Danica Gourley sits still as Carmen Dykstra inks a henna tattoo onto her hand at the South Cariboo Women’s Fair. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Danica Gourley sits still as Carmen Dykstra inks a henna tattoo onto her hand at the South Cariboo Women’s Fair. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Local henna artist drawing interest

Carmen Dykstra loves creating body art

After years of practicing her henna designs on her children, Carmen Dykstra is now sharing her body art designs with the public.

The Lone Butte woman was touting her henna expertise at the South Cariboo Women’s Fair last month, where she painted several hands with her henna designs. She also passed out “an awful lot of business cards,” she said, noting she is available for private henna parties, weddings and birthdays.

“I’ve always loved anything to do with any kind of art and I will strive to learn how to do it,” Dykstra, 53, said. “This is just one of the many things I love to do.”

Her interest in henna was piqued 10 years ago when she attended an Indian wedding and got one of the temporary tattoos. Her Indian friends then encouraged her to take up the craft and provided her with henna ink to practice. The intricate designs were intimidating at first but Dykstra soon realized it was similar to face-painting. In 2011, when the Vancouver Canucks were on a winning streak, Dykstra did a lot of faces, painting hockey fans “left right and centre” in downtown Vancouver.

Face painting gave her confidence to start offering her henna services, she said, as it forced her to get into other people’s personal space and perfect her approach to body art.

“Kids are always very easy-going and they’re non-judgmental so even if it’s not perfect they still got their face painted and they’re still happy,” Dykstra said. “That was a good warmup before I started doing more henna because with henna you don’t want to make a mistake.”

She had a lot to learn with henna and found willing participants in her children.

“I would practice hand drawing designs on paper. When I got the hang of how the designs would flow together I’d grab a tube of henna ink and I would paint either on myself or my kids,” she said. “My kids have been subject to henna paintings for years.”

Learning how to properly shade and detail each piece took time and practice. To apply the ink, Dykstra squirts it through a cone, a process similar to cake decorating with a piping bag. Dykstra doesn’t make her own henna ink, as the ingredients are difficult to find in Canada.

“It’s a natural dye ink made with mostly herbs and the henna plant itself, which is where you get the colours from. It’s got essential oils in it, which is what helps it colour the skin more and it smells amazing.”

Once the henna bead is applied, Dykstra says it should remain on the skin for 24 hours. As the time passes, the bead dries, cracks and flakes off, leaving the skin beneath it imprinted with the design for up to two weeks.

Dykstra can do traditional henna designs but tends to embrace her own “Canadian girl” style, incorporating vines and flowers. For boys, she has learned how to draw dragons. Her henna sessions usually last between five to 10 minutes for a hand and up to a half-hour for an arm or leg. She is scheduled to do grads at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School’s dry grad celebrations this year.

She encourages people to give it a try. Henna is perfect for her, she said, because she likes the idea of body art but her husband doesn’t want her to get permanently inked.

“I can paint myself wherever I want and it’s gone in two weeks. In a couple of weeks, I can do another one so I like the fact that I can change it up all the time.”



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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Carmen Dykstra practices her henna skills on her granddaughter Mazikeen Dykstra. (Amanda Dykstra photo)

Carmen Dykstra practices her henna skills on her granddaughter Mazikeen Dykstra. (Amanda Dykstra photo)

Danica Gourley sits still as Carmen Dykstra inks a henna tattoo onto her hand at the South Cariboo Women’s Fair. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Danica Gourley sits still as Carmen Dykstra inks a henna tattoo onto her hand at the South Cariboo Women’s Fair. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Lydia Ritchie, 6, closes her eyes as Carmen Dykstra begins to paint her face at the South Cariboo Farmers Market last year. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Lydia Ritchie, 6, closes her eyes as Carmen Dykstra begins to paint her face at the South Cariboo Farmers Market last year. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)