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    Earth Henna Goes Global

    Earth Henna Goes Global

    Earth Henna has been going strong in the temporary body art world for 20 years. Early on, back in 1997, when henna tattoos were just making their entrance on the body adornment scene, for some reason, we had more foreign than US customers. Eventually, it all came back around, and in the last 10 years, I would say that most of our henna kit and jagua kit business came from around the United States.

    As any small business owner will tell you, you can really get into the trees and forget you’re in a forest—the trees being about staying focused on what temporary body art customers want and expect; making sure your raw materials—like your henna powder and jagua guice—are the highest quality possible; keeping abreast of package design movements; staying on top of market trends, figuring out how to introduce your temporary tattoo products to other audiences (and here, we do really well because henna tattoos and jagua tattoos beautifully cross over into several categories, like fashion accessory, natural product, new age, craft and hobby, and art materials).

    In the midst of all this activity, certain things in your business can change without you noticing. Recently our webmaster added this nifty thing called an add-on that pops up while you’re on our Earth Henna site and shows you, in real time, what temporary tattoo products are being purchased, and where the buyer is located. It’s a visual that magically appears and then fades just as quickly at the lower left area of the screen. That thing is really cool for people looking to buy jagua tattoos or henna tattoos or body painting kits because they can see what other products are trending; and it’s riveting for us because, among other things, lo and behold, it turns out that quite a lot of our temporary tattoo customers are from all over the world!

    I didn’t know we were such a globe-trotting henna and jagua body art machine!

     

    5 Things I Love About Henna

    5 Things I Love About Henna

    1. I’m a writer, so I love words. I can write a word I love on my body with henna, and there it will stay for 7-10 days. Like ineffable, which means incapable of being described with words, like life! 
    1. I’m also an author, an art dealer and a freelance museum curator. Creating henna tattoo kits is my day job. I’m so happy that, like my other cherished pursuits, henna body art falls into the creative arts group. 
    1. Curating museum exhibitions and writing books requires research into the history of the subject matter at hand, which I love. Investigating the 5,000-year-old henna body artform brought me such magical knowledge about henna cultures throughout India, Africa and the Middle East! I am richer for it. And speaking of 5,000 years, it occurred to me that I’ve been saying henna is a 5000-year-old artform for about 20 years now. So it’s official, henna is a 5020-year-old artform! 
    1. While we’re on the subject of magic, in case you didn’t know, in all the different countries where henna grows, people believe the plant is infused with magical properties, and that whoever is painted with henna will be gifted with love, luck and prosperity. 
    1. I have witnessed people waiting in line for as long as 4 hours to get a henna tattoo (like at Vidcon last year). No matter how cranky they are by the time their turn comes, they always leave with a smile. Henna makes people happy!

    What’s The Jagua Story?—Part III

    What’s The Jagua Story?—Part III

                                                             Pascal helps with jagua extract preparation

    When we left off last week, Pascal was running around trying to find a few more items to bring as offerings to members of the Matsés. The next morning, departure for the Matsés village was set for 5AM. That’s when he realized that the “boat” was nothing more than a dugout canoe outfitted with a motor. And thank goodness for that motor because, without it, the 8-hour ride would have lasted three days!

    In the foggy, gray dawn, several men worked furiously to load the canoe with all of Pascal’s supplies, Mr. X’s supplies, as well as Daniel’s own bulky packages (when you live in the heart of the jungle, there is always lots of shopping to be done when you go to the city). Upon completion, everyone noticed that the canoe was sitting way to low in the water. There was nothing to be done but to transfer everything into another, slightly larger canoe and hope for the best. When the task was done, the canoe sat just 4 inches above water. Still, this was an improvement over the 2 inches in the other!

    The next 8 hours on the mythical Amazon river were a combination of very hard benches as seats, humidity, extreme heat, and a breathtaking jungle landscape made up of, you guessed it, trees, trees, trees, majestic and endless, punctuated by flocks of exquisitely colored butterflies. A magical journey, for sure. Pascal said he felt like he was in the most remote place on Earth.

    There’s lots to tell—the welcome he received, the community meeting, where he handed out all the offerings, the food he ate while there (basically mashed plantains, rice, beans and very tough, gamey chicken every day), his rugged sleeping accommodations, the negotiations for pricing of the fruit and the associated work of getting it down to juice form, and other aspects of life in the Amazon, which cannot be condensed here.

    Next came the expedition into the jungle by two groups of Matsés men to look for the jagua fruit. As Pascal waited for the men to return, there wasn’t much to do except relax, take siestas, shoot photos and video, hang out with the kids, watch the guys play soccer, and interact with the resident monkeys and parrots. Upon their return, both men and women set to work peeling, squeezing, sifting, and then boiling and re-boiling the juice to reduce it down to extract; then bagging the juice for transport back to the States.

    After three weeks, Pascal arrived back in the military outpost, and was greeted with the news that there would not be a plane leaving for Iquitos for another week! He reluctantly headed back to the crappy hotel with the filthy mattress and hot, stinky room, but was saved at the last minute, when Daniel offered to put him up at his brother’s place. Five very slow days later, he heard that an aid group returning from the jungle had chartered a plane to Iquitos, and he was able to buy a seat. Yay!

    The next day found Pascal on a flight back to Lima, a gorgeous trip over the Andes, past mountains and an infinite sea of clouds. That night, to kill time, he visited his hotel bar and ordered a traditional Peruvian cocktail called Pisco sour, which made him sick, and he spent the whole terrible night throwing up. At the airport the next day for his flight back to Los Angeles, shockingly, he got no trouble from the customs agents. And why should they hassle him? After all, he was only carrying several large, bladder-like bags filled with a strange black substance!

    What’s The Jagua Story?

    What’s The Jagua Story?

    People so often ask how we came to be involved with jagua and the Amazon that I thought I’d write it down and point people to our blog! To my husband Pascal and me, we were just doing what we always do—walk through a promising door when it opens. But people keep telling us how unusual the story is, so here goes. I’ll give you the condensed version.

    We were minding our business selling our Earth Henna tattoo kits when we heard about the jagua fruit. Always on the lookout for a natural stain that would look like a real tattoo, I Googled to see what I could find. I happened onto an article written by an American ecologist and conservationist living in the Peruvian Amazon. In it he had posted pictures of himself hanging out with members of the Matsés people covered in what looked like tribal tattoos, but the caption mentioned that the body art was made with jagua.

    I emailed the author of the article and explained that for 12 years our company had been buying the entire harvest of one family of henna farmers in Morocco. I said we would love to establish a relationship with the Matsés people as our source for the jagua fruit. He was eager to help the Matsés establish economic viability, and readily facilitated the introduction. No trees are cut down to create our product. If not for us, the jagua fruit—which grows in profusion there—would just fall to the ground and rot. Win-win!

    Not long after, Pascal found himself on a plane headed for Lima, Peru. From there he took another plane to bustling Iquitos, the gateway city to the jungle; a tiny military transport plane then flew him to another village; from there an 8-hour, hot, humid and mosquito-filled canoe ride deposited him in the village where 200 Matsés people live. Daniel, the 38-year-old chief of the group, spent the next three weeks showing Pascal how they harvest the jagua fruit and turn it into the juice we use as the base of our Earth Jagua gel. He and Pascal established a system for how they would ship the juice to us, as well as a communication protocol since there are no phones or internet available in the Amazon jungle!

    The jagua tattoo business isn’t always easy, and is quite often tricky—luckily Pascal and Daniel both speak Spanish (the older, and uneducated Matsés only speak Matsés!). Still, nuance sometimes gets lost and misunderstandings occur; shipments can get delayed by the famously capricious Peruvian customs agency. This is a major concern since the juice must be as fresh as possible when it arrives to us in Los Angeles (this is why we use citric acid, a natural preservative, to keep it that way while in transit). Once here, we have each batch tested for bacteria and parasites, then we send it to a facility, which freeze-dries the juice so that our Earth Jagua kits can have a shelf life while they wait to be scooped up by customers in retail stores and online.

    The trouble is worth it, though, because people lovelovelove their jagua tattoos! It’s a sustainable product, which helps support a very economically challenged people. We help pay for the group’s malaria medicine each year, and help them out with other issues, when necessary, and they provide us with the means to make people happy, pay our bills and keep our staff employed. All good stuff.  I’ll expand on the story in my next blog!

    If you’d like to try out an Earth Jagua Black Temporary Tatttoo Kit, do it now! You can get 15% off and Free Shipping on all henna and jagua kits, just in time for the holidays.

    And to find out about exciting upcoming specials, go to www.earthhenna.com (scroll down to the bottom of the page) to sign up and receive our newsletter!

    Why Bother With Fake "Black Henna"?

    Ever since writing my last post, I keep coming back to this question. Why do people want to bother with that fake black stuff, which is primarily black hair dye?* Why not just go with the real deal—your skin stained the deep, rich, reddish brown color that screams organic, ceremonial and mysterious.

    (Besides, as we all know, a safe, natural black temporary tattoo is easily had courtesy of the jagua fruit from the Amazon jungle. Just ask the FDA, or better yet, ask the indigenous Indians in the Amazon! Jagua has been their preferred form of temporary body art for centuries.)

    More than 15 years after henna tattoos made a splash in the west, painted hands and feet (and backs and legs…) are still fresh, with henna kits available in all kinds of outlets—from Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods to art supply and beauty supply stores.

    Last year, after some TV news stations overdramatized the FDA’s advisory warning against “black henna” tattoos, some people started thinking real henna tattoos were dangerous, even life-threatening. Hello??

    We hope you’ll help us spread the word about the safety of henna tattoos and about our super easy-to-use Earth Henna temporary tattoo kits.

    Pure henna is not dangerous; misinformation is deadly.

    *Hair dye = OK on scalp; not OK on skin.