TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's time for henna tattoos in Paducah!

Artist Adriene Cruz with her henna last summer here in Paducah.

One of my favorite things that comes with summer weather is henna!  Both wearing it and doing it at festivals and appointments, the mehndi designs warm my heart.  Henna and mehndi (mehandi) both mean the same thing in different languages, Arabic and Hindi, respectively.  

Henna tattoos came the United States via a fascination with all things Indian, especially, several years back, when celebrities like Madonna and, the-then-called-whatever-his-name-is-now, Prince.  Evoking images of brides decked out in red saris, gold bangles and nose rings, Indian mehndi designs became the most familiar in the West.  Yet, the art has been practiced for centuries all over Asia and Northern Africa, ranging from a basic blob on the palm to high-art intricate floral designs.  Normally used during festivals and celebrations, henna tattoos also have a host of meanings and uses depending on the cultures they represent.  Explorer, spy, and British envoy, Sir Richard Burton (not the actor, instead the guy who mapped the origin of the Nile with Richard Speak, translated the Kama Sutra and printed it in his basement press in Victorian England, and first white guy- uh, he may have had Roma roots- to enter Mecca) used it as a sunscreen as he crossed the desert on camel in many of his adventures.  

 Katy Packett gets henna on her back.

Credited to lower blood pressure, to keep the skin cool during heat, and as a thermometer for bride/mother-in-law relations (the deeper the color, the more the bride will be beloved), modern henna use in Asia is somewhat like getting a great new manicure.  Lasting 10 days to two weeks on most hands and feet, the transient nature of the designs is part of the fun.  You can always get a new design when this one fades out.

What is this henna stuff anyway?  Henna is a plant that releases a dye when it is dried and crushed.  Many people also use it in their hair as a red dye or conditioner.  There are many other natural ingredients that can be added to the henna to help enhance the color.  I use tea, eucalyptus oil, cloves and some other secrets to get great results.  All of these things are mixed together and made into a paste that looks alot like chocolate frosting.  Not as yummy though...  In fact, I use a cake decorator to apply the henna to the skin.  The paste sits on the skin for awhile, then it falls off and leaves the stain.  At first it looks kind of orange, but will reach its full color about 24 hours later.  Katy's photo shows the paste still on her back, while Adriene's hand is an example of the stain.  Every person gets a different effect depending on the acidic content of their bodies and best results happen on hands and feet.

 Rachel Biel doing henna downtown Paducah
Last summer I was able to park myself in front of 212 Broadway for the Downtown After Dinner every Saturday night.  I don't know if that will work this year, but will surely find a spot somewhere.  Meanwhile, the season starts this coming weekend with the Lowertown Arts & Music Festival.  I'm pretty sure I will be camped out somewhere between the Texaco station or Etcetera.

I'm also available for private parties, baby showers, and wedding receptions.  One of the most memorable henna experience I've had was when a couple chose a symbol that I then painted on guest's hands as a party favor at their reception.  Later, I heard that two of the guests that were there ran into each other on a Chicago subway.  They didn't know each other, but saw the symbol and started talking because of it, kind of like being members of a secret society.  It's all great fun, painless, and quite beautiful!  Can't wait to get my feet all gorgeous with henna!

Here's a Moroccan bride getting her hand hennaed:



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sari borders! A great way to make your sewing projects look rich and royal!

Vintage sari (saree) border, available on Rayela's Etsy shop.

I just listed several vintage sari borders on Etsy.  Hmmmmm....  Do I really, really want to sell them?  No, no, no!!!!  I want them!  Oh, the difficulty of parting with such gorgeousness!  But, I have my own stash, so I just have to do the right thing and pass them on to others who will also know how to use these wonderful remnants.

These sari borders are all from India, rayon, and commercially manufactured.  At least, I assume that none of them have been hand woven.  They are probably around 20 years old, salvaged from saris that became worn, torn, or stained.  Handwoven saris from the good old days actually included real metal threads in the brocade (silver, copper, brass, and even gold).  Until around the 1970's, those old saris that were damaged were burnt to recover the metal content.  Then, the fiber lovers from the West started buying up vintage textiles in Asia and a new market opened up for salvaged textiles.  Now, there are many cottage industries in India and Pakistan that work solely with these salvaged textiles, making quilts, pillows, bags and other things out of the handmade embroideries and weavings so abundant in their ancestral traditions.

The great thing about these sari borders is the length.  Most of the rolls I listed have around 7 yards of length to them, plenty to work with in any project!  Because of their age, they do have weak spots and small tears.  I usually use a light fusible backing to support those areas.

The rich colors and metallic threads transform plain fabrics and projects into royal beauty!  Those of you who enjoy a Victorian look will especially love what the borders can do for your projects.  Imagine them accenting curtain bottoms in a room that blends old and new....  Ah, yes!

Rayela Art hats, using ultrasuede and vintage sari borders.

I've used the sari borders in hats, bags, pillows and in one quilt.  Projects need to take into consideration the fragile nature of the borders.  So, using them on a jean jacket or a purse that will take a beating might not be the best use of the trim.

 Rayela Art evening bag: ultrasuede, sari border, beads and trim.

I had great fun using the borders in a quilt that I made for a friend.  I really need to get a better photo of the quilt, but here is one that will at least give you an idea of how the border was used:

The border frames the top and bottom of the quilt.  You can see the top here.  This is a huge quilt, part of the reason why I haven't gotten a good photo of it yet.  Terribly difficult to display with proper lighting.  It took me nine months and over 1,000 hours to make.  

There.  Now you have an idea of what you can do with these vintage sari rolls.  Click here to see what is available on my Etsy shop.  If I am out of stock, know that I will get more in soon.  Have you used these in your work?  I would love to hear about your ideas on how to use them, too!



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