By Brittany Britto
The Baltimore Sun
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Chelsea Stevenson runs “Cardamom & Clove Henna”, an independent business in which she consults other henna practitioners, teaches henna classes to novices and professionals, and showers women of all backgrounds with ethereal designs, often including floral themes, all with an underlying focus on self-care and safety.
GLEN BURNIE, Md.
At first, henna was just Chelsea Stevenson’s hobby.
She was a teenager the first time intricate designs were inscribed on her hands, using a dye made from powdered henna plants.
It was her name, painted in Chinese characters on the inside of her wrist, like a tattoo. But she later revisited and researched the art form as an adult in attempts to mimic more traditional designs on her own. She would drape her hand with patterned stains of flowers and geometrical shapes. It was something that kept her at ease, especially during hard times, she said.
“I put henna on as an act of self-care. I didn’t have someone who I could fall back on,” said Stevenson on a recent Tuesday in a Glen Burnie coffee shop. She recalled her days as a single mother living in Nebraska, when she couldn’t afford to splurge on manicures or visits to the hair salon.
A few dollars, however, could buy her a cone of henna to decorate her hands and feet multiple times. “I had to find a way to console myself and encourage myself and ground myself during that time because there was no other option.”
But in 2011, during a trip to the grocery store with the last money she had in her bank account, henna became her livelihood.
“The (cashier) there was like, ‘Oh my God, what is that? I’ve never seen that. … It’s really beautiful. Would you do it for me? I want to pay you.’ “