A Plymouth Resident Starts a New Chapter as a Henna Artist

Most artists dream of seeing their art hang in galleries. Lisa Seltzer wears hers every day. The Plymouth resident got her first henna done 10 years ago and she’s been hooked since then. Her business, Mehndi Made Memories, has been keeping her busy creating work for clients in Minnesota since 2009.

“I always needed that creative outlet,” says Seltzer, who was a visual arts major in college before starting a family. After being able to stay at home with her four kids, Seltzer has embraced her new business — and the people she’s met along the way.

“Part of the reason it’s my art form is the exchange of energy [with clients],” says Seltzer. “There needs to be a creative flow at events. I just create something on the spot with elements in my aesthetic.”

Seltzer works at events like weddings, birthday parties and even for individual clients like pregnant women and cancer survivors. She got her start after working at the Burnsville International Center and meeting another henna artist.

“For a whole month, I lived and breathed henna. People loved it. I loved it. It made me see potential as an entrepreneur and a way to honor another culture,” says Seltzer.

Seltzer admits the first year was a learning curve, but has learned the best techniques and materials to use, and which ones to avoid.

One crucial piece to the puzzle is the paste, which Seltzer says the best henna artists make themselves from a plant base. Seltzer warns henna fans to avoid black henna, which is used at many tourist spots. Plant-based henna has a shelf-life of three days, while black henna is laced with preservatives as harsh as dry-cleaning liquid.

“There’s a [myth] that if you have light skin you’re more likely to react [to black henna],” Seltzer says. If you can leave henna on for a short time period and it sticks, there’s a chance you’re using the chemically-rich product.

Seltzer typically spends about a half  hour on henna for one hand and three to six hours on a bridal henna. One of her main challenges is trying to get to as many people as she can during events. With each client, she tries to make something unique.

Luckily, Seltzer sees the rich history of henna as an endless source of inspiration. “There’s African, Indian, Middle Eastern traditions … You could never run out of ideas.”

“She’s not a henna artist, she’s an artist,” client Deana Downs says. “From what clients tell her, she creates a beautiful interpretation of what they want. It feels wonderful to have that type of artistry on you.”

Downs met Seltzer at the St. Paul India Festival, where Downs got her first henna done. Since then, she’s introduced friends and continues to have henna sessions with Seltzer.

“It’s not what she’s putting on, it’s what she creates,” says Downs. “It’s perfect for every person she applies it to.”

Business has been growing for Seltzer, but remembering where the art form came remains in the forefront of her mind.

“It’s a very versatile, but ancient art form done by women for women to mark an occasion,” says Seltzer.