Sam Bones discovered henna at the Ann Arbor Art Fair in the early 90s. She was working in Key West, Florida, as the percussionist half of a high-wire act. There she met a woman applying henna and was hooked.
Sam was the first to offer henna at her booth at the downtown crafts market in Portland. In 2001 she shifted to the Portland Saturday Market where she is still a permanent member, where market patrons watch her create “Living Art Before Your Very Eyes!” as she decorates skin with henna and faces with face paint.
We asked Sam a few questions about her art, and her business, and where she sees herself going next:
What Does a Typical Day at Work Look Like for You?
It starts with coffee. After that, it depends on the season. On Market days it means load-in and setting up. In the course of the day, I am meeting and chatting not just with the locals, but people from all over the world! The rest of the time it’s about writing contracts, contacting potential clients, and working on ways to be more proficient at everything I do.
What Do You Most Look Forward to in Your Career?
Attending the workshops! It’s a fun party with people that are so talented and fun, and you share ideas and make friends.
What Do You Hope to Achieve in the Next 5 Years?
Being self-employed with a portable art allows me to either stay in one place or travel. I still work out of my home but it’s not exactly conducive to allow strangers into my personal space on a regular basis. Currently, I am seeking a small studio so I can present a more professional environment for my clients.
Some of the cooperatives have monthly gallery events open to the public, and I would love to demonstrate henna or body painting! We have also begun to retail products related to face painting, such as the cosmetic makeup and glitter that we use in our trade.
Ideally, once I am better situated to generate more income loving what I do, it will allow me to buy that small trailer and begin to travel to other parts of the country when the chill, rainy Pacific NW weather comes and the kids go back to school.
What Do You Think It Takes to Be Successful in Your Field?
Perseverance and passion for what you create. Practice those basics. Take on those challenges that pop up when you least expect it. With body art, there are workshops and conventions around the country You will learn new techniques, be exposed to new products, and maybe best of all, get to meet the other artists whose names you only through Facebook.
What Is the Greatest Struggle You’ve Faced in Order to Build Your Business?
Competing for gigs against other artists who have no respect for the value of their art. I have no problem losing out on a bid to another artist who makes their own henna, uses the proper cosmetics, and is keeping up on the body art industry. A “cheaper” price may mean undercutting, sloppy work, and poor presentation which can affect all of us.
What Advice Would You Give to Other People Who Want to Do What You Do and Are Just Starting Out Now?
Make friends and exchange ideas with others in your newfound profession. If you use a specific design, make sure you credit the originator and never offer something you are not prepared or qualified to do.
Do You Have a Role Model or Something That Motivates You Through Challenges?
How could I choose? There are so many creative and motivated artists out there. I always think “I can do that!” I never stop reaching to better myself, either personally, or with my art.
Thank you, Sam, for letting us and everyone at BBI learn from your story!
Beauty and Bodywork Insurance offers face and body painting insurance for only $96 a year and the application can be filled out online in ten minutes or less.