- Associated Press - Saturday, August 23, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Heather Maranda raved about inking her first oil derrick right up until needle pierced skin. Now the tattoo, with its intricate weave of slats and piping, has unleashed a string of curses and grumbling.

“This thing is nuts,” she says, her voice carrying over the buzz of the tattoo gun that’s marking her client’s shaved calf. “Like straight-up nuts.”

The client, a worker from Douglas, is reclining on a black chair inside Sparx Worx Tattoo in downtown Casper. He shows no sign of concern. Neither, really, does Maranda, a plump 36-year-old with hair pulled up into a curly cascade of red, pink, blue and turquoise.

The complaining and cursing is part of the process. It keeps her calm, an escape valve for the frenetic energy that comes with being Heather Maranda.

“Oh my god,” she says, before suggesting the oil derrick might be better off performing a certain sex act than finding a permanent home on her client’s leg.

The buzzing continues. Her eyes, accentuated by broad streaks of purple, shift from calf to guide drawing and back again. Her arms, decorated in pop-culture tattoos, move slowly as she maneuvers the tattoo gun.

“OK,” she finally says. “This is not as bad as I thought.”

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Maranda worked an office job up until seven years ago. Now, she’s a sought-after tattoo artist known for lifelike portrait work and geek-culture pieces. She lives in Casper but travels all over the country to tattoo. LucasFilms, the movie studio behind Star Wars, licensed her to ink at its events - a privilege bestowed on only a handful of tattoo artists worldwide.

And the mother of three is about to become famous. Or at least reality TV famous.

Maranda stars in the new A&E; series “Epic Ink,” which follows a group of tattoo artists who specialize in hyper-realistic work, often pertaining to what could best be described as “geek culture.” The show premieres Wednesday.

In its promo materials for the series, A&E; dubs Maranda the wild child of the group. Caveats about the reality of reality television aside, it takes only 30 seconds with her to realize this is not hyperbole.

Maranda says she’s loud and she’s honest, which is sort of like describing Mount Everest as tall and cold.

Ask her about the show, and you get this:

“It’s so awesome that it’s going to melt your face off. You better watch it on the toilet because you are going to poop.”

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