Friday, July 25, 2014

Scratching the Surface of What's In the Apothecary

I've thought long and hard about this and with some regret, but I am committed to downsizing this crazy mess of apothecary stuff. I've got rare and beautiful tinctures/evulsions everywhere, bottles and bottles, collections of rare antique and vintage apothecary bottles specific to perfume ingredients (think Fritzsche Bros., Magnus, Mabee & Raynard, etc.) some with contents, some without. Vintage and antique perfume bottles, perfume ephemera (posters, pictures) that there is literally no room for -- why? Because the daughter moved in. Fell on hard times and now has been transplanted square in the middle of my stuff. But that's not the only reason why. I've been thinking about doing this for a while. It's difficult because these items, as ugly as some of them are, are my babies, my treasures, my tangible connection to this fragrant world I've entangled myself. Plus I need the cash. Got a big, big, BIG bill to pay off before I can move on with the Thurifercorum. Clean slate kind of thing. That or jail ~ haha!

Thus far on my Ebay seller's site I've got a big 1 lb bottle of Snake Root Oil, the Canadian variety, the one used in perfumery years and years ago to help modify ginger root oil and add an earthy, breathy, clean woody, tealike scent to perfume compositions. It went out of production because it never really was in large scale production. Snake root wasn't a cultivated crop, so it was all wild harvested, and the only country distilling it was the USA, in very small batches. Anyway, 1 lb bottle circa 1980's, 1/4 of the contents gone (I decanted a bit for my library), selling for $100 or whatever anyone wants to haggle over. This stuff is rare. I've done several searches and have yet to find anyone producing it. Snake roots, yes, snake root oil distilled? No.

I also put up a nice duo of perfume bottles, cut crystal, I believe, circa late 1800's, early 1900's, gold embossed labels, in the original padded perfume box, which is damaged. Very sexy little grouping, that.

I'm also selling off my prized hyacinth evulsion (sonicated tincture) which is about 20 times charged over two growing seasons, so the scent is strong and reminiscent of the absolute. Needs dilution to hit the right spot and come off as hyacinth. I can't decide if I want to sell the entire bottle, about 100 mls, or in smaller increments. Depends upon inquiries, I guess.

I also have 60 mls of intense -- INTENSE -- aloeswood evulsion from 2008 that is to die for! It's absolutely stunningly beautifully gorgeous.

Small samples of these items are available to serious potential buyers only.

More to come as I continue digging and poking about the tinctures. I think there's a gorgeous, thick, resinous, syrupy organic Calimyrna fig tincture from 2006 or so . . .

If interested in any of these items, or on a fishing expedition looking for specific stuff (that I might have), please contact me at

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Selling Off Raw Materials

Over the next few weeks, I will be selling off some of the raw materials and other perfume-related items that I've acquired throughout the years to help pay off some debts and begin in a new aromatic direction. Still in the perfume game, still dabbling with the soaps, still writing, but I really want to explore and go down the rabbit hole that is Kyphi and other Kyphi-like incenses. Good things on the horizon.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A New Opportunity Arises

Wild-harvested Pine Resin (Sierra Nevadas, CA)

It's been a real struggle keeping the business end of my business going -- it works in spurts and stops. The most successful new 'thing' I've begun is the making and selling of Kyphi incense. I enjoy a small, but dedicated, group of clients, and a smattering of one-shot sales. Without a big budget or some significant capital, it's like treading water. The thing is, I can't stop. I'll use whatever I can scrape together to get what I need to continue offering these delicious and unusual scent items. Which is why I'm considering a job. A real life job. A job to help fund my work. Because I've been asked to go into production with the Kyphi. There is huge potential to be represented in trade shows all over the country and possibly abroad. People who get it are truly and sincerely interested in working with me to make Kyphi a household name. Well, maybe not so common as that. It's all still in its early tentative stages, but the inquiries have been made and the response has been a big hell yeah. So. The future looks golden -- like sweet lemony frankincense golden.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Adventures of a Renegade Wildharvester

Canvas tool bag, several pairs of gardening gloves, two shears, bag of gallon zipper bags

This is my wildharvesting kit. Simple enough. It seemed an absolute necessity since prior to putting together 'the kit', I was ripping plants out of the ground with my bare hands, making a complete mess of myself and the plantlife I was disrespectfully harvesting.

Where I live, on the central coast, there's a law on the books wherein you bring your own bags to bag groceries and whatnot -- stores over a certain size no longer provide plastic grocery bags -- and the paper ones, too -- to their customers, which is fine and dandy as far as I'm concerned. However, it creates a deficit in random plastic grocery bags floating around in the trunk of the car when wildharvesting. And not having shears handy was a problem as well. Or gloves. Common sense dictated a kit.

Thar she blows, the official Stealth Wildharvesters Kit. Also works great if you're raiding your neighbors pot farm. I'm kidding. Really. Kidding. Okay.

Who would ever suspect the lady walking around the neighborhood with a little black tool bag? Well, yeah, just about everybody, sure. I promise to ask before I commence snipping.

The town I live in is covered with lavender. Every island in the road, every dr's office garden, every frontage at the strip malls -- covered with blooming lavender -- and me just itching to snip. And it looks to be the good stuff, too, the fine English, sweet and delicate and frickin' blooming! Can you tell this is driving me nuts? All this material and the legal issues of raiding the city's garden looming.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Soap & Honeysuckle

The last soap I made, the lemongrass, vetyver, Peru balsam, nutmeg, and petit grain Maroc, ended up being a modified hot process soap. It heated up in the molds, more than I've ever seen previous soaps made in these molds have, and became really dense and solid. They smell fabulous, look a bit strange, but as they cure, they become more intensely fragrant. I hope you like earthy lemongrass with a high note of citrus and neroli, because that's pretty much what it smells like at this point, and the ph is perfect. I'll be wrapping up these honies this morning and putting them up at the Apothecary later today. Then I'm digging 'round for that tulsi oil and putting it together with a nice aged patchouli oil and making another sacred blend. Tulsi and patchouli together create dream states, so I figure this is a pretty good before-bed kind of blend for soap.

My honeysuckle enfleurage went the way of the dodo. With all the traveling back and forth between here and Fresno these past few months, I sort of missed out on the harvest. Though these honeysuckle here bloom throughout the summer, the flush was in mid-May, when I wasn't home. I got a few good batches into the oil, and I've used the enfleurage a time or two on my face (fabulous!), but it's not nearly honeysuckley smelling enough. Plus we've got new neighbors behind us who share the honeysuckle fence and they have rude little yappy dogs who think its their job to stand at the fence and bark into my back door, a space of less than four feet from slathering dog mouth to slightly cracked doorway. It gets annoying, and don't even think about going outside, because then they go into paroxysms of barking, running, hopping, and more barking, running, and hopping. Don't get me started on the piles of dog poo at the fenceline that the dog owners don't clean up. Thank heavens the wind blows toward their windows and not mine, or I'd be there knocking on their door asking them to clean up. And then there are the flies the poo lure in . . . not a good scene. I do have to get on those honeysuckle, though, as I've promised a trade with another distiller to swap honeysuckle hydrosols. Mine will be a bit late, I think.

Plans to 'redo' the back strip have halted, mainly because of those dogs. A person can't go back and sit in the shady corner reading a book and drinking tea without those little buttheads causing a ruckus. After all our hard work over the winter, too. At any rate, we're considering moving next year, to a less traveled road. We're on a corner, turns out a main corner, here in Atascadero, and the traffic, especially in the early AM is relentless. It's the main road in and out for the bikers, too, so we get a lot of revving of engines and burn outs, not to mention the daily back and forth to school traffic. The way our house sits on the hill, all the sound just slides up, amplifies, and then pours into the house. It's like living on a curve of a race track. Thank heavens for dual pane windows, but forget about getting any fresh air.

So some of you might be wondering why this sudden flush of creativity resulting in new product at The Scented Djinn (and then some of you may not know what I'm talking about), why after all these months have I seemingly overnight begun getting back on track. Well, I'll tell you. I've decided, for the second time in my life to go raw. Only this time, I'm going to do it right. I began last Tuesday, the 16th, and I'm already over what the raw gurus call 'detox', though honestly I don't believe that's what it is at all -- it's more like withdrawal than detox. Withdrawal from processed sugar, mostly. Now that I'm over it, I'm feeling better than I have in years. I know, sounds crazy, only six days doing this and already I'm feeling great, but I have to tell you, after feeling the way I have for the past six months or so, almost any upward tic would have been a fantastic improvement. The sky was falling and it was scooping up the blues, and the blues, they were drowning me. I did a fair bit of research this time around, much like I did in 2006 when I was considering raw then, and discovered that most of the hoopla and false claims stuff was gone. The main gurus are still hanging about, mostly selling books and product to help people stay raw, though much of what they sell are raw chips, raw desserts -- things people who stop eating processed food and only eat raw crave, though technically, according to those same gurus, you lose your cravings for those types of food. I know, it's confusing. Back in 2006, the raw food movement was in full swing with all these people talking about how raw was the only way to go, and then blasting each other on their public forums about how un-raw that guy was over this guy -- just like everything else, the politics were brutal. I distinctly remember one raw guru publicly mocking another raw guru because someone snapped a picture of him holding a can of (insert big name brand here) soda. Now, whether he was holding that can for demonstrative purposes or he was actually drinking it was never discussed, but I made up my mind right then and there that I wasn't going to be one of those crazy raw people who talked dirt on other raw people -- or about my poops and details about everything I ate, and about how wonderful I felt all the time. But I ended up doing that anyway. I had a blog called 'Blogging in the Raw' where I did indeed discuss my poops and what I ate and how great I felt, how I looked 10 years younger, and my skin was radiant, and all that stuff that goes with eating raw. I did refrain from the politics, though. I was getting recognized by the raw food folks and their followers as one of the on-the-way-to-success stories. I'd lost something like 35 pounds in about two months, and I was eating like a pig. Then I plateaued out in the weight department, but still felt so good about being raw that I stuck with it for another year or so, until -- until I began to be solicited for raw food product reviews. I was being sent naturally raw flavored coconut oil spreads and raw chips and crackers, and for the most part they were okay. I loved the coconut oil spreads, but, man, that was straight up fat! Tasty, tasty fat, but fat nonetheless, which explained the weight plateau. And then I started getting criticized on my blog about turning from straight fresh raw vegetables, fruit and nuts to this 'processed raw food'. I remember this comment left by a professed Ayn Rand acolyte telling me I wasn't raw at all if I ate 'this' or 'that', and that I was a poor excuse for a raw food blogger. I think I told her if what I did really bothered her, she was invited to stop reading my blog. I mean, I did feel a little bit like a traitor because even I didn't think these mixed and mashed and combined things were, in a purists sense, raw foods, especially if I wasn't doing the mixing and mashing at home. I mean, who really knows what goes into that stuff anyway? So, there I was, once again being solicited to review this new company on the East coast that had just started out and wanted to get some free advertising. They sent me a box of raw chips. I can't even remember what they said was in those chips, I just remember getting full sized bags of something like five different 'raw chips'. I was really excited about it, too. Until I ate them. I'm not kidding, these chips tasted like vomit. Straight up puke. They were horrid. And I remember that it was across the board, not just one bag with a weird spice combination, but ALL samples of those chips tasted like upchuck from a bout of food poisoning. That was it for me. I was done with raw.

I'm determined this time around not to make the same mistakes I made then. First of all, I'm REALLY never going to talk about my poop. Maybe the neighbor's dog's poop, but not mine. I'm also not going to record everything I eat in a public forum, unless I'm talking about a really great bunch of purple carrots I picked up at the farmer's market. You don't need to know what I'm going to do with those carrots except that I'm probably going to eat them. I'm not going to start a raw blog either. I've got a blog -- heck, I've got three blogs already and I only ever really write here. But as far as the diet itself goes and those mistakes I made earlier, I can summarize quite nicely and then never speak of it again. Less bananas, because, really, who needs to eat 30 f*cking bananas every day? Monkeys, that's who. Fewer nuts. Nuts were the bane of my raw existence (other than puke chips). Packed with calories and way too easy to binge with. Raw coconut oil. Steering clear of it. And, of course, processed raw foods. These are the things that really put the nail in the coffin with the weight loss part of being raw, and I'm only telling you this because I think it's important to know if you ever plan to embark on a raw food diet. Steer clear the pitfalls. Will I eat raw fish? Yes. Raw meats? Hell no. Honey? Uh-huh, only once in a while for the B12s.

And that's that.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Building Up Dreams...And Oudh

I've been thinking a lot about patchouli lately, and especially that soap I made a while back with the strip of solid patchouli powder running through the center, and how gorgeously intense and truly vibrational it was -- that soap. And tea. I've been thinking a lot about tea since embarking on another project -- me. I've gone raw again, for the second time in my life. Something about eating this way clears the cobwebs from the mind, makes one seem more creative, more in tune with what's going on around them. I desperately need that back. Tea is an approved raw food, not the traditional camellia type, but herbal teas. After a bit of research, I discovered that patchouli makes a fine tea (I know it's delicious in food ~ see my Perfumer's Cookbook for a lovely patchouli spice inspired bread), specific to the spiritual and shamanistic aspects of dreams, a topic in which I am wholeheartedly interested. Patchouli and what? Tulsi, of course. Holy basil. Maybe thinking about adding some tea to the store stock once I've perfected a few blends, get those dreams going everywhere, because sometimes in the confusion of those nonsensical dreams, a wisp of truth is found, a foundation upon which to grow a greater understanding of our situations.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm going to make two types of soap today. The pretty one with lemongrass, nutmeg, vetyver, and Peru balsam, but also a patchouli and holy basil soap. I am inspired.

I've been unpacking more boxes from the old studio and have discovered some things that really sparked the inspiration. Oudh, for example, more fodder for the Chon perfume I'm working on. I found an old oudh tincture I made back in 2004 when I didn't really know quite how to make tinctures and overdid them -- this one is about 40% oudh to 60% alcohol, thick and nearly syrupy. Beautiful. There were also small samples of oudh from Cambodia, Vietnam, a few of undisclosed origins -- all fabulously oudhy in varying degrees of funk and sweetness. This Chon will definitely be a limited release perfume judging by what's going into it -- I could never find an aged tincture or some of these other oudhs that are in my collection anywhere else in the world, and if I could, the cost to procure them would be prohibitive.

So I'm working on the business plan again, this time micro planning each step. I am such a scatterbrain (ADD) most of the time that if I don't have a solid plan, I never reach the goal. Okay, maybe not a solid plan, perhaps a squishy plan, because nothing irks me as much as following rules, even my own, to the letter. I believe in variables. I believe that sometimes the easy way out is the only way out, and because it's the easy way out does not make it an easy decision to make. So there's this plan, subject to the whims of the Universe, that I will adhere to with all the gumption I can muster because this place I have imagined, this shop, this beautiful little store, an amusement park for the grown-ups, part museum, part apothecary, part gathering place, part academy -- a place you will never want to leave, is worth bringing into the world.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Looking Up, Looking Ahead

Earlier this year I came very close to an opportunity to teach a student in a one-on-one situation -- an apprentice of sorts, close enough in physical proximity to schedule in-person meetings and whatnot, but far enough away that daily instruction via computer and phone was required. It fell through within a couple of weeks, once the prospective student came to the realization that becoming a natural perfumer is no walk in the park. It's work. I was so excited, I couldn't wait to get started, and I was sending course layouts and lists to this prospective student, really getting into it, letting my imagination run wild; our first meeting, our first ah-ha moment, our connection through aromatics. It was much like how an expectant parent pictures their future child, a chubby, happy, smiling ball of sweetness, more beautiful and more brilliant than any other baby before it -- until the reality sets in, and instead of that utopian-style baby, a colicky, butt rashy, puking mass of tears and poop and snot that we love with all our hearts and souls shows up. I do tend to glamorize imagined situations so that the reality is either an enormous letdown, or a tremendous surprise. It was neither this time. I had a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that sooner or later (hoping sooner before too much time and effort was spent) the student would come to her senses. I was, however, a bit disappointed. I almost allowed myself to become angry about it, I mean, I'd spent so much time preparing and my initial thought was, does this person think I've nothing better to do but to sit here catering to their wishes, uncompensated? That was the old me thinking, though, and I stopped it right there. It's got nothing to do with me at all. This student made a wise decision to stop when she knew she might be getting in over her head, and I commend her for it. My problem is that I was ill-prepared, and again, not her fault. I should already have this protocol set up, shouldn't I? I mean, that would be the smart thing to do. I've been toying with the idea of starting a small apprenticeship group but I was afraid it might be a conflict of interest with the Academy. Do you see I'm talking myself into this? I am. It's an entirely different animal altogether, what I do with students one-on-one, through workshops, meetings, etc., and what I do online with the Academy. What do you think about this?

Must wait to make any moves on this idea until Mercury is done with its tantrum.

Yesterday's lapsang souchong hydrosol came out well. I'm surprised at how non-offensive it is, given its smoky, leathery, burnt characteristics. I like it. I would recommend its being used as part of a skin care regimen prior to bed since some of the smoky effects might linger into the day if used as part of a morning regimen. Imagine walking into the office and someone asks if you smell barbeque, and then you realize it's your face. Eau de Mo's Deep Pit Pork Barbeque. I'm still gathering lilies in preparation of a distillation -- that may happen either this evening or tomorrow morning, when bag three is filled with sweet smelling lily blossoms. The first run, the test run, I made a few days ago is green with bare hints of sweet floral. I want to intensify that floral bit and I'm hoping these extra three bags will do the trick.

Got off track with the soap yesterday. While I was unpacking even more boxes of aromatics, instead of finding the elements for the soap, I found other things to distract me from my mission, and ended up doing nothing. No soap. A few more bottles crowding up the bench, and a sinking feeling that lack of organization is once again kicking my butt. The storage opportunities here are nonexistent. I did want to tell you about this wonderful vintage, say 1950's or 60's, medical cabinet I found in a sweet little antiques shop in Nipomo a few weeks ago -- good price, and absolutely perfect for storing lots and lots and lots of bottles of raw materials. It's metal with the coated porcelain top, sort of like a tray, on top -- loads of dilution fun to be had there. If it's still available in a few weeks, I'm going to make arrangements to have it delivered. I was fortunate in the last house that it had built-in cabinetry throughout and lots of places to store things so they weren't just hanging about in boxes. Not here. There isn't even a coat closet, or a linen closet. It's as if what little storage there is was an afterthought.

So I'm doing a cleanse, which is why I'm here writing this post and not working on projects. My energy levels are very low. A fair bit of butt draggery is going on. I will do my best, though. I have bags of cedar and juniper and white sage to powder for incense, so I'd best work up the energy to do it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I'm going to make soap today. I keep thinking I want to make something really rich and decadent and lush and whatnot, and my thoughts immediately begin with patchouli because to me, patchouli, especially the aged ones, best represent that idea. But geesh, how many patchouli soaps can I make? So, rethinking the scent combo, maybe something else, maybe some vetyver with rose and some jasmine sambac, a bit of blood orange and something spicy, a touch of cloves perhaps -- ooh, no, nutmeg! Yes, nutmeg, vetyver, rose, jasmine sambac, and blood orange. A year or so ago I made a patchouli soap with a thick ribbon of powdered patchouli leaf running through it -- a layer between the bottom half of the patchouli scented soap, and the top half, which was patchouli and santal and other deliciously scented aromatics. When I first made it, it wasn't all that impressive, I mean, it was nice -- really nice -- but it wasn't spectacular as I'd imagined it would be, BUT -- now a year later, I found an end cut of that soap and man, oh, man, was I wrong. Age turned that little hunk o' soap into this musky, dank, dark, sweet, honied patchouli balm. So I'm wondering if a new line of soaps aren't in order, an overly scented and aged soap, aged like six months, to really set the scent and get that ph balanced out just right.

 Still gathering yellow day lilies for distillation. I have two gallon sized bags full of flowers in the freezer. I suppose that's something else I could work on today. Idle hands and all that.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Adventures

The first year's batch of distillation for hydrosol, sea vegetables, a.k.a. seaweed, turned out nice. It was just a test batch, so I didn't put any up for sale. The second, third, and fourth batches, all combinations of white sage with cedar and/or juniper, turned out even better. These were all done in the new glass al embic. Today, however, I changed things up a bit and plucked about a dozen of these lovely yellow daylilies from the garden and distilled them in the copper al embic, utilizing a trick or two to get a true-to-the-flower scent. This will be distilled again with a fresh batch of yellow daylilies day after day until I have something significantly scented to share. I was going to do a co-distillation with honeysuckle, which I'd been plucking and freezing for weeks, but someone, in his infinite wisdom, saw a bag of weeds in the freezer and threw them away while I was out of town. Lesson: Label everything.

As most of you who read this blog know, it's been a rough six or eight months for me. My lovely mum passed in December, then my daughter's friend -- well, it's been truly, truly trying. And to top it all off (and I've been holding this in for some time now) I got a crappy review of -- of me! My products passed muster, even the time in which the order was filled was within the parameters I set for shipping, but I -- me -- myself -- I was a disappointment to this customer. I'm angry at me for not being more attentive and trusting that inkling I had about this customer, though in my defense, I didn't do anything wrong, but I'm also a little unhappy with the customer because, from my point of view, they were just being plain mean. Extenuating circumstances proved they had an axe to grind. The one thing that did kind of tickle me about the review was that I was called a 'hip scent maker' but it was in a condescending way, like I'm too cool to be concerned that I upset this person. I actually laughed out loud (from behind the cringe) when I read it because I'm the last person anybody who knows me would call 'hip', and, dammit, I do care!  That whole situation, I will admit, had me dragging for a while. It was like the icing on a big poop cake -- mum passes, friend of kid passes, another friend of kid passes, step dad passes, someone hates my guts -- ta da! Ain't life grand? Lesson: Don't be sad and 'terse' or people will hate you.

My youngest graduated from high school yesterday, and up until yesterday, I was having a very hard time mustering any excitement for it. But while sitting in the audience, listening to these kids give their speeches, talking about how exciting and adventurous their lives were going to be, I plugged in. Tears started running down my face as I realized that it keeps going on -- hope -- it keeps flowing and raising us up and brings us back from whatever dark place we've been living in. Lesson: There is always hope.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Cedar, White Sage, and Juniper Distillate

I am running around here like a chicken with it's head cut off. There are so many projects I'm working on, packages I'm sending off, busy work -- I'm happy to be working, but, man, my list of things to do never seems to end. Thank the Universe it's all good work, soul-feeding work. I went back home last week and spent some time with my good friend, Shannon Wing, a Native American medicine woman, and one of the finest gardeners I've had the pleasure of knowing. You should see the little food garden that is literally on her back porch. She's got spaghetti squash climbing her front porch trellis, tomatoes, peppers, Mexican squash, and culinary herbs, like, three steps out the back door. It's incredible. The rest of her yard is comprised of medicinal herbs and sacred herbs, like the white sage you see distilling away up there. The hollyhocks growing in her back 40 are as tall as the peak of the roof! And the bees! Bumbles and honeys, just zipping around everywhere. While 'home', we distilled a straight batch of white sage, which I left with Shannon to help her with her work, then we made a sacred blend of cedar, white sage, and juniper. We split that distillate, and Shannon sent me home with bags of fresh cedar, white sage, and more juniper to finish off here. And that's just what I've done. I have a nice, fresh bottle of a sacred blend co-distillate. As you can see from the picture above, there's a wee bit of copper in the retort. Copper is like waving a magic wand over the distillation. I took my copper al embic with me when I went home, but didn't use it. I think the next batches will be done in the copper, especially those tough leafy bits. Flowers and delicate herbs I'll reserve for the glass. The induction heater doesn't work on glass or copper, thus the steel pan. It works beautifully. Heats up in a flash and distills at a consistent temperature for as long as the time programmed into the machine. Very nice when puttering. Before I left, I made a small batch of cocktail grapefruit distillate, but because of the heating element issues, it burned in the still. The resultant oil was orange smoke, and the hydro was gross. But, that's what you do, right? Experiment, play around with stuff, see what works, what doesn't. But, yeah, next time it's copper.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Mmm, I know, it's been a while...

I haven't had much to say lately. Don't really feel like sitting down and trying to be witty or informative or simply spilling my guts. Keeping busy distilling and drying herbs. Getting ready to distill now, hoping to fill a few jars with hydrosol. Until next time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Distilling (not distilling), New Perfume

My 'new' vintage scientific hot plate isn't working like it's supposed to. I was so excited to get started distilling again, spending the week from order date to date of receipt of the hot plate in distillation contemplation. I bought seaweed and carefully chopped it up and soaked it in distilled water to prepare it, set up the new glass unit, and then ... nothing. The hot plate doesn't regulate its heat properly. I tried to calibrate it because there are no numbers or temperature settings on it, and it was all over the place. I set the knob where I felt was the halfway point between 'off' and the 'lava beds of hell', and I got readings from 150 F to 450 F and everywhere in between.

I guess I just bought myself a very ugly electric incense heater.

It's been a few days since the launch (and I say that tongue in cheek) of my latest perfume creation, Modhlim. It is touted as a dark floral, but as it progresses -- or maybe because of hormones or seasonal allergies or something -- I'm getting big hits of tulsi in the opening. It's nice. Sparkly. It's got loads of jasmin sambac, a material I love using but don't use to this extent. This perfume is lovely now, but I think in a year or so it will be absolutely stunningly fabulous.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Mourning Incense

The incense I created recently to help myself through the mourning process is nearly done. If you read this blog, you're aware of a lot of the crazy things that have been happening around me, things that are often difficult to get through without a little perfume therapy -- at least for me, anyway. I didn't use a traditional kyphi base of dried fruit, but I did use everything else -- the wine, the honey, the resins, a few herbs, and a pinch of jasmin sambac to help with depression. I used a lot of resins, mostly frankincense and myrrh with a bit of fresh elemi resin, and a handful of lovely white fir resin. It's really quite amazing. I soaked oak moss, sandalwood chips, and powdered orris in the dregs of a bottle of Shiraz -- the cloudy bit at the bottom of the bottle where all the dusky sediments are -- and hand mortared the frankincense, myrrh, and fir resins. The elemi resin I have from White Witch Natural Beauty Products is amazing, like sticky aromatic clay. I really had to work that into the herbs and then let it melt in the sun so it would disperse properly. When I make incense, I rarely do the same thing twice. I learn from my mistakes and create new techniques to avoid those mistakes, all the while making new mistakes from which I learn and that I remedy in the next round. This is how I learned that sweating out the water portion of wine (instead of draining it out) intensifies the scent of the herbs and the wine, and helps to meld the elements more cohesively. Since there is a much higher concentration of resins to herbs in this formulary, I decided to add the herb/elemi resin/wine mixture into the boiled honey/resins mixture toward the end of the boiling. After that I poured it all out onto parchment and allowed it to cool, then added a layer of jasmine sambac concrete, like sweet, floral, heady jam, onto the cooled resin, and then folded it in upon it self. Today I will knead the mass, and continue to do so until the incense is well blended and nearly dry. Boiling the honey and resins together reminds me so much of making toffee, to the point that some of the same hallmarks of 'done' with toffee are mirrored in the boiling honey and resins. The process is really quite amazing, and goes a very long way to alleviate the feelings of grief and sadness that have recently plagued me. My hope is that my clientele find the same relief when they burn this special incense.

The bottom line for me in creating these kyphis and kyphi-like incenses is to let the fragrant raw materials speak for themselves. I don't try too hard to manipulate them because they are so very willing to go where my vision is set. I suppose this is a testament to becoming familiar and being familiar with the materials.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Do What You Love

And don't think about what you hate. It's a difficult rule to follow for some of us. The doing what I love part I have down pat, it's the not thinking about what I hate, or more precisely, what aggravates me to the point of hair pulling, that I don't quite have a handle on.

I received some new toys yesterday, more geek perfumer goodies from my favorite geek shop.

Loads of glass droppers
Adorable apothecary style 100 ml flacons
Droppers. Never underestimate the value of a good glass dropper. The trick to keeping your droppers 'healthy' and maintaining the rubberiness of the rubber bulb is to wash them right after they are used. Right after. Don't wait a few hours or a few days, or, heaven forbid, a month, wash them right away. Rinse them in alcohol, then give them a nice warm bubbly bath and clean all their little curves and hollows with a soapy pipe cleaner. Rinse well, and air dry completely before reattaching the two parts. Oh, and try not to draw up raw materials, alcohol, perfume, or whatever, all the way into the bulby part.

These sweet 100 ml apothecary style bottles are for tinctures and dilutions. Yeah, I know, they have corks, and though I love the aesthetic of corked bottles, they don't play nicely with alcohol-based anything. I have a few glass stoppers without bottles lying about, so I may go through them to see which will fit these bottles. In the meantime, I suffer the plague of the cork.
Nifty 500 ml glass distillation unit

Rainbow of tins for storing kyphi
I have no idea why there's a random "N" up there next to the distillation photo. Just ignore it. Well, try anyway. Okay, so I have a copper distillation unit buried somewhere in the boxes left in the garage, but I've been wanting a glass unit for a long, long time. Very fancy pants, isn't it? It's a small unit, 500 mls, and I'm planning to use it for things like the neighbor's rosa centifolia that they allow to wilt and fall to the ground. Small batches for lovely hydrosols of delicate floral whatnots.

The tins were a boon. Wasn't looking for them, but I was thinking of something colorful and jewel-like to house the finished kyphi. Until I can get the packaging I want (colored glass/cork) these will do nicely. In fact, I may change my mind about the glass, or add the glass as an option. These tins hold 14 grams of finished kyphi perfectly.

This is what I love. Creating these wonderful aromatic luxuries from natural raw materials, and presenting them in packages that look like gifts.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

I Am an Impatient Sort, and Happy May Day!

I am an impatient sort, and sometimes I don't follow my own rule for this, which is never put anything 'out there' until it's perfect. I work very hard on what I do, perfuming, soaping, incense making, writing, and especially with perfuming and writing I get hung up on when is the work ready for public consumption. I'm doing myself a great disservice behaving this way, so my May Day corn dolly wish for the year is to become patient to the degree of near pain when it comes to perfuming and writing. Especially with the perfume books, I get frustrated and angry when the formatting doesn't cooperate, or the transfer of formatting from my computer to the publishing format don't play nicely together. I've put out some poorly formatted books and I need to quit it. The content is good, if I say so myself, but the poor formatting makes it all look like sh*t, and diminishes the value of the whole piece of work. As for perfume, I get too attached to my work and I lack objectivity when it comes to being 'done' (what perfumer doesn't?), and again, I get frustrated and fall out of love with the current work if it doesn't seem to do what I want it to do, so I rush it and don't give it the care it deserves. Again, I have to stop doing this. As with all great and wonderful things, it's done when it is truly and well done.

Accord building, this is something I need to start practicing more, just for fun and not only when I'm building for a particular perfume. A friend of mine recently let me play with her accord box, accords she'd formulated years ago, all nicely labeled and gorgeous, in little mini bottles because who really needs to make a ton of something that might not work out, right? This is another reason I petition the Universe for patience -- I need to get back into the groove of building accords for fun, just to see what they'll do later in 'life', so I can figure out if they might be useful in something I'd like to put together. I learned the importance of accord building practice when I discovered the main themes of my perfumes Serj, Oshiba, and now with the new chon-like perfume I'm building in my head. All these ideas for perfume started with layering three or so raw materials and really loving how it all came together.

Perfume making and writing are work. And art . . . but mostly work.

May Day. I had such big celebration plans (no bonfire). Yummy fresh food, handmade pastries, a few hours spent building corn dollies to petition the Universe for something I don't have, but I don't know if I have the energy to do much cooking. Blue seems to be the color of this May Day for me. Year before last I petitioned the Universe to erase fear from my life, and it's worked out nicely. I can't remember if I made a corn dolly last year... This year I'm petitioning patience with my work, and a few other things; a multi-purpose corn dolly wish. Now, you might be wondering exactly what is a corn dolly, so I'll tell you. It's not necessarily made of corn, unless you have some old corn husks lying around, or a bag of tamale corn husks, which work great. Corn dollies can be made with plants that grow right near where you live, twigs from a tree in your yard, leaves from your rose garden, even flowers work. The basic idea is to build these dollies while working the intent of your wish into them as you wrap and wind and braid the bits of grass and twigs and flowers together. A small piece of cloth that acts as a shirt is used to hold it all together. You want to make your corn dolly look like a person, with a head, arms, and legs. You can weave long strands of grass into the doll's head for hair, or poke a few flowers in the 'head'. When you're done, dedicate your dolly to your intention, light a candle, light some incense, set your dolly in a safe place where you see it every day, and wait. By the following May Day, your corn dolly 'wish' will come true.


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