Henna art business in Kent celebrates self-expression
The moment Elyse Sadtler became interested in henna is forever etched in her memory.
It involves colorful pillows tossed on the floor, sunlight streaming through the windows and her childhood friend’s mother’s introduction to the art form.
From that middle school day forward, henna would be at the forefront of Sadtler’s life, and it prompted her to open a mobile business, Elyse by Henna, two years ago in Kent.
“I love it,” Sadtler said of the art form. “I want to be able to share henna in this area…to educate others and meet and connect with others.”
Henna, which derives from a plant, has been used “by people of all major religions and cultures and across time periods,” Sadtler explained.
The plant’s leaves are harvested and dried, then ground into powder, and eventually made into a paste and used to “draw” on the skin.
Sadtler mixes the henna powder with water, essential oils and sugar in the raw before creating numerous designs and patterns for her clients, who include individuals of all ages.
She enjoys experimenting with design elements, from intricate Indian patterns to motifs she observes in the world around her.
“It’s a way to celebrate cultures and mark special life milestones,” Sadtler said of the art form.
Henna art “speaks to our primal human instinct to decorate oneself and adorn our bodies,” she said.
Pregnant mothers and brides have sought her services to showcase their life’s celebrations.
She also provides henna services at festivals and fairs, yoga studios, Kripalu and group events.
Ivana Flores, of Naugatuck, describes Sadtler as “passionate about henna” and a talented artist.
“(Henna) is something unique,” Flores said. “And she’s so amazing. She did an awesome job on my hand and everyone complimented me.”
She has visited Sadtler several times.
Henna contains a dye molecule that readily binds with the skin, hair and nails, but fades over time because the body continually exfoliates and sheds cells.
Unlike a tattoo, it is not permanent. Henna art lasts anywhere from five to 14 days, depending on the length of time it sets on the skin and where it is on the body.
“I like this type of art,” Flores said. “I don’t want to get a tattoo, so I love the fact it’s something temporary. I can look at it and I feel pretty. It makes me feel beautiful.”
The henna Sadtler uses is natural, leaving a reddish/brown stain on the skin. She does not use black henna because she said it contains added, synthetic dyes that have been linked to health issues.
Sadtler designs free hand, but has books with various patterns from which clients can pick.
“Elyse explained the cultural significance of the henna process and how to best care for (henna art),” said Sheila McGinty, of Harwinton, who took her daughter, Salomae Pierson, and a friend, to Sadtler for her daughter’s 13th birthday.
“It’s a cool way to express yourself,” said Salomae, who had suggested the idea after learning about it online.
Sadtler, who is self-taught, has been passionate about henna and practiced the art from middle school until college.
She took some time off from it while earning bachelor and master degrees in elementary education, but was drawn back into the art form a few years ago while, as a journalist for the Lakeville Journal, covering a henna program at Kent Memorial Library.
As she leaned in to take a closeup photograph of the artist’s design, the spark reignited, she said.
“I was mesmerized,” the part-time employee of Washington Primary School said.
“This is what’s missing in my life,” she said of her thoughts at the time. “But I didn’t even know I was looking for it.”
She went home and bought powder on a website — ironically the same website from which she had first ordered powder in the 1990s.
She started her business slowly, first setting up a table outside the former Annie Bananie in Kent, and eventually expanded to festivals and the mobile business.
“I’ve seen how much she has grown in a year,” said Flores. “It makes me very happy.”
For more information, contact Elyse by Henna at www.hennabyelyse.com, 860-318-0737 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Hours are by appointment only, and at special events, which are listed on her the website.