The Henna Oasis

Love your girlfriends and want to spend time with them, but don't always feel like a doing the same ol’ thing? Same here. Although grabbing food and cocktails is fun, sometimes you just want to change it up a little bit and do something, well….different. Flying out to Bahamas, although amazing, probably isn’t going to happen with everyone’s work, budget and availability restrictions. But there has to be more. I personally would be just fine skipping wearing heels, getting your conversation interrupted by a courteous server, or trying to talk over the noise of a bustling bar once in a while. 

How about watching a girly movie, a stay-in flick night? Pop the popcorn, chill some wine and bring out the chocolates. Put on some comfy clothes, cozy up under the blanket and unwind. Did someone say 'Devil Wears Prada'?

In house spa? Why not? Head on over to your local drug store, or a beauty shop and pick up some inexpensive eye and face masks. While there, get some scented relaxing candles and Epsom salt for your feet. If you feel up to it, refresh your pedicure and manicure with fun, summer ready shades.  TIP: Buy the fast drying nail polish. As night progresses and wine consumption increases, it might be a sticky mess.

Embarrassed to sing in public? How about karaoke night at home. With access to You Tube where almost every song comes with lyrics these days, you do not need to invest into an expensive karaoke machine. Make some margaritas, each person can bring a plate to share and have a good laugh or two. The night will unveil who has been holding back an inner Céline Dion waiting to come out.

How about tattoos? I am just kidding! Let's not ever mix tattoo art and cocktails. How about something little less permanent? Henna comes to mind. I have done Henna tattoo couple of times on vacation, but how fun would it be to do it with a group of friends at the comfort of someone's home.

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I was so curious and excited about this idea that I reached out to a local Henna Artist and asked to interview her to get better understanding of how Henna works, how long it lasts, and what it would take to have a small group of girls participate.

Last week I met Reena Maheshwari, a beautiful and talented artist behind The Henna Oasis. What a delight and pleasure it was. I came with a notepad and pen ready to take notes. I was super excited when she offered to do a beautiful design on me, and allowed me to have a first hand experience of her wonderful work.

I do hope you enjoy our interview recap and gain some new insight on everything that is Henna Art.

What is the origin of Henna?

“Henna is used throughout the Indian subcontinent, parts of southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Northern Africa.  The plant grows in hot,dry climates and has been used for thousands of years, for body decoration as well as medicinal purposes. It is difficult to trace the origin, as it is a widely spread plant and has been used in many cultures throughout history. For some it has been used to heal cracking skin on the feet, for others it has been used on the nails and nail beds.  As a body decoration, it is interesting to see the different designs that vary from region to region. In much of Indian culture you have very intricate and detailed designs, but you also have cultures where it is common to have just a circle the middle of the hand and henna-dipped fingertips. In some Arabic cultures you have more attention paid to how a design flows across the hands and the designs are often flowery. In Morocco, geometric designs are more common. In Sudan you have thick, bold, repetitive designs. “

What is it made out of, the paste that is?

“Henna is a type of plant. The leaves of the henna plant are dried and ground into a powder, and before henna is to be used the powder is made into a paste. The paste can be made with a mixture of water, tea water, sugar and various essential oils. Chemical additives/dyes are often found in henna kits or henna cones that are sold in Middle Eastern/Indian stores off the shelf, as natural henna paste will only last a few days - it is best to always use fresh, natural henna so you are not putting chemicals on your skin and taking a chance of reactions. The natural color of henna will range from a deep orange to reddish brown to a crimson black - this varies on each person, on the part of the body, and how well a person takes care of their henna once it is applied. 

**It is important to note that black henna - which has a chemical additive - can cause severe reactions and permanent damage to your skin. While it remains popular, it is quite dangerous, and any licensed/insured professional artist will not use black henna. Often, this is the henna you get when on a beach vacation, as the color will be darker quicker and is not as subject to frequent washing. You can also find black henna vendors here locally, but you should avoid any vendors that are not selling you natural henna. 

The only way to naturally darken the stain or make it blacker, is to use another natural product called jagua. This can be applied similarly to henna and can be used on its own or mixed with henna. However, jagua can trigger some allergic reactions, so be aware of these also. The color of jagua ranges from a deep purplish blue to navy - it is still not black.

Even natural henna can have some rare allergic reactions - if you have allergies to any essential oils, it is important to let the artist know or to try a very small area first.”

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How did you stumble upon it, and how long have you been doing Henna art?

“I've been doing henna since I was a preteen. My mom does henna, my sister does henna, even my grandma used to do henna. When I would go on trips to India as a youngster, I'd want to have my full arms and feet decorated, but we never seemed to have the time as we were always busy travelling and visiting with family, so my mom would offer to do mine. Of course as a preteen, I didn't want my mom to do my henna, so I would practice on my own hands, and wipe it off when I didn't get things to my liking. That is how I learned, and being a part of different cultural events and art fairs throughout the Minnesota over the years gave me a lot of practice. 

I've been doing henna professionally for over 25 years. I recently started Henna Oasis so I could do more of this art that I love.”

What is the most exciting part of your work? 

“While I have books of designs for simplicity, I absolutely love it when my clients just tell me to create! “

Other than traditional weddings for example, would one get henna art for any other occasion culturally?

“You can always find a reason to celebrate. Weddings may be the most notable in Indian and Middle Eastern cultures, but during holidays - especially Diwali or Eid, when celebrating a pregnancy or new birth, birthdays, even celebrating a graduation or promotion - there are so many occasions to choose from. “

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If I wanted to get Henna for myself, is this something I could request on your website?

“Yes - call, text, email, message - I answer it all. I currently take appointments at my home in Minneapolis, and will be offering studio times later this fall. I also keep a schedule of any art fairs or public events I will be attending on my website as well as Facebook & Instagram.

I can also do jagua, or colored body paints (ex. white "henna") by request. This does require advance notice and will be slightly more in price.”

I have been thinking a lot about having a girls night in and having henna art done on all of us. Is this something you would be able to accommodate?

“Absolutely. I love doing parties - for adults, for kids, or both! I have a two-hour minimum for any parties, I bring all the supplies to you, and that time with one artist is sufficient for ~6-15 adults. If you are having a larger party, I can definitely accommodate that as well with more artists and/or a longer time frame. “

How long does Henna last?

“The paste that is applied will start to come off within 3-4 hours. Once tha dried paste has come off you'll notice an orangish stain - this stain will darken over the course of 18-36 hours, so it's important to not wash it the day it is applied. The henna stain will then last about a week to 10 days. The stain comes out the darkest on the hands and feet, and on the feet I've had people come to me saying it lasted longer than a month. On other areas of the body - it really depends on your skin.”

Do you have a favorite design you would recommend?

“It changes every day! If I had to pick, it would be any sort of lotus designs. The lotus has a very meaningful symbolism in Indian and East Asian culture. As a plant that originates in murky, muddy waters, and grows into this beautiful, pure flower that floats above it all - it is a symbol for overcoming any darkness in life, and getting to a place where you can shine.” 

How do you like my beautiful design? Want one for yourself for a special event or for your next girl’s night get-together? Do not hesitate to reach out to Reena as she is phenomenal. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and I am so very happy to highlight yet another creative local to Minnesota. As always, support small and local businesses and stay well my friends.

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XX

Minja