Ink Master, the beloved tattoo competition series, is back for its 15th season, and fans are in for a treat as Grand Junction’s very own Ryan Ashley returns, not as a contestant, but as a distinguished judge. Ryan’s journey, from winning the eighth season of the show to becoming a renowned figure in the tattoo world, is inspiring.
Ryan Ashley, along with her husband Arlo DiCristina, owns Elysium Studios, an establishment that’s become a cornerstone of Grand Junction’s tattoo community. The studio is situated in what was once the First Church of Christ Scientist at 535 N. Seventh St. It’s a place where art, creativity, and self-expression come together under the expert hands of the couple.
Ryan’s victory in the eighth season marked the beginning of her incredible journey on Ink Master. Since then, she has graced the show in two spin-offs and as a judge. In total, she has been a part of seven seasons, a testament to her expertise and impact on the show.
The 15th season of Ink Master brings the essence of what fans adore about the series: twists, turns, and intense competition. DJ Tambe, a three-time winner of the show, is making a comeback, this time as a judge. Ryan Ashley expresses her excitement about the new season, acknowledging it as an incredible experience.
However, her role as a judge in this season presents unique challenges. She points out that art is inherently subjective, a sentiment echoed by many artists and enthusiasts. The personal nature of art means that what appeals to one person might not resonate with another. Ryan explains, “If you have ten different people in a room, each one will choose a different piece of art to hang on their wall. Art is so personal.”
For over a decade, Ryan and her husband have traversed the globe, leaving their artistic mark as tattoo artists. Their journeys have led them to connect with fellow tattoo enthusiasts and artists, including many who have been contestants on Ink Master. While this familiarity with the competitors can pose challenges as a judge, it also brings a rich tapestry of experiences that enhance their perspective.
Elysium Studios, once a 100-year-old church, has undergone a remarkable transformation thanks to Ryan and Arlo’s dedication. It now stands as a hub for the tattoo world, welcoming both seasoned tattoo artists and promising newcomers. Ryan acknowledges the studio’s unique position, stating, “Because of the show, we had nine guest artists over the summer.”
These guest artists include finalists from previous seasons of Ink Master. To make things even more exciting, Ink Master season 10 winner Josh Payne has become a resident artist at their Grand Junction studio, working one week a month. The studio has become a haven for tattoo enthusiasts and artists, drawing talent from near and far.
But Elysium Studios isn’t just a place for art; it’s also a place for giving back to the community. In a heartwarming gesture, they now offer free tattoo removal services for gang-related tattoos or those bearing hateful or racist messages. Ryan notes the impact of this initiative, recounting a story of a woman who had been involved in human trafficking and sought help to remove her branding scars. The studio’s laser technician, Paul, was instrumental in her healing journey.
For Ryan Ashley, the attention and influence she has gained from Ink Master have been channeled into positive endeavors. Her commitment to using her platform for meaningful change is evident through these acts of community service.
As we eagerly anticipate the 15th season of Ink Master, we celebrate the journey of Ryan Ashley, a true artist and advocate for the tattoo community. Her return as a judge is a testament to her expertise and influence, not only on the show but also in the world of tattoos.