BOTHELL, Wash. – Henna is an ancient art form, but artist Sarah Walters is using it for a very modern purpose.
She creates henna crowns for women undergoing chemotherapy.
“It does satisfy that creative urge. But when it's also something you're doing for someone else, benefitting someone else in a positive way, and when it can be a gift that you're giving them, that's just a great feeling."
Her intricate designs, made of a plant-based paste, are like temporary tattoos on her client’s heads.
Lauren Russell has gotten three crowns from Walters.
"I'm long term chemo so I'll be on it for years,” she said. "This is kind of like something I can wear, and not wear, at the same time."
Working free hand, Walters makes up the shapes and angles in the moment. The experience is almost meditative.
"It's almost like when you get a haircut and you leave the salon,” Russell said. "You're really satisfied and you know you look good. It's that feeling, kind of being pampered."
But unlike a trip to the salon, this service doesn't cost a thing. Walters offers henna crowns to her clients for free - a gift that comes from a deeply personal place.
"My stepdad had cancer. He was only alive for five months to the day after his diagnosis,” she said. “I felt very helpless during that time when he was sick, so I think the fact that I can use my art to be helpful in some way, it’s important to me to be able to give in that way."
The crowns are visible for about two weeks, but the impressions on Walters' clients last much longer.
"For a little bit, people don't see that it's because I'm sick. They see art. And it doesn't look like just a bald head or any of that. It's pretty,” Russell said.