Monday, October 31, 2011

Conscious Smelling Activity 1


When have you ever, as a rule, awoken with the intent to smell everything? On purpose, with objective, and to store that information in your olfactory memory bank? Well, why not? The students I teach begin their lessons with conscious smelling exercises, and across the board, each and every one has related sensational stories of what they have discovered about the scents they smelled, and about themselves as beginning perfumery students. It ignites a fire, a passion, for scent detection; for learning to better describe, categorize and verbalize to others what they are smelling.

For example, one of the exercises is to smell different types of paper ~ magazine print, newspapers, old books, clean sheets of computer paper, bills, old hand-written letters ~ and the aromas the students are able to ferret out of these papers is boundlessly interesting. For instance, one recent student smelled gasoline, marijuana, and "old woman" scents from a magazine, while another student found a fashion magazine to be overpoweringly feminine and perfumey on the initial sniff, but upon further examination discovered specific scents of citrus, floral, spice, rock, wood, moss, wet moss, and the "feeling" of being in a swamp! After those types of illustrations in scent, who would ever feel the same way about a magazine again? I mean, it's not just a magazine anymore, it's a cornucopia of scent and color; it's clarity.

Seeing something clearly, even if what you're "seeing" is scent, is so very important to the study and advancement of perfumery. I also find it interesting that many of my students see scent in color, as I've mentioned here before. When a student says he smells the color blue in the scent of black pepper, I cannot help but think that in that observation lies a deeper level of clarity.

So my challenge to you is this: Smell something ordinary today and pick apart its scent into distinct, nameable aromas. Smell your work desk (just make sure no one is watching or you might get a few odd looks thrown your way -- or you can just explain what you're doing); if it's wood, smell for the wax that may have once polished it, the hands that may have once transferred some scent, the smell of perfume or food or something else . . . ? If it is metal, do the same; smell the metal, experience the cool tang of steel, the icy impersonal feel of it. Again, smell for the hands that have brushed against it, the paper that may have been stacked upon it, the smell of conduits or electrical wiring or warmth from some machinery which sits upon it -- find some scent on it that is distinct and unexpected. Really dig in. Then tell me about it.

Oh, and Happy All Hallow Even!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

SARS and Civet


Nice name for a perfume, eh? This is old news, though, the connection between the SARS virus and civet cats (not cats, not cats, not really cats). It appears, however, that the SARS virus lives in the Asian variety(ies) of civet and not the African, from which most "civet paste" for perfumery is acquired, and which really isn't in the same family as Asian civet (the African Palm Civet (Nandinia binotata) is genetically distinct and belongs in its own monotypic family, Nandiniidae - per wiki).


The Arctander sold to someone special, for which I am ever so grateful. If I'm forced to give up one of my prized possessions, I'd like to know it's going to someone who will love and cherish it as much as I have.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Slipping Into Snark


I've come to realize something about myself. I'm naturally snarky. My brain is, anyway, my mouth I am able to temper. If I said half of what I think I want to say, people around me would be a mess of emotions and negativity, and heaven knows I don't need anymore negativity -- or messy emotional upheavals! The screen door on my mouth is firmly closed and latched shut, which gives my brain plenty to chew on. Nothing like regurgitating snark to make your day ~ ha!

The move has been on my mind in a big, big way. 'They', the mysterious they of many a conversation, say that visualization is the key to making things happen. If you see yourself somewhere in a certain attitude, one which you desire, the eventuality is that you will make it real. So if you see yourself, say, sitting in a room with mahogany wainscoting, 10 foot ceilings, built in sideboards and stained glass windows, then someday you will make that happen -- you will be sitting in that room, claiming it. It's easier if the place is in the real world and not just pulled from the imagination. Or so they say. From the moment I saw this house I'm to move into, I saw that room dressed up with my big antique blending desk and antique perfume bottles on the built in shelving around the room. I saw the glass pocket doors thrown open, beckoning visitors to enter. I saw me in there. That was nearly a year ago, and now it's to become a reality. Positive thinking, and no slipping into snark for me, thank you.

I packed up my bottles of vetyver mitti and vetyver rose Edward. They were oozy, boozy and woody sweet, mouth watering and languid. I do so love vetyver (I've mentioned that before, yes?). I can hardly wait to unpack and set up shop. Those vetyvers are top priority for either a formulation project or some sort of bath tub goody -- a melt perhaps, or a fizzy bath ball. Something to make you dream prophetic dreams.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Facebook Free

Yup. Deleted the account. Realized that it's a tool for much busier people than I, and by that I mean people with inordinate amounts of time, often hours it seems, to peruse, comment, participate, advertise, promote, gossip, blab, and "like" 'til the chickens come home to roost. I also realized that I don't really have 900 friends. Honestly, if I can't fit you all around my dinner table at Thanksgiving (and that's an honest invitation), then I'm not giving you the proper face time you deserve as my friend. Of those 900 supposed friends, I've actually met face-to-face about 10, maybe even 20 of you, and more if I count family; of those 900, I am closely acquainted and truly count amongst my friends about 100 (lucky me, right?), so the rest of the 800 -- erm -- friends are really just people who want to clutter the forum with ads. At least that's been my experience. And Facebook in general reminds me of those Christmas cards you'd get from affluent relatives who would summarize their entire year with paragraphs dedicated to each person in their immediate family wherein each person had absolutely no strife, but instead was rewarded with honors in school, raises at work, elevations at church, marriages, babies and massive lotto winnings -- or some such hoo haa. And it seemed that with every newly accepted friend, there came an influx of advertising from that new friend. What I'm saying, in a nutshell, is I don't have time. I believe, for now, that my time would be better spent studying and formulating than trying to keep up with the Jones' on FB. Check out this webarticle about FB.

While packing the 'fume room, I ran across a little packet of perfume samples that I purchased from one of the decant shops online, one filled with Tom Ford's delicious vetyver parfum, Grey Vetiver, which, 'lo and behold, actually smells like it has some veyver in it -- and the other vial filled with my favorite perfume in the world (at this point), L'Artisan's Tea for Two. Prior to losing them in the mess I call my work studio, I only sniffed these perfumes, but since finding them I've been wearing them on alternating days. Both work quite nicely with my skin chemistry, and I'm beginning to think I have a second runner up for the number one spot on my scale of favorite perfumes in that Tom Ford concoction.

I'm also feeling tremendous guilt over my recent (say the past 6 to 8 months) lack of attention to business. My business. The shops I run online and the subsequent orders I am required to pack and ship in order to be a good merchant. I've probably said this a thousand times already, but the joy for me comes only in the creation of these treasures, not in the bottling, labeling, wrapping, photographing, advertising, SELLING, packing and shipping. Yes, I do truly appreciate the orders, tremendously, in fact, for those sales have more than once pulled my bum from the fryer, but honestly, I don't get excited about the money part. I have decided that before I reopen the shops for business, I will commandeer a warm body to help with the fulfillment of orders in exchange for an education in NBP. But that won't happen until after the big move. So if you're energetic, have about five or six hours of free time a week, live in the Fresno, California area, and are interested in learning about Natural Botanical Perfumery and working (a little) for that information, then watch for updates here on this blog and I'll hook you up, as the youngsters say.

Today my darling only daughter turned 18. I gave her a big hug and said, "The front door is over there." Sounds pretty harsh, but it's kind of a running joke as all the kids got the same "advise" on the day of their 18th birthdays. Her concern was more focused on the bathroom door, however. And in all reality, she'll probably live with me until she's thirty.

Well, ta-ta for now. Today is my day off and I've got some packing to do! The 'fume room is nearly done, and I say that with all the cynicism I possess, as the further I go, the greater the numbers of stuff I find to pack, understandably. What I don't understand is how it all seems to expand upon exposure to light and air, like some weird science project. Or the Blob.

Oh, yeah, I still post these blog posts on Twitter :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Dust Has Yet to Settle

Man oh man. Things were chill around here when the dust storm started. I was feeling pretty insulated for a while there, but now there are chinks in the armor and some -- no, let me rephrase -- a lot of the dust is swirling in. I've been in hiding, attempting to stay under the radar and concentrating more on daily survival. And a big move. Where I live now -- where I've lived for the past 16 years -- is way out on the edges of town, far from the center and very far from my day job, the post office (that's why your orders aren't getting sent out -- that and the fact that I'm a car jinx -- mine isn't running, the borrowed one isn't running, the one I rely on isn't running -- see? Car jinx. Sorry Mom.), grocery stores, farmers' markets, and anywhere else one might go to feel . . . normal. Where I am working on moving to, however, has all of those things, and more. A twenty minute walk to the J O B, a block or two from one of the original city post offices, and paces from there is a grocery store, a farmer's market, numerous eating establishments, pubs, art houses, clothing stores, and the community college, all very useful places, especially to those of the workhorse variety (me). I've been forced to pull all product from my Etsy site because I can't get to the post office but maybe once a month anymore to mail out orders -- whenever a sympathetic friend or relative is running about and offers a ride -- and it bites. Big time. I'm not used to relying on anybody for anything. Like I said, it bites. Once the move is made, however, I'm reopening shop and getting my bum in gear for the winter products -- butters and balms and soothing fragrant oils. The most consternating part of packing up for the move is this -- packing my essential oils, absolutes, tinctures and infusions just makes me want to play! I have a box marked 'things to work on in the new house' that is full -- full, I say -- and ready to be cracked open once we get settled in. Also, this new place is full of big spaces and the architectural flamboyance of the 1920's, so I will be teaching classes there (it's also in the business district so it's properly zoned -- hoo yah!), and possibly a few apprenticeships.

I have said a time or two before that I'm an optimist, right?

Anyway, I have to get running to the J O B -- five hours of type, type, typing and some really interesting stories.

In case you're in the market for a lovingly abused Arctander, here's a listing for you: Lovingly Abused Arctander.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Lost and Found

Found old Arky hiding in plain site, much to my relief. I dug and dug and dug through the stacks of books on my desk, under my desk, on the 'fume cabinet, in the 'fume cabinet, in, on and around the armoir, in the pile next to the computer, the pile under the computer ~ everywhere! So I thought. But there he was, sitting on the BOOKSHELF snuggling with last year's L'Artisan Parfum catalog and cuddled by a 1939 copy of Cupid's Book.

He seemed quite pleased with himself.

Worked tirelessly yesterday, but, boy, am I tired today! Didn't really get much done in the way of making space -- well, maybe just a bit, but it is slow going. This project is much larger than I had originally thought, but then again, all my help seems to disappear when things become 'unfun' for them. There's so much to do and I want it all done before the beginning of November when I prep and and fret over the coming holidays. I'd actually like to invite friends over to a Homie Thanksgiving (something my son Daryl does for his friends the weekend before Thanksgiving). Sometimes it's difficult for friends to get together for some fun during holidays because they are so busy with family, and then there are those friends who are far from their families or have nothing to do and would appreciate being included in some holiday cheer. But that plan depends upon the progress of Operation Get The Crap Out.

The house phone became lost yesterday and was found in a locked bedroom, awaiting the occupant to return. So when calls came in I listened as callers left messages and wondered if they thought I was ignoring them. And, coincidentally, my cell phone ran away from home but returned late last evening when the car it hitch-hiked in came back to the house. It was as if the Universe was playing defense for me, blocking interruptions in the work. I only wish those "coincidences" would occur while formulating, then I'd be a much better and more prolific perfumer.

Since I began working with The Perfume Magazine, I have been inundated with perfume samples, most all-natural, but here and there a not-so-natural makes it through. It doesn't bother me at all. I rather like the new niche perfumes that are circulating. It seems that since the natural craze took off, more and more interesting and avante garde perfumes are being created by that miniscule 3% of the market. It's kind of a revelation (maybe not to YOU) that 97% of perfume 'out there' isn't really that great.

Well, I have loads and loads more to do and I'm just procrastinating here, rambling on random thoughts. Just know I'm thinking about you. I wish you well and prosperous in these difficult times.

In the time of your life, live -- so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite variety and mystery of it.

The Time of Your Life, William Saroyan

Friday, October 07, 2011

Waking up to Sunshine


I only have a moment to write this as all my moments are recently occupied with non-perfume, non-soap and non-what-I-LOVE-to-do activities, like work, for example, and paying debts, and trying to hold together what is left of my old life while forging ahead in my new one. I wake nearly every morning to the bright and cheerful face of my granddaughter, her chubby pink cheeks and two-toothed grin, with its accompanying slobber, at eye level next to my bed. Her lovely brownie-green eyes sparkle in anticipation of my waking. It's marvelous, really. Then I'm off -- to my morning job transcribing long-winded statements made by people with atrocious grammar and limited vocabularies. I know if they could hear themselves, or better yet, read what they say, they'd be much more careful how they spoke in the future. It's not that they're uneducated or undereducated, it's just that they don't realize how silly regular conversation can sound, or how little information can be provided, even in a long 3000-word answer when it's peppered with 'ums', 'uhs', and mumbling 'you knows' between every relevant word, and the switch backs -- oy vey! Start a sentence that's moving along nicely, then suddenly remember something prior to the event being discussed, and stop mid-sentence to begin telling that tale, and then finally never getting back to the original thought, just rambling and tripping over what might have already been said, what was already said, and throwing in little darlings of information that go un-elaborated. I have very nearly fallen asleep transcribing some of these things.

In the afternoon I either run off to a housecleaning job or come home and clean my own house, and do laundry and peck around in the garden, and stare at the mess in the studio wishing for the elves to come in the night and clean the garage so I have some place to store the items in the studio I don't use regularly. I am torn between wanting to sell off a majority of the unused items in my studio and keeping them for my future 'grand perfume museum'.

"If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man."

Yadda da da daaaaaa!

I just have to share this -- I've already done so a bit on Facebook, but I will elaborate just a bit more here. One of my students, Marian del Vecchio, who lives and works in Sao Paulo, Brasil, is going to be a very prolific and possibly famous NBP some day. Her interpretation of the course assignments, from base accords to finished compositions, is nothing short of spectacular. As I've commented before (on Facebook) her Jasmine Soliflor parfum is just IT. Y'know? It's jasmine, but not straight jasmine. It's layered and complex and reminds me of the delicacy and femininity of perfumes like Anais Anais and L'Air du Temps. It has that same feel to it. And like a dumb-ass, I poured nearly half the vial onto a scent strip to test it and was left with only about a half milliliter to enjoy. I wear it sparingly, on my wrists mostly, so while I'm working at the keyboard, I can occasionally raise my wrist for a sniff'a. What's best about Marian's compositions is that they're all very different from one another -- she's not afraid to take chances. I won't go too much more into it because I haven't yet sent her her formal evaluation notes, so . . . Just watch for her, that's what I'm saying. She's got a rare talent.

As for my own perfume aspirations, well, understandably they've been put on hold. I'm tinkering at this point, as tinkering is all that there is time for. But whilst I tinker, I think. The next project is in the works and I have a lot of time to work it out. Writing down the bones of the perfume.

Ok. Got to run!

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