Jermaine Maxey, a professional tattoo artist, is the owner of Gumbo Art, an art gallery, tattoo parlor, and custom apparel located in Harvey, IL. Known as the “Coolest Art Spot,” Gumbo Art provides professional high-quality artwork and paintings from some of the world’s best tattoo artists and custom art specialists. Gumbo Art’s grand opening is Sunday, July 4, 2021, at 369 E. 147th Street, Harvey, IL, at noon.
Chicago Defender: What inspired you to be a tattoo artist?
Jermaine Maxey: I always liked to draw and doodle as a child. I was a fan of the movie Star Wars. I would draw the characters in the movie. What got me into doing tattoos, I attended a tattoo party. There was a lady at the party with her tattoo equipment that piqued my interest. She told the guest if I did their tattoo, it would be free of charge. She let me use her equipment, and I tattooed my brother’s friend, a little anklet on her leg. It came out nice. The lady told me that she would let me know of any future tattoo parties to attend and learn from watching her. She also gave me a magazine to order a tattoo starter kit, and I’m happy to make tattooing a professional career.
Chicago Defender: How did you come up with the unique name, Gumbo Art?
Jermaine Maxey: The name came from me doing something besides tattoos. I want to show art and turn people on to artists who don’t work at my shop. They may have a piece in my shop that someone may see and they can commission and get work done through that artist. Gumbo Art is more than a tattoo shop.
Chicago Defender: What sets Gumbo Art apart from other art galleries?
Jermaine Maxey: Gumbo Art was created by an artist that understands artists. Certain tattoo shops are based on percentage. Tattoo artists get 50/50 or 60/40. If an artist does a tattoo for $2,000, they have to give the shop $1,000. Some artists feel a certain way when they give that much money to the owner, even though it’s legitimate. Artist working at Gumbo Art, whether you are doing work on commission or tattoos, I don’t take all of their money. Gumbo Art caters more to the artist. My gallery also provides custom apparel, shoes and creates logos.
Chicago Defender: What is your future for the vision of Gumbo Art?
Jermaine Maxey: I would like to see Gumbo Art galleries all over the Chicagoland area and in neighborhoods where children are less fortunate, where Gumbo Art can inspire them to become future artists.
Chicago Defender: How would you describe your style as a tattoo artist?
Jermaine Maxey: My style is black and grey because I do a lot of melanin skin. Color does show on our skin, but black and grey looks good and it last longer. That is my specialty.
Chicago Defender: What can a client expect when they walk through the doors of Gumbo Art?
Jermaine Maxey: The client will be educated. I give my clients what they want, but I always give my honest opinion. Some clients want their spouse and/or partner’s name on their body. I tell them that’s not art, it’s just a name. Sometimes they listen to me. I have experienced when clients don’t take my advice and come back, and they regret the decision they made and want the name or tattoo covered up. When a potential client comes to Gumbo Art, they will get good advice from a licensed, professional, and experienced tattoo artist.
Chicago Defender: What are your thoughts about art not being taught in schools and the lack of art programs in some black communities for young people who want to express themselves through art?
Jermaine Maxey: It’s a travesty that there are no art programs for young kids, especially on the southside and westside of Chicago. They have taken art out of schools in our community to handicap us. That’s why I put Gumbo Art in Harvey, IL. This is what young people need to see. I want them to see an art gallery that is owned by a black man. I am working on getting art programs back into the schools. I have to give back to the community by providing art programs at Gumbo Art to teach the fundamentals of art, sterilization, and tattoos.
Chicago Defender: What advice could you give to others that want to be a professional tattoo artist?
JM: The number one rule is the importance of sterilization. Before you think about the artwork, practice cleanliness. Never re-use needles and only use disposable equipment. Cleanliness is the most critical part of being a sterile tattoo artist. Artwork is secondary. When I first started as a tattoo artist, I was told my station looked like a doctor’s office because it was so clean. I taught Kat, from the reality show “Black Ink,” sterilization. That’s the first thing I teach my students. Sterilization is more important than artwork.
To learn more about Gumbo Art and support the grand opening, go to www.gumboart.com and www.instagram.com/_gumboart_. Maxey would like to dedicate this article in memory of his co-worker Jose Ortiz.
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and author. Find her on social media @SankofaTravelher.