There can be only one "Ink Master" each season, but since she came so close to winning, maybe Pittsburgh's Sarah Miller can be known as the "Ink Mistress."
Miller, managing partner and co-owner of Wyld Chyld Tattoo on Brookline Boulevard, lost the Season 2 title Tuesday night to Steve Tefft of Groton, Conn. The latter -- who embraced his love for horror tattoos in his final project -- took home $100,000 and a feature in "Inked" magazine during a Spike TV live finale from the Metropolis Theater in New York City.
The artist, who favors garish shirts, wore a green ribbon in support of the victims and families in Newton, Conn. In third place was Sebastian Murphy, an artist from Detroit, Michigan.
Judges Oliver Peck, Dave Navarro and Chris Nunez dressed up in suits for the occasion, as did a number of the 13 eliminated artists brought back for the finale. Later, they would dress down a few as well.
During the season, fans could vote for their favorite artist's work, whcih would be factored into who reached the final two.
For Miller, this was a big, nervewracking deal: "As long as I wasn't the person America hated, I was OK," she said, laughing.
Before the one-hour event, there was one last taped episode featuring a six-hour challenge for the artists. This time, the four human canvases -- all professional athletes -- were allowed to interview, then choose who would do their tattoos.
Scott McKillop, a Buffalo Bill who played his college football at the University of Pittsburgh, chose Miller. He asked for a phoenix on his left biceps. The judges were typically critical of Miller's work (thought the creature lacked definition on one wing, said the embers and the fire didn't pop as much as possible) but praised its overall design. When they announced she would be joining Tefft in the finals, the New York native appeared stunned.
Odd (wo)man out was Katherine "Tatu Baby" Flores of Miami, who struggled with a dragon. And so, it was on to the finals.
Season 2 of Ink Master has been big on surprises, and the producers saved a big one for last. The three remaining artists were introduced to human canvases from their hometowns and informed they would be meeting with them in four, six-hour sessions. The subject and location of these tattoos were completely up to the artist.
Miller worked with Dave Fagan, giving him a matched set of Norse warrior images on each thigh.
"I loved working with him; he was such a cool dude," she said.
"We thought about different kinds of mythology -- Greek, Roman -- and when I said 'Norse,' he said 'Yeah, Odin.' "
While the other two finalists worked in black and grey, Miller went with full-on color. She was questioned about the lack of black for contrast, however, but promised the judges she would use more from here on in.
"You've come a long way," Nunez said, adding he knew she would take the judges' critiques to heart.
During the summertime competition, Miller won two elimination challenges and made a strong showing in others. At left is her tattoo for a Star Wars challenge, which was runner-up to that of Flores, who did Yoda.
The day after the live finale, Miller said she was just going to work on some tattoos for family and friends before the holidays. More than 200 email requests for tattoos poured in overnight, but she is going to wait until after the New Year to jump back into a full-time schedule.
Spike TV reports the live finale did very well in the ratings, with 2.4 million viewers.
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