Sunday, April 20, 2014

More Sad News...

It just never seems to stop. Yesterday I received a call from my devastated little brother (he's in his 40's) that his father, my step father, had passed. It struck me much harder than I had gauged it would. We were estranged, step father and I. The dynamics of family never cease to baffle me. Suffice it to say, I was always in a forgiving mood, but he was never in a mood to be forgiven, or felt he had nothing to be forgiven for. Even a truce would have been nice. At any rate, there's nothing for it now.

I'm at a loss for words.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Honeysuckle Enfleurage, Rose Floral Wax (mebbe), Jasmine Sambac Concrete, and Frankincense Absolute in Alcohol

Nice title, huh? Spells things out pretty clearly, doesn't it? The only thing I didn't list in the title was the 'stuff', and here it comes:

So much is going through my mind as I prepare for the start of a new online perfumery course, trepidation and insecurity reign during this time. I pray that a good group of talkative students arrive instead of students more like me, on the fringes, in the background, never speaking, never asking questions, but still plugging along learning, learning, learning, until near the end of the course, then these people begin to talk about how much they've learned and how happy they are to have taken the course. I like both kinds of students, the engaging and the not, but the engaging give me something akin to instant gratification when I see they're prompt in delivering assignments, post comments, and generally work the room. I have to wait for those others, the ones more like me, to find out their time was well spent. I often wonder sometimes if there are still saboteurs amongst us who talk crap about what we do at The Perfume Academy. I know it sounds paranoid, but there has been evidence to that truth, none I will go into here because -- well, because I believe in moving forward, not standing still stagnating or revisiting the past, and I never go looking for the 'evidence', it presents itself, just as the antagonists have designed it to do. You can't get anything worthwhile done if you get caught up in the quagmire of someone else's issues. A momentary flash of "Oh, f*ck! What now?" And then move on.

I went to the optometrist yesterday, the first time I've seen any kind of health care professional in at least 10 years (possibly 12), to have my eyeglass prescription renewed and get a new pair of glasses. Since visiting a health care professional isn't something I do often (ever), I thought long and hard about it, what kind of frames I wanted, what I was willing to spend on the frames, et cetera. So by the time I got there, it was a quick in and out deal, much to the glee of my new optometrist. His assistant, we'll call him The Frame Man, asked me to the back to pick out frames to try on -- 10 seconds later, I was holding in my hand the frames I wanted. After what I imagine was a fairly routine exam (and no pupil dilating drops! Yay!) Mr. Optometrist says, "Well, everything looks good. Your left eye is exactly the same as it was judging by your current eyeglass prescription, but the right is a little off, so we're fixing that. And I must say, you have beautiful skin! Absolutely flawless." Huh? Though I appreciate the compliment, and I do, believe me, it's this level of intimacy that freaks me out with health care folks. I mean, they're looking at parts of your body, and sometimes really closely, that even you don't get to see. That kind'a weirds me out a bit. I realize it's their job to examine and help when a person's ill, and I'm happy they're there for emergencies, but -- well, if we're not going on a date later on, I really don't want you peering down my gullet or looking up my you-know-what. Not that the optometrist was doing either of those things!



On to the meat and potatoes, as they say. I've begun a honeysuckle enfleurage using organic unrefined coconut oil and, of course, freshly picked honeysuckle. I'm doing the inverted thing because I don't want any pollen or picky things in my enfleurage. Basically I've chilled some oil at the bottom of a casserole dish and lowered it over the top of the honeysuckle flowers so that they don't touch. I'm catching headspace, man. I've got 30 feet of just beginning to bloom honeysuckle, so I should get a pretty decent enfleurage out of it. I hope it's better than the evulsion of honeysuckle I made a few years ago. Weak sauce, that. Anyway, it's just day one on the enfleurage. This could take a while.

 Jasmine Sambac concrete, WLA, unknown date, oh, my heavens, what a gorgeous scent this is! Okay, when you open the tin and take a sniff, it sets you back a little. There's a weird tart note that comes screeching out, like the flesh near the pit of an unripe peach, and it comes off more as a flavor than a scent. Told you it was weird. Then there is the typical sweet, heady, intoxicating floral we're all used to -- only better. First, I have to tell you that the consistency of this is like dried jelly, kind of slippery and only very slightly waxy.

I rubbed a bit of it on the back of my right hand last night and found myself holding it near my nose for the remainder of the evening, even settling to bed with my hand lying next to my nose on the pillow. It's intoxicating and so sweet, unbelievably sweet. It lacks the bold, round, decadent, indolic lushness of jasmine grandiflorum, instead going straight for the heady sweet spot. No poopy notes here at all. I would almost call this girlie, overtly feminine and innocent, but there's something in it that makes it impossible to relegate to virginal innocence -- something wickedly narcotic. I don't consider myself much of a jasmine fan. Imagine how surprised I was to learn that perhaps I have a strong passion for the stuff today? I get it! Finally. The light went on with this stuff. Sweet, soft, powdery, heady floral, notes of orange blossom, hints of ylang-ylang, peach skin, tart fruitiness, that's this jasmine sambac in a nutshell.


This is a frankincense absolute from Robertet that's been slightly diluted with alcohol -- perhaps less than 10% of the total in this bottle is alcohol, to thin it out because it's like frozen syrup! This frankincense is floral. Yep. Floral and resinous with hints of lemon and honey. This isn't a bright sparkly frankincense, as the oil tends to be, but a warm, sweetly rounded, expansive and heady frankincense. This is perfume worthy stuff.





Rose floral wax, Bulgarian, WLA, looks more concrete-y than waxy, but smells like a wax. Actually, it smells like pink lotus, so I'm thinking this is a misprinted container. Upon further examination, yep, this is pink lotus concrete. The usual, watery, slightly muddy, powdery, warm, earthy, hint of mint, and leather, and waxy florals. As it dries off it begins to exhibit more floralness, more of the muddy water aspects arise. It's quite nice.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon. . . 'n Stuff. Y'know There's Always Gonna Be 'Stuff'





This was the Blood Moon just a few minutes before it went all dark and bloody. The fog was rolling in and the sky was obscured by mist, and this was the best shot I got. Sad. About 30 minutes later, after I'd gone to bed, I hopped up to peek out the window and saw the Blood Moon in all her glory, as the fog had lifted, but I was too tired to go downstairs to grab the camera. So you get this fuzzy bulb to commemorate the first Blood Moon of the year. Not impressive.

Today's stinky selections are: cedarmoss absolute, and white champaca absolute in alcohol.

First, the cedarmoss -- heaven! Cedarmoss opens much like oakmoss, deep and earthy and warm with vanilla-like notes, forest floor, wet leaves, and notes of tobacco and woods, but then cedarmoss does something different, it gets sweet and spicy, like tolu, and it lacks the sharp edges of oakmoss, coming across smooth and creamy and edible. It's leathery and sooty, sugary and woody, cinnamon toast and fine cigars. Inside the bottle of completely solid absolute grow crystals -- it's just amazing stuff.  I thought I was head over heels in love with the scent of oakmoss, now oakmoss has a contender -- this cedarmoss is exquisite.


White champaca is lovelier than even the red champa. It's sweeter. Candy-like, with a spicy top note (cinnamon), smells a bit like cananga with a titch of orange blossom. It smells a little like chai tea, with green floral notes and a mere hint of pepper. There is an oily aspect to it as well -- it's fatty smelling, not unpleasant, but bold and round and expansive. Very pretty stuff, this champaca.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Scent Sessions With The Scented Djinn (Me!)

Oh, what a glorious day! The sun is shining brightly, wispy clouds disperse to reveal a clear blue sky, and the sorry state of my back strip plants. While the honeysuckle climbing all along the 30 foot fence is doing quite well, the succulents in the shadow of the vines are a tad wilted. Must water today. Other than that, the day is beautiful. Perfect for a Sunday scent session.

I've begun performing the twenty-a-day exercises again since I feel I've allowed my nose to become rusty over the past couple of years. I've dedicated myself to this -- if I am at home, I exercise my nose. This is imperative for a perfumer, this exercising of the nose. It makes perfume formulating an attainable goal. Good, strong nose, good, strong memory of what the nose knows. Anyway.

Today's scent session includes a nice green cognac oil from Robertet c. 2001, and a lotus concrete from Albert Vielle c. who knows(?).


Cognac oil is a force to be reckoned with. It's a scent you either love or hate. When sniffing, it gets stuck in the back of your throat, the sensation much like swallowing a sip of really strong alcohol. The scent of this cognac has a desire to jet from the bottle, a heady cloud burst of fruit. It smells of the skin of grapes, fermented. When I lived in Fresno, our home was situated about a half mile from the Gallo Winery on Clovis Avenue. This is where Gallo makes their base wine, the stuff that gets shipped off to all the artisan wineries who add this base wine to their special wines to extend them. I'm not sayin' all wineries do this, but a majority of them do. I digress. From September to late into fall, Gallo performs 'the crush', days on end of this sour wine smell is in the air. Some days it was overwhelming, others not so much. When the winery finished with the grapes, the dregs were spread in a field across the street from the main tanks, and this is where the smell originated. Dessicated grape skins fermented and drying in the hot sun. Special, huh? This cognac oil reminds me of the crush, and the smell of the head space in a glass of wine -- white wine, sweet, fruity, mouthwatering, slightly oily. The dry down is somewhat, well, dry. Like parched brown leaves and hot metal. It has that weird tinny feel that sets the teeth on edge, as if you'd bitten down on a piece of aluminum foil. Yeah, that feeling. And there's something like decay around the edges. It would make an excellent bridge through all three accords in a perfume composition -- opening with flagrant headiness, drying to warm, boozy fruitiness, then closing with this dark slightly rotted oily smell. I'm making it sound horrible, aren't I? It's not. Not really. It's actually quite lovely and bright and fruity. What's really special, is that even after it's dry, completely bone dry on the scent strip, it still has a lot of that alcohol quality to it, an airiness, and then another note, beer, slightly musty. Quite nice.





Lotus concrete. It doesn't specify on the tin if it's a pink or white, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say pink. It smells exactly like my tins of pink lotus concrete/wax, with slight variations. While mine smells more watery, this smells somewhat salty and meaty. It kind of reminds me of that bad batch of tuberose I had years ago, the one that smelled like boiled hot dog water. On the skin, the scent changes. It becomes sweeter and less meaty, warmer, like a still pond in summer, algae collecting on the rocks. It's sublime. Smells of skin and leather. It would do nicely in a chypre, or fougere. I'm realizing it has this dichotomous quality to it, like silty, muddy water, and dense wood smoke. What a gem! 






Saturday, April 12, 2014

Notes on Life, and Death, and Valerian

Last Saturday my 20-year-old daughter's roommate committed suicide inside their shared apartment. It takes me a while to digest these things, and I wouldn't have mentioned it at all, but then early Thursday morning, an acquaintance of my youngest son committed 'suicide by cop', and now I cannot get these deaths out of my head. I dream about them, how both could have been prevented, but more importantly, how damned scary it is for our kids out there. It's nightmare worthy, and that's all I am capable of saying on the subject.

Can we talk about this stuff?


Weird, huh? If you're familiar with valerian, you're probably wrinkling your nose right about now. Valerian is the stuff that smells like dirty (and I mean rank) feet. I remember once going to the new age store to buy some verbena and the girl behind the counter nearly cried because she thought I was going to make her open the jar of valerian! It was pretty comical to see the relief wash over her face when I said, "No! Not that smelly stuff! The verbena -- verbena." Valerian is used frequently in cases of anxiety and sleeplessness, whether in tea form or in gel capsules. There was a time in my life when I used it quite frequently to alleviate the symptoms of panic attacks. It worked, but I had to hold my nose when raising those capsules to my mouth. Okay, now for this stuff; this stuff ain't like that stuff. Yeah, well, there is a pinch of that rankness in there, but there's so much more that it outweighs the stink by far. In my book, I write about sacrificial perfume materials, things we use to help bolster similar but perhaps more expensive or short-lived materials, like a wee tad of lemongrass to help a nice lemon juice essential oil along, or a pin head sized drop of tonka to hold up a lavender note -- stuff like that. In the book I use valerian as a sacrificial for oudh because there are a lot of similarities between valerian and oudh. Both have a slightly rank scent, both are dark and bold smelling, both dry down to sweetness, however, the valerian opens with that rankness much more loudly than does oudh, but it is brief. This particular tin of valerian extract would do so much more for an oudh-based fragrance than any other valerian I've experienced. This valerian is so sweet, like a smooth blonde tobacco absolute, with fruity notes of linden blossom absolute, and the green darkness of an aged helichrysum, and there are rich, sweet oudh notes as well. It's really quite remarkable. I'm not really into oudh-y perfumes, but I do see a future for this valerian extract in my chon based perfume.

My face is slightly puffy and itchy today. It began yesterday about the time I was working with aromatics bare handed. Safety first, motherfu -- oh, you know.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stats 'n Crap

I often wonder if the stats provided by FB or here, on this blog, are in any way relevant to what I do. I suppose not. Since a perfumer exists within a bubble of sorts, knowing that one or two people pay attention to us is a small triumph. Seeing the number of likes on our FB pages go up is a thrill -- sort'a. Relating those stats to sales, however ... Still, it's a little bit of a rush when the numbers go up, like winning a video game. Meaningless personal triumphs.

(I just deleted a whole paragraph about people in perfume who crow about their fake accolades. Just so you know, you missed a great diatribe there. See? I do have a filter. A teeny, tiny, wee, bitty one.)

I'm here to talk about smells. Three in particular (today), gems amongst the gray stones. I may be doing this for some time as the haul from the Bay Area is epic. Mostly library pieces, nothing I can use in great quantities, but epic nonetheless.



Marigold concrete ~ in a word, surprising. It smells fruity, like a mish mash of apples, plum skin, and sour grapes, but the surprising part is the leather! Yeah, it has this smooth, creamy leather finish. It reminds me of sleeping all hot and sweaty on a leather sofa, the summer sun peeking through cracks in the curtains, a slight breeze from a fan carrying the smell of dust and sun warmed wood. Calming. I haven't properly evaluated this one yet as it's still in the tin and undiluted. Perhaps I will update this mini eval at a later date.

Cestrum Nocturnum ~ night blooming jasmine! Okay, I'm sure you're expecting a heady, narcotic white floral profile with this oil, but no, you're not going to get one exactly. This is different. Right off it smells of carnations and vaguely of tuberose. Very strange. At 1% it has an airy quality to it, like sea breeze, and a leafy note, green and juicy and not altogether pleasant, like something decaying. It's not an ugly scent at all as all these elements together create a lovely slightly indolic floral and leafy green profile with a hint of clove. A mere hint of clove.

Nerium Oleander concrete ~ hmmmm. This is so much more than what I had been expecting. It's warm and creamy, floral, somewhat heady, vaguely powdery, reminiscent of ylang-ylang. There's a slight mint note, and a weird maple-like urine note in the background. Also, not an ugly scent, but very, very different from the usual jasmine-rose-gardenia-orange blossom dense florals we're used to.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Adventures by the Bay

One of many basement finds
I don't usually go into a whole lot of detail about what I do, who I hang out with, and what we talk about when I go to the Bay Area to play with friends. Suffice it to say, I hang out with natural perfumers, or folks who are in one way or another involved with the natural perfumery world; very knowledgeable, very open, wise, and noncompetitive people. That last bit's pretty important when making friends in this business. Too much wariness and not enough trust has divided this community, and not enough credit is given where it's due. It's an exciting endeavor when I trip up to the Bay Area to hang around with Laurie Stern, Lisa Camasi, and Yuko Fukami. I never know what's going to happen, except that it's going to be a good, good time. I learn so much from them, and I hope they learn something from me as well, whenever we gather together and chit-chat about, well, life. We're friends, so it isn't always about perfume -- but we do eventually get around to that. We talk about the struggles of a natural perfumer, how difficult it is to stay motivated during the rough times, how we often wonder if it's all been worth it. The conclusion is always that it's worth it. Totally worth it. And what makes it worth all the stress of running a business, concocting new perfumes, new products, and keeping our heads above water? The raw materials. It always comes down to the raw materials and how much we all love them and want to share them.

Aged (fermented) oakmoss ~ sweet and nearly floral


Oil of Petit Grain Maroc (trust me, that's what it is)


Creating natural perfume is about transcendence. It's about taking the perfumer from their work bench and sending them to a place of spiritual peacefulness. I know it sounds silly, but it's what all artists do. The creative spark, the essence of the divine within them (us) struggles to get out, through paint or clay or glass or garbage . . . or essence. Our hope as artists is to take those who appreciate our art to that place of transcendence as well.
Oil of Nagar Motha (d'you like leather?)

Late into the night, Laurie and I sat down in the basement, cackling like hens, over bins of aromatics. It was more fun than I've had in a long, long time, digging through those bins, our fingers sticky with spilled oils, finding bottles of the extraordinary amongst the bottles of the mundane -- and a few bottles of hysteria. By night's end, both of us were punch drunk on the scent of these raw materials, and confessed to one another the next day that it took a while for us to both fall asleep, our minds reeling with the possibilities of those discoveries. Our thoughts were fermenting upon the events of the night, so by morning we arose with a new sense of clarity and hopefulness. There is a big, bold future here in natural perfumery, and plenty of room for everyone who wants to go along for the ride.

Decant of red champa





Thursday, April 03, 2014

Staying Motivated In This Mad World

I took a few days' break here. Went back home to drop off the grandbaby and decided to stay over an extra day, just to try to get some perspective. I didn't get any, but I took a lot of naps! Ha! I'm still having a hard time of letting go of old things that don't serve me; mostly old ideas. Someone recently asked me how my business was doing and was it worth it to have spent all the time, money, and heartache (they didn't use those exact words) to learn what I've learned, and if it has served me well. Emotionally, mentally, and creatively, my business has served me very well; financially, not so well, but that's because I haven't ever actually gone for it. When the big breaks come, and they do (and have), I hesitate. I doubt myself, and then the opportunity rolls on past. I know what is is. It's that rebellion thing I've fought with my whole life. If I commit to a business situation, then I'm conforming, I'm being controlled by outside forces (business partners, customers, my bills) and it's always been my knee-jerk reaction to fight back, to find a space I can occupy without those entanglements, to the detriment of my well being, both mental and physical. Why do I do that? It goes all the way back to the dark ages when I was a kid. My step father was a very controlling person. Extremely controlling. Every movement, every spoken thought, right down to how I sat upon the sofa at TV time, or how I ate soup, and a thousand other things, was scrutinized, judged, and punished. I distinctly remember fearing walking past his recliner at night during TV time to use the restroom because nine times out of a dozen, he'd swing out his foot and kick me square in the ass, punishment for spending that split second to dart past him by blocking his view from whatever chest thumping, manly program he was watching. Can you imagine? Well, so, when the time came (puberty), I began to rebel, and rebel in a big way. Now it seems it's just a habit. One I must curb, cut down, and eliminate from my life or I will never achieve the goals I've set for myself.

Cayucos, CA pier, March 30, 2014


I made a batch of soap that I've been beating myself up over. I was trying to be brilliant and creative, making a soap I'd made years ago that was just fabulous, but I made the mistake of putting this soap into those fancy pants molds and now the soap won't come out. Like I've mentioned before, I don't use molds, so I don't know mold protocol. Apparently I have to wait out the soap so it dries and firms up a bit, then freeze it (again) and force the bars out of the molds. Waiting. I hate waiting. This batch of soap has put a small ding in my confidence, which is probably why I'm feeling so low and talking about my crappy childhood. I had so wanted to present these heavily scented, beautifully molded soaps to my customers and now I have to wait. Argh!

Cayucos cemetery angel
I don't know if it's true for all perfumers, but for me, it seems I am never fully 100% happy with my final creations. I always feel there's something else that could be done, a new element that could be introduced to make the perfume really shine. I've found in the past when I go too far, I muddy the waters and have to begin all over, so I try hard not to do too much lest I eff up the formulation, but there's that niggling little voice in the back of my head going, "Well, what if you add a bit of this? Or a pinch of that? Or put a Band-Aid on it?" (Band-Aid = vanilla, because everything's better with vanilla on it). Some of my earlier work, formulations made back in 2005 and 2006, are really knock your socks off gorgeous now, but I don't have the patience to wait five or six years to feel a perfume is finished, and with the exception of a bottle here and there, those perfumes are sold off. So it goes with this newest formulation, the collaboration effort with my dear friend Bella, the cumin-y sweet, dry, rustling leafy, floral we conjured up. I know by 2016 it'll be just fabulous. Ha!

Cayucos cemetery angel and a circle around the sun

The goals are: rebel against rebellion, and be more patient with my creations.

Just saw this on my FB feed ~ "Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it!" Salvador Dali. How appropriate.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Soap and Chon and Jasmine and Hope

I've done something I almost never do -- actually a few 'somethings'. One, I used elaborate molds to make soap, and two, I used palm kernel oil in the soap -- ugh! I can't help but think of burnt orangutans when I use the palm kernel oil, and when this is gone, if I even use it up, I'm never buying it again. Besides, this particular bucket of palm kernel oil smelled somewhat off to me, but perhaps that's just how it smells? It's been years since I've used any palm product in skincare, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to look or smell like. And the molds -- I was given a stack of beautifully elaborate molds for soap making. I've rarely used molds for soap making. They're such a hassle to use and sometimes don't go through the gel phase like loaf soaps do.

I made a small batch of soap, about two pounds, using that lovely gifted vintage Mane lemongrass. That's this soap ~

Vintage Mane Lemongrass Soap
It's slightly brighter yellow than this photo depicts, and has a deeply sweet lemony fragrance. Lovely scent.

The other soap I made was perfumed into existence, a lovely blend of petit grain, neroli, three different patchoulis, vetiver, and vintage angelica root. It smells lush and floral and slightly orangey with hints of earthiness. Very lovely scent. This soap here ~

Neroli/Patchouli Soap
Note that it is somewhat paler than the lemongrass soap, though I did use the same mold. I might be putting a bar or two of this up for sale on The Scented Djinn Etsy Apothecary site. I used all sorts of molds, so variations apply.

Chon ~ I had a very brief conversation with someone this morning about Chon -- what is Chon? Chon is like Kopi Luwak, a coffee bean that's passed through the intestinal tract of a critter. Chon is the result of the coffee bean coursing through the innards of a Vietnamese weasel, whilst Kopi Luwak is the result of coffee beans through a civet -- very, very similar, but slightly different. Both bean-eating animals are probably in the viverridae family, but exist within different subfamilies. Anyway, Chon is gorgeous and tenacious with strong notes of, understandably, coffee. Beyond that the scent is sweet and fluid, like a dark, rich, boiled down syrup, almost floral. It also has a very, very, very slight caca back note. Civety caca back note. The rich, dark coffee, syrup, and floral notes dominate, while the caca note lingers on the fringes of the scent, not fully engaging. It's gorgeous stuff. Mixed with a tad of jasmine grandiflorum and ah! Poopy indolic madness ensues! It's one of those scents in which you want to bury your face. When I talk to non-perfume people about this, they look at me like I've completely lost my mind, which is why I start them off with the pretty stuff -- rose, lavender, lotus, gardenia butter, then I introduce the poopy stuff -- oudh, chon tincture, kopi luwak tincture, horse chestnut tincture, and African stone tincture. I figure I've buttered them up enough after the gorgeous stuff to then show them the dark side of natural perfumery. Still, many do not get it. It's only when I layer a little jasmine over chon tincture that they do finally begin to understand.

I'm still struggling with the 'business' end of what I do. I had a conversation with my son the other day about public speaking and how it terrifies us both. I think that's really what's holding me back. Fear. It's diminished quite a lot from when I first began my journey into perfumery, but it's still there, lingering in the background of my thoughts. I've overcome it before, and I will again, it's just emotionally exhausting getting ready to 'perform' for a class full of eager perfumery students, and the afterwards is worse -- complete, full-body exhaustion for a day or two. I just have to get over it, and the only way is to teach more.

Speaking of teaching, the Natural Perfume Academy has been making some changes recently, most of which I'm not savvy enough to figure out, techy stuff, but what I do understand is that the Irish government is offering to pay Irish citizens' tuition for our courses at the Academy, since the Academy is headquartered in Galway, Ireland. If you're in Ireland and interested in learning natural perfumery, contact the administrator at our website to get information about the grants being offered. The website is www.naturalperfumeacademy.com.

What I'm most interested in doing this year, though, is face-to-face classes. I'm scheduling a kyphi class in Fresno for May 2014, and then hopefully another kyphi class after here in Atascadero. I do plan to teach a perfume class in person, but I don't know when exactly. Still working out those details. The more in person courses I teach, the more the fear subsides. And, as usual, marketing is my enemy. I'm always amazed at some of these newcomers who pop up and take over with their grand ideas and their straightforward approach. I admire their clarity.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Waiting For the Coffee to Kick In

I have big plans in the works, but today I just can't get motivated. I'm planning to whip up a small batch of soap using some of that vintage lemongrass oil from Mane that I was gifted. The operative word here is 'planning'. I just can't get moving today. It's a beautiful spring day on the central coast, the sun is shining, the wind is blowing lightly across the hillsides, the flowers are bursting everywhere -- yesterday I saw a rockrose in full, glorious bloom -- but I am feeling lazy and slow. Since it is spring and everything is blooming, my allergies have been going at it with my sinuses. I've done a good job of irrigating (neti pot) and keeping things clear, but at night the allergies thwart all efforts at getting a good night's sleep, so I popped a couple sleep-inducing allergy pills before bed last night and slept -- and slept, and slept, and slept some more, at least two hours beyond what I normally sleep. And I went to bed early for a change! Anyway, the effects of those little pink pills is a lingering lethargy that even a good cup of Colombian coffee can't overcome. At least my head is clear and the headache I've been battling with for a week has taken a hiatus.

So The Scented Djinn, Justine, natural perfume school, perfumer/teacher/writer news of the day is as follows (if you're interested):

The natural perfume course has been delayed another month. We are still taking applications through April 21, 2014. The delay is due to something technical which I don't understand, something about servers and domains and whatnot. Well beyond my pay grade, that.

I'm planning (there's that word again) to teach a kyphi making class back home in Fresno in May. No solid date has been chosen as yet, but we're working on it. After that, I'd like to teach a kyphi class here in Atascadero if I can find a venue. The tea shop is a good choice. We shall see. Must drum up interest there. Well, I kind of sort'a already have. I went into the tea shop yesterday to get a cuppa anxiety reducing tea, which I credit to those bad nights of no sleep, and I brought in a bag of goodies for the owner, Shannon, to sniff. I had promised her a month ago that I'd bring in some special fumey things for her to smell and yesterday was an opportunity. Anyway, there were a couple of other customers in the shop when I arrived, so I just sat back and eavesdropped on their conversations, which at some point they included me in -- it's like a bar, this tea shop, minus the slobbering drunks, people come in and sip tea and discuss their life's trials with other people they barely know -- which is kind of cool. Atascadero, and the central coast in general, is like no where else I've ever been. Everyone, barring a few jerks, is friendly to a fault, always striking up conversations and asking about how your day is -- and they mean it. I digress. So I'm sitting in the tea shop and when I have an opportunity to speak to Shannon for a moment, I tell her I've brought her some show-and-tell items. The crowd gathers -- well, it was really just one other person, but what a person it was! First I whip out the pot of pink lotus wax, which induced rolled up eyes and near swoons, and multiple sniffs and the passing back and forth of the pot -- can you tell how much I love this type of reaction? I do so very, very much. I feel I am in the presence of kindred spirits when they behave this way. Next I took out a small packet of helichrysm wax, which got a more dramatic response than the pink lotus did. Next came the co-distillation (mine) of rose geranium and luban I made a few years back, which now has melded into a distinct scent of its own -- green, rosy frankincense -- the other person there started telling me she was getting flashes of a shop or studio with high windows and wood trim, with nooks and crannies full of aromatic gems. It turns out she was describing my old studio in the Van Ness house! Scary, eh? Next I whipped out the rare and beautiful bottle of organic Uttar Pradesh rose otto circa 2008, at which point the psychic person said, "You're going to open a shop and share these things." Just like that. She even told me where my shop would be. Now, mind you, I had not mentioned my desire to open a shop here to anyone in that room. I began describing the type of shop I wanted to open, and the psychic person's smile got broader and broader until she said, "I'm getting goosebumps. This is going to happen. You have to do everything you can to make this happen." So...

Here's to dreams and beautifully scented futures.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lavender Kyphi Supreme

It's only been a few days since the lavender kyphi was put to rest. It's currently sitting in a dark closet drying and curing, though curing isn't really the right word. It's more or less the time the kyphi becomes. When all the elements that make up its parts and pieces fully combine to create a new whole ~ lovely and gently fashioned kyphi. Making 'flavored' kyphis has become a new passion. Making kyphi inspires me to create bolder perfumes and soaps. Creating kyphi sets the pace, becomes the standard -- or is becoming the standard. It's an evolution -- my evolution -- from perfumer/writer/struggling artist to kyphi perfumer and all that it entails. The Lavender Kyphi Supreme goes up for sale April 20, 2014.



There are some classes on the horizon. I've been asked to teach a kyphi class in May for a friend back in Fresno. She attended my last kyphi class and was so engrossed and enamored by the process that she wanted to share with her broader circle of friends. I have been in the process (forever 'in the process') of putting together a kyphi making tutorial, so this class is great incentive to get that project wrapped up and ready to go. I've also been nudged to teach something - kyphi or perfume or ? - at the tea shop here in A-Town. I have to talk with the owners a bit more to figure out which would best suit their particular clientele, but I'm leaning toward kyphi (go figure) or perhaps a perfume workshop with some serious sniffing involved. I'm working on becoming more organized so these types of marketing don't hit me like a ton of bricks, both financially and mentally. Anyone who has ever prepared for teaching when teaching isn't their forte, or has gotten ready to do a presentation when presenting isn't their forte, or has gathered the goods to present at a craft show when disorganization rules, they know -- like I know -- that this is mentally and emotionally exhausting work, not to mention the financial aspects, which can easily override any profit. Even those best prepared -- and I'm thinking specifically today of all those great perfumers up at the SF Fragrance Salon -- it can still be a draining experience.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Re-Writing, Editing, Adding, and Subtracting ~ Bookish Ideas

Well, it's that time again. Time to rewrite, upgrade, whatever, 'Working the Bench', perhaps creating a new cover for it, and maybe making it available in hard cover as well. Formatting has been the biggest issue with the self-publishing. When I convert the document to a PDF for application in the publishing program, somewhere between the PDF (mine) and the PDF (theirs), pages get skipped back -- or forward depending. For example, on my PDF, the header of a page will read "Essence Evaluation Worksheet", but when it's converted to the publisher's PDF, the header is missing from the top of the page and instead sits on the last line of the previous page. I've wrangled and spaced and entered and done everything except type the damned things out by hand, and still I hit these issues somewhere along the process. I'm going to have to do it again with the evaluation workbook. As pretty as the cover and intro pages are, this back skipping header issue is right there, front and center when you open the workbook.



I've been reading a lot about writing lately (again). There are quite a few authors' pages I've 'liked' on FB and get regular feed info from them. It's heartening to know that even now, after years of publishing, they still suffer from the same insecurities as a non-published writer does. Being a writer is a struggle, just like being a perfumer. Both art forms can be ascribed the same metaphor my old writing teacher used: to be effective, you have to 'cut a vein'. Not literally, of course. Of course. A metaphor. No references of suicide here, folks, just a metaphor for letting what's in out. Just felt I needed to clarify that point -- repeatedly.

I'm in the middle of a mad soap making binge. I received some wonderful bars of soap from a master soap maker, and then I went to the soap shop in Morro Bay and bought some hot processed bars because they are magnificent, then a few swaps of soap from different soap makers came in, so I'm awash (hehe) in soap. Begs the question, why am I making soap? Because experimentation never ends, my friend, as it shouldn't. And I've got bodies to clean.

It's all about moving forward, keeping busy, creating, creating, creating. It sounds exhausting, and sometimes it is, but most of the time it's -- it's love. I know no better way to describe it. I love what I do. Love it. Like if I could marry my art, I would. Happily ever after, 'til death do us part.

I have to go now. I have a class to teach.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Honing the Dream

I've been in this business a long time. I was up in the middle of the night mixing soaps and making powder incense from sawdust back in '96 when my youngest was just a toddler. Prior to that I was into all kinds of 'crafty' entrepreneurial endeavors ~ I was making bath salts with fragrance oils, some essential oils (patchouli mostly), food coloring and rock salt in the 80's, along with handmade hair bows (remember the 80's craze of big honking hair bows?), and pants purses. I sold in such elegant venues as the local swap meet and the trading post. For the swap meet I'd work every Sunday morning from 7AM to 2PM, my little table strewn with color and scent amongst booths full of rusty farm tools and old LPs. I sold next to nothing, but I persisted, convinced what I was doing would catch on. But my vision was all over the place. If a customer, or potential customer, would ask if I could make a certain color of bow or a certain scent of bath salt and I didn't already have it in stock, I'd order tons of it thinking this was it, this is the next 'in' thing, surely, because someone asked for it. That was a very naive way to think, obviously. I always felt like everybody else knew something I didn't, so I trusted their words instead of my own instincts. I was spreading myself too thin, and going absolutely no where.



So you would think that by now, after all these years of trial and error, finding myself in the rubble of my chaotic creative mind, that I'd have this sh*t down. I'm here to tell you I don't, but I'm getting there ~ ha!

This has been holding me back writing the creative business plan, aka, the story of The Thurifercorium. What's this about? What am I attempting to accomplish? I always come back to the simple answer: To create something beautiful. But is that enough? If I take it a bit further, allow my imagination to just get swept up in it, I think, no, not just beautiful ~ stunning, and not just stunning product, but a stunning setting in which to 'take your leisure', a space, a delicious set of rooms, The Thurifercorium (and I don't have my heart set on that name either because I think my business name is well established, but there could be a thurifercorium within The Scented Djinn's den of decadence) is a place of exotic beauty, a feast for the senses; beautiful music, luscious scents, vibrant, intoxicating color, a shop with an overall aura of hedonistic pleasures. I guess what I'm describing would look like a mishmash of luxurious opium den, a hookah bar, and a Moroccan bazaar wrapped up in an art nouveau motif, with wafting incense smoke, jewel toned jars of incense on dark wooden shelves, chaise seating for incense listening sessions and tea tastings, another room dedicated just to heavily scented handmade soap and balms, and yet another room, a workshop of sorts, dedicated to perfumery, each room lighter and sweeter than the next. That's the vision in a nutshell. A story board follows.

It begs the question, how far would you travel to spend a day in this place?

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lonely Work

Being a perfumer is lonely, lonely work. I've spent the better part of the morning and early afternoon working on spreadsheets for formulations. What. A. Pain. In. The. Bottom. I've also been kneading and folding that kyphi, which, if I have to be honest, is really starting to smell up the place. It smells like a temple in here, or a head shop, or the local metaphysical store, or even a hookah bar. This permanent scent in the house makes it difficult to evaluate the perfume I've been working on. I have to step outside to sniff the perfume-in-the-works otherwise I assume it's gorgeous because of the ambient scent inside. So far this perfume is giving me shivering fits! That cumin, that single drop in dozens of mls of other stuff and etoh is driving me bonkers. I'm beginning to think that clementine and cumin do not a happy couple make. Or perhaps I need a dash of calendula to sand down the sharp edges. I haven't decided yet, but I will be conducting some trials later today to figure it all out. Right now I'm exhausted -- mentally exhausted -- from wrangling down that cumin. I like it, it seems to work with the whole picture of the perfume, except perhaps for that clementine, but it's just too intense. There's a point in the evolution, right at the beginning, where it rises sharply out of the citrusy/floral top notes and just slams up the nose. It's brief but brutal. Now I understand why I waste so much time poking around on Facebook and looking up recipes for fried swai -- anything to keep myself from the frustration of a temporary low well of inspiration. I do, however, think that calendula is a good idea . . .

The other messy bench

Friday, March 07, 2014

Kyphi Dough

Yes, dough. It's in the doughy stage, kneadable (?), pliant, no longer a gloop but a moderately firm dough.

Years and years ago when I was a kid, I used to help my cousin and aunt in their dough art business creating weird little cartoon-like sculptures of chickens, pigs, fish, cowboys, cows, and whatever else struck their fancy to sculpt. An important part of the process was kneading the dough, a simple combination of flour, salt, and warm water, until it was smooth and clay-like. I liken the kneading and folding of dough art to the kneading and folding of kyphi dough, the process is the same, though the result? Not so much. I would have been inclined to spend much more time kneading dough art dough if it smelled anything like this kyphi dough. The point of kneading the kyphi dough is to knead in the dry spots. Once I finish kneading for a few minutes, I spread the dough out so that as much surface area is exposed to air; an hour later and the exposed bits are dark and dry and stickier than the rest of the dough, so it gets needed into the mass and spread out again, over and over, about 10 or 12 times a day. I will stop when all parts are the dark dry color I'm looking for, and the dough is moldable and holds its shape.  This usually takes three to five days to accomplish. Kyphi making is not an art for the impatient. The fussing is over, I've added whatever else I wanted to add to it. All that's left to do are my little secret touches.

Wet kyphi complete, prior to drying

Kyphi dough drying  (five days drying)
Ingredients, in no particular order: benzoin, pine, santal wood, orris root, frankincense, myrrh, lavender, opoponax, tolu balsam, papaya, vanilla, pinon pine, spike lavender, lavender oil, spikenard, lavandin abrial oil, Grosso lavender, Buena Vista (Ring Botanicals) lavender oil, red wine, honey. Oils are kept at a minimum because they tend to keep the kyphi too wet for too long, so drops instead of mls are employed.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Lavender Kyphi Supreme ~ The Fussing

Eight days. It's taken eight days to grind, stir, soak, melt, and mix the first batch of lavender themed kyphi. Now the fussing begins. Officially, 'the fussing' is the bit where the kyphi maker adds more to the mix -- a smidge of lavender bud here, a sprinkling of rose petals there, a handful of powdered Sumatran benzoin, a few drops of spike lavender, a drop or two of elemi oil. Then wait. Days. A week. Perhaps a month, and then more fussing and drying and tempering the kyphi until it's just right. All the while, the kyphi dries, becoming clay-like, binding up, and changing scent. It's like working a sculpture, always changing, always needing something more, bending to the will of the muse who comes in dreams and whispers, "Wouldn't it be divine if you put a little more myrrh in the mix? Perhaps that lovely old vintage opoponax resin?" The job is to not go too far astray from the theme. Keep the lavender intact, but add and add and add all those lovely elements that make it kyphi, until it smolders, flameless, dark eyes under heavy lids staring up, and breathes, "Done."

Boswellias serrata and carteri with pine resin in mortar
Close up of frankincense & pine
Sifting powdered resins from the whole
Powdered
Back into the mortar it goes
Honey and boswellia and pine resins set to boil
Up close -- not pretty but smells divine
Herbs, resins, wine & fruit with myrrh powder
Boiling honey and resins
One hour later
Close up
Kyphi pre-'the fussing'

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