Pittsburgh tattoo artist shines on Spike's 'Ink Master'
Zach Shample of Oakland lies down on the parlor bed, rests his head on the plastic-wrapped pillow, and lifts his shirt.
“Are you ready?” asks tattoo artist Sarah Miller.
“Ready,” says Shample, a 25-year-old Pittsburgh police officer.
Miller pulls out her tattooing tool, with needles dipped in ink, and starts drawing more elaborate details on the skin of Shample's side torso, which sports a tattoo of an underwater scene.
National tattoo talent scouts have spotted Miller's work. She will be competing on Spike television's reality show “Ink Master,” which premieres its second season Tuesday. After spending the summer doing the show in New York City — where 15 other top tattoo artists painted their creations and faced elimination every week — Miller is eager to see her journey unfold on TV and for the public to watch it with her.
Looking back over the last few months, Miller, 27, says she is awed by the exciting, boot-camp-like experience of the show. She remains surprised that it happened in the first place.
“I really wasn't thinking I was going to get cast in the show,” says Miller, owner of Wyld Chyld Tattoo, which opened in March in Brookline. “This kind of thing never happens to me. It was like the stars were aligning.
“More than anything,” she says, “I wanted to see what I could do.”
“Ink Master” casting directors chose the 16 contestants for the show in three ways. Some 13,000 tattoo artists applied after seeing the invitation on television during the show's last season. Others attended open casting calls around the country. Still other tattoo artists, like Miller, were chosen while casting directors visited hundreds of parlors in search of candidates, says Chris Rantamaki, executive in charge of production for this show. Producers narrowed the candidates' pool down to 100, and Rantamaki reviewed them and picked the best ones.
Miller, who also paints paintings, is a stellar contestant for “Ink Master,” he says.
“The No. 1 criteria for this show is the artwork,” Rantamaki says. “Out of all those people who applied, Sarah's artwork stood out. That tells you how exceptional of an artist she is.”
One of Miller's hallmarks is the ability to create soulful eyes in tattoos with images like a human face, Rantamaki says. “If you look at the eyes in her portraits, it's a very tough skill to master to get the eyes to look lifelike. Look closely at the eyes: If it looks like it has life in it, that's a ... good artist.
“I'm really excited for this season,” he says. “There's a lot of really fun stuff ... and amazing talent.”
The show's season has been shot — except for the two-part finale, which will air Dec. 18 and 19. Contestants and viewers won't know who won until the live finale. Each artist created at least one tattoo per episode, and had just three hours to come up with and design the idea. Then, contestants took up to six hours to apply the tattoo to someone's skin.
Shample, a longtime art fan who has many other tattoos, looks forward to attending Miller's viewing party for “Ink Master” and just watching the show.
“It's amazing to be able to watch it and say, ‘Hey, I got tattooed by her.' ”
Miller — who charges $200 per hour and is booked until the summer — hardly ever uses pre-made patterns for her tattoos. She works with clients to create personal, custom tattoos. Miller, who earned a degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2008, has about 30 tattoos herself, including an image of a dragon on her back. She has been working as a professional tattoo artist since 2006, and was thrilled to open her own business this year. A New York native, Miller moved to Pittsburgh a decade ago.
Miller got her first tattoo at age 21, and got hooked. At first, she encountered disapproval from her grandmother, Helen Zauderer of New York — until Miller got a picture of Grandma's face tattooed on her arm, and Zauderer was thrilled.
What's the appeal of turning skin into an artist's canvas?
“For me, it's more of an existential fulfillment,” Miller says. Tattoos are “a walking mural.”
The show premieres at 10 p.m. Oct. 9 on Spike television. The 13-episode season ends with a live finale Dec. 18 and 19. Details: www.spike.com/shows/ink-master
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7824.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Class-action lawsuit filed against PWSA for inaccurate billing from radio-controlled meter readers
- Pittsburgh mayor in Cuba on manufacturing trade mission
- Burrell rollover wreck kills Parks man
- Fayette County man dies in motorcycle accident
- Pirates notebook: Morton’s return to Pirates means Liz leaves
- Cops: Man shoots 11-year-old with BB gun in McKeesport; boy critical
- Consistency keeps Cellone’s Bakery customers coming back
- Pirates pitcher Morton turns in solid performance in win over Marlins
- Beaver Valley nuclear reactor returns to service
- ‘Voice of Pittsburgh’ was proud of Mon Valley roots
- Previewing the the 2015 WPIAL baseball championships