Or did it find me? It's hard to say.
I was working an office job, it paid well and a learned a lot but it wasn't a passion of mine. In my free time from work I found myself lacking in inspiration, it was difficult for me to create anything at all. As a child i was consistently with some sort of creation in the works. Drawing, painting, singing, cooking, or something of the sort every single day. I missed being creative and working with my hands, and i realized I didn't even know when it really stopped. Computer and paper work 40+ hours a week was simply torturing my soul in and out of the workplace.
My boss at that time, though, was an amazing man. His name was Oliver, and he migrated from India to the states at just 22 years old, all on his own. He still had an accent so thick that most of my team members had trouble understanding him during large meetings. As I would go bother him during slow work hours, I was able to quickly learn his enunciations and way of speaking english. He would glow when asked to talk about his home and the culture in India. He could go on and on about how the weddings and celebrations were just spectacular, all the colorful fabrics and people. His parents were still living in that home town he grew up in, and he would go visit every few years and reminisce. Eventually me and Oliver became good friends. We helped each other out when we could, and he always made sure our team had what they needed.
One of those chats led into menhndi. At the time, even with my interest in the Indian culture, I had no clue what henna was. We talked about the art form, and the people he knew in his town that worked with henna for weddings and other celebrations. I was so enthused and curious about this temporary body art that he vowed to bring me 'henna cones' so that I can enjoy the art of his country. He went to his favorite market that week, maybe 2 days later, and he brought me 3 cones! Not just a simple henna cone, he made sure to grab one of each color. A red henna, a green henna, and a black henna.
Now, of course, I'm cringing at the chemical compounds I was using to doodle with. These cones are dangerous and can give some people very bad reactions. Luckily, I had no reactions and covered every empty space on my skin I could reach. I drew on a few friends and family too. I just absolutely fell in love with henna. The meditative and temporary art pieces one could draw on the skin were endless. Boundless! With 1 of the 3 cones left, I packed up my things, sold my first house, and moved to Miami. Though I admit, not quite in that order haha
In Miami I was able to reinforce my newfound love and grow a solid relationship with mehndi. I worked a restaurant job while I slowly learned more and more about how this material was a plant and the way it worked with the skin. I transitioned to an all natural henna recipe after learning about the dangers of black or chemical henna cones.
This transition was actually fueled by an unlikely source: Craigslist! On Craigslist I met Nazha of NazaHenna and she taught be so incredibly much about henna and the South East Asian culture. She is a first born US native, with parents that migrated from Bangladesh. From her I was able to learn so many small details in henna designs, as she had been doing henna for 8 years already! We bonded over graphic and web design as well, and just really helped each other grow. As her team grew, the amount of gigs and weddings she was able to book also grew, which led to her team learning and working more!
Between this and my everyday henna practice paying off, I was able to go into freelancing full time during my 2nd year in Miami. With weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, and even office parties, henna became my main source of income! How wonderful it feels to do what you love and actually thrive! When slow season approaches around August, I put more work into my graphic and web design expertise while I gear up for the next wedding season. Each season I learn something new, experience a new event or community, and I am absolutely loving the life I am able to lead. I am grateful every day for the blessing of henna and how it has connected me to so much more in this world! I plan to continue this journey and take henna with me around the world, to connect with the locals and learn from each other. August 2020 is set for a month in Thailand and I cannot wait to discover what awaits. Stay tuned for more henna journeys.
If you are ever interested in learning how to do mehndi yourself, please contact me for classes! 1 on 1 and group classes available .
If you're looking to learn all about the jagua fruit, and how it can be used as body art, you are in the right place! This post will give you information about jagua's history, how its used today, and what ways it has been used traditionally.
What is Jagua?
Traditional Jagua Uses
Jagua is used for many medicinal purposes as well as the body adornment of many indigenous tribes in the Americas. Most societies use jagua on top of the skin for a temporary marking, however, the Matses Indians and a few other tribes of Peru also insert the fruit under the skin to create a permanent marking.
Particularly, there is the Kayapo people who use jagua mixed with charcoal to create full body suites of temporary tattoos. In the picture below see how the little one has a very dark color. This is freshly applied jagua and charcoal mixed. The others have various progression of stains, these are solely jagua stain at this point, with the charcoal washed off.
Jagua Gel - Temporary Tattoo
Today jagua gel has been used across other cultures as well. We tend to use jagua with the same stylings as a henna tattoo, however, it has so many more style uses. Jagua gel is great for shading and drawing very fine lines, since it's so potent and stains so darkly with the littlest of product. With this and the jagua coming out similar to a permanent tattoo color, it is great for tattoo testing.
Do be careful when seeking out jagua gel as a temporary tattoo. A very common product called "Black Henna" tries to mimic the jagua stain. This black henna isn't really henna at all, and is mostly made of PPD and other dyes to create the dark, long lasting stain. These dyes can also cause blisters and permanent scaring, even trouble with the respiratory system.
For the jagua fruit however, it's safe for everyone without a fruit allergy. Since jagua is a fruit, if you do have an allergy to fruits (particularly berries or citrus), the skin will show some itchy red bumps along the design after day 3 or 4.
For most people, Jagua is the perfect remedy for wanting a real tattoo, but is unable decide what to get. Or maybe you wish to avoid the pain, or just want some cool body art! Whatever the case, jagua is definitely a fan favorite. And since the product I use comes from the Kayapo and harvested by them, your purchase benefits the tribe and their ability to continue their way of life into the modern age. They also have a site for their beaded bracelets and necklaces that are insanely cost friendly at Kayapo Art
If you've never heard of henna, or are new to the wonderful henna plant, this is the place to be! Here we will touch on the history of henna, when and how it is used in modern day, and a basic understanding of how henna works.
Henna has first been recorded as dye for the hair and cloth. People as far back as Egyptian (17th Dynasty, 1574 BCE) died their hair, eyebrows, and beards with henna for a bright red look. The prophet Mohammad is said to have had his beard dyed red with henna and put black kohl under his eyes. Along with this, the henna helps produce a rich red for fabrics and clothing. The popularity of henna is still on the rise with characters like Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy who referred to her red hair as a "henna rinse". Still now, even commercial dyeing companies use henna for their reds or red undertones for hairs and fabrics.
Henna today has continued with tradition and has transformed. Today henna can be applied simply as a fashion statement or fun vacation memory to take back home with you. People even test out permanent tattoos by first getting a henna to see if they like the placement and idea for their tattoo. In addition to these more modern uses for the henna plant, there are many that keep the more original traditions alive. During weddings for many cultures in South East Asia the bride, her mother, and the bridal party are adorned with henna. This shows that traditional celebration, and also allows for creativity in what people might depict in their wedding henna. Even some grooms and men at the wedding do henna now days!
In my opinion, the beautiful art of henna is for anyone and everyone to enjoy. Children, women, men, and all the rest. The great thing about henna is how safe for the skin it is, and makes it so accessible for anyone!
Because of these ingredients, we also have to keep henna refrigerated or frozen to keep it from going bad. Do watch out for any henna that is kept on a store shelf. Even if the label says all natural, there is at least a natural preservative included or worse; a dye called PPD. Preservatives and PPD can cause serious and sometimes permanent damage to human skin, especially for those with sensitive skin. A great way to tell if your henna paste is good and natural is to smell it! If it smells faintly of chemicals, thats not an organic paste. If the henna smells over the top strongly of an essential oil, it might be natural henna that has gone bad by being in the heat or sun.
I hope you can now understand some of the magical properties of henna. Henna has brought me and many I know a great amount of healing and good into our lives. I am blessed to share this art and culture with you! If you're looking for more information about henna, come back soon. Posts on henna, jagua, graphic design, social media management, and tricks to running a business will be in the near future!
I am first + foremost, a creative. I love to take an idea and create it into something tangible. To build + organize a design, an idea, or a goal + see it actually materialize by my hands is something hard to describe. I will always cherish + cultivate my ability to do this. Here is a little about what I have learned + maybe peeks at my artistic life journey so far.