Queens resident and tattoo shop owner Richard “Made Rich” Parker is competing on season 9 of “Ink Master” for a chance to win $200,000.
Parker, the owner of Think Before You Ink at 167-16 Hillside Ave. in Jamaica, will be competing alongside his co-worker DTatStar. Both artists grew up in Queens and have a combined 24 years of experience in the tattoo industry.
Parker, 29, was also on Season 3 of the show and is looking to redeem himself after what he says was a disappointing appearance.
“First off, I decided to come back on the show because it was a great business opportunity, but personally, I was also very unhappy with how I handled my first season,” Parker said. “I didn’t want that to be anyone’s last memory of me on a international platform like ‘Ink Master.’ I was very timid and carried myself more so as a fan than a competitor. That same thought had me think about my son and how I want to raise him. I want to make sure he seizes all opportunities that come his way, confidently. So this was a perfect time for me to correct my season 3 wrongs.”
The show, which airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Spike, pits tattoo artists against each other for a chance to win money and a feature on INK magazine. This season includes a twist, with pairs competing together to represent their shops.
Season 9 is also different because each time a shop is eliminated, the show introduces a veteran from a past season. The season officially started on June 6, and contestants must prove they have technical skills and “on-the-spot creativity.” Each episode focuses on a different style of tattooing.
Parker began tattooing in 2007 and attended Wagner College in Staten Island where he graduated with a degree in fine arts. He got professional experience by working at DTatStar’s tattoo shop, One Stroke Tattoo, in Rosedale.
“After tattooing in my dorm room for a while, I saw the kind of money that being in this business could easily bring,” he said. “Being self taught, working in that shop also helped me develop my tattooing etiquette.”
But after 10 years, the shop was in financial trouble and that’s when Parker decided to open Think Before You Ink. Eventually, Parker invited DTatStar to work at the shop as a partner.
Parker said his style is constantly changing and that he doesn’t like to define his art.
“Even if you do have some sort of classified style, you’re always tweaking it – so styles are forever evolving,” he said. “Instead of pigeonholing myself into one classification, I just do things how I like to do them. If you like it, then let’s rock. If not, then the shop has plenty of other artists you can shop through.”
He has lived in Queens for his entire life and said that living in the “World’s Borough” has taught him that “art is subjective.”
“Nothing is “perfect” about our borough, but that’s what’s beautiful to me about it,” Parker said. “It’s so culturally diverse. So just like the borough, I try to take different elements that I believe to be visually appealing and apply them to skin.”
Though Parker has experience competing on the show, he said it’s extremely stressful.
“Everyone in the competition has the ability to tattoo; that’s a given,” he said. “What you’re unprepared for is being away from everything you know, dealing with your competition’s opinions, the judges, rules being bent – it’s a game show. You leave the competition feeling like a patient out of Arkham.”
But the show also helped Parker build friendships and contestants learn tips and tricks from each other when they weren’t competing.
“Other nights, we’d have organized drawing sessions, and when it came time to design our elimination tattoos, we’d actually help each other on design elements,” he said. “A lot of the things I’ve picked up from the other artists are things I’ve even brought back home to my shop. If you allow it to, that competition can be much like a sports team.”
Watch the trailer for the new season below: