Ryan Ashley Malarkey is starting to settle back into her life after a whirlwind year in which she grew her businesses and became the first female Ink Master on Spike TV’s reality series of the same name.
The 29-year-old Shavertown artist, who earned the coveted title Dec. 6 on live TV, said she looks back on the experience with gratitude and looks forward to focusing on her work and finding time to relax.
Malarkey said the aftermath of her victory felt like a dream.
“It was like my body was on cruise control, and I was just a passenger on the ride,” Malarkey said. “I would have never thought … my entire world could change in just a minute by one simple decision. It was completely surreal, unbelievable and humbling.”
To the viewer, Malarkey looked confident during the live finale — it featured the tail end of a seven-hour tattoo challenge and the unveiling of a 24-hour chest tattoo — as if she felt secure with the work she had done despite the pressure of being judged in real time.
“I think we all stressed enough in preparation for both the seven-hour, live tattoo and during each session of the 24-hour master canvas chest tattoo,” Malarkey said. “For me, once the tattooing is done, the rest is easy.
“My goal in the beginning and throughout the entire season was simply to do good tattoos that I could be proud of and stand by. Once I could confidently stand by the live tattoo, all I had to do was wait and be proud regardless of the outcome.”
Out of loyalty to her existing clients and her desire to finish current projects before taking on new work, Malarkey has not opened her books to new clients since well before the ‘Ink Master’ finale, but that has not stopped enthusiasts from reaching out.
“The response has been insane,” Malarkey said. “I believe in the past two weeks, we have received between 4,000 and 6,000 tattoo requests.”
“What I would like all tattoo enthusiasts to understand is that every tattoo artist is different and each of us has a specific specialty we are best at. You should research your artist’s portfolio thoroughly and make sure they share the same design sense as you and the same love for style and subject matter.”
Malarkey called her momentous win a “dream come true.”
“I am so honored to be the representative of such a huge group of female tattooers who just as equally deserve this title,” she said. “It’s so humbling and such an honor beyond description.”
Malarkey’s win also earned her a guest spot in the Dallas, Texas, tattoo studio of her on-air coach Oliver Peck. She said she plans to accept the honor but only after she takes time away from the spotlight to focus on those closest to her.
“My immediate plan for the near future is to finally just relax for a bit, hibernate through winter and spend time with my friends and family. I’m going to be doing a ton of traveling in 2017, and I’ll be anxious to see what life has in store,” Malarkey said.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts