Plains Township shop owner Derek Zielinski survives ‘Ink Master’ premiere
A local artist survived the first round of competition on a popular reality TV series, and he’ll be featured on the show for, at least, one more week.
Derek Zielinski, owner of Glass Heart Tattooing & Arts in Plains Township, performed well enough to stay off the chopping block Tuesday night during the season nine premiere of Spike’s “Ink Master.”
The latest season, titled “Shop Wars,” gathers two-person teams of artists from reputable studios across the U.S. to contend for $200,000, a feature in Inked magazine, individual titles of Ink Master and the newly-coined studio title of Master Shop.
The episode opened with duos being led — by celebrity judges Dave Navarro, Chris Nunez and Oliver Peck — into an arena full of blocked ice and asked to create a sculpture representing their businesses.
“The first challenge being an ice challenge was pretty gnarly, because we walked in and couldn’t figure out what it was,” Zielinski said. “We assumed ice carving, which was exciting, but then panic started to set in a bit.”
Zielinski said he and teammate Thom Bulman, together representing Bulman’s Mattydale, N.Y. shop Classic Trilogy Tattoos, had some sculpting and 3D modeling experience but had never carved in ice.
Their sculpture of a “typical, sci-fi, nerdy” robot — which reflects the pop-culture, film and cartoon-centric work that comes out of Classic Trilogy — was one of the most legible pieces created during the challenge and was critiqued positively by judges.
Zielinski and Bulman did not win the flash challenge, the victor of which receives immunity from elimination, but they established themselves as worthy of the contest.
Following the first obstacle, the group was immediately rushed to a second test.
“We’re tired and freezing, and Dave’s like, ‘You’re going to the next challenge right now,’” Zielinski said. “Everybody was miserable to begin with,” he said with a laugh.
The second flash challenge prompted teams to create a design featuring their studio names — in a font atypical of tattoo art — and carve the image into plaster, making a mold to be filled with molten metal to produce a positive relief sculpture.
Zielinski and Bulman chose to adorn their moniker with an image of a cassette tape, another nod to their film influences.
“We pulled an idea from ‘Guardians’ and some of the older films where they’re passing mix tapes around,” Zielinski said.
Carving too deep into their plaster caused metal to seep through their mold, leaving the pair with too little time to dislodge the soldered plaster board to reveal their design.
“They have a saying on the show that’s like, ‘Go big and go home,’” Zielinski said. “That resonated with us.”
After missing two opportunities to earn immunity, Zielinski and Bulman kept themselves alive during the elimination challenge. A live alligator, hawk and boa constrictor were brought into the studio as models and realistic representations were demanded.
“I’ve drawn from real life a lot,” Zielinski said. “In general, it’s good practice. But (the animals) were moving around the whole time. We actually found out the hawk (a sanctuary animal) was blind, and that played a factor into why he was moving his head.”
Flaws in the duo’s execution of their hawk were pointed out by judges, but the piece separated Zielinski and Bulman from teams considered for elimination.
“It didn’t make for a top tier tattoo,” Zielinski said. “The critique was fair.”
Zielinski said he and Bulman entered competition determined to work as a team, and they’ll have to to advance.
“All the flash challenges are designed to be uncomfortable,” Zielinski said. “It’s like, ‘Here’s something you’ve never done with something you’ve never worked with. Here’s your timeline. Have fun.’”
A preview of next week’s episode revealed a new team will enter the competition each week after one gets eliminated the week before.
“There’s a new team coming to take their place,” Zielinski said. “It set the tone for how chaotic this thing can get.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
HOW TO WATCH
What: ‘Ink Master: Shop Wars’
When: 10 p.m. Tuesdays