Taiwanese woman's journey to achieving full body tattoo

The illustrated woman: Tattoo artists shares experiences receiving full body tattoo

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Hori Mayi. (Photo by Huang Hui)

Hori Mayi. (Photo by Huang Hui)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Last Friday (March 16) Taiwan News interviewed and photographed a Taiwanese tattoo artist who shared her experience achieving a full body tattoo.

Born Hu Yu-hsin (胡毓欣) in Nantou County, the heart of Taiwan, Hu later took the artistic name Hori Mayi (彫舞, tattoo dance) when she became a tattoo artist.

During middle school, Hori first became interested in tattoos, but because of the conservative society in Taiwan at the time, she did not dare to get one.

When Hori turned 18, she decided she was ready and gifted herself a tattoo of a butterfly on her left shoulder blade. She found that it took about 40 minutes and was not as painful as she thought it would be.

When she showed her mother her first tattoo, her reaction was "Don’t do it again because it’s not sanitary."

At the age of 22, Hori got another tattoo, this time of the Chinese character for "Love"(愛) in Hong Kong. When Hori showed the tattoo to her mother this time she said, “You did it again, what is it? But is it clean?" She explained to her mother that they use disposable needles.

In 2011, after receiving an Associate degree from Jinwen University of Science and Technology in Graphic Design, Hori worked as a graphic designer of advertisements. Though commercial graphic design was not her passion, it would carry over to her future career.

At the age of 25, Hori got her third tattoo, this time in Japanese it read, "It exists because of love." This was a therapeutic way for her to overcome her lingering sadness over her parents’ divorce when she was 10 years old.

In July of the same year, Hori decided life as a desk jockey was not for her and she became the disciple of Chen Cheng-hsiung (陳政雄), a tattoo master in Kaohsiung. Before tattooing her first customer, she went through a full year of training which included practicing on fake skin and only creating the outlines for other artists to use.

In September 2013, she inscribed her first tattoo on a customer, which were the Sanskrit characters for the six true words mantra in Tibetan Buddhism: "Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum" (ॐ मणिपद्मे हूँ).

She was nervous at the time, but she soon learned to temper her breathing carefully.

Hori says that when it comes to overcoming the challenges of getting tattoos, half of it is the ability to take the pain and the other half is having a positive mental outlook about the experience.

In 2014, she was sent by her master to Nanning in China’s Guanxi Province, who was partnering with a local tattoo artist there.

After a brief stint in Shanghai, Hori went with her master to Shenzhen where he opened his fully independent shop in China. At the same time, her master also keeps a shop in Kaohsiung, however it was he who encouraged her to go to China in the first place.

Hori said that he felt she should go because he encourages his disciples to take risks and seek adventure, there is a bigger market in China and more demand and there is a common language, unlike other countries.

She describes tattoos as clothing, such as "pants" for those covering the legs, "half a suit" for a tattoo covering the upper torso, and a "full suit" for a tattoo that covers the body from head to toe.

In 2015, she decided on getting a full suit to challenge herself, to have something few have done and to be able to explain to customers what each part of the body feels like when getting a tattoo, because she has ink on all of them. Due to the difficulty in reaching many of the areas herself, Hori's elder fellow apprentice Chen Kuan-hsiung (陳冠雄) has been proposing the main concepts and has been doing the tattooing for her.

In 2016, both arms and her back down to her knees had been finished. That year, Hori won first place for "Best Backpiece" at the London Tattoo Convention.

By 2017, the front of her from the chest down to the ankles as well as the back of the calves were completed.

Currently, she says that her tattoo is 90 percent complete and she has the goal of completing the entire full body tattoo before June of this year.

Her largest tattoo, is a Japanese Hannya or a female demon mask, which covers her entire back. She also has four snakes that slither all over her body, the largest of which enters the mouth of the Hannya on her buttocks, while the head is coming out the top of the mask on her upper back.

There is a snake on each arm and the fourth snake is on her right leg. Other elements incorporated into the work include lotus flowers, autumn leaves and ocean waves.

Hori says that snakes work well in tattoos to naturally complement the contours of many parts of the human body.