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Article in San Francisco Chronicle:

url: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/31/HOI0S9MK5.DTL

Hot Stuff: Playing with fire - or, rather, henna candles

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Henna skin dyeing is popular with Hollywood actresses, teenagers and people who dread the thought of tattoos.

But Fremont software engineer Ravie Kattaura is probably one of the first to take her henna artistry a step further.

She "doodles on anything and everything," and drew a design on a candle that caught the imagination of her friend Mela Daniel, formerly of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Kattaura followed Daniel's advice and, in 2002, began to develop a series of henna candles, which she offered to friends and family. They were so successful, it spurred her to perfect them for sale.

Her candles, which are offered in five sizes and range in cost from $29 to $125, are made from paraffin and decorated with small mirrors and Swarovski crystals. She added inserts for tea lights after many people told her they were too pretty to burn.

Kattaura grew up in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, and became entranced with henna soon after she graduated from college, but she said her father pooh-poohed the idea. So she learned henna decorating on her own.

That was 25 years ago. Following her secret hobby has allowed her the freedom to develop her own patterns.

"Henna has many different styles," she said. "Mine don't relate to any of them. I found people like that better."

Henna, or mehendi, as it's called in India, is made from a paste of ground henna leaves mixed with oil and lemon juice. It's used as an adornment for special occasions, particularly weddings. When the paste is washed off, it leaves a stain that fades over time.

Kattaura spends most of her time off from her job at Seagate Technology in Fremont on her henna work.

The process of painting the henna, applying the jewels and sealing the candles takes three days.

She said she loves the effect of the small mirrors, which reflect light, adding that setting out one of her candles and surrounding it with tea lights can have a "mesmerizing" effect.

Kattaura will sell her candles for the first time in public at the San Francisco Harvest Festival, Fri.-Sun., Concourse Exhibition Hall, 635 Eighth St., San Francisco. She plans to sell them online in 2008.

This article appeared on page G - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle