We had the good fortune of connecting with Macy Ulbricht and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Macy, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I first started painting henna body art with people while sitting in the cafeteria in between classes in college 17 years ago. I was completing my prerequisites for the nursing program. It was astonishing to me to witness firsthand how art can serve as a bridge to connect people! Folks of all different ages races and religions were dropping by my table and asking if I could paint henna on their skin. I also noticed the joy and happiness I was bringing to folks as oftentimes they would smile, open up and share about themselves while I translated their stories into a design that was unique just to them. Within six months of painting in the cafeteria, I knew that being a Henna Artist was my life’s calling. I had wanted to be a nurse because I wanted to serve and help people. I’m very much a people person and love helping others. When I started to paint henna with people I realized that it was also a medium for self-expression for both the recipient and myself. This was before smartphones and The conversations that began from people sharing different stories about their lives (and what symbols they would like painted on them to represent those stories) were astonishing. Everyone has a story! Everyone has a voice to be heard! My job as a Henna Artist is to sit and listen whole heartedly To any words that you want to share, what’s going on in your life in the current or the past, and then to create Designs upon your skin based on Your personality, Your story, and designs that would bring You joy! I felt so strongly that being a Henna artist was my path that I quit nursing school, packed up all my belongings and moved to the Montrose area in 2004. There, I rented a one bedroom apartment facing Montrose Blvd. @ Fairview. Put signs in the windows and officially opened up my Henna Business out of that little 1 bedroom apartment. I pursued Henna and an artistic career for the next 17 years. My canvas has been painting art with and on peoples’ bodies! Living canvases! How much more public in public art can you get than that? The reason I pursue an artistic career is to Radiate love to the world, my clients, and community through my art!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
During the last 17 years as an artist I have focused mainly on growing my henna body art business however I am also an artist in several other disciplines: dance and music. Expressing myself through these other disciplines is part of my artistic process and helps me create new henna designs, concepts, ideas, and feel the connection between my mind, body and heart. Before painting with Henna or creating any of the Henna inspired art that I make, dancing outdoors and connecting with myself & nature is a huge part of my artistic process. A lot of people know me as the “Henna lady” but do not know that I’ve also been a performance artist with hula hoop dance for 17 years. Several times a week, I go outside to either a local park or in our driveway, put my headphones in and hoop dance. There’s so many instances where words or even the symbols and shapes that I create through Henna cannot fully express the feelings I am having. I have found that through expressing myself through dance and especially outdoors (while observing & feeling nature around me) I feel so much more connected to the world and also able to express myself in ways that words and Henna designs cannot. When I go from dancing to creating Henna art afterwards, I feel that new designs flow out of my mind and heart more organically and my heart is filled with peace and grounded. This peace is carried with me when I prepare for henna sessions and meet with people to create a loving environment and peaceful space for clients to receive henna and co-create henna designs together. I think this is what sets me apart from other Henna Artists. It’s so much more than just sitting together and getting some flowers painted on you. Besides making the Henna Paste myself and gathering all the materials to paint Henna with someone, there Is a lot of time beforehand spent preparing my heart, my mind, and the table/physical space. Many folks have shared that they can feel that love and positive energy even before we start painting the Henna together. One of the things that I am proud about is my ability to expand the art of Henna beyond just painting henna on skin. Throughout the last three years I’ve created permanent works of art painting henna-style designs with paint onto an art car, clothing, permanent wall murals, an outdoor wooden deck and more. I’ve created digital art (numerous coloring book sheets) inspired by the murals that I’ve painted To encourage community involvement and invite folks to be a part of the art by coloring in the pages with their favorite colors! And during the last three years I’ve also painted around a dozen cakes in collaboration with Three Brothers Bakery! I am the most excited about My current project painting a 75 foot fence Mural for Chapultepec Mexican restaurant in the Montrose area! It’s my fourth mural to date and the largest! The combination of tropical flowers (organic and flowy)contrasted by a very geometric mandala piece in the center, Feels like I am combining my favorite skill sets to create one gigantic story! Plus the bright colors are super cheerful! Being an artist was not and still is not always easy. I got to where I am today professionally because of many different things: not giving up, trying over and over, sometimes changing things up a bit then trying again, Learning through trial,error and time how to more clearly and precisely communicate with others, If you see a way to help others in your community, offer help. The four agreements also have helped me very much throughout my artistic career: 1. Always do your best 2. Don’t take things personally 3. Be impeccable with your word 4. Don’t make assumptions Lessons I’ve learned along the way: I believe in community not competition. Practice makes progress/ there is no perfect. Hold yourself accountable; As a self-employed artist you are your own boss. Many times you have to force yourself to do things that you may not want to do but have to get done. Never defrost henna in the microwave. Every friend is a stranger first. Being polite and genuinely nice to all people, treat others with the kindness, patience and love that you would want to be treated. People feel that and I think that makes a more lasting impression than even the works of art you create. I think that’s the legacy I would like to leave. People may not remember the design that I painted with them with Henna upon their skin, henna fades. Intricately decorated cakes get eaten, murals get painted over, hand-painted jackets get accidentally left on a bus on the way to Argentina. What is true and lasting is not the work of art you created or even words that you said. What is true and lasting, the legacy, is how people remember that you made them feel. I hope that through my art (through radiating love and joy to others through my art) that the legacy I leave is that of helping others feel more loved in this world!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My answer to this question now in 2020 with Covid19 and social distancing is definitely not the same as my answer would’ve been in 2019. I still think that a hike in Sam Houston national forest (while Maintaining physical distancing) and having a picnic Outdoors could still be possible and a beautiful day. Visiting the Japanese garden in Herman Park and the McGovern Centennial Gardens would also be on the list of places to take someone visiting Houston! Food wise!? Omg! From BBQ to Pho, Greek to African food, There’s more places I’d Love to share about than just one week’s time would allow. I’d love to explore the Orange Show (and Smither’s park next-door… with all the beautiful mosaics) with them, to visit friends and fellow artists at Hardy and Nance, Summer and Winter Street Studios. Bring out the LED lighted hula hoops and dance under the stars with our hoops on the rooftop garden above the Glassell school of art and definately drop by Texas Art Supply in Montrose!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My grandmother “Aggie” was an artist and writer. She encouraged me from a very young age to express myself through art. I spent almost every summer during my childhood with her and she shared with me her love of musicals, playing the piano and watercolors. She was an extremely creative and imaginative person. We also spend a lot of time outdoors in her garden, In her world, all the birds that visited the garden had names, a random stick found on the ground could be a magic scepter or A Musical instrument. At night, we’d look at the fireflies and she’d ask me what they were saying through their flickers of light. She was a very loving and beautifully eccentric person. What she taught me most was to remain curious about life and curious about people; To be a lifelong learner. She also taught me about the power that I had to choose to look at whatever situation I was in and to choose positivity.
Facebook: Henna Love – Houston