What is henna?
Henna is a temporary body art. Henna paste is made from the dried leaves of the henna plant, with other natural ingredients, and is used to decorate the skin. The henna paste tints skin, and the resulting design lasts 1-2 weeks. Although it has traditionally been used in many ways for health and beauty purposes, henna may be most well-known as an art form originating in Asia ritually done by women for women to celebrate weddings and births. Now, henna is globally accepted and employed around the world as a celebration of beauty for anyone, anytime.
When did you know you wanted to pursue being a henna tattoo artist?
I knew I wanted to do henna art when I was 14 years old. My brother gave me a henna kit, much like the ones I make and sell today. For me, henna and henna body art was everything — in funny ways, it seemed to be old and new, warm and cool, quiet and loud all at the same time. Before Birmingham Henna existed, I spent years working with henna artist mentors, working in art education and volunteering around Birmingham. When it came time to shift into art as business, henna presented itself as the obvious choice. So, I took the next step and got certified through the International Certification Board for Natural Henna Artists. Now, my family is getting involved in the henna craft, so my relationship with henna art deepens every day.
You make your own henna paste from recognizable Southern ingredients, why did you want to make your own paste?
When I really started crafting my own henna recipes, henna was an inspirational frame of reference for a lot of things in my life. I was getting ideas about how henna could work within various forms and functions, and I was driven to use henna in new and exciting ways. So, those functions dictated the formula: obviously, I wanted an all-natural formula that would tint the skin super well and have perfect consistency for body art. But I also wanted a formula that would translate well to other uses such as henna kits for beginners, hair henna treatments, as well as in heavily shaded henna art that looks more like real tattoos. And … yes, I wanted a formula that was recognizably Southern. So, the end result is our Red Mountain Henna Blend, which incorporates red clay and beetroot juice into our natural recipe to boost the color, the ease of use, as well as the integrity of the paste for uses beyond traditional henna body art.
What inspires you when you are coming up with designs?
Over the years, I’ve been inspired by exotic art and folk art, as well as poems and songs. For my newest design book, however, I am using an interesting new method for composing henna designs. I’ve developed a system of henna motifs that act as a type of code, which when put together build a design which “spells” out certain words and phrases, resulting in hennas that mean something significant to the client. My goal is to use henna as a way to embody certain sentiments and intentions, so the new book features designs such as “live in the moment” and “hold my hand.”
Is there a specific design that you love?
Yes, one design comes to mind just now, although it has been retired from the design book. I designed and wore it personally as a beautiful kind of reminder. My favorite designs are the ones that mean something special or practical for the wearer when they look at it or think of it. Bringing to mind notes written on one’s hand as reminder to do some task or someone’s phone number scribbled on a palm … it was kind of like that.
What is your favorite part of working in Birmingham?
I can’t get enough of Birmingham. I live and work in my studio in Southside. Birmingham Henna pops up at markets and festivals around the city, and I travel to clients. My favorite part about living and working inBirmingham now is the satisfying feeling of really growing solid roots in this place, even while the city is, itself, growing and changing in such exciting ways. My family and I are happy here, and my business is thriving … so we hope to be here for a long while.