Happy Henna founder Amanda Gilbert brings her talents to the shop every Wednesday night for an intimate event as well as during an open-house style event held once per month.
Mallory Squibb, owner of Squibb, said Wine & Henna Nights started just over a month ago after Gilbert approached her about offering the weekly event.
“It was honestly a chance meeting with Amanda of Happy Henna when she came into our shop for the first time,” Squibb said. “She loved the vibe and approached us with the idea. Her business is unique, authentic and so much fun to work with.”
“We are hosting one open house style event a month where anyone can come and get a henna tattoo and hang out with a glass of wine or beer. Every Wednesday we offer henna and wine, where you can join us for a more intimate night of learning about henna, receive a professional henna tattoo (basic henna design), receive a glass of wine, and leave with your own lavender infused henna cone,” Squibb said.
The Wednesday night events require advanced signup and space is limited.
“I share how henna is made, the traditional uses, cultures, customs and blessings that are meant when applying henna,” Gilbert said. “The root word for henna, ‘mehndi,’ means to bring out the inner light onto the skin. The fullness of your beauty, your inner beauty. This is such a great reminder for women especially, to speak love over ourselves instead of hate.”
Squibb said offering Wine & Henna Nights has attracted new people to the shop and she said the activity has created a great way for people to meet one another.
“It is such a great way for people to meet and connect,” she said. “Learning a new activity with a group creates such a fun bond within just a few hours. I love being able to watch a group of 10 strangers transform into friends within a few hours.”
Gilbert has been practicing henna art since 2010 and she started Happy Henna in 2015.
“My mission is the bring happiness and healing through the traditional art of henna,” she explained. “My goal is to bring this art back to its roots and ceremonial purposes, to bring a blessing to each person it is applied to. I like to help transform mindsets to think and speak positivity over the body and I use henna as my tool.”
Gilbert said henna is a 5,000-year-old art form. Henna is made from a plant called Lawsonia. “It is a flowering plant grown in Northern Africa, Middle East and parts of India. It is the leaf of the plant that stains the skin.
“I infuse my henna paste with lavender essential oil because it is the most therapeutic oil and is safe for the skin. It is applied wet on the skin, then hardens and flakes off leaving behind a stain that could last up to two weeks.”
Gilbert was first introduced to henna art through her work with refugees resettling in Grand Rapids through Lutheran Social Services and Bethany Christian Services.
“I thought, ‘How beautiful is this art, an art that breaks all cultural boundaries, religious boundaries, and brings women together, as well as beauty onto the skin.’ I fell in love with the art and how it helped me therapeutically to overcome my own anxiety. I could take this art with me anywhere, and when I needed it, I would take it out and reconnect with my body.”
Gilbert has also used the art form to help cancer patients through her nonprofit organization, Crowns of Courage, which participated in ArtPrize 9. Gilbert and collaborator Steve Stone’s ArtPrize exhibit included portraits of 22 henna covered women. It landed in the top five public vote favorites.
Gilbert said she liked the Squibb space because it combines every woman’s favorite things, “wine, coffee, cheese and chocolate.”
“I had heard positive things about Squibb from friends and thought I had to check it out. I spent maybe 10 minutes there before I started dreaming about ideas on how beautiful, big and fun this space would be to do events. I loved the long black table in the back that gave room for a party. The space is very clean and has a positive atmosphere where you could be there for hours.”
The space is also unique because, in addition to serving coffee, Squibb has a wine and charcuterie menu.
“Our concept was always including wine and cheese along with our coffee bar,” Squibb said. “When we were creating the idea of Squibb it was to bring something entirely new to Grand Rapids.
“We aim to create a third space where people feel comfortable from morning until night, with coffee or wine. We always wanted to create an atmosphere where people feel a sense of community, and that the space is their own.”
Squibb said that focus on community is one of the reasons Wine & Henna Nights are a great fit for the shop.
“We are always looking to get different groups of people into our shop and create a sense of community. This is a perfect way to connect people,” Squibb said.
She added, “We do a lot of other events at the shop. One of our favorites in Yoga + Wine. It is the second Monday of every month. We have an hour-long yoga class and then all enjoy a glass of wine after.
“We also host events with new menu releases. In April, we will be hosting our first Latte Art Throwdown where 20 baristas will compete. The event will have free beer, prizes and is a great way to bring together the coffee community.”
The coffee shop also plans to collaborate with Wikiwiki Poke, located a few blocks away on Wealthy Street. “We are planning more events combining their amazing poke and fish business with our wine program.”
Tickets for Wine & Henna Nights cost $40, and include the first glass of wine/drink, a basic henna lesson, a henna cone to practice with, and a personalized henna tattoo from Gilbert.
The open house-style events don’t require a ticket. Dates will be listed on Facebook so attendees can sign up. Henna tattoos are offered for $10-$30 depending on the size of tattoos.
Happy Henna does personal appointments and parties as well.
*Photos coutresy of Happy Henna and Squibb