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Brookline tattoo artist happy with 2nd place on Spike reality show

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 11:46 p.m.
Brad Barket/PictureGroup
Brookline tattoo artist Sarah Miller looks on as Steve Tefft is named the winner on Spike TV's 'Ink Master' on Dec. 18, 2012 in New York City. Brad Barket/PictureGroup
Tattoo artist Sarah Miller, 27, of North Side, poses for a portrait surrounded by her artwork at her tattoo parlor, Wyld Chyld Tattoo Pittsburgh, in Brookline on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. File photo

Sarah Miller may have lost the “Ink Master” title to fellow contestant Steve Tefft, but the cheery Brookline tattoo artist remains thrilled and puts the life-changing experience in perspective.

Out of some 13,000 tattoo artists — many of whom are at least 10 years older than the 27-year-old Miller — who applied to compete on the Spike television-reality show, Miller came in second place among 16 contestants. That is huge, says Miller, of the North Side.

“I'm feeling really great,” Miller says. “As I only have six years of experience, if they would have given me the title of Ink Master, I would have gotten a lot of flack from people in the industry. ... They respect somebody who was more of a veteran.

“I'm totally fine with it,” Miller says about the results. “I'm happy for Steve.”

As Miller stood there on stage with the other two finalists — Tefft and Sebastian Murphy — and sweated it out during those agonizing pauses from the judges who announced the contestants' fate, she breathed a sigh of relief when she wasn't eliminated by the popular vote. Murphy was eliminated because he got the fewest votes of the three from viewers throughout the show's third season.

“I'm so happy that I did not get voted off by America. That was my biggest fear. I had butterflies in my stomach,” Miller says. “As long as America didn't hate me, I was totally cool with whatever happened.”

The judges praised Miller's final project — two tattoos depicting a male and female figure from Norse mythology — for the tattoos' beauty and details, but they criticized the lack of color contrast with black.

On Tuesday, two dozen supporters gathered at her Wyld Chyld Tattoo parlor in Brookline to watch the live finale of “Ink Master.” Miller's tense friends, co-workers and clients held their breath as they waited for the judges to announce the final verdict on television. While they were disappointed that Miller didn't get the “Ink Master” title, her supporters expressed excitement and pride that she got as far as she did.

“I really thought she was going to win,” says Allie “Oxenblood” Nickel, a fellow Wyld Chyld artist. “I'm still very proud of her.

“For her to be ... up against all those guys ... is so impressive,” says Nickel, 24, of Oakland.

Dale Capellanio and Jackie Kirshtein — Miller's former classmates at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and clients of hers — also expressed pride in Miller.

“Second place is better than no place,” says Capellanio, 35, of Bethel Park. “It was amazing.”

Kirshtein, 29, of Downtown, says she was impressed that Miller continually pushed herself outside her comfort zone as she inked her tattoos during the season.

If you want a tattoo from Miller, get in line. Miller has heard from people around the country — along with Canada, the United Kingdom and other places — who want to come to Pittsburgh to get inked by her. She is booked until July, but she has a waiting list.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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