ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester-based tattoo artist Laura Marie is officially an Ink Master; she won $100,000 as the winner of the competitive tattoo reality TV show.
Her college art professor, whom she calls “Mr. A” sent out an email recommending her, and despite reluctance to go on a reality show, she agreed.
The competition had some of the most talented and respected tattoo artists from across the country going through a series of challenges. It’s mainly a tattoo competition, but has variety in artistic mediums. Challenges include tattooing for up to seven hours per day.
“It’s kind of complicated, (but) it’s really artistic,” Marie said. “It’s not just tattooing, it’s painting, it’s just sculpting. As long as you don’t take it super seriously — it’s a game show. You get to show your work to the world, but you have to have fun with it.”
In the end, Marie came out on top.
Marie is a native of Geneseo, New York. At only 26, she co-owns Atomic Roc Tattoo in Village Gate with her business partner, KT Connors, along with artists Greg and Nick, who have the epithets “Old Greg” and “Miss Print” on the website. Marie started the business in 2017 as a co-owner.
The shop has open hours Wednesday through Saturday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and then Sunday through Tuesday by appointment only.
We sat down with the Ink Master to pick her brain on running a business, how Rochester is perfect for artists, her passion for Dungeons & Dragons, and a whole lot more:
DJG: So how are you feeling after the big win?
LM: I feel all the things right now. I feel like a million bucks. More like $100,000. It’s pretty awesome to have all of my hard work pay off.
It feels amazing. From day one, you have this tension: “What are the judges going to say, what are people online going to say?” And now that it’s all done, and that’s it’s reciprocated in a positive way, it’s a huge relief.
DJG: How hard was it keeping in the news?
LM: I was gone for months on end, and people were wondering where I was. It was pretty tough to not say anything.
DJG: What was the environment like on the show?
LM: It was hard to adjust to. You’re living with 18 people you’ve never met before. And you’re only sharing two bathrooms, with 18 people. Well, three, but that one didn’t have a shower.
The other part is acclimating to all of these strong personalities, as artists, we’re very solitary. We’re not team players, and to be put into this team setting was very difficult. After a few weeks, we adjusted.
As a competition, you can’t really trust anyone. At the end, there’s only one person. So you have to learn to play the game. Make alliances, and friendships, but still find a way to work together, and find a way to cut that off.
DJG: How did you manage working with other talented artists?
LM: That was the best part of it. For me, not only to spend time with these artists, but live with them 24/7. To be able to learn from them was the most rewarding aspect of it. Offset, when the cameras aren’t rolling, you just hang out with each other.
Each episode we have theme, sometimes it’s color contrast, composition, shadin — it was designed as a learning experience. They see us bantering with each other, but they don’t see how much we’re learning.
As time went on, we not only got better with art, but with tattooing.
DJG: Tell me about Atomic Roc.
LM: We really take pride in that the fact that this is a relaxing place. We take care of every single person that comes in here, regardless of whatever tattoo you have in mind.
DJG: Assuming my math is right, you started this business at 24. How did you navigate it?
LM: It was tough, but a lot of that workload was shared by me, KT, and her wife Sasha. A lot of what I can credit this whole place is the help of so many people.
DJG: What’s been rewarding about being a business owner?
LM: The fact that I don’t have to answer to anybody. If I want to take a month off, I can. The fact that we’ve become so successful and we have the finances to do that, and still be comfortable, I think that’s why Greg and Nick stay. They don’t want to leave, this place is awesome.
Disregard the money, the fame, the TV stuff — that’s what is important.
DJG: Three big-picture questions for you. What makes the Greater Rochester Area such a great place for the arts to thrive?
LM: I think the big thing is that is we have so much music and arts festivals, and arts and crafts shows. Letchworth, if we’re talking about the area. You have the Rochester Fringe Festival …
Comedians! Comedians are just the same as artists. We have such a rich diversity of artists and musicians, Eastman School of Music is here.
Driving down, you see all this amazing graffiti and artwork, I don’t think I could ever leave here.
DJG: If you could accomplish anything as a tattoo artist, what would it be?
LM: I would really love to tattoo Lady Gaga. She has been a huge inspiration to me. When I was younger I would listen to her music, especially if I was going through a rough patch in my life, and just make me feel better. Going to multiple concerts, and seeing how hard she works — she inspired me to be a hard working woman.
I have other goals in mind. I would love to get back into animation. My friends and I play Dungeons and Dragons, and maybe one day I would love to animate a little story that we have.
I would love to write a comic book, things like that. I have so many things I want to do, and all of the time in the world to do it.
DJG: Do you have advice to aspiring artists?
LM: Do not stop drawing. You need to do it every day. Even if it’s just a little tiny drawing, as soon as you build up muscle memory, as soon as you get yourself in the habit of working everyday at this, you have to really want it. You just need to work as hard as possible.