Ink Master’s battle of the sexes has come to an end and one artist has come out victorious. Laura Marie of Rochester proved she had what it took to slay the competition and now, she’s claimed her rightful throne as the season’s champion. We caught up with the talented tattooer to learn her thoughts on the overall season, what went into crafting her winning master canvas and what advice she would give to future contestants.
What made you decide to pursue Ink Master?
I've always been into the show. Originally my art teacher from school reached out to castings about all of her students and asked me if I wanted to be on the show. I thought, “What the hell, what do I have to lose?”
What was your favorite flash challenge during the season?
Definitely the toothpick challenge. I genuinely felt super proud about that one. Even though the show played some drama within the women's team, we actually worked really well together. That was the first flash challenge that I was able to really connect with my teammates and not only that, but we turned out an incredible piece.
What was your favorite elimination tattoo challenge?
The freehand day. My canvas was super nice and I had James Vaughn to look up to, which made it so much easier. I just felt right at home.
Who's your favorite guest coach to work with?
I would say Josh Payne was my number one. I liked them all for different reasons, but for me, Josh Payne.
What was the best advice you were given by a coach during the season?
It was probably from Josh on cover-up day. He was not only giving me advice on what colors and needle groupings to use, but he also taught me to use textures in a certain way for a cover-up. He probably taught me more than I’d learned during the whole competition.
What was the hardest part of the competition?
The hardest part was definitely the drama aspect. How I played the game was a bit controversial, by being friendly with both the teams. People thought I was two-faced for it, but in all reality, I just wanted everyone to do good work because the canvas is the one that's going to have to pay for it. I take this job very seriously and I just really wanted everyone to do well.
How did you design your master canvas tattoo?
In traditional Japanese tattooing, you pick whatever story you want to tell, and in this case I wanted to tell the story of Raijin—the Japanese Thunder God. So 90% of my time devoted to my master canvas was in researching. Once I knew all the elements, symbolism, and everything within the tattoo itself, I started to move on to studying traditional style tattoo artists, such as Mike Rubendall, Chris Garver, all those guys that Chris Nuñez used to work with. I took inspiration from them and noticed the techniques they were doing. I sat down with a lot of traditional Japanese tattoo artists and they helped me draw backgrounds, taught me about the fundamental rules of traditional Japanese tattooing. I started drawing and then took it from there.
What was going through your mind when you were standing at the end with Dani knowing that it was going to be you or her but definitely a woman winning?
Honestly, it was kind of an out of body experience. I have such horrible public anxiety and the only thing that went through my mind was all the lights in my face and all these people staring at me.
How has life changed for you since winning the show?
Life has changed a lot more than I actually thought it would. When I went back home, I noticed that all these people that I haven't talked to in so long started coming out of the woodwork in the best way possible. I'm starting to get all these artists wanting work from me, which is crazy. Money aside, having my work recognized by these huge names in the industry is the biggest change that I’m really grateful for.
Before Ink Master, did you have to overcome any obstacles in tattooing because you're a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Right out the gate, I couldn't get an apprenticeship. I would go into some of these shops, asking for an apprentice, and they would say, “No, it's not a good idea.” And then I'd ask them why and they would say, “It's because you're a woman.” But it never deterred me and I convinced myself to work every single day to prove those people wrong. There was not one second that I would sit and feel sorry for myself because these people didn't want me to work in their shop. I would just grind every single day. And that's my biggest advice to anyone that wants to get in this industry. You need to work every day. There's no cutting corners, you have to really show that you need it and that you want it.
Then there’s definitely also dealing with sexual harassment. Once I got into a shop, sexual harassment was the number one issue. I ended up leaving a few of the shops that I was interested in working at and because of that, I learned to stand up for myself. You can't take no for an answer and you need to demand respect. Anytime you go into a room, you have to show people that you control the situation.
How do you think that the industry has advanced and improved when it comes to treatment of women?
I think it’s great that women are starting to become a larger demographic in the tattoo industry. I think it's good to have women in the tattoo industry because some people feel more comfortable being tattooed by a woman and now people have that choice.
How does it feel to be a role model for young girls and female tattooers around the world?
It’s a lot of pressure but at the same time, I'm ready to take on that responsibility and show that we can do this. No matter who you are, as long as you prove that you really want this, put in those long hours and demand that respect, you can make it. I'm really grateful that I'm able to be that role model and to show that no matter who you are, you can do this. I ended up coming from a pretty hard background myself and I didn't have a whole lot of money growing up. Hopefully, one day I can tell my own story and show people that if I can do it, anyone can.
While you were on the show, you mentioned sacrifices that you made to be on Ink Master. What were some of those sacrifices?
I prioritize art and tattooing over a lot of things in my life. Some of those things I actually do regret, like missing huge hallmarks in my life—graduation, people's birthdays, family events, etc. I ended up sacrificing those things to focus on my career. You need to make those sacrifices and if you really want this, you have to prioritize your life.
What advice would you give to tattooers who are interested in going on Ink Master?
My advice is to put out good work, but don't take it so seriously that you get stuck in your own head. [Ink Master] is a good thing and you need to have fun with it. As soon as you start getting in your head and you start overthinking, it's going to show in your work. You have to treat it like it's a fun experience. These challenges are just like levels in a video game and you need to have fun with it. This is only going to happen one time in your life and should enjoy it before it passes you by.