Nadia Hardy started applying henna to friends using Q-tips back in the sixth grade.
She had just returned from Morocco, where she received her first henna tattoo and fell instantly in love with the art.
Now 24, Hardy just opened Groovy Henna, offering all-natural henna temporary tattoos.
The paste used in the tattoos is made from dried, ground henna plant. It stains the skin a reddish-orange color for a couple of weeks before wearing off.
“It’s a way to celebrate life,” Hardy said of the tattoos. “There are good vibes behind it.”
Hardy grew up with henna. Her mother, a Morocco native, dyed Hardy’s hair with the paste from age 3 until 9.
She didn’t like the red color or dryness effect the paste had on her hair, though.
Still, she was intrigued when she saw the reddish-orange patterns spanning her grandmother’s fingers and her mom’s arms and legs.
Hardy got her own taste of henna tattoos when she visited her mother’s home country and received her first one.
“It’s a passion,” the Brainerd resident said.
Since then, Hardy took to the skin of her friends and family, practicing the twists and turns of the tattoos.
She’s picked up tips and techniques with each visit back to the country.
With the encouragement of her clients, she decided to offer henna to the public.
Audriana Wallin was six months pregnant when she asked Hardy to use henna on her growing belly.
“It was an artistic way to express the beauty of the body,” Wallin said. “I thought being pregnant was beautiful and so was this art, so I put two and two together.”
That was two years ago, and Wallin has since gone back to Hardy five times for new designs.
Using free-hand, each design is unique, Hardy said.
“That exact tattoo will never be applied to someone else,” she said.
She begins her creation with something simple, like a flower or circle, and builds off it.
She tops each one off with a few dots — her signature move.
Not even Hardy knows fully what to expect.
“It flows,” she said. “It’s just like drawing.”
The client’s energy, Hardy said, is really what determines how a design will look.
“I can’t tell where it comes from. I just draw,” she said. “It comes from my core. It’s from the person’s specific energy.”
The tattoos take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the size and detail.
She mixes the paste a couple of days beforehand.
An earthy scent releases as Hardy opens the plastic bag full of mute green powder. The henna powder takes a pasty form as Hardy pours lemon juice into a bowl. Now in a frosting-like consistency, a few drops of essential oils are added. Each oil tweaks the hue and scent just a little.
The final product can range in color from orange to dark chocolate brown.
Finally, a tablespoon of sugar to help the paste stick better.
It’s the culture that Wallin likes about henna.
“In this area, there’s not a lot of opportunity to experience other cultures such as henna,” she said. “This is authentic. The art is beautiful and unique, but just the experience of being able to experience different culture and be exposed to it is awesome.”