Category Archives: henna

RAW Futures Event

On January 20th, I had the supreme honor and pleasure to be a part of the RAW Artists Futures event held in San Diego at the House of Blues downtown.


RAW Artists is an organization that promotes young, indie talent in fashion, design, makeup, music, graphic design, photography, and fine art.  They are loud and proud and a lot of fun.  For some reason, one of the RAW talent seekers found my website and thought my skills would be an excellent addition to the line-up of January show.  I’m not particularly young… and I’m not particuluarly new (been at this since 1998)… but he thought I was cool enough, so I was in.  Turns out I wasn’t the only non-spring chicken in the group.  So I felt right at home.

The event was a one-evening extravaganza — part art show, part music gig, part dance performance, part runway show.

Photo by Thai Chau of 'AXYZ3'

Photo by Thai Chau of ‘AXYZ3’


Bandalier performing. Photo by Thai Chau of ‘AXYZ3’

Performance by members of the San Diego Ballet. Thai Chau of 'AXYZ3'

Performance by members of the San Diego Ballet. Photo by Thai Chau of ‘AXYZ3’


My booth. Photo by Thai Chau of ‘AXYZ3’

 Photo by Thai Chau

I tried to cram as much as possible into a tiny 6 x 6 spot! All those mugs, hand-painted notebooks, necklaces and shotglasses are made by me! Photo by Thai Chau of ‘AXYZ3’

It was quite the party until 10pm... when we all packed up and headed home!

It was quite the party until 10pm… when we all packed up and headed home!









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Henna Camp 2015

I love going to conferences… all  the collective creative energy of fellow artists, the new ideas, the new products….

This year I went back to the Henna Intensive & Retreat. It had been a long summer of working every day and dealing with fussy, cranky and greedy customers… I NEEDED a break!

The retreat part is because of the location — 6000 ft about sea level, in a spartan boy scout camp, with no cellphone and spotty wifi in the dining hall. There was a spring-fed pool, which was very cold.  And an on-site massage therapist with hands of gold. We all stayed in communal cabins and ate together in a central dining hall.  The food was good, plentiful and fairly healthy.

My home away from home at the Lion Camp, Teresita Pines

My home away from home at the Lion Camp, Teresita Pines

I shared a cabin with 3 other women.  We all had bunkbeds and all chose the lower bunks.  Thankfully, our cabin had a bathroom so we didn’t have to trek in the cold and dark at 3am…

Not only were we at elevation, we had climb elevations to get anywhere!

Not only were we at elevation, we had climb elevations to get anywhere!

The camp was built on a mountain — and it still is a mountain with steep rises between cabins.  Even after 3 days, I still got winded walking up to the dining hall.

Each day we had 3 sessions of classes — some 2 hours and some 1 hour each.

Debi Varvi explains her method of creating frankenflowers.

Debi Varvi explains her method of creating frankenflowers.

I took classes on design building, Saharan traditional henna, jagua, facepainting and photography. The teachers were excellent and all the handouts came on a cd, so I can print as I want.

I also taught a class.  On glitter tattoos.

Students practice making glitter tattoos

Students practice making glitter tattoos

And there was much spontaneous henna practice….

Spontaneous henna

Spontaneous henna

On Saturday there was a talent show.  There were lots of bellydancers, one balloon artist and 3 singers.  I sang a Hawaiian song with my ukulele.  It was a really fun evening.

HIR_Nat_ukuleleByMorganCollierLeflerThe jagua class was particularly interesting.  Melissa Addams, our instructor, brought in fresh jagua fruit from Brazil. The fruit starts out white when cut, but then the flesh turns blue as it oxidizes. It also stains the skin a deep blue-black, and when mixed with henna produces a mahoghany color.

photo by Jillian Hawkins

photo by Jillian Hawkins

We learned a bit about jagua’s cultural context among the Kayapo people, a bit about the plant and where the gel comes from, and then application techniques.  I am definitely adding jagua to my line-up of services!

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  On Monday, we all packed up and returned to civilization.

But I still have the quiet of the mountains inside, and am brimming with new ideas and new enthusiasm. I can’t wait to get back to work!

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Holiday Monday in the Park…

Happy Memorial Day!


And while we paid homage to the service men and women who served our country in times of war, it was also the official first day of summer for most places.

And it’s the first day of henna season for me. From now until Labor Day I will work at one or more jobs every day, six to seven days per week. It’s intense, but fun and I wouldn’t have it any other way… well, maybe without the day job… but I need that in the winter so I stay during the summer… so it goes.

For the past 6 years I have spent Memorial Day at Spanish Village in Balboa Park (where I am a juried member of the group of patio artists). It’s a tough job… but somebody’s got to do it…

Here I am at my table on the patio
Here I am at my table on the patio
Don Strandberg soothed us with his mellow guitar playing
Don Strandberg soothed us with his mellow guitar playing
Only in San Diego can you find poinsettias and jacarandas blooming together...
Only in San Diego can you find poinsettias and jacarandas blooming together…
The hibiscus were in full bloom
The hibiscus were in full bloom
A fun design
A fun design
Look up in the branches of the jacaranda tree...
Look up in the branches of the jacaranda tree…


I discovered this little gem in the tree next to my table!
You never know what is sitting just above your head!
(Yes, I stole these this post and photos from my other blog,
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Sparkle Mehndi! Too much fun!

There’s never too much glitter as far as I’m concerned.

I wasn’t a glitter girl as a kid. I could take it or leave it, but something shifted in my 30s and by the time I was in my mid-40s, I was a confirmed glitter addict.

Hi, I’m Natasha and I have more than 50 bottles of glitter…


Just a small selection of glitters…

Fortunately, I was able to channel this obsession into glitter tattoos.

glitter ladybug

A little ladybug for a little lady.

But I was vaguely dissatisfied. The body glue that was available was very thin.  Either you used a paintbrush which got trashed really quickly or you used a nailpolish brush which had no finesse.  These designs were fine for little kids who just wanted something fast, fun, and colorful.  But they didn’t satisfy my yearning for bling.

Then along cames Pros-Aide Cream.


It’s amazing!

This cream adhesive has been the gold standard in both the theatrical industry for special effects make-up and the medical prosthetics business. And now, it has found a new use with henna artists: Sparkle Mehndi! Actually, Sparkle Mehndi is just a made-up name used by a couple of henna artists in the US.  Other artists call the artform by different names.

But by any name, it’s beautiful! And it lasts for 3-5 days — even if you wash, take a shower, hang out in a hot-tub, or run a 10k. But it’s easy to remove when the time comes: rubbing alcohol.

Sparkle Mehndi design from October 2012

The details! The jewels! The colors!

Here are a few of my enablers:

Henna Caravan: glitter, rhinestones, pros aide cream, lots of helpful advice

Silly Farm: glitter, liquid adhesive

Amerikan Body Art: glitter, body glue, useful tools — her Electric Magenta is to die for!

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Artist Interview: Betty Lovegren of Betty Lovegren Entertainment

Betty Lovegren is a local San Diego artist whom I have long admired for her skill, energy and generous spirit.  What a delight to have the chance to talk with her about her art and inspiration!

Betty Lovegren

Have you always been artistic…other forms before Henna?

Betty: I just located my report cards from grade school in Toronto and art was my best subject…all A’s…Other forms of art prior to Henna have been pottery, design classes @ Mesa (College), life drawing, charcoals, oil painting, cooking, gardening (I love this one)

When did you discover Henna?

Betty: I discovered Henna about 16 years ago. Even tho’ I had spent time in Morocco when I was 20ish, I don’t recall seeing Henna on people nor seeing Henna artists (I guess cause I wasn’t looking for it) I would love to return there (to Morocco) with my new eyes

What makes Henna so appealing & enduring?

Betty: I do face/body painting, glitter tattoos & tarot readings & I have been very involved in pottery doing hand building & throwing.

But when I discovered Henna, I was in love.  When I am doing Henna I feel a sense of peach. It becomes a very intimate situation with myself & the recipient.  I speak softly, gently, not much & I realize the conversation is different than with any other body décor.

Please share a bit about your creative process and how you nuture that.

Betty: My creative process is nurtured by first of all my attire, I feel more alive & joyous(all is well) when I am in colors, layers & unusual attire.

I am currently creating a garden of peace, love & happiness.  I love delicious food that looks very appealing & interesting & colorful.

This all is what guides me to be more creative & fun in my art.

Tell us a bit about your business and its goals

Betty: I have always been self employed doing an art of some form.  I am from Toronto & had a very successful singing telegram company for 15 years before relocating here in ’95. it took moving to San Diego to guide me toward the beautiful art of Henna.  I am self taught & make my own Henna.

And I am very, very fortunate to be the resident Henna/glitter tattoo/facepainter @ Seaport Village beside the Carousel.

My goal is to bring beauty & peacefulness to the people who hire me & my gals for their special events.  Being of service & making the experience of Henna beautiful, long lasting & memorable.

hennaed feet by Betty Lovegren

Hennaed feet by Betty Lovegren

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Camping in Paradise

I was at a library the other day doing henna on everyone who sat in front of me, and this mother shyly sat down after all the kids had gotten their designs.

“I’d like a rose, please, with a heart as a root”.   She started talking as I started drawing and I learned that she worked as a courtesy clerk for a local grocery store, but was unable to find a place to live for herself and her her teen-aged children.  They were camping.

downtown san diego

Paradise on the west coast

She made it sound like a grand adventure — the kids sleep in the tent and she sleeps in the car (although one son was making noises about wanting to sleep in the car himself.) They spend days at libraries and eat groceries from her store.  She was hopeful that she would be able to find an apartment soon (and had even interviewed at one), but in the meantime, they were camping in paradise.

I looked at her tall, mostly-grown children and tried to imagine camping as a lifestyle, not a summer vacation.  They all looked clean and well-adjusted.  They were polite and smart.

She did not rail against whatever injustice took away her previous home.  She did not whine about not being able to make ends meet.  She talked about her work, her smart children and camping.

Then, my program was over and I had to run across the county to another gig.

I wish I had learned her name.  I wish I were better at drawing roses.  I hope that libraries never stop having programs. I hope she gets the apartment with the three bedrooms and full bath and that soon, she and her family will be able to camp just because it’s fun.

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Artist Interview: Anita Bhakta of Hennasphere

Once a month I am going to interview an artist, starting with my local colleagues, and then expanding to artists across the country and the world. I am interested in learning more about what makes creative people tick and so it makes sense to me to learn from the professionals.

Anita hennas a baby belly

Anita adorns a beautiful belly with henna

Anita Bhakta, of Hennasphere, is a henna artist based near Sea World in San Diego. She was born in Montreal, but her family moved to San Diego when she was 4. She has lived in San Diego for most of her life with one short detour to Chicago while her husband was in graduate school.

She grew up in a Pakistani household and was surrounded by elements of her parents’ culture, but was also influenced by San Diego’s laid-back attitudes. She went to UCSD for her undergraduate studies, majoring in Biology with a Spanish Literature minor, and after that went to Cal State Northridge to earn her MA and teaching credential. Her “day job” is teaching special education.

As a child, Anita was always fascinated with mehndi (the Hindi word for henna), and loved to watch her aunties apply intricate designs at bridal showers and other celebrations. As a child, she would try her hand at henna, especially on her most willing subject, her mother! She went to beauty school in India and learned all the steps involved in preparing a bride for her wedding: from make-up, hair, clothing, waxing, threading to making the mehndi paste and applying the traditional designs. “I was most enamored by the henna portion of the training” ,” said Anita. “It gave me the confidence and skills I needed to do bridal henna, the ultimate challenge. Upon my return the States, I created Hennasphere”.

Kiran's henna

Kiran's bridal henna by Anita

Doing henna feels natural to Anita. When she draws on people, “it just comes and flows. I draw a flower and then something comes out of that and becomes a leaf or a vine or something else.” Anita said she feels that she is a just a vessel. “God has given me a gift and keeps putting it through me.”

Traditional henna designs are collections of simple elements that are repeated and arranged in an artful way. Anita finds that practicing henna is similar to meditation. “I feel so relaxed and in the moment when I do henna.”

Anita strongly feels that her business, Hennasphere, is more than just a henna service. She wanted to create a company that was earthy and natural since henna is from the earth. Hennasphere was conceived as a series of concentric circles rippling from a strong center of faith and love, with wider circles encompassing beautifying the world through henna, sharing her knowledge with others, connecting with the wider community, and giving back to the world through donations. A portion of Hennasphere’s profits go to support charitable projects; she has given to an organization in the Philippines that provides free cleft palate surgery to needy children, and helped an orphanage in Pakistan as well as Casa de los Pobres in Tijuana.

Future plans for Hennasphere include adding pizzaz to her henna studio, more collaborations with other artists in different fields, and fine tuning small details of Hennasphere that will take it to higher spheres/stratospheres…???.

For Anita, henna is just the beginning, and there is no limit in sight to what she can do.

Jasmeet's henna

Bridal henna for the happy Jasmeet by Anita

Posted in art, Artist interviews, craft, creativity, henna | 1 Comment

Saturday in the Park

I kicked the summer henna season off today at Balboa Park’s Spanish Village.  I’ve been a member of the patio corps for several years, and it’s always a priviledge to spend the day hanging out, meeting other artists and doing henna.

my table at Spanish Village

My table at Spanish Village

an alley in Spanish Village

A row of studios in Spanish Village

front studios

Artist studios in Spanish Village

As the clouds burned off and the sun came out, Ramon Cruz stopped by to add lovely music to the day.

It was a perfect day of color and art and music.


The jacarandas are in full bloom

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Henna Your Hair Ebook is here!

I have henna-ed my hair for a long time.  Since I was a teen… which was a very long time ago!  I started because I wanted a color boost… and I still henna my hair because it covers my grays and give me a color boost.
hennaed hair

Henna adds warmth, color and highlights!

I spent over an hour on the phone the other day with someone who wanted to know about henna and hair… and then aha!,  I realized I should write a book to share my knowledge with the world.
This little booklet is just an introduction. But I hope it opens some henna doors for you.
Here it is (as a downloadable .pdf)
Henna Your Hair book cover

Click on the photo to download your FREE copy!



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Henna inspired, bagalicious!

I got a challenge this morning.

Can you draw a lotus with an om on a backpack and make it seem like it was sprinkled with pixie dust?

Wee haw! Yes, I can!

There is nothing like a creative challenge to get the juices flowing and the ideas rolling.  I make a sketch of a few ideas.

drawings of lotus flowers
a few lotus ideas

She made her choice and then I got the bag, coned up the fabric paint, pulled out the glitter and started drawing.  It was so much spontaneous fun!  I even added a few Swarkovski crystals.

Mehndi-inspired, but done Natasha-style.

backpack with hand-drawn lotus flower
A lotus flower with an om and pixie dust!
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