Meet Chloe Jackson-Courteau: A Las Vegas Tattooer Who Takes Mom Life Seriously
When Chloe Jackson-Courteau and her husband Wade signed the lease for their shop, Low Tide Tattoo, in Las Vegas, she was pregnant with her now 1-year-old daughter. Prior to settling down in Sin City, Jackson and her husband were traveling around, tattooing in different states.
“We just decided that we wanted to be able to have our own space. A place where we had our own peace, that was family friendly,” she says. “I’ve worked in so many fast-paced street shops and it was time to do something for ourselves.”
At Low Tide, Jackson focuses on custom, appointment-only work. She specializes in illustrative blackwork and often freehands drawings on her client’s skin.
But Jackson-Courteau’s road to steering the ship and being a business owner wasn’t an easy one.
A Biker-Shop Start
Before heading West, Jackson-Courteau started as an apprentice in a small biker shop called Screaming Needles in Plymouth, New Hampshire under the guidance of her mentor Wayne Conroy. “He had faith in my work and took me on as his apprentice,” she says. “A whole lot of Cherry Creek flash came in and out of there!”
But after moving on from Screaming Needles, Jackson says it took a while to find a place that felt welcoming and right. “I didn’t always fit in with every shop I worked at. I wasn’t trying to be one of the boys all the time,” she says. “I was more focused on my art and moving forward.”
Jackson-Courteau admits that she faced her fair share of adversity while trying to master her craft. “I’ve been sexually harassed, degraded, and spoken down to,” she says. “I’ve been told, ‘You only have clients because you have tits.’”
The sexist comments and difficult experiences never got the best of Jackson-Courteau’s determination and drive. “I kept my head down and worked as hard as I could,” she says. “I’ve definitely cried in the supply closet a few times, but I never stopped pushing.”
Balancing Tattooing with Being a Mom
Jackson-Courteau credits her family with keeping her grounded and happy but admits that it’s challenging to find the time to do it all. “Honestly the balance between being a mom and a tattooer isn’t the easiest,” she says. “You have clients in one ear and your kiddos in the other.”
Jackson-Courteau gave birth to her daughter Salem Mercury—who she calls her “rainbow baby”—in 2017. She’s also stepmom to an 8-year old daughter named Brody.
Unlike women with salaried jobs and paid maternity leave, Jackson-Courteau couldn’t afford to take off after her daughter was born. Not working wasn’t an option for her. “I tattooed up until an hour before I got checked into the hospital to be induced,” she says. “I spent two nights in the hospital and was back at work the next day.”
Jackson-Courteau knows that bringing a newborn into a tattoo studio and breastfeeding between appointments is behavior many people would frown upon. But she just lets the negativity roll off her back. “I needed to make money,” she says.
Owning her own shop with her husband has helped make parenting easier on Jackson-Courteau because she sets her schedule and makes the rules. She and her husband switch off on watching the kids, and Jackson-Courteau still brings her daughter to work most days. “She is so used to being in the tattoo shop,” says Jackson-Courteau. “She just watches ‘Moana,’ enjoys her bottles, and provides a sweet little distraction to my clients that are going through pain.”
When she’s not tattooing at Low Tide, Jackson-Courteau says there’s no place she’d rather be than at home with her family. Her Instagram account is full of silly selfies with her daughters and story feeds that show her singing and laughing with the baby. “I’m not a drinker or a partier,” says Jackson. “I’m at the shop so much that when I get a chance to just be in my own home it’s so nice.”
Earning Her Place
All the success and respect that Jackson-Courteau has as a tattoo artist is something she’s worked hard to achieve.
She’s scraped and fought to be in a place where she can call the shots for herself and her family. “I’ve been told I’ll never make it—that I don’t work as hard as the men do—while I’m over here tattooing every day, busting my ass, with a kid and my own shop.”
But overall, Jackson-Courteau feels optimistic about the future for female tattoo artists and moms who are grinding to pursue their art and make a good living. “I think things still obviously have a way to go, but it’s definitely not what it used to be when I first started,” she says. “I’ve felt more respected. And equal. It took a while—but for all the women out there, keep pushing. You’ll get through it.”
Images via Chloe Jackson-Courteau’s Instagram.