Heart of henna

Kristy McCurry

PHOTOs courtesy of Kristy McCurry

For local artist Kristy McCurry, the beauty of henna lies not only within the intricate, temporary patterns it leaves on the skin, but also within the connections it fosters with clients. McCurry has practiced doing natural henna for nine years (which includes hand-mixing her own paste, free of additives and chemicals) for brides, expectant mothers and those just seeking a new way to adorn themselves. McCurry has lived in Northern California for more than 25 years and has run a professional henna business for six years. Our Folk Life, formerly called Henna Trails, offers McCurry’s henna services and her other personally designed products, such as hand-painted furniture and canvases, clothing, jewelry and wooden plank art. More information about McCurry’s business can be found at www.ourfolklife.com. McCurry also offers her services at the Thursday Night Market.

How did you get into the henna business?

I wanted to wear henna and it was really hard to find. So I bought some books [on henna]. I got myself some henna powder and I started mixing and using it on myself and my family and my friends. And it was atrocious. I was frustrated. I had all these images in my head, what I wanted it to look like, and it just wasn’t coming out of my hand. I spent, like, two years trying to get some muscle memory and learn some patterns. In 2008, I connected to the Internet the first time, and that was when my world blew open. I connected with so many henna artists in the States and overseas, sharing photos and information. That was really a huge part of my education and my training. [Then] I met a local woman named Fatima [of Fatima’s Jeweled Henna]. We connected as friends, and she called me one day and said: ‘I’d really like to do the Thursday Night Market. Would you want to join me there?’ So I did, and that was six years ago.

What is one of the most memorable moments in your career as a henna artist?

I actually really enjoy doing baby bellies for women, because it’s been such a sweet environment with the mom and there’s often family around. I’ll decorate her belly with henna designs and that’s a really heartfelt thing. Usually her family is there and it’s just a really neat experience for them. When she’s done, then they get a little piece on them that connects to the design on her belly.

What do you love about henna?

Even though it’s a centuries-old tradition, it continues to evolve and grow. It’s interesting to see how even on an international basis, because of the prevalence of photo sharing, that we’re all becoming more exposed to one another. Every year I add something new to my repertoire. There’s always something new; I’m always growing new designs.

What do you enjoy about your business?

It’s so fulfilling. It’s not just about my business. I love connecting with people. Even if we just have 10 minutes together or an extended period of time, it’s just a really great way to connect. They’re allowing themselves to be adorned, and I think that’s really great; that they’re taking some time to beautify themselves in a completely different way than they’re used to.