PROFILE
A Worcester native, Gemma learned his craft up and down the East Coast. Gemma set aside his natural affinity for art to pursue a more traditional career, ending up in Florida working in child services with youths with Down Syndrome. One day Gemma happened by Inksmith Tattoo Shop in Jacksonville while burning off some stress. The creative display he saw through the window set off the long lost spark of his inner artist. "When I went into the shop, the art on the walls made my jaw drop," he recalls. "There I was, in my button-down shirt and tie and I asked, ‘Do you need any help?’" The next day the owner gave him a call, and a so began a tough, year-long apprenticeship.

Once his apprenticeship ended and Gemma felt confident in his skill, he traveled through a progressive series of shops from Miami to Philadelphia, often working in rough neighborhoods with clients immersed in the drug and gang scene. At one of his first experiences in a shop in North Philly, Gemma worked in what he now calls "a tattoo factory."

"There were nine of us, and you could do as many [tattoos] as you wanted," he says. "We’d have contests I did 27 in one day. Gang members with guns and names like Ray Ray, Boom Boom. Some had the most ridiculous ideas, but at that point I was afraid to say no I was like a kid from the suburbs being thrown into the hood."

The biggest lesson Gemma learned throughout his years working at shops owned by others was what not to do. Frustrated with the improper business habits, shoddy work and unsafe environments in which he often found himself, Gemma has taken all that he has learned in over a decade and has applied it to Secret Society.


@jeffgemma