Friday, April 6, 2018

Henna Bellies!

One of the first things I did as a working henna artist is decorate pregnant bellies. My first was in 2006 for my friend Jill. Normally, a henna belly is done as part of a Blessingway ceremony, where friends gather to bless the way to motherhood for an expectant mom. Most of the times this mother has already had a child previously, and gifts for the baby have already been accumulated so this is a chance for women to come and celebrate the woman herself. Gifts are given such as meals for her freezer, candles, hand knit items, gift certificates for massages and other pampering, and a dish to share. Usually, the woman is adorned with a flower crown, given a pedicure and foot massage and adorned with henna designs on her belly. Many celebrities have done this over the years such as Alanis Morisette and Beyoncé.

 This henna belly can be part of a sacred ceremony where a circle is drawn and the woman’s closest friends call their ancestors for support and advice is given to the woman. Prayers or poems can be read. Usually each guest will bring a bead to represent the mom or her family, or their relationship, and at the end all the beads are strung into a birthing necklace. Many of the practices come from a Navajo blessing ceremony, and I’ve witnessed dozens of thes over the past 12 years and witnessed so many powerful bonds, emotional speeches and tears. And of course, laughter.

 A henna belly can be done during the ceremony, but I like to start before most of the guests arrive so the woman can be as still as possible without moving to hug guests or laugh or cry. It’s difficult enough working on a round surface with a moving baby inside. 😁

 As far as the design, I will often show the expectant mom pattern books of traditional Indian designs, and let her choose what design elements she likes best. When she has chosen 4 to 5 elements, I will combine them into a design that is unique to her, so her belly doesn’t end up looking like anything I’ve ever done before.   Always ask if she wants a symmetrical design radiating from near her bellybutton, or something more randomly placed.

Once the ceremony has begun and the belly has been finished, will quietly move within the circle and give each guest a small hand or foot designed to complement the mothers design. Below are some of the bellies I have done over the past several years.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's been a long time since I've posted! So much has happened and my business has grown so much! Here are a few recent pictures of my work: And my new business card/ care instructions: We recently began our 10th season of South of the James, the weekly producer-only market in Richmond, VA. Here is our booth:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Henna Happy Hour!

It has been a long time since I was able to post, as somehow my google account wouldn't let me access my blog for a while! As I am here in the middle of a very busy henna season, I've been experiencing a lot of stress and long days - sometimes working 14 hours straight on Fridays and Saturdays. It's forced me to listen to my aching body, and figure out what I really want to focus on for the coming years of my henna business. I love my clients in all forms, but lately the festivals we've been attending have been extremely exhausting, with long lines and unfair earnings for my facepainters/glitter tattoo artists. Also, the bridal mehndis have been causing me a lot of stress, both leading up to the events and the 3-5 hours of continuous mehndi is very hard on my neck and my hips. The thing I love doing most is henna parties - a gathering of friends with food, drinks, music - just a general good, happy time that is made better by henna body art. Setup is minimal - I'm able to bring just my henna bag with pattern books and a few simple information cards and a tv tray table and my folding stool. I bring a portable bluetooth speaker to stream music if requested, and generally the event lasts about 2 hours. Everyone who receives henna is genuinely excited and so happy that I am there. I am treated well, and usually offered food or refreshments. I love getting to introduce new people to the art of mehndi I'm paid well for my services. All in all, a very fun time for all involved.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Evolution of the henna booth

As I'm finishing up my sixth outdoor season as a working henna artist, I started looking back through all the pictures of the Henna Booth over the years.
Here is my first season at 17th Street Farmer's Market in Richmond with the Mother Art Cooperative:

And then with added facepainting. This one really makes me laugh at the ramshackle paint kit:

You can see my daughter's tiny self under the booth. I think she was 3 at the time.
Here are the earliest pictures of the 10x10 booth, from early 2009

Trying to add more color... Not quite right:

This is from early 2011... First time with the sari fabric curtains and table runners and custom tablecloths to hide the junk. Also, bought the first of two Mad Mats rugs.

Added the yellow and orange accents:

New banner:

The finished product!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes!!

Not only am I obsessed with mehndi, but I can't seem to get enough of all things India - it's music, food and textiles. Over the last several years I've amassed quite a large collection of vintage and second-hand kurtas and salwar kameez suits. There are 4 Goodwills in my area, and it's become quite an adventure to find a top in a store, and hunt for the matching dupatta or pants. Unfortunately, many of the items are separated, and I rarely find a complete set, but when I do, it's really exciting.
I seem to have a talent for finding some really beautiful items very inexpensively. All of the items I've found fit me, and I wear many of them regularly to work. And the best part - none of these items cost more than $12.99 and the majority were between $2.50 -$6.99!

This was my first find... My favorite color and it's silk, hand-beaded and was just $7.50! Marked 50% off in the Halloween section!
And soon after, this silk beauty - the crystals and beadwork are really amazing, also $7.50:

Here is one of my favorite embroidered ones... I found the top last week for just $5, and then found the pants yesterday! It's silk and appears brand new:

Another beautiful embroidered one, and I have tan and teal pants to match:

These two I found with the tags still attached - one was $5 and the other, $2.50!

You can't tell from the picture, but the detail is all crystals and metal-wrapped thread.
This one I wear a lot, it has gold sequins throughout, and the matching pants are ombré - from maroon to orange. Also looks great with black churidar leggings:

My daughter loves these two:

This one I almost didn't buy, as the top has a strange, off-center design on it and the shape isn't in style, but it's silk and the pants match a lot of my other tops. I decided to do a Moroccan detail in paint around the neckline:

This one is really beautiful - I love the gold embroidery and the fabric itself is eyelet!

This has hand-beaded designs and a retro collar with a neat asymmetrical hemline:

This is one of my splurges (a birthday present to myself!) - $50 from - it has the matching sleeves which I'm going to attach. The pants are skinny, churidar style and have purple beadwork at the ankle, and the dupatta (scarf) is dip-dyed purple to blue, with gold embroidery around the edges. Perfect for a Sangeet or the mehndi party before a wedding! I love it!!

Many of these I have used to decorate my henna studio!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Henna Healing

One of the unique things I offer as a henna lady/ reiki practitioner is 'Henna Healing'. Over the years I've offered reiki sessions to those who have asked (it's not something I've done out of an office or anything) and I love to be able to offer this gentle form of energy work. Several years ago I gave reiki and henna to a friend who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and she asked me to come henna her head after she lost her hair from the chemo. When I showed up at the hospital, henna cone in hand, she was quite opposed to the idea, yelled for a little bit, and then promptly fell asleep. I gave her reiki and then left - I figured she'd be really mad if she woke up with a henna crown. : ) Since then I have been blessed to be able to do henna for people going through all kinds of transformations - from coverage of surgery scars for stomach surgery and mastectomy, to personal rituals for change and growth. I've also done henna for people at the Virginia Home for Adults and Glenburnie Rehabilitation who otherwise wouldn't be able to receive henna. And when our kitty got spayed, the kids talked me into giving her a small 'penna' design : )
Being able to provide designs for people who have suffered a loss or are facing a tremendous illness/surgery has been very emotionally moving for me. I feel so humbled and blessed to be able to offer a small comfort and a healing touch. I am constantly reminded of how amazing it is to have been given this gift of mehndi, and to be able to share it with those who need it most has been so tremendously fulfilling.