Entrepreneur Pavan Ahluwalia, 26, is one of the UK’s leading henna artists. She is the Guinness World Record Holder for being the fastest in her trade, and has worked with celebrities and recognised names on various high-profile projects. With a multicultural clientèle, Pavan’s creative potential is infinite. Incorporating details like glitter, diamanté bindis and even coloured body paint into her fusion of bespoke designs, she transforms her intricate patterns into breathtaking works of art.
1. First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate you on becoming the Guinness World Record holder for fastest henna artist. What did it feel like to achieve such a great feat?
Pavan: Thank you! It was a fantastic feeling as I went for it as a kind of fluke; so to come out with the record was great. I’d practised very hard, and it paid off!
2. You painted 314 unique armbands in an hour – an average of just over 5 per minute – beating the previous best by an impressive 100 armbands in the process. Were you surprised by how well you did?
Pavan: Yes definitely. I remember while I was doing the henna my mum refused to tell me how many I did as I went along. So in a panic I kept going and came out doing a lot better than I thought I would.
Pavan: The main positive I would say is that since I broke the record, people did start taking me more seriously in my work. They knew it wasn’t just a hobby anymore. I think the expectations are of course higher, however, I don’t take this as a negative. I love that more is expected and I endeavour to deliver!
4. What do you attribute your achievement [the record] to?
Pavan: My family. I would never have even gone for it if it wasn’t for my parents.
5. By the age of 24, you had worked with celebrities such as Alesha Dixon, Sugababes, and Preeya Kalidas, and recognised names such as Selfridges, SKY and the BBC on various high-profile projects. What do you consider as your first landmark project? How did you secure the deal?
Pavan: I think it was working with the BBC on EastEnders. That was a great experience. It showed me a lot of new things I think that opened new doors for my work. I remember going for the interview to do the henna for the first Asian Wedding, and being very nervous. Securing the deal was a task as it had to get approved by various departments. Nevertheless, I just showed them what I could do and kept my fingers crossed!
6. …and the other projects? How did they come about?
Pavan: Through word of mouth. I’m very lucky to be working with good people around me so they have mentioned my work which has gone on to bigger things for me.
Pavan: Mainly the bridal market. This has changed as I see the art as a fashion accessory as well as bridal wear, and that broadened my view to interior design, etc.
8. You clearly have been passionate about henna art for a long time, as you are self-taught I gather. Talk a bit about the beginning. Why henna art?
Pavan: I just loved the art. I used to attend functions where I didn’t think the artists got it right. So it really just started out as a hobby, and I loved doing it.
9. Did you always know that you would make a career out of henna art one day? Were there times when you thought, ‘this is not going to work?’ If so, what made you persevere?
Pavan: I never thought I would be a henna artist, and yep there were loads of times where I thought it wouldn’t work. But again working with good people helped me persevere and the main factor of me enjoying it so much has made me stick to it.
10. Today, your product range consists of far more than armbands. Tell me about your diverse products and designs. What makes them different from other henna artists’ works?
Pavan: I implement my work on canvases, clothing, interior décor I think what makes mine different is that I can make the art transferable. I believe it can be applied on anything, not in the same way of course, but make the design ‘fit’ for what it is intended for.
Pavan: I have my images under copyright, however there will always be copycats. I take it as a compliment.
12. Where does henna art originate from? Do you think it is important that an artist knows its history? Why or why not?
Pavan: It originates from the Middle East and was actually used as a coolant for the ladies. I think it’s important for every henna artist to know of henna background and what they are using, as the client should be fully assured they will not come up with a reaction.
13. Your clientèle is broad and multicultural. Why do you think that henna art has managed to attract the interest of people from different cultures?
Pavan: The art is beautiful and beauty attracts a wide audience. I think if an image or a design makes you smile, it will attract an audience worldwide.
Pavan: I love to do different things and I have my family pushing me to do more. I get to meet a lot of people who are motivated and aspirational so I think that rubs off!
15. What is your vision for Pavan and henna art in general?
Pavan: My vision is to have my designs recognised worldwide, and to be appreciated as ‘designs’, not just henna art. I have plans to bring it to a wider audience by showing them exactly what I can do! Building awareness of something new.
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