Henna in the Forest
I am a crazy quilt.
More on that later...
I spent last weekend in the forest just outside of Wrightwood, CA at the 2nd annual Henna Intensive and Retreat. It is exactly what it claims to be... intense. Three days of classes, workshops and conversations, with each day culminating in an all night henna free-for-all.
I drove up to camp Thursday evening, settled into my cabin with a few of the amazing ladies I met last year, as well as a few new faces. Eventually, we wandered up to main camp for an evening of getting to know each other over sangria and nibbles...we sat in the dark and talked about our lives, our homes, how we came to henna and how we came to be here. We caught up with old friends, and quickly made new ones. Professionals that have been in the business for years, professionals just starting out, hobbyists and enthusiastic beginners...all of us with our own styles, influences and leanings, there to expand our experience with this fascinating, versatile medium.
Over the next three days, we took classes on composition, technique, cultural traditions, marketing, unique styles of body art from different parts of the globe, art theory, and new materials. The absolute volume of information is still overwhelming... I've been home for two days, and haven't yet begun to process everything I learned. In between classes we continued our conversations, shared tips, offered insight and got to know each other better.
Each night, after dinner and whatever treat had been planned for us - a campfire one night, complete with s'mores and drummers, and a gorgeous bellydance showcase the next - we drifted back to the all-night henna cabin... kicked off our shoes and shared our gifts with each other. We experimented with what we had absorbed in the days classes, stretched our comfort zones and drank wine out of paper cups. I got to the cabin late Friday night, and only did one piece - a floral shoulder for Tiffany, a Southern California muralist who just happens to be the stellar talent behind the murals at Riverside's famed Mission Inn. She was meant to be my last henna of the weekend at last year's retreat, but time got away from us and she had to leave before we had time...so this year, she was my opener.
Saturday, after our classes and before the evening's entertainment, I exchanged hands with my dear friend Chele - I did hers, and she did mine. Chele is the talent behind Henna Moon in Bellingham, WA, and has a distinctive moroccan-fusion style all her own.....she's also one of my favorite henna-sisters.
Sunday morning, my first class was on jagua, an emerging body art medium with roots in the tribal peoples of the Amazon rainforest...heady stuff! Catana Padilla of Henna Kauai has been working with it for some years now, and had so much insight to share on the subject! After the slideshow and lecture, we each got a fine-tipped jacquard bottle of the gel to play with...and play we did! Jagua is really easy to work with and is a much simpler process than henna in some ways. It produces a beautiful (and safe!) blue-black stain that can last up to two weeks.
One of the last classes I took was also the one I took the most from as an artist - Debi Varvi (also known as the Henna Crone) taught a class all about creating design and pattern from objects found in nature. I worked with a fragment of cactus skeleton, and had a major "A-HA!" moment when I picked up a cone and saw more than what was in my hand...
Sunday, after our last class it was time to hit the road, and wind my way back to the world... leaving is never easy, especially when there are so many talented hands and open hearts to say goodbye to!
Back to the quilt. I realized, after a shower and a good night's sleep, that over this incredible weekend, my skin had become a mad patchwork of art. (And I think the same is safe to say of all of us that were there...we never stopped drawing on each other!) No rhyme or reason, just snippets of design and intention her and there on my body. Eight patches of artwork, from seven different hands - wrapping me in love and beauty even after the stains fade.
I don't know about anyone else...but I can't wait to do it again next year!
Living la vie Boheme, on an endless quest to adorn the world.