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What's with the name?

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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Meet This Lady: Jessie Knight, Britain’s First Female Tattoo Artist


Jezebel has put a well-deserved spotlight on Jessie Knight, who was Britain’s first female tattoo artist and had a very successful career from the 1920s through the 1960s. Her father was a tattoo artist, but instead of studying under him, she took her own route (starting work at Charlie Bell’s) to becoming a legendary artist in her own right. And the subject of a high school term paper that I totally should have written.

There isn’t a lot of information about Jessie Knight online (the top pic comes from a Tattoo News forum and shows off her family crest), but if there’s a part we can play in introducing her and her groundbreaking career to others, we’re going to do it. One thing we do know that is pretty awesome: before becoming a tattoo artist, she helped out her father in his sharp shooting circus act. That did not last very long.

Her job being to stand before him so that he could hit a target that was sometimes placed on her head or on an area of her body. Which of course was fine until one night it all went horribly wrong when he accidentally shot Jessie in the shoulder?

Maybe that’s why she went to Charlie Bell’s.

Here is another pic of Knight at work on a client, who is expressing how getting a tattoo really feels. Or possibly just hamming it up for the camera, since only a really tough lady would be getting inked during WWII.

Here is a shot of the satisfied customer. Her swallow tattoo was part of a military event in Aldershot, Hampshire, England, where Knight opened her first shop. She later moved into the back of an arcade and conducted her business there.

Yes, Virginia. Women did get inked during more conservative times, when no one would think they’d do such a thing.

Knight shows off her own work. She officially retired in 1963, but according to a commenter on the forum mentioned above, she tattooed until at least 1965: “Before she did my eagle on my chest in 1965 she lit a match and showed my the flame and I asked her why she was doing this and she told me I do this to show you that I have a steady hand even at my age. She never used a plastic format like they did in Canada because the [tattoo] on my chest was done free hand which is quite amazing.”

Amazing, indeed. This painted lady just found a new hero. We’ll close with a video of Knight in action:

(Jezebel)

TAGS:


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jenny-Hanniver/100001237994402 Jenny Hanniver

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this!  Had no idea.  Wonder if any of her flash survives?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510042704 Neil Hopkin-thomas

    jessie knight is my great aunt , we still have all her original designs and equipment, She truly was a fascinating woman.

  • Anonymous

    MNVDISCS, are releasing a series of dvds on tattooist in November 2011.

    Volume 1, is `Jessie Knight`. This filmed interview produced by Will Scally, has never been
    broadcast or transmitted, it`s the only filmed interview of Jessie in existence.

    A short video promo` of the interview will be available shortly on `all` the network sites including
    this one.

    For any further information, you can contact…..Barry Levene
                                                                             3sixtypr@gmx.com

  • Tracey Beattie nee Martin

    Hello Jessie was my aunt And my nan was unita knight i think her half sister my dad had many tattoos done by jessie unfortunately he has died but im sure i have pics somewhere he had an eagle that went from shoulder to shoulder that she did and many up his arms i was born in 63 and remember sitting in my pram in the shop watching her work my mums name was lenice and my dads was ken( kenneth)

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.chowdhury.12 Adam Chowdhury

    Jessie was my Great Aunt, though unfortunately I never got the chance to meet her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510042704 Neil Hopkin-thomas

    i’m jessies great great nephew. and yes i’m pleased to say that the family have all of jessies original designs and flash and all of her equipment including the machines and inks. total tattoo magazine will be featuring jessie in the next edition and ive also been working with margot mifflin on her new book which has just been released.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=510042704 Neil Hopkin-thomas

    p.s i;m also currently in contact with a sceenplay writer who wishes to turn jessies story in a film. so watch this space.