Henna is an ancient tattooing practice that has been used as medicine, to keep cool, and to mark female life passages by desert cultures throughout the Middle East, Africa, India, and Egypt for at least 5,000 years. Charlotte Rooney will be bringing traditional henna to the Mini Maker Faire at the Ag Hall on May 12, from 10 am to 4 pm. On a glorious spring afternoon, Charlotte agreed to speak with me about what inspired her to practice this special ancient art form.
What drew you to henna’s intricate, ephemeral designs painted on girls’ and women’s hands and feet? They almost look like embroidered gloves and slippers.
I am an artist, and I do drawing and painting, so I looked up doing henna and just started painting the designs on myself. It went from there, and I developed my own style, not necessarily like traditional henna. It’s a flower type of henna. You can free-draw, make up your own as you go. It’s really fun to do. Although I taught myself and have been doing it over two years, it took a few months to really get it down, to fully understand the henna style specifically. It’s all loops.
What inspired your style?
My friend Emma Van Lohuizen, who will be working with me at the Faire too, and I work together to inspire each other a lot, in mostly black-and-white line drawings. We share the same passion for art. We push each other a lot. Like I’ll start something, and she’ll add to it because sometimes it’s really hard to come up with ideas. We work together to figure out what we want to do. We do our own styles, but we collaborate on some things. I’ll look online too, to be inspired, and then go free-style and make symmetrical patterns. Some people come and ask for random things too, like the “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” book cover. That was fun to do, but very hard. At the Faire, I’ll stick to the traditional henna.
What’s the process like? I know henna is made into a paste from ground henna leaves.
My mom got me a kit at Amazon, and there are squeezable tubes and you draw and just let it dry for an hour or two, and it kind of peels off. It has an orange color, and then over 24 hours it develops to black, almost. I did the first ones on myself.
I want to learn more about it and the culture, because it’s very interesting. We have a lot of books at the West Tisbury library about henna and the different cultures
Have you ever done anything like henna?
Yeah, I’ve done tattooing before. I tattoo myself and my other friends. I have one on my finger that is like a ring, and one on my foot. It doesn’t hurt much because I have cats and I get scratched a lot.
What made you want to do the Mini Maker Faire?
I have been teaching henna classes at the West Tisbury library every couple of weeks, and we have chai tea and chickpeas and pictures of designs people can do. So when my mom mentioned to me about the Faire, I thought it would be a good experience to have. It will be fun to do a bunch of other people and have my own booth. I haven’t done anything before at the Faire, and I’ve wanted to. Emma and I love art and inspiring others to learn more about art and henna.
For more information about henna go to bit.ly/hennainfo.