I got an email the other day...

...Out of the blue, a thoughtful woman named Stacey wrote a few lines that filled my heart so full that it overflowed out of my eyes. She had come across my business card while cleaning out her sister’s desk. The card reminded her of when the two of them had come into our henna booth at the Fallbrook Avocado Fest in 2016, and her memories inspired her to write to me...

Her sister, Shauna, had wanted a chest piece... Stacy even sent me a couple of cute photos of the henna design I ended up doing for her. At the time, I remembered, Shauna and I had discussed the design; I was trying to dissuade her from getting it on her chest (it doesn’t stain very well there) but her heart was set on it. She told me she had cancer, and was starting her chemo treatments, and wanted her chest adorned. Of course I acquiesced and did my best. We had a few lovely moments together while I created her design. I like to think that the intimacy of the closeness, the aroma of the henna, the quiet relaxing rhythm of the gentle touch, engenders a moment suspended from the cares and bustle of the “normal” day. In this quiet bubble a subtle energy exchange takes place, I like to think of it as part of the baraka (or spirit energy) of the henna. I deferred when Shauna tried to pay me; it’s always been my personal policy to offer complimentary henna to chemo patients in honor of my mother, who passed away from cancer when she was only 59. My mother never saw me become a henna artist with my own little business, and I like to think she would have enjoyed seeing her wild child succeed in something that had blossomed from my bohemian soul.

In her email, Stacey reminded me of the details of our session with heartfelt appreciation. Generously sharing with me her memories of how much her sister enjoyed wearing the henna design. While I now remember the moment fondly, I had completely forgotten about it. I’m sure it is a stronger memory for Stacy, because she told me Shauna passed away just a few months after I had the privilege of adorning her with henna.

Henna has always been associated with protection, celebration and blessing. It has been so in my life as well; affording me a way to earn my living with my skills as an artist, opportunities for travel, for meeting a variety of people in interesting places and at fun events. It has also blessed me with more of these moments of compassionate and joyful connection than anything else in my life. So much richness for one little street artist...

Shauna closed her email with, “Life is overwhelming and beautiful...”

I agree.

Free from fear...

Ok, this may be a very dangerous subject... especially amongst henna artists in the current internet climate as it pertains to copyrights... but I think, in my old age, that I really don't mind taking the less traversed path... even the dangerous path. "Where there's fear, there's power." I've always liked that saying.

I get weary hearing how important it is to "credit" other artists when we have been inspired by some work, or even some element in their work, and it appears in our work. From my perspective, everything that we do is derivative of something we've seen, somewhere, sometime. Often times we don't even know where the heck we saw it! I'm not saying that it's wrong or even silly to offer heartfelt credit when we are so moved. But other than a genuine rush of gratitude that "must" be expressed publicly, all of this credit nonsense is exhausting at best and stultifying at worst. Even when cloaked in the ever-so-sweetly pressed "courteous" argument, it grates against my very bones. I am a proponent of creativity. Period. Everything inspires me. Everything. Everything I see, feel, hear, taste, touch is grist for my creative mill. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is sacrosanct. Maybe I'm just weird. But I really do love it when I happen upon some photo of my work somewhere unexpectedly. It's almost as though it has been imbued somehow with a life of its own and it's galavanting around having random adventures and making friends without me! Just as any healthy child should. I've seen my designs tattooed on skin, on logos, yes, even on lampshades, and it never ceases to leave me filled with wonderment!

Don't get me wrong. I love making my living with my art, but in an increasingly corporate culture, where value is determined in dollars and ownership is equated with power, it feels so refreshing to my spirit to release those chains. I do watermark the photos of my work. I want prospective clients to be able to find me. But even those markers are more satisfying to me when they are translucent and harder to find. I'd rather it be sort of like a treasured secret source than a hot brand.

Maybe it's because of the henna. Henna is so ancient. The traditional henna elements were originally created by hearts, minds and fingers long turned to dust. Maybe that's why I balk at this "ownership" thing. I simply cannot credit whomever created the first paisley, or that cute "corn nut flower," or the vine and leaf motif. I get that "how" these elements are created, their arrangements in a composition, their placement, create a "style" and are the expression of an individual artist. That is a powerful thing. I feel that deep connection with my work, that emotional expression. But for me, once it is created, it is released. I have a hard time remembering the beautiful work I create. The hideous designs haunt me forever. Purgatory. Besides, the design will fade anyway. Henna is as ephemeral as life itself. Always in flux.

Having said all of this, and having ruminated on it for some years now, imagine my delight in coming across this "Ted Talk." If you have a few moments, I think it's worth your time. Johanna Blakley.


My Cone Rolling Contraption

Everyone knows that a good tool makes the job easier, and having a well-made henna cone in my hand makes my heart happy! Unfortunately, rolling henna cones didn't come easy for me. I like to use 2mm mylar, a stiffer plastic sheeting than the thin cello. This material will not allow for the cone to be rolled until the tip is closed and then snipped when ready to henna, I have to leave the tips open. I wasn't able to create the same sized opening for each cone, which meant that the first design for each new cone was an "adjustment design." I had to re-adjust the amount of pressure and drag to accommodate the larger or smaller tip. Then my friend, Chandra, brought me this weird contraption that she had found for $5 at Harbor Freight Tools, and the rest is history..... Here's a little video of how I can now easily roll cones with consistent tips!