Each collector has their own story, experiences and ways of expressing their love for tattoos. Some adorn their bodies with delicate micro tattoos while others go balls to the wall with a bold Japanese bodysuit. Mei Pang has chosen all black-and-grey work for her collection and what sets her apart from most collectors is she's decided to make her collection completely symmetrical. Each tattoo is mirrored by an identical mate, a decision Pang made early in her collecting journey. We sat down with Pang to learn about her affinity toward symmetry, who she's been tattooed by and which tattoo hurt the most.
What was your first memory seeing a tattoo and did you envision yourself becoming heavily tattooed?
I think the first time I saw tattoos was on MySpace. I was a wannabe scene kid, so seeing all these tattoos stuck in my head. I always loved makeup, piercings and doing fun things with my hair, so in my mind, tattoos were the next step. However, that being said, I never thought that I would be as tattooed as I am now. I went into my journey just wanting a couple, but now here I am with almost 80.
What was your first tattoo and what’s the story behind it?
My first tattoo is a chrysanthemum on my stomach. I read somewhere that the sternum/stomach area was the worst place to get tattooed, so I thought I’d go there first just to get that spot over with. I thought, “Oh, I’ll get the worst done first and then everything else will be a piece of cake.” That’s probably the biggest lie I’ve ever told myself. There are much more painful spots than that. I chose the chrysanthemum to symbolize my parents. What’s more safe of a choice than to get something that reminds you of family?
Why have you chosen to make your tattoo collection symmetrical? Could you see yourself getting a tattoo on one side of your body and not the other?
After getting my stomach done, I realized how much I like being “centered.” My second tattoo is on my bicep and after I got it done, I realized how off it looked, so I booked my next tattoo to get it mirrored the next day. 80 tattoos later and I’m still completely symmetrical. I toy with the idea of doing just one tattoo on one side, but that’s just not who I am right now. However, never say never, right?
What tattoo on your body gets the most attention and why do you think this is?
Definitely my “I am the Antichrist to You” tattoo that’s smack dab in the middle of my collarbones. It’s a hard tattoo to cover up so not only is it a “controversial” subject, it’s the first thing people tend to notice. People are very quick to judge that tattoo (which is totally understandable) but they don’t realize that it’s a reference to heartbreak and an homage to Kishi Bashi’s song “I am the Antichrist to You.” That tattoo gets the most attention online, but I would have to say that my most noticed tattoo when I’m out is the praying mantis’ on the side of my head as that’s what I get most comments on when I’m out doing errands.
Why have you chosen to get all of your tattoos in black-and-grey? Would you ever consider getting a color tattoo?
As much as I’m impulsive, I try to make the best decisions for myself. I always considered black-and-grey the safe choice, as I won’t ever get tired of those tones. I’m considering getting a red tattoo, as they’re absolutely stunning. But I think I’m too far into my collection and a red tattoo would look very stark. It’s all about balance!
How would you describe the style of tattoos you collect? What appeals to you about this style?
I don’t really think I fit in any certain style. However, I’ve been placed in the “ignorant tattoo” style the most. I think I look like a fridge with a bunch of magnets on it and I enjoy that thought. I have styles ranging from handpushed tattoos all the way to traditional. I don’t think I’ve ever gravitated towards a certain style. I’m of the strong belief that if you think it’s cute and it makes you happy, you should get it!
When did you start tattooing your hands, neck and face? How has this impacted the way you’re treated by strangers on the street?
I’ve had my neck, head and hands tattooed for a couple of years. I’ve had multiple experiences with strangers, ranging from them taking my photo without my permission and posting on ink shaming groups, to coming up to me to ask questions out of sheer curiosity. I’ve had people move away from me and try to avoid me. I understand that I look a little different and people have their snap reactions to me, but take solace in the fact that myself and that person who is judging me probably have something in common. It’s interesting to see people have these reactions to me because I feel so… normal?
Who are the artists you’ve been tattooed by and what drew you to them?
My main tattoo artist is Corben Matsell-Savage. I’ve been going to him for the past half a decade and he’s amazing. He truly believes in my aesthetic, his artistry is fantastic and he creates such an amazing tattoo experience every single time. I met him through mutual friends and have stuck around ever since. I’ve also been tattooed by Melina Mansing who is one of my best friends and has given me such an appreciation for handpushed tattoos.
Who are some of your favorite artists that you hope to get work from in the future?
What was your most painful tattoo? What about your least painful?
Most painful: Head, stomach and my butt.
Least painful: Hands, arms, and chest.
Do you have any tattoo regrets? Would you consider removing or covering a tattoo?
Yes, I have one tattoo “regret.” I was young, didn’t research the tattoo shop and didn’t have a voice, so I just went with it. I ended up leaving with a poorly done tattoo that was definitely a learning lesson. I want to add more to the tattoo rather than cover it up, because as much as it’s a whack tattoo, it’s a part of me and it was a turning point to my future of tattoos.
What tattoos do you hope to get tattooed in the future?
I have plans to get Icarus (mirrored on each shoulder blade). Everything about that story has stuck with me my entire life and I absolutely adore that imagery.
Do you think tattoos need to have meanings, yes or no?
Absolutely not. Get whatever you like. For example, I got butterflies on my arms purely because I thought it looked pretty and why not get pretty things on your body? Butterflies have no meaning to me but looking at them on my body makes me happy.
If you woke up with only one tattoo on your body, what would you like it to be?
Is it cheating if I say a full traditional Japanese bodysuit?
What else should our readers know about you as a tattoo collector?
My tattoos have made me feel the most myself. My body is my home and I feel safe.