Being a henna artist isn’t as lavish as people think it to be. We put in insane hours of practice time, most of which we’re in awkward seating or standing positions with our backs arched, and often get asked to work for ‘nothing’. Like any job though, there are always the pros and cons, the roses and thorns. While we meet an array of people from different cultures, there tends to be a generalized theme of behavior that we just try to steer away from. Here’s a list of things henna artists often encounter…
1) BLACK HENNA
NO! NO! NO! There is no such thing as ‘black henna’ and any henna artist that tells you otherwise is either ripping you off or just doesn’t know any better. No natural henna is ever black, FULL STOP! Natural organic henna is green in powder and reddish brown in application. Black henna is an artificially produced henna paste and is 'frowned upon' in most countries. Its dangers are due the fact that it has been chemically made, containing artificial dye called para-phenylendiamine (or PPD in short). This synthetic coal tar dye can cause bad skin reactions – to say the least.
2) NO SHOWS
There’s nothing more frustrating than a no show. People lose sight of the fact that a henna artist’s source of income are the hours that are put into that appointment. So you basically caused an artist’s loss by not showing up, where that spot could have been given to someone else. Don’t be surprised if your henna artist asks for a non-refundable deposit. It’s just basically to save ‘their ass’ if you decide not to honor your appointment.
3) BEING FIDGETY AND RESTLESS
Of course most henna artists understand that it’s physically impossible to be totally still, especially with longer hours for bridal hennas. But it’s just plain right difficult to henna your arm or leg if you’re constantly fidgeting about. Once the henna is applied it cannot be erased, so if you’re moving or doing grand hand gestures, your henna design may not come out as perfect as you would want it to be.
4) PRICE NEGOTIATIONS
Most henna artists maybe a little lenient with price charges, but even then they’re not at all pleased. Henna artists only make money out of the appointments they’re making, so cutting into that automatically means cutting into their income. Not to mention overstepping the costs of their henna supplies too. Most henna artists determine their charge by the hour and their level of skill. If you’re coming across an artist whose charges are insanely cheap, it can either mean they’re just starting out and want a crack in the henna industry or their level of work is just not up to par. Don’t be fooled by ‘cheap’ henna. Most often than not it will lack expertise.
5) WORKING FOR "EXPOSURE"
Just because we’re artists doesn’t mean we don’t have bills to pay like the rest of humanity. While some beginner henna artists will agree to free gigs, more prominent and advanced ones just look at this as an insult. Henna art is a big commitment and requires a lot of practice and skill. You wouldn’t go to a dentist and expect them to fix your teeth for free, getting them exposure when you flash your smile.
Most henna artists have their own portfolio and if not, the internet has a wealth of henna designs that can be searched. If you’re constantly swaying back and forth unable to decide what design you want, it just cuts from the henna artist’s time and yours. Either way, the henna lasts 1 – 3 weeks, so it’s not like you’re getting a permanent tattoo.
7) "YOU'RE THE ARTIST, JUST IMPROVISE"
Henna artists are split into two categories with this. Either they just completely hate making it up on the spot or they welcome the idea of design improvisation. But even then, the artist would still need some sort of input from you to understand what kind of design you’re looking for. Even if you can’t see what you want in their portfolio, talk to your artist just to give them an idea and sense of the style you want.
8) LACK OF AFTERCARE
There’s nothing more dreadful than getting a phone call or text from a customer who complains that their henna is “not dark enough”. Chances are, you didn’t listen to your artist when he/she instructed you on the henna aftercare. Nothing will drive a henna artist crazier than to hear that you washed your henna off with water, or that you chipped it off before the advised time – two big NO NOs. The longer you leave the paste on, the darker your stain, just plain and simple.
9) FREQUENT BREAKS
For large or bridal designs, frequent breaks usually interrupts the artist’s flow. While we totally understand you’re only human, we often advise that you eat or go to the bathroom before your appointment. This will be especially frustrating to you if you’re paying your artist by the hour, which would only accumulate to your final charge.
10) IGNORANCE ABOUT HENNA TRADITION
Henna art is not exclusively Indian or Islamic. Though it’s embedded into its traditions, anyone can get henna. Just because you don’t practice the faith or not from an Indian background doesn’t mean you can’t get henna. At the end of the day it’s called ‘Henna Art’ and purpose of ‘art’ is to add beauty to the world, no matter what the tradition or background.