Plains Twp. shop owner Derek Zielinski competes on new ‘Ink Master’ season
Editors note: The season nine premiere of “Ink Master” had not aired as of press time Tuesday.
Among his accumulated skills, tattoo artist Derek Zielinski counts his consideration for customers as his most unique attribute.
“I think what sets me apart is that I give a damn,” Zielinski said. “I truly care about my clients and their well being.”
Zielinski, who owns and operates out of Glass Heart Tattooing & Arts in Plains Township, recently competed on the ninth season of hit reality TV show “Ink Master,” which premieres Tuesday night on Spike.
In a new format, the ninth season of the arts competition, dubbed “Shop Wars,” features pairs of artists from different reputable shops vying for prize money and bragging rights.
Zielinski, 34, competes with Thom Bulman, representing Bulman’s Mattydale, N.Y., studio, Classic Trilogy Tattoos, where Zielinski is a featured artist.
“Thom and I worked together at Town Hall (in Wilkes-Barre Township) for two to three years,” Zielinski said. “It was good times.”
“Shop Wars” has artist teams bound together for better or worse, winning and losing as units and never competing alone.
“You hear artists say, ‘This is no longer a solo effort. It’s a team effort,’” Zielinski said.
Zielinski is the second Wyoming Valley-based artist to compete on “Ink Master” in two seasons, following Kingston shop owner Ryan Ashley Malarkey’s title-winning run on season eight.
But the stakes are higher in season nine, with contestants contending for $200,000 — which doubles last season’s cash prize — and the distinction of Master Shop as well as a feature in Inked magazine and the individual titles of Ink Master.
Spike’s trailer for the upcoming season shows the series’ judges leading competitors into a room filled with ice blocks to be used as canvases.
“They presented us with a lot of crazy stuff,” Zielinski said. “Thom and I have worked together, but never on the same tattoo. Our styles are different. I do traditional elements, and he does new school elements.”
Zielinski describes his style as illustrative realism, although he notes it’s a term he’s adopted because the industry doesn’t have an exact label for his fusing of traditional Americana and portraiture.
“When I paint and draw, I gravitate toward realism,” Zielinski said. “When I tattoo, I like to bring traditional elements to that realism. I think line work is the foundation of any good tattoo, and if your line work isn’t good, your tattoo isn’t good.”
Zielinski favors the bold, heavy line work of the American traditional style but is also influenced by European and Australian neo-traditional work. Throughout his career, Zielinski has worked in those styles as well as in portraiture and new school, a resume he believes gives him a competitive edge.
He said he made it a point to learn as many styles and genres as he could while apprenticing in Georgia and was taught the value of satisfying the customer.
“We were the only legitimate shop in town in Georgia,” Zielinski said. “We had no room for egocentric tattoos.”
Constantly moving around within the art, Zielinski said he’s “almost never satisfied.”
“People say to me, ‘What’s your favorite tattoo?’ And I always say, ‘The next one. The one I haven’t done yet.’ I have a progressive mindset.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
HOW TO WATCH
What: ‘Ink Master: Shop Wars’
When: 10 p.m. Tuesdays