This summer has been super busy for henna body art so far – thus explaining my hiatus from my own blog. In the blink of an eye, it’s already been a month and a half since my last blog post – where did the time go??
If you’ve been wondering where I have been, or where you will be able to find me, I have updated my Events page – there have been MANY exciting developments that I just haven’t had time to blog about yet.
So I’m just popping online today to highlight the landmark in my henna journey that is FOUR YEARS since the very first time that henna found its way into my hands. Here’s the photographic evidence:
To date, the most frequently asked question I hear is: How long have you been doing henna?
Shortly followed by: What got you started doing henna?
I can now officially answer that it has been 4 years and one week since henna found me! And as to what sparked my interest in henna – I have credited this to a cascade of events in my life during the year of 2013. I had received henna a few years prior, probably around 2009 or so, and it had not inspired anywhere near so much. What made it so different in 2013?
I recall being thrown by the disco lights, loud music and overwhelming chatter in the Chand Raat event at Rio Grande (Bradford) that I attended with my friends. Traditionally a ladies only event, held the night before Eid al-Fitr and a prime opportunity for last minute preparations for the imminent celebrations. We were there to browse and immerse ourselves in a fascinating local sub-culture. Noticing a henna table, several of us agreed it would be fun to have some henna applied. And as I sat, waiting for my henna design to be completed, I asked my artist all the same questions – How long have you been doing henna? Where did you learn? Where do you get your designs from? Where do you get your henna from? I was as astounded as my clients are now when she answered that she had been doing henna from a young age, self taught, with her designs just coming to her mind as she drew. She made her own henna – how lucky I was that it was natural henna!
Photos dated 7th August 2013. Mehndi artist: Unknown. (Note, this is not my own work)
The next day, I went to a local grocers and grabbed some shelf-stable imitation henna cones. I didn’t know any better. And I was overjoyed to be applying beautiful (metal oxide laden goop) paste on myself. The process of applying came naturally and seemed to fall into place in my life with an audible ‘click’.
Perhaps this would make more sense as a logical step when I also tell you that in the year prior to this henna-epiphany I had:
- Started weekly training with a local Ju-Jitsu club having found my Sensei (Mumtaz Khan – at the time, the only female Sensei in the region) along with weekly swimming and pilates sessions – my self-care routine was at an all time high, and I was beginning to realise that I was not as weak nor as helpless as I had previously believed.
- I had designed and had my first (and only) hand-tapped tattoo having been told a home truth from my greatest old school friend and art class-mate that designing and being artistic was entirely within my skill set, even if I had forgotten.
- My children had reached the ages of 3 and 5. This was key: I was finally surfacing from the fog of parenting two children with only 22 months age difference, and they had reached an age where regular childcare was finally an option.
When I look back, to me these events seemed to form a cohesive sentence and foundation leading to the discovery of henna. Within months I was researching natural henna paste recipes, ordering fresh henna cones from UK suppliers (shout out to Henna Visa who took time to call all her new customers to clarify and confirm orders and delivery times). Once I got a feel for what consistency and texture I needed to aim for, I ordered my own henna powder (from Hennacat – still my favourite batch ever, truth be told) and started to experiment.
My first henna pastes included all sorts of concoctions of tea, coffee, lemon juice, tap water, cooled boiled water, tea tree oil, lavender essential oil and varying ratios of granulated sugar, icing sugar or demerara sugar. The consistency varied from sloppy wet mess to thick, stale toothpaste. And the cone rolling! Rectangles, triangles or squares?! It was a fraught learning curve as I hated wasting the powder and essential oils. Every single grain and drop was super precious, and I would actually wail when the piping bag would burst, if I overfilled a rolled cone or when I’d knock over a mixing bowl. But these are vital rites of passage for the young henna artist! You name it, pretty much every seasoned henna artist has experienced (and still goes through) the exact same mistakes and accidents as the new henna mixer!
- The uncertainty of whether the henna powder will be appropriate for your use? Yup
- Questioning yourself over how much spoons of sugar you’ve added? Yup
- Did I add the essential oils already or did I forget? Yup
- That panic over missing the dye release? Yup
- Is this orange colour bright enough for a spot test? Yup
- Why isn’t it orange on the back of my hand? Yup
- WHY IS THIS JAMILA SO WEIRD TO WORK WITH? Yup
- Is this cellophane too thick/thin/floppy? Yup
- Why are all my cones different sizes? Yup
- Why won’t the henna go to the tip of my cone?
- Why is my paste curling?
- etc etc…
But it was all worth it. All those mistakes formed crucial lessons and experiences that have brought me to where I now am. I discovered the henna community during my travels by joining the huge social media movement. Through connecting with other artists on Instagram and Facebook, absorbing all the information from the incredible group at the Henna Hub. I then attended my first HennaCon (California) in 2014 to learn from internationally known henna professionals and form lifelong friendships with amazing people I now consider to be my Henna Sisters. Inspired by the collective community energy at this conference, I returned to the UK ignited with a focus and renewed passion to forge my way into utilising my creativity to realise my dream career.
It is now August 2017.
I quit my part time pharmacy job back in 2015 to become a full time professional artist. My business is just under 2 years old. I am renting a studio space. I have been certified, twice, for my natural henna body art. I have a regional Henna Artist of the Year award. And this October I will be returning as an Instructor for the 2nd time at HennaCon. Suffice it to say that I am, without a doubt, living my dream.
So this week, I challenge you all to take some time to sit and think about where you would like to see yourself in 5, maybe even 10 years time. Visualise it. Will you have a studio? A salon? A shop? Will you be working from home? What sort of clients will you have? How many clients per week would you have? What will you be charging? How much do you plan to be earning? Would you need an accountant? How well-known will you be? Write it all down. Place it somewhere prominent to read, every day. Think about all those tiny details and really visualise it, see yourself in that situation.
Now: Make yourself ready to manifest that vision into reality.