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Jobs 101: Henna artist

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Traditional art with a modern touch.

Youth.SG spent an afternoon with the charming henna artist, Syra Gulam, in the cosy studio she co-owns with her sister at Joo Chiat Road. 

In between attending to her customers who drift in from time to time, Syra was warm and friendly as we talked about her work. 

Who: Syra Gulam, 27 
Occupation: Henna artist 
Studied: 'O' Levels 

Tell us more about yourself!

I am half Pakistani and half Chinese. My mother fell in love with Indian culture and she took up the art of henna. Growing up, we constantly had henna cones at home. 

I also spent a portion of my childhood in India, when my father was posted there for work. Living in India opened up my interest in India's art, culture and of course, henna. 

 
Syra gets to travel overseas for work when she does destination weddings or workshops.

How and why did you become a henna artist? 

I actually went into Biomedical Science in polytechnic, which was a course with many good career prospects. However, I was really not interested in science. Eventually I dropped out to join the next intake for design school. 

In the six-month wait before the new semester, I was able to take in more bookings than ever. By the time the new semester started, I was so involved with my henna work that I forgot to enroll myself! From there, business grew and grew till where we are today.


Syra regularly posts on her Instagram to keep her fans updated with her latest work.

How has the industry changed over the years?

The henna designs have changed. In the past, the designs were very traditional, but now it is a lot more modern. Henna is also moving away from being something customary to becoming a form of expressive body art. 

Describe a typical day at work.

Usually, I will be awake by 8am to settle my two kids (ages 1 and 3). By 11.30am, I will be out of the house and reach my studio at 12pm. 

From there, we print out and pack all the orders, mix henna and make cones, alongside attending to customers with appointments. We also do our own inventory and marketing!

 
Syra mixes and packs her own organic brand of Henna. 

What are some of the sacrifices you have made in your job? 

I worked on my 21st birthday for an event. When my grandparents passed away, I was doing henna. 

When I was pregnant, I got into a car accident that was so bad the car was scraped. Despite that, I still had to continue on to the next appointment because I had made a commitment to my customers.

 
Syra prides herself for her unique designs. 
PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTH.SG/ONG TING JIA

What advice would you give to youths considering a career as a henna artist?  

Be original and endure tough times! There are so many artists in the market now that originality is very important. 

Educational requirements: No academic certification is required. However, it is important to know the business aspect of being an artist to make money out of your art.

Qualities needed: A drive to improve and an ability to accept criticism.

Salary range: From $1,700 to $2,500 depending on the level of experience you have. 

Working hours: Typically 8 - 10 hours in the studio. During busy times working hours could be from 8am to 2am.  

Career prospects: Working with bridal henna or at henna parties. There is also an educational route in conducting workshops.