Maggie Goldhammer


In a message to us Maggie said, "I don't normally tell people about the real reason I got into henna."

Take us back to you as a kid. I grew up in a super small town in Nebraska called Hebron with my mom, dad, and brother. The town in total was less than 2,000 people. Growing up I wasn’t ever exposed too much art but always had a knack for crafts and anything I could make. I never knew that people could make a living doing art so I shied away from that idea and decided when I went to college that I was going to study nursing. 

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing. After graduating high school I attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying pre-nursing. Living in Omaha wasn’t exactly what I had thought it would be so I made arrangements to transfer to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln because my brother and other people I knew went their. During Christmas break of my freshman year of college my brother, Will, died unexpectedly at 21. It probably sounds super cheesy but once he died I felt as though I had two lives to live and I needed to do everything I could while I could, so I went back to school and started traveling.

A couple months after my brother died I went to Seattle to visit friends, we went to Pikes Place Market, and that is where I had my first henna. Honestly, I feel like it was fate. Being so young and having my brother die so unexpectedly I constantly found myself trying to find things to occupy my time so I didn’t have to think about what had happened. Henna became somewhat of a therapy for me. I didn’t start doing it to make money; I did it because it was some of the only time I found myself happy in the first few months after his death. As time has progressed and henna has become more than a hobby for me, the root in which it came from remains the same. Doing henna brings me to a state of peace that some would relate to as meditation. I am so happy I found this art form and am excited to see where it takes me in the future.

"Knowing that people can recognize my work and that I also have the ability to make someone happy is the coolest thing."

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped? When I started doing henna all I knew was that you drew on your skin with some paste and it would stain the skin for a few days. I had no idea how to make henna paste, what to do after you applied the paste, and everything else in between.

For the first year of my doing henna I had no connections in the henna community. Solely because I didn’t know a henna community even existed. Once I started seeing others who were doing henna I started to reach out and ask questions. For every question I asked I received 10 great answers.  Everyone in the henna community is so willing to help that without that I wouldn’t be as far as I am now. 

Talk to us about one of your good days this week. I normally only have good days! But one day that stuck out to me this week was when I was in the elevator of my apartment building. I always have henna designs applied on myself.  Because when I have henna, people tend to ask where I got it. I was in the elevator with this girl and we started making small talk about how our day was going.  All of a sudden she stops and asks, “Are you Maggie?” She had noticed my henna. I laughed a little because I didn’t know if I had given her my name or met her before. I told her yes my name was Maggie, she looked at me and said “I saw the henna on your hand and knew it had to be you.  My friend loves the henna you did on her!  Turns out I had done henna on her best friend the week before. Knowing that people can recognize my work and that I also have the ability to make someone happy is the coolest thing.

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them? I am the type of person who goes zero to one hundred really quick when it comes to projects. If someone were to come to me with a project idea (which they have before) I would say go for it. I don’t think we have enough time to waste wondering if we are going to fail at something.  If you fail, you fail, but at least you tried. 

"If you fail, you fail, but at least you tried."

Why Des Moines? When I was younger I would come to Des Moines every summer to visit family. Coming from a small town I always viewed Des Moines as a large city, which it is, but the culture of Des Moines isn’t like most big cities. People in Des Moines are patient, they take time to say hello, they help strangers find the place they are going, and they always embrace opportunities. Moving here, I didn’t know I would love it as much as I do. There is something about Des Moines that you can’t find anywhere else and I’m a firm believer that you have to be here to feel it.

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off. Whenever I have a day off in Des Moines with nothing to do I go to Waterworks Park. When I first moved to Des Moines I stumbled upon Waterworks one day and it has been my favorite place since. Waterworks has so many different paths and down each one there is something different. Even though you’re in the city you would never guess it.  During the summer it is so green you feel like you have been magically transported into a jungle. 

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why? The most underrated thing in Des Moines is Isla del Pacifico on the East side. Isla has the best Mexican seafood in the city.  The service is spectacular and everything on the menu is great. 

What are you most proud of and why? I’m most proud of the fact that I was able to move on with my life after my brother’s death. I don’t normally tell people about him or even the fact that I have a brother that passed away; I have never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me. I have a great life and I know it. I want to embrace every aspect of life and live it to the fullest. Because life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving.

"Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving."

If you could grant Des Moines one wish what would it be and why? I think Des Moines is a really well rounded for a metropolitan city. If I could grant it one wish it would be more food trucks! 

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? One thing that people don’t know about me is that henna isn’t my only passion. I moved to Mexico two summers ago and while I was there I picked up on Spanish. Once I moved home I decided to add on a Spanish major and see what happened. After having lived in both Mexico and Costa Rica I feel a very strong tie to the Latin culture and want to be apart of the Latin community here in Des Moines.

Right now I teach English to Spanish speaking adults, as well as mentoring kids from various countries who are trying to learn English. Learning Spanish has changed my life in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined. It has allowed me to travel, see other cultures, and connect with people on a different level. 

Derek Jensen