ran the show. Her and my dad caught up by reminiscing about a mutual friend, Three-Eyed Johnny, as she checked out his shoulders, “They held up nicely,’ she says of her two works of art created over 30 years ago.

The entire experience was wonderful. To be there with my 52-year-old dad, getting a tattoo by the same person who gave him his first one at 16 was such a special moment for me.

Jacci was thoughtful, gracious and a pleasure to be around. The same goes for her employees.

For something that I had looked forward to for so long, it was everything I had hoped for. I feel like I got to know my dad a little better that day. Listening to stories of his youth as I got my tattoo honoring him is something I’ll never forget.

My dad and Jacci Gresham.
My dad and Jacci Gresham.

I can’t imagine any future tattoo topping this one. At least not until me and Liam Hemsworth get matching hearts on our asses…….

Healed quite nicely!

P.S. – Shout out to my buddy, Jamal, for drawing up my tattoo for me. He’s an awesome artist and you can check out his work on Instagram.

P.P.S. – My mom also got her first tattoo by Jacci when she was 15-years-old. It was “Bird” in script on her left shoulder. She got it covered up after her and my Dad made an appearance on Jerry Springer where my dad revealed that our Miniature Pig, Darling, didn’t go to live on a farm but was lost in a rousing game of poker. He added insult to injury when he said he didn’t like her Chicken and Dumplings. It has since been replaced with a Butterfly.


Published by Ashley Zoerner

I'm originally from New Orleans, LA and grew up in the nearby town of Waveland, MS. I graduated from Georgia State University with a communications degree in 2010. Since then I've traveled the country and world meeting the most interesting people. My dream is to tell people's stories and share my passions with the world.

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