MUSCATINE, Iowa -- Local tattoo artist Jake “Zo” Zoller has been drawing on clients for years, but on Tuesday, April 17, Zoller was in Miami, Fla., hoping to leave a mark on the judges of the Spike Television series, "Ink Master," during second-round auditions to be on the reality competition.
Zoller, the owner of Stigma Tattoo located at 106 E. Second St., Muscatine, was selected to the casting call after a friend encouraged him to submit photos of his work into a nationwide audition for the second season of "Ink Master."
Zoller said he feels appreciated to be chosen for the opportunity.
“There are so many artists out there besides myself that put art on people every day that it is taken for granted,” he said. “People don’t understand how hard it is when you take something that doesn’t belong in the skin, and put it in the skin and make it beautiful. For them to look at my application and my tattoos and say ’this guy, at least he’s got a chance,’ I feel very appreciative.“
In Miami, Zoller presented a portfolio of what he considers 10 of his best tattoos to the judges. He now has to wait two weeks to learn whether he’s going to Hollywood or not.
Zoller believes that his own style will set him apart from other applicants. An ambidextrous custom tattoo artist who loves freehand work, Zoller can draw any idea clients come in with but said he “dominates” with black and gray designs.
“I feel anyone can do color, but to take one solid color and give that different shades and tones, and make that piece beautiful, it’s a challenge and I love it.“
Zoller’s continuous drive to challenge himself is another aspect he hopes will make him stand out to the judges.
“No matter how long I’ve been doing this, I try to find a challenge in every tattoo I do, no matter how simple or hard,” he said.
Challenge is the main appeal of Ink Master for Zoller. If chosen as one of the 10 finalists, he will have to live in a house with the other tattoo artists for eight weeks of filming as they compete elimination-style, designing tattoos that they are told to draw on willing human canvases. The last artist remaining earns the title of Ink Master and $100,000.
Regardless of if he makes it onto the show or not, Zoller said he is happy that he was selected for the auditions in Miami.
“If the judges say I don’t have what it takes to make the show, I still made it that far,” he said.
Zoller added there is a strong chance that he will appear on television, as "Ink Master" plans to air many of the auditions. If selected as a cast member, filming will begin on July 1st with the show airing sometime in February.
Zoller has been a tattoo artist for over 12 years. Raised in an artistic family, he was a robotics programmer for GM and Chevrolet until he left in order to pursue tattooing full time and be present in his two children’s lives. Along with Stigma Tattoo, he is the owner of A to Z Construction.
Zoller’s daughter, eighth-grader Abby Zoller, said she has seen Ink Master before and is excited for her father. “I have a lot of confidence in him. I’m so proud of him already for making it where he’s at, and that’s enough for me.“
Stigma Tattoo employee Corey “Pez” Abernathy agreed. “I’m very proud to see him go, he’s taught me everything I know about tattoos. I’m at a loss for words.“
“I’m gonna make it,” Zoller said. “Even if I don’t make it on TV, I’ve already made it. That’s how I feel. I thank the support of everyone I’ve ever put a needle too…. I have so much support from this little town, it’s amazing.“