THE Master of Mehndi – Neha Assar
We love to hear from the artists themselves about how they started, what inspires them and what the future holds for them. Neha Assar shares with us some of her thoughts over the past 23 years of making brides beautiful mehndi designs.
I am an artist that creates in many different art forms. I paint and create large scale art pieces but am well known for my art skill in mehndi (henna art). I have always been artistic. When I was a child my parents would have a paper and pen on the table for me to doodle with when I would come home from preschool. Being of East Indian decent, I was exposed to a lot of henna art as I would get it done for every wedding we attended. Pretty soon, I was covering pages and pages, edge to edge, corner to corner with tiny henna designs using my pencil. In elementary school, I was annually awarded “Best Artist” amongst my peers.
In 1994, my little sister attended a carnival where there was a henna artist under a tent. The artist was a salon owner and had a sign that said, “Help Wanted”. My sister got her henna done and came home to tell my mom that this salon owner needed help and she was confident that I could fill the position. I was a freshman in high school and wasn’t really interested in finding a job. My mom forcefully took me down to the salon against my will to speak with the owner. The owner handed me a “henna cone” (the apparatus used to apply the henna) and said to show her my skills. This was the first time ever holding a henna cone and my sister gave me her hand to use as a canvas. The salon owner said, “You’re a little slow but I will hire you anyway.” That was it…. I got the job.
I went home still thinking nothing of it. I figured she would just call me in on an appointment basis and I would end up doing little tattoos like the one my sister got at the carnival. Three days later, the salon owner called and said she had a bride waiting for me at the salon. My jaw dropped and I was super nervous. I had never worked on a real client let alone a bride that needed extensive henna. I showed up to the salon and did what I was supposed to do. The client and the salon owner were super happy and I gained so much confidence just from that one appointment. I still look back and think, “Wow! My first client ever was a bride!” I worked for this salon for 3 years and then branched off on my own when I went off to college. I offered hair, makeup and sari draping services in addition to bridal mehndi in order to be more marketable. In 2008, after the birth of my first child, I decided to stick to bridal mehndi alone since that had always been my specialty. It also allowed me to free up more time for my family. I can proudly say that I have been doing mehndi professionally for 23 years.
Nobody knows what the future holds. All I have is my vision. I have many different long term projects in the works and I am focused on them in different ways. I have my own brand of mehndi cones that are fresh, made to order and ship out regularly. Prints of my paintings in various sizes are available on my website. I also do commissioned artwork. I recently launched a line of hand painted mugs with inspirational quotes and my mehndi designs. I will definitely expand into more glassware etc. I have been asked to teach how to do mehndi so maybe that will be my next big thing. We will see what the future holds. – Neha Assar, Neha Assar Henna