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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Painting Val's Belly

When I heard Valerie was pregnant I was so excited. She would just be showing by the conference, and I knew I'd have a gorgeous little belly to use for the Pregnancy Henna class and demonstration. She was the perfect model. We did a small asymmetrical floral pattern (on right), with plans to meet up again in a few months when she was rounder.

Well, the months flew by and Val got rounder and rounder, and we still hadn't met up for henna part 2 yet! Late last Monday I got a text from my sister. "Do Val's Belly!" We jumped into high gear, set up the appointment for Friday, delayed it until Sunday, then actually did it on Monday while Carrie was seeing Eddie Izzard. Yes, I was jealous, but I got to hang out with Mike, Val, and their blue pup Merc, so it all evens out.

Every time I do a belly, I'm always amazed at how active the baby becomes, and Val was no exception. Wriggling and rolling, kicking and dancing, those babies move! It can become uncomfortable for the expecting mothers, and is certainly a challenge for any artist to work on such a dynamic surface, but it also makes for lots of giggling and laughing while spending an evening among friends.

The design we settled on is a Turkish inspired design from my research on the Iznik tiles of the Ottoman Empire. We used stylized chrysanthemums and peacock feathers to create a symmetrical, yet organic, design.  While mandalas always seem the obvious choice, centered on the belly button, I prefer to work higher up on the tummy so the new Mom can enjoy her belly henna without twisting about in the mirror. With this in mind, I tend to go back to arabesque shapes as my starting point. Their elegant curves and natural elements complement the roundness of a pregnant belly, without being limited by it. Arabesques are so romantic and have a wonderful feeling of growth and life as their tendrils curve around. And while I enjoy working with each mother to find her own personal style and meaning for her henna, it was fun to have Val choose exactly what I felt like doing!

I wrapped Mama Val up with fabric tape, feeling like I was in a sparring match with the Karate Kid in her belly, hugged Papa Mike, and gave some cuddles to puppy Merc. Val had strict instructions to stay cozy, stay dry, and stay pregnant (!) until we could meet up for pictures. Thankfully, she followed my instructions to a T and we were able to meet up again for a little photo-shoot and painting extravaganza!

For the photoshoot, I painted Val's belly with Henna Caravan Mica powders and Liquid Lacquer. These are washable with soap and water and are very gentle for momma and baby, while adding a wonderful bit of color and subtle shimmer. Just mix a bit of the lacquer with a bit of mica in a palette (or mica lid) and gently brush on with a good set of brushes- make up or watercolor brushes work best. It only takes a minute to dry, and looks amazing when complete. We went full-color for Val, but one or two colors could also be used to add just a bit of pizazz to your henna for special events.

Thanks, Val, for being a beautiful model, and Mike for letting us invade your home with sparkles! We know what a risk that can be.

For more information, visit or call 1 800 89 HENNA
Thanks to David Brand Photography for the stellar shots.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Henna Caravan has been working at festivals since we started business. Our first festival was a small arts show. Jessica took a chair, some patterns, and a canopy, and just tried to see what she could do. Last summer, Henna Caravan was at two major events, with 3 private appointments to top it off in one weekend.  Santa Barbara Summer Solstice and the Camarillo Greek Festival took half our team, while a hen night, sweet 16, and destination wedding took the rest. This means 2 canopies, 2 full set ups, 2 bins of decorations, 2 full festival crews, and 2 opportunities to hang out with our wonderfully loyal customers. And everybody running around with cones of fresh henna, slinging this way or that. While the Santa Barbara crew had lines 30 people long almost all day, the usually smaller Greek festival was busier than its ever been! Customers came up to us all day long, requesting their "annual" henna. They come back every year to get Henna Caravan designs, and we are so enormously grateful for this. Jessica and I were in Mexico for a private event and we are just so thankful we could leave our team and know everything would be OK. And now, its got me thinking, in the 15 years since that first tiny festival, how is it that we got to this point?

The answer is as simple as they come. Hard Work. We've had over a decade of hard work, trial and error, great days, bad days, big mistakes and big ideas. In the end, we seem to have ended up somewhere successful, and with something that works. Committing to festivals requires a lot of financial output up front. You have to get your canopy, your books, your booth set up AND you have to pay several hundred dollars in booth fees months before the event, without knowing whether or not you'll make any money when the big weekend finally rolls around. Sometimes, its a complete bust. Sometimes, you have to call in extra hands.

This week we've turned in our first set of applications for Spring Festivals. If you're a henna artist looking to branch out into the festival world, I suggest you start looking now. Find festivals with high attendance numbers (police estimates, if available) and a good demographic breakdown. Kids aren't drawn to henna the same way women are- from high school through to great grannies! Why not try some first-year events that look interesting to you? They may not be as financially successful this year, but as they grow, you'll grow with them, and your henna will become a feature of the event itself. People will be looking for YOU every year at that little fest. Always ask if they allow multiple vendors, and try to secure an exclusive agreement. Henna can be a hard sell in new communities and more than one vendor means nobody goes home happy.

We are so excited for new opportunities this year. From festivals, to private events, corporate promotion, restaurant openings and some extra special events in March, I'm sure we'll have lots to share and talk about!

Enjoy your Henna Journey!