Melanie Ooi’s art doesn’t last forever — and that’s one of the things she likes most about it.
Ooi applies the art of henna tattooing at Portland Saturday Market, in her home studio, and all around the world. Unlike tattoos created with ink, henna produces a temporary stain, so Ooi’s beautiful designs and motifs remain on the skin for about two weeks.
Although the henna tattoos eventually disappear, Ooi feels that the experience of creating her art is lasting and permanent.
She describes henna tattooing as a “co-creation” between herself and her client. They talk, they explore ideas about the look and design, they discuss the story behind the art they will produce. Explains Ooi, “Being completely present in the process of sharing and connecting with another person is the lasting impact of my art — and what comes out of that is beautifully expressed on the skin.”
Ooi draws a diverse clientele, from people who want to try a tattoo without the pain or permanence to bridal parties seeking designs in the traditions of India and other cultures.
In fact, she recently spent two months in India working with international models for photo shoots and came away with what she calls “an inspirational boost.”
“My goal was to do my own henna in one of the motherlands of henna,” explains Ooi. “But overall this trip was part of the bigger journey of feeding my creativity.”
“I love all aspects of Indian culture — from the food to the music to the colors of the saris and other textiles. I filled myself up with all the creative juices I need to run on for awhile.”
While there, Ooi was also able to perform her henna tattoing in local communities and get feedback from clients on her work. “To hear praise from people deeply versed in the art of henna — It was a wonderful affirmation of how far I’ve come,” she says.
Melanie Ooi Website
First Broadcast: 2011
Producer/Videographer/Editor: Tom Shrider
Audio: William Ward