Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Happy New Year


Wishing you all a very happy, prosperous, fulfilling, joyous, creative, loving new year!

2014 and the tail-end of 2013 were doozies for me -- mostly a 13-month spree of loss and affirmation, the message that life is short so you'd better get your sh*t together, or appreciate the sh*t you have, or get out of a sh*t situation that isn't serving you, or any number of other things involving, um, sh*t. Y'know?

This was a great year for The Scented Djinn ~ the biz finally made some financial headway. And, much, much, much more importantly, I'm finally creating scented art I love and feel comfortable standing behind. Truly and completely. Though not entirely commercial successes, 2014 introduced two really great perfumes from The Scented Djinn ~ Farat, a lovely and intense eau de cologne in the vein of vintage Florida Water; and Modhlim, a rich, spicy, dark floral eau de parfum. Kyphi was the other truly wonderful thing that happened to The Scented Djinn this year as well. Incense in general, Kyphi in particular, it's taken the biz on a journey that has yet to end.

Collaborations have sprung from this closing year as well -- collaborations with folks who are interested in beginning a journey into aromatics, distilling for oils and hydrosols; collaborations and study sessions with other scentophiles, and the boon of receiving a cache of vintage oils that have greatly expanded olfactory knowledge for both myself and those with whom the cache was shared. It's been an extraordinary year on nearly all fragrant fronts.

Happy and Blessed New Year! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Make perfume you would like to wear. That goes for soap, body butters, body oils, balms, even incense (though you may not want to wear it). You can't go wrong if you follow your muse.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Potions from the Apothecary

I've talked about doing one of these little formulation booklets for ages, something simple, real, taken directly from the formulation notebooks I used for Sierra Soapourri, Delicia, and older formulations from The Scented Djinn.

This one in particular is from around 2003, from the archives of formulation notebooks in the Sierra Soapourri era.

There are nine formulations in total, four butter soap formulations, three scrub/masque formulations, and two body oil formulations.

This little compilation of formulations is available for instant download at my Etsy shop.


Friday, December 12, 2014

From the Apothecary of Dabney Rose

Calycanthus, Carolina sweet shrub, spice bush ~ I know nothing about this except that it arrived in a package from across the country, along with a few other things, which I will be discussing here. My Carolina sweet shrub arrived in the form of a wee bundle of sticks, trussed up to look like a miniature packet of kindling. My first impression upon breaking one of the sticks was one of resin, bitterish and green with a spicy punch -- crushed pink peppercorn, galbanum, violet leaf, labdanum, pine pitch, and juniper berry. It's an edible scent with an agrestic twist, like a lovely spice from far away that one might add to a savory cream dish or sprinkle atop wild fowl. This bundle will definitely be dried and added to an incense in the future.

Long leaf pine ~ ooh! This scent, I'm sure, can be smelled everywhere this tree grows. It's loud and lovely and not pine-like at all. It smells of the sweetest alfalfa ever mown, tremendously grassy and green with a sweetness that verges on floralness and juicy fruit (raspberry, mango). The resin from the branch holds all the piney notes, and yet the resin isn't pitchy and sharp or camphoraceous, but again, sweet and green and slightly floral with a fruity overtone.


Now those are just the raw materials in their original forms, and as stunning, surprising, and beautiful as they are, they are mere shadows compared to what Dabney Rose can do with them given a little time and a lot of ingenuity and imagination. Though my affiliation with Dabney Rose has been a long one, a few years at least, it hasn't been until very recently that we've been in fairly regular contact with one another in collaboration, not of projects, but of ideas, and this harkens to my belief, and apparently Dabney's as well, that we can be friends and competitors in this business, and do both quite well without harming the other. She and I bring a lot to our little table and we both of us share this information freely, like two old friends sipping tea on the veranda discussing apple pie recipes. I am deeply envious of her abilities to extract scent via enfleurage -- she's a magician when it comes to this technique, and if you're ever given the opportunity to purchase one of her enfleurage creations, do yourself a favor and buy it. You won't regret it, I promise. Her creations are pure and fuss free and original -- she's the real deal. 

Long leaf pine CONCRETE ~ yes, a concrete! This is long leaf pine plus a thousand. If one were to sniff this without knowing what it was, it would never be guessed as pine. It is floral. Straight up like bulb florals -- jonquil and narcissus which fold back to reveal a mellow greenness more like river moss than grass. It's absolutely amazing.

Hyacinth Extract 2012 ~ Stunning. This IS hyacinth in a wee vial. Unlike the hyacinth evulsion I made a few years back, this extract is clear and sparkly without the muddy, earthy notes, so I'm guessing this is an extract of enfleurage, which is a much better way to extract the scent from hyacinth or any delicate floral than is direct contact with the flower and alcohol. It's that initial hyacinth hit one gets when hyacinth introduces herself to your olfactory organ. It begins with a gentle little poke of powdery sweetness and quickly expands into blinding sweet headiness and floral drunkenness. The longevity of this extract is impressive. I applied a drop to my hand about 20 minutes ago and the scent lingers yet.

Ginger Lily & Santal Co-Emulsion ~ This is so beautiful. Sublime. It's a rich, warm, sweet santal with a gorgeous white floral cloak. Exotic and tropical and sexy. This could get someone in trouble in the sexy-time department, if you catch my less than subtle drift. It's got the gut punch impact that fragrant aphrodisiacs possess. I'll stop now ~ ha!



Thursday, December 11, 2014

It is true what they say about a business' name and reputation being spread more by word of mouth than by blatant advertising. My attempts at blatant advertising in the only venue for which I can advertise, Facebook, have led to ZERO sales this holiday season. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I checked the statistics over at the Etsy apothecary and found that over the past 12 months, 38 individuals arrived via FB, and of those 38, less than five purchased from the shop, and none of those has been in the last three months. So again I ask, what's FB good for in terms of small business? Nothing. Not a flippin' thing. Oh, well, except to keep some of your friends updated on the fact that you are indeed still in business. The good news is that the Twitter peeks are picking up.

For kicks I mixed together a little Yule Incense using common smells we experience this time of year -- ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and then added a little bit of punch to the mix by adding in freshly ground black pepper. No eo's, a bit of makko, and they're good to go. Not selling them, though. I'm adding them to orders, about three little buttons of intensely fragrant hand crafted incense go into each and every order until I run out.

Can you believe I still do not have a proper incense burner? My few attempts at buying a nice electric burner have been thwarted -- no details, just saying blockage was present and prevented follow through. I'm currently burning all the incense on an oil burner with a wee tea light in the bottom chamber, and the incense itself resting upon a piece of aluminum foil on the top chamber. Makes for very long-lasting scents -- subtle and sublime and sneaky and sweet. The problem with this method of incensing the home is that those tea lights don't burn very long, certainly not long enough to exhaust the scent in the incense, so I'm having to go back and swap out a used up tea light for a fresh one every hour or so.

The promised butters from earlier this season did not manifest. I've run out of space here and am cutting down on some things, mostly unnecessary packaging and obsolete offerings. And focusing more and more on custom perfume oils and creating fab Kyphi and other incenses. When space is limited and small, then the number and size of the shop offerings must comply and also be limited and small.

It's rainy and windy and cold here today -- the big storm that's almost happening here on the central coast has arrived -- and I've work to do. Not to sound like a drudge, but it feels like the holiday shopping season is over for me at the Etsy apothecary and I'm already working on putting things away and inventorying what's left.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Incense

This incense gig's really got me. I mean, REALLY got me. To the point where I'm ashamed of my past behavior when I was presented with handmade incense from an incense artist. An underwhelming response would be an understatement. While deep in the throes of another intensely captivating art form (perfumery) I failed to see the potential of the original form of perfumery (incense). I'd written it down time and again, in preparation for a workshop or class, while drafting the perfumery books, but I never took the time to investigate the history and importance of incense making in perfumery until a student suggested we learn to make Kyphi. Then all hell broke loose.

I think that one of the reasons I felt so ambivalent toward incense making was because I'd already gone down that road -- sort of. Not as a study, but as a means of making money and to use in casting. I used Scott Cunningham's book 'Incense, Oils & Brews' as the template to create Zodiac themed powder incense, again, using tons of sawdust as the medium into which all the other elements went. As I progressed through that, and eventually got rid of the sawdust, I began to see the value of incense -- a little. I was then in the throes of soap making and hadn't the time to thoroughly research incense making (which is why I was using the Scott Cunningham book), plus I hadn't quite nailed down the importance of collecting the very best raw materials I could find in the making of -- well, then, just about everything. I was still using soy oil as the soap base and sawdust as an incense base, for Pete's sake. I was probably still eating Hamburger Helper back then too.

It's been a rotational progression of revelations and serendipitous events that have whisked me from one scent-filled art form to the next, each one imparting its wisdom so that the next can be better understood, until I stand again at the beginning of the circle, this great pool of information shimmering before me. So what do I do with it all? Continue to fill the pool, what else? I am no where near done learning about anything I do, and that's the exciting part. Learning again and again that I am a fool to stand so staunchly beside flimsy bits of understanding, and that I am wrong about this or that, and the whys of it, then finding the truth of the thing and throwing it into the pool with the rest of the good stuff. I swear, though, if I don't start writing it all down, it'll trickle out and be lost forever. I learned that from writing class. Ideas become like dreams and no matter how full of meaning and impact, they disappear into the ether if not documented.

Vetyver Compounded Resin Incense

Kyphi ~ Step One

Edfu-style Kyphi

Frankincense tincture

Boswellia sacra Omani sourced (white hojary)



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Ruminations

I think I'm done with the soap making for the season. There might be one more batch in here somewhere, but I don't know if I'm up to building it. Or what I'd build it from. I pulled out all the stops with these last four batches ~ Sweet Lemon Spice, Amber, Poppymint, and finally Winter Solstice. Is it too much like patting one's own back if I say they're fab? I mean, they really, truly are. Most of the base oils are organic, and in the case of the Winter Solstice, the whole of the base oils are organic. Plus there's a beautiful infusion of white howjary Omani frankincense involved. I am stunned at how much essential oil is in this white howjary. I took a break from the incense making to focus on the soap since soap is the bulk of the gift giving this year, though I've reserved enough to put online to sell/share. I know, not very good business practice.

On getting the 'word' out there about my stuff, and selling it, primarily, I can honestly say that Facebook has been a bust. If I post some weird non-commercial thing on The Scented Djinn page there, I get stats back that it was 'served' to, like, half a zillion people, but when I'm actually trying to sell something, I'm lucky if I 'serve' five people. And onto my Etsy stats, where my stuff is sold from, almost NOTHING comes from Facebook. Yeah, I know, I've said this before, and it's actually prompted a change in the way I promote my wares for the shop. In the last few months I just haven't been posting them on FB (except for these soaps -- they're blasted all over my page). Some here and there, but not with the same frantic effort I used to. Now I just post the listing on Etsy, maybe post something on The Scented Djinn blog, and that's that. It leaves me a lot of time to contemplate and then make more stuff rather than staring blurry-eyed at the computer screen for ways to make my stuff look more appealing online. On FB, actually. So maybe it's time to trash the page, eh? Or simply not give a crap about it anymore since January heralds in FB's newest scheme is unveiled where in less than 0.01% of people see the business-related posts. What's the point having a page then? Unless a business is fortunate enough to have such a loyal following that those people purposely click into the page on a daily basis, there isn't much reason to have a page at all. I'm over thinking this.

Back to incense. I've done a lot of experimenting, some that have failed miserably, and others that were surprising and presented a few ah-ha moments. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I absolutely cannot stand combustible incenses -- those which burn on their own or are burnt on charcoal. I don't like what the direct heat does to the incense -- at all. I'm finding my little $1 oil burner from the Dollar Tree an invaluable tool to 'listening' to the incense and its true notes. A $1 oil burner and a bag of tea lights, and it's on. Instead of gobs of smoke and hacking housemates, it's subtle scent and lightening of moods and unbound notes. It's incredible. Never in all my years of creating scent have I felt so free. So unleashed. Non competitive. Incense making has taught me the meaning of being as good as my last (whatever). I'm always striving to perfect the end product, and that's the fun of it all -- and it is always achieved by my mistakes. Onward and upward on a spiraling plume of scent, not smoke.

So perhaps I should get onto wrapping this soap and mixing another batch of Apiana Sacra to be burned on a heater. Revelations, man, they're like a punch in the gut.




Sunday, November 30, 2014

Soapmaking Day!

Today is a soapmaking day. Made the first batch in the wee hours of the morn, and just started the second batch about 20 minutes ago. The first one is a so pretty, with lemongrass and vanilla and a really pretty powdered herb blend of sarsaparilla root, organic cinnamon, organic orange peel, organic ginger, organic licorice root, organic cloves and organic yellow dock root -- spicy and citrusy and sweet, like golden faerie kisses. I sprinkled some pink Himalayan sea salt over the top to give it a little bit of a spa quality. The second soap batch is much bolder, amber with streaks of rose and jasmine sambac. This one is truly perfumed. I contemplated the formulation for a while, since a custom a few weeks back required an amber tone, and played off that to make something warm and sweet and floral. That formulation was brewing for a few days before it took its final dip into a soap base of extra virgin olive oil, organic coconut oil, organic avocado oil, and shea butter. The next batch (batch #3!) will be comprised of sweet spike lavender -- really simple since some of it is to be used on the new grandbaby who is arriving in January.

I'm being very gentle with the ingredients, something I'm not often able to be when the chaos of the house is in full swing. The kids are at work or visiting friends, and the man is sleeping the day away to prepare for his graveyard shift at the hospital. So it's quiet. Except for this dog. This dog is driving me bonkers, two steps behind me, and always with her muddy paws and strangely golden eyes looking beseechingly at me, as if to say, "Chicken nugget?" The goodies prep room is a no-go zone, so she sits with her dirty feet on the invisible line, her tail thumping whenever I go near. Dogs are such strange people.

The incense experiment from the day before yesterday was only slightly disappointing. I still want to get some incense on a stick, but I think a few more months of playing with ingredients will get me there. For the time being, I'm enamored of the cones. To smell a dry, unburnt cone, is to smell makko and a hint of resin, but to burn one of them, that's different -- it's almost 100% white sage with just a smidge of spice and no discernible frankincense whatsoever. Back to the formulation drawing board. The white sage is a beast yet to be tamed ~ ha!


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Trials of a Thurifer

So this happened ~


Yeah, the stuff didn't quite make it onto the bamboo splits the way I would have liked for them to. My base wasn't tacky enough and literally slid off the stick. I have some ideas to help with that but all are very time intensive. But hey! I'm willing to see what it will take and then take it there.

So I've got some nicely scented cones, which don't exactly embody the scent I wanted -- not precisely -- too much makko smell and not enough of the gorgeous white sage and frankincense. The makko scent really expanded when I added the liquid portion to the dry ingredients, even though I used white sage hydrosol (mine) to wet it. It's a bit too spicy for what I was going for. However, I did take a pinch of the pre-wetted powder and put that on a burner, and wow! The scent is absolutely where I want this incense to go.

Making cones was kind of fun. At first I was feeling a bit defeated, like I'd wasted all this contemplative energy to work out the incense only to have it fail. Well, as a stick it failed, as a cone it's pretty darned nice. Still a bit too spicy for me, but I haven't yet burned one of the finished cones, so who knows?

I'm thinking of all things incense now, and cones were on the list of things to make in the future. The future came a wee bit early, though, and the process has piqued my interest. I made cones in the past (20 years ago or so) and they never really turned out how I wanted them to -- hard to burn, smelled 'off', but that could be because I was a dimwit when it came to distinguishing between 'fragrance oils' and 'essential oils'. Plus, if you're using really nice herbs and resins in powder form (for this type of incense), why bungle it up with essential oils anyway? With a few years of learning the character of the raw materials under my belt, I think I can make a go of cones now.

Pastilles, like little scent buttons, are on the agenda as well. Like cones but not conical (duh). Same process for creating the incense, but without the self-igniting element (makko) so they are to be used on a burner (not charcoal).

Speaking of 'not charcoal', I'm really starting to hate the stuff. What a pain in the arse they are! Hard to light, burn up quickly, and totally destroy the integrity of a finely crafted incense like nothing else does. If you're into the whole smoke thing, that's fine, use charcoal to your heart's content, but if you're into simply listening to the incense, hearing its heart fill the room, use an oil burner or an electric heater. No smoke, gorgeous scent -- every time. And your incense will last ages longer.

Using indirect heat makes listening to incense so much more enjoyable. The scent creeps up on you, subtle tendrils of delicate scent entangle you, the movement of the incense is so slow, so determined, that you may not even notice right away that there is scent in the room -- until you leave and come back into that room. Then BAM! Right in the schnogils! Some of you old-timers out there are probably chuckling at me right now, saying to yourselves, yeah, I knew that. I'm an experiential learner of the highest degree, and I receive quite a lot of joy from working my tail off to make something work first-hand. When I'm learning to do this type of art, I will take the instruction and use it -- the first time. After that, it's all about twisting and turning and adding this or taking away that. I was never good at paint-by-numbers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Bright Friday

I woke this morning to a beautiful bright day. Surprising considering how danged cold and bleak it was last night! Not Northeast cold, but cold for us warm-blooded California people. I never did get around to making soap yesterday, having underestimated the amount of shelving, counter, and storage space in this house -- every available inch of workspace was covered with cookery gear. I also never got 'round to grinding this fine and beautiful white howjary frankincense with white sage and a few other glistening golden aromatics to make that incense, so that's what I'm working on today. Right this minute, in fact.

Blank Bamboo Splits
I'm going to roll this newest creation onto bamboo splits, something I've never worked on before -- the bamboo splits. I've done the dipping of pre-makko'd incense stick punks into DPG laden aromatic oils, but never created the makko-herb-resin mixture and rolled it onto the sticks from scratch. This should be yet another fine adventure in incense making. This newest creation already has a name ~ Apiana Sacra, a blending of the Latin names of Salvia apiana (sacred white sage), and Boswellia sacra (sacred white howjary frankincense). I just hope it lives up to its potential.

Today is also a wrapping up of loose ends day -- mainly getting all the soaps and other items in the Etsy shop labeled and put away. And I'm dehydrating fruit for future incense and aromatic uses. A friend of mine recently discovered that the scraggly citrus tree throwing off small, brilliantly orange/yellow, and super sour fruit was a bergamot tree! It's not been well cared for over the past few years of drought, so the pickings were slim and quite small when we went out to harvest. What we got are being dehydrated right now. I've asked my friend to better care for this tree in future, so hopefully next season will be a much nicer crop.  Fuyu persimmons, which are added to our famously gorgeous Pink Lotus Kyphi, are in the dehydrator as well, and I've got apple slices drying for Yule projects for the grandbaby to work on.

It's turning out to be quite the busy day here at The Scented Djinn's home apothecary.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holidays

The holidays are creeping up on us. But this year I'm prepared. I think. Maybe. I'm getting there. Okay, there's a little work left to do.

Tomorrow's my birthday and I get to cook! Yay! I don't mind, really. Cooking is another passion of mine, and this year since none of the non-living-at-home kids are going to be visiting for Thanksgiving, I'm downsizing, and man, what a relief that is. In years past, I would make a half dozen pies, roast the biggest turkey that I could find in the market, and make enough green bean casserole to feed a zombie horde (which begs the question, will zombies eat green beans if brains aren't readily available?) In years past, I'd work in the kitchen from noon Wednesday until well past dinnertime on Thursday to make sure everyone had enough -- geesh, what a joke. Enough? There was enough to feed us for a month! Tomorrow, though, once the bird's in the oven and the other limited numbers of side dishes are put together, I'm making soap. And maybe going to work on a new incense project called Apiana Sacra (I've already made a few pre-batches to get the increments correct), and I'm rolling this incense onto blank bamboo splits. This should be interesting, and believe me, I'm not altogether confident it will work out.

Now, I'm off to plant some tuberose bulbs, then it's to the market to wrestle someone for the fattest turkey.

Y'all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!




Monday, November 24, 2014

On the Road Again

I travel a lot. Not far, just a lot. My bottom is in a car seat or bus seat or train seat at least four hours on the days I travel. And, I travel. A lot. I'm traveling again today. Two hours on a bus/train, an overnight stay, then two hours home in a car. This is one reason it amazes me that I'm able to get orders out and actually get feedback stating 'fast shipping'. It didn't used to be like that way, and if you've read this blog for any length of time, you know my track record for expediting -- well, anything -- was poor. Was. Things changed a bit for me over the summer and I was forced into a frame of mind more conducive to positive business practices. Basically, I got a bill that I was 100% responsible for, and now I'm doing what it takes to pay it off. I know, it's a lame excuse for finally, after nearly 20 years of doing this, to take it more seriously than spouting the 'this is my art' bs. Even artists have to eat.

When I return from my brief travels, I intend to make soap. I've had all the makings here for a while, just haven't eked out the time to create.

I'm feeling a bit rushed by all the early Christmas advertising this year, and I finally pinpointed why it pisses off people, myself included, when Christmas starts in October, as it did again this year. Stress. Pure and simple, it's the stress. The stress of preparation, the stress of stretching, straining, and then ultimately breaking the bank to buy sh*t for people who may or may not like what you get them. My answer is to make stuff, food, baked goodies, soap(!), homemade liquors, bitters (for cocktails), anything that actually passed through your hands for longer than the time it took to pick it up, drag it to the check out, then remove it from a sack and wrap.

Anyway, I gotta run. Time's ticking and I have a bus to catch.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Serving Time in the Incense Exchange Program

And happily doing so.

For some time now, I've been exchanging incense ideas, incense making techniques, and incense with Dabney Rose, famous for making spectacular hydrosols, and now soon to be famous for making gorgeous bioregional style incense.

Together we've managed to work out some issues with incense, Kyphi in particular, and teach each other a few tricks and tips, as well as trading in raw materials.

Dabney's finally put one of her beautifully compounded incenses on her Etsy shop, and you, my friends, should check it out.

Winter Sleep is a hand rolled Kyphi incense that is flush with coniferous goodness. It smells juicy and fruity and deliciously fir balsamy. Gorgeous. If you burn it on an electric heater, or an oil burner, the scent will last all day long, filling your space with the scent of cool, crisp, evergreen tinted air. I can't get enough of the rich scent, and burn the little sphere for about an hour before retiring it to cool down. That's the great thing about this kind of incense, you can use it for hours until it burns out, or for a short time, long enough to fill a room with scent, then pluck it off the burner to save for another day. Winter Sleep embodies the scent of Yule, and would make a great (wonderful, even) gift for the incense lover in your life.




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just So's You Know . . .

. . . the information, it ain't cheap. It took time and effort and research and paring down to the absolute necessary bare bones to bring to you, neatly wrapped between the pages of a book(let) to make it easy for you to step off the written path onto a path of your own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Premium White Howjary Frankincense

I've been saving my pennies for months now so I could dig in and really get the 'good stuff' for making compounded incense, and now that I have, I'm so happy! My first shipment (of many) of white howjary frankincense resin direct from Salalah, Oman arrived, torn to shreds by customs, but intact, nonetheless, and smelling like the very tears of the gods -- gorgeous! There are a few pieces of green in there too, but for the most part, this frankincense is shimmery white. I've got it lying out in a tray right now getting ready to package up and the scent in this room is unbelievable. I feel . . . light. Euphoric. Intoxicated by it. And I cannot wait to make a compounded incense from it. Or just to burn a piece here and there for the joy of it.

You gotta get you some!


Sunday, November 09, 2014

Kyphi, Kyphi, Kyphi, Incense, Kyphi, Kyphi, Incense, Kyphi

You guessed it. This post is about Kyphi. And incense.

It's probably an understatement when I say that Kyphi, the process of building Kyphi, waiting on Kyphi, and burning Kyphi has cracked something open (in me) and allowed me to see that the creation of objects made from things that grow from the earth (Gaia) have a spiritual face, one that vastly, and in my newly opened eyes, primarily contributes to the creation of the objects, and go far beyond the beautiful scents they impart. This is why I was inspired to write the Kyphi booklet, as a means of expressing (perhaps poorly) the importance of the spiritual parts of Kyphi making as opposed to simply concocting a materials' authentic re-creation of Kyphi. Not that that isn't important.

Some of you may be wondering why I capitalize the word 'Kyphi'. The short answer is that to me Kyphi is an entity, a being, which makes it a proper noun, thus the capitalization. The connection for me was made early on between the act of building Kyphi and the act of a goddess (Isis) re-building her king (Osiris), therefore, in my manner of thinking, creating Kyphi is a rite of resurrection.

Kyphi is a being resurrected.

I think if approached this way, all manner of art is elevated and becomes more than it's parts and pieces. All incense, then, can be made the same way, with love and joy and the maternal/paternal passion of a parent for his or her offspring.

Bartlett Pear ~ Strange and Unusual Kyphi Ingredient #1


I'm not entirely new to the incense scene. Back in the caveman days, I used to make some pretty terrible incense, and a few batches of not-so-terrible incense. Beginning with those pine needles and resins and sticky berries that were nothing more than play, and now I realize, strangely, that I've come back to -- full circle. I've 'formulated' sawdust and essential oil incense, loose powder incense (those were good) using herbs and resins pre-powdered, then enhancing with essential oils. I've dipped incense punks into DPG laden fragrance oils, and I still carry with me at every move a box containing about 1000 unused punks, a reminder of -- well, nothing great. It wasn't until that one evening, sitting in my studio on my favorite chair with a mortar and pestle nestled in my lap and a hunk of antique orris root in the bowl that the light went on. Like the rising sun, the light crept up until it was blazing straight into my face, and I got it. I got why the labor was required. I got why they did this so many thousands of years ago. I understood the why of the singing and the prayers. It's hard work hand grinding all those materials, and the singing and prayers perhaps made the work seem easier, creating a cadence, a connection between the workers and the Priests, which in turn built energy -- vibrational energy -- that was then infused into the Kyphi, blessing it with spiritual power.


Pineapple Guava ~ Strange and Unusual Kyphi Ingredient #2

Now that I've convinced myself that creating Kyphi is more a spiritual endeavor than -- well, whatever I used to think it was, I've been brazenly seeking new things to include into Kyphi. Lavender Kyphi and Pink Lotus Kyphi, my creations, are definitely not authentic Kyphis. In fact, some might argue they aren't Kyphi at all. And Syriac-Kupar, well, I kind of stole that from my research and use it to describe incense made like Kyphi but isn't Kyphi. My definition of Kyphi is an incense made over time with reverence using fruit paste, wine or spirits, honey, resins, and herbs. My definition of Syriac-Kupar is Kyphi without the fruit paste, fewer herbs, and mostly consisting of resins and honey. I'm not trying to redefine anything here, calling these creations what I call them is simply a way of organizing them in my mind. I'd be perfectly happy calling all of them 'incense', except that I like talking about Kyphi to pretty much anyone who will listen, and saying, "I make incense," is kind of a conversation stopper for most folks. They instantly think hippy things. However, when I say, "I make Kyphi," it invites questions and the hippy thing goes out the door.


Dried Pineapple Guava ~ For all Incense!

I'm embarking on a journey here, bending the rules and pissing off purists (ha!). Some of my future experiments include Kyphi incense sticks, Kyphi with strange and unusual ingredients, and various numbers of non-Kyphi incense explorations with an emphasis on reverence.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Things I've Given Up As a Perfumer

Being a natural perfumer these past years has been arduous. I've faced adversity at nearly every turn, beginning with the catty attitudes of other perfumers (I'm not talking about you, friend), which, if I really gave a rat's ass, would have stopped me dead in my tracks way back when as I was fighting dragons with a toothpick. Once I realized it was a game (I'm pretty slow on the uptake sometimes), I threw down my toothpick and told the dragon to "F" itself. There were other games -- the reviews' game, the newest materials' game, the 'best of' perfumer's organ game.

A couple of years ago, I stopped asking for reviews of my perfumes. One blogger in particular, for whom I'd had a great (or so I thought) relationship with, and who wrote glowing reviews of my work, did an about face one day. I found out later that this blogger, due to the shenanigans of another perfumer, thought I wasn't who I said I was. Because, believe it or not, there are people in this business who play these games in the public forum, shamelessly shaming and degrading others, taking on aliases to do so -- I know, I sound like a paranoid, but I'm not, promise, I don't even care these days except it shows the depth and breadth of what an insecure person (not me just yet) will do to get what they want (world domination?), I just thought you'd like to know that certain aspects of this business can get nasty and ugly really fast and all it takes is -- well, almost nothing. Besides, I wasn't good at this gamesmanship back in school (where it belongs -- or not) and I'm certainly not going to hone my skills of degradation at this late hour. So I gave up getting reviews and now just get nice, or not so nice, surprises when a review pops up.

Next was (and I say 'was' because I've given up this as well) the 'I've-got-the-latest-and-greatest-I'm-gonna-make-a-zillion-dollars-off-of-it-new-raw-material-no-one's-ever-seen-before' game. Heh-heh-heh. Remember boronia? Blue lotus phytol? Hyacinth absolute? All of these were on that list at one time or another, all are prohibitively expensive to a small perfume business, and all are now nearly impossible to find. At least the real stuff, anyway. In their defense, all were/are pretty spectacular as well. I have an apple blossom concrete that I adore, paid a pretty penny for it, too. It's authentic, rare -- as in so rare it's probably never going to be seen again -- and I now keep what's left of my little stash in the 'library' of scent. As lovely as it is, it just didn't have any tenacity and rarely added any value to a composition. Fleeting notes, however valuable and rare, just aren't worth using in compositions. As library pieces, they're priceless.

The final thing I've given up -- or, the final one I'll discuss here -- are those neat, tidy, exquisite, envy-worthy perfumer's organs perfumers like to showcase. Theirs, someone else's, from movies -- the ever evasive apothecary-like perfumer's organ. Here are photos of my organ today ~




Impressive, eh? I'd take a photo of the storage closet where all the raw materials are, but that would really embarrass me. I've previously posted pics of my organ, but I'm going to be honest with you here and tell you that I worked for hours -- sometimes days -- to get it in that condition. All the doo-daws and goo-gaws that I once thought were important to being a 'real' perfumer are sitting in the garage collecting dust. All you really need are some formulating bottles, glass droppers, a scale, a few graduated cylinders (10's and 100's) decant bottles, maybe scent strips, and a nice collection of raw materials. Oh, and a notebook. You can carry on like this for years. If you're in production, you may need to upgrade, but for small, less-than-50 bottles per batch composing, this can be as complicated as it needs to get.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

It rained! For the first time in -- what? -- 189 days? 190 days? Rained while the kids were trick-or-treating, rained through the evening and into the night, rained in the wee hours of the morning, and rained a soft sheet of crystalline mist for the better part of an hour while I brewed coffee. Never have I been so happy to mop up muddy paw prints off the kitchen floor. The trees seem brighter, the dust of nearly seven months of cloudless skies finally, and efficiently, washing away from their drying leaves. It's also restrained those pesky flies, and sadly put an end to the daily visit from bees thinking something sweet grows in the studio. No one, not a single person, complained that it rained on Halloween.

Fall has arrived. Thank. Heavens!

I'm dreaming up season themed Kyphis for the future -- an autumn, winter, spring, and summer Kyphi to use during the opposing months as a reminder that it won't always be cold/hot/mild; or use in the appropriate season as an offering to the spirits who rule that time of the year. I'm dreaming up color themed Kyphis to correspond with chakras; mood themed (though most of what I've made already are mood motivating), and very soon, mystical goddess and god themed Kyphis. Themed sounds so common and market driven, but I promise that's not what drives my desire to create these different Kyphis. Even if at the end of my time here I am left with only the clothes on my back and huge sacks of very well-aged Kyphi, I will leave a happy woman. It's very difficult to explain without laying it all out raw and open -- vulnerable -- for the world to see and criticize. Not ready for that yet.

Vetyver Kyphi! Yes! Santal Kyphi, also yes! More compounded incense resin *slash* solid perfumes -- yes, yes, yes!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bad Reviews

You know, writers -- real writers -- tell other writers not to read their book reviews. They know they're whistling in the wind because who can't go check out what people think of their work? I have to learn to do that. Not read the reviews. I got another dud. More about the ugly layout and not being able to take my work seriously because of the ugly layout. It sucks, man. But 'anonymous' -- yes, the dreaded anonymous -- is right about the layout -- the old layout. That's why the newer books are properly formatted, and cheaper than the originals, as an apology of sorts for my misbehavior in thinking that my work had value beyond the font. This is a huge learning curve for me, this self-publishing thing, and I am determined to get better at it.

I've been away for a while -- away from home, away from the computer, into my head and creating little tin pots of creamy scented deliciousness. I've got a line on some super gorgeous frankincense tears from Oman that I'm going to be making into Kyphi incense sticks over the autumn. A friend sent me a huge bag of Hawaiian sandalwood chips that I need to powder. Probably burn out my spice grinder. Santal chips are one of the hardest raw materials to powder in a mortar and pestle, though I will try, just to get that energy in there. I think when the Omani frankincense Kyphi is attached to the bamboo sticks, it'll get rolled in that Hawaiian santal powder. I can hardly wait to get started on it.

The custom work keeps flowing in. I've been questioned a time or two about the change from organic grape or grain alcohol to oil-based perfumes, and I can only say that winter is coming. Okay, that's not the real reason, but sort of. Winter is coming and oil-based perfumes work better on dry winter skin than alcohol BUT also because shipping alcohol-based perfumes is an enormous pain in the bum! 






Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sugandh Kokila

So I ran across a one ounce bottle of this stuff in the box of gifted aromatics and became instantly intrigued. I mean, how can one not with a name like 'sugandh kokila'? Sounds exotic and rare, yes? Well, it isn't. Rare, that is. Exotic, yes. Different? Definitely. According to White Lotus Aromatics, sugandh kokila is a berry from the Cinnamomum glaucescens, syn. C.cecidodaphne. The oil from this berry, per WLA's site, is "a rich, sweet, penetrating, spicy-wood-resinous bouquet with a warm, radiant, herbaceous, camphoraceous undertone with good tenacity. In the deep dry out phase (after 12 hours) there remains a sweet, delicate, spicy herbaceous aroma on the perfumers strip". Yeah, that pretty much describes it. That camphoraceous note, though, is quite faint, definitely an 'undertone', as WLA presents. It's that spicy woods and resin with a radiant quality that makes this oil so special. It is multi-faceted, woody, resinous, spicy (think cinnamon -- true cinnamon), kind of a hard to place scent. It would come off as a perfume on its own if there were a sweeter element to it, vanilla or tonka or santal. Sugandh kokila is also used in Ayurvedic medicine as a stress and pain reliever, and as a general body strengthener, particularly the digestive system. The berry is derived from evergreen trees which grow in Nepal and Bhutan. Other names sugandh kokila goes by are cinnamon berry, gondsoroi, and malligiri. I prefer sugandh kokila, as sugandh, or 'sugandha' means 'fragrant' in Sanskrit. I don't know what kokila means. Berry maybe? I did with it what I normally do with these kinds of things when I dig them up -- I made soap. First I looked up whether it would cost an arm and a leg to replace if I used it all up in a single batch, and it turns out it's fairly inexpensive given its multi-purpose uses in perfumery. I added a bit of rosemary and peppermint oils, plus some powdered peppermint leaf and a teaspoon or two of organic poppy seeds to rough it up a bit -- exfoliating soap is so nice during the colder months. It smells out of this world -- spicy with just a hint of mint and a woody/resinous sheen. Invigorating and warming. A great transitional soap from season to season as it embodies both warm and cool elements.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Adventures In Compounded Incense Resins

Okay, so I've been going on a bit about these compounded incense resins without giving too much info out as far as how the stuff is put together. That's because I'm still learning, and I'm always writing about the process, the failures, the successes, what works, and what becomes disastrous, in my notebooks so that I hone down how it should be done, and never again do it the way it shouldn't be done. Make sense? I hope so. So I've been working on honey. Boiling the stuff to the hard crack stage so it will work better in compounded incense resin -- I want crystals, that's the goal. Crystalline, slightly waxy, almost drippy with oils. I'm getting closer, but I'm not there yet. Using unmelted powdered resins does give it some of that crystalline effect. I'm also learning that using gums in the cold portion is best, and using resins in the hot portion is also best. Gums contain more essential oils, and I don't want to burn all that off. Like I said, I'm still learning.

I am so in love with this new soap I made -- Sarasvati. I've actually held back a lot for myself. The scent of it just fills a room. Amazing. Vetyver, vanilla, marigolds (marigolds!) and mitti attar. It's just ... tingly.



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Breakthroughs!

I think if you're not experimenting, not willing to waste a little, not able to expand knowledge, not putting forth a ton of effort, or are coloring inside the lines and forgetting that art and life are about passion, you're wasting your time here.

I am getting ready to put together more compounded resins *slash* solid perfumes. Last weekend, the son and I went wild crafting for pine resin and found a nice little stash tucked away off the road between Atascadero and Morro Bay. Because of the drought, the trees seem to be putting forth more resin. When we harvest, we are careful not to pick too much, usually scraping the softer white resin from the bottom of the tree's wounds. In no time, and with the help of about five trees, we can fill a bag with gooey fresh resin. I bring it home, lay the pieces out, or more likely, scrape them onto waxed paper, and let the mess dry for a week or so before putting them in jars. Pine resin is a crucial ingredient in the creation of Kyphi and I'm storing up for the start of a new collection -- 2013 Ponderosa Pine from Huntington Lake, CA, Sierra Nevada Mountains, 2014 Ponderosa Pine from Atascadero, CA ~ hoping to acquire more from different areas, all hand harvested. I used to wild harvest every seasons -- elderberry flowers in the spring, elderberries in the fall, gooseberries, oakmoss, mountain misery, tree resins, manzanita buds, but I haven't done much of that lately. Not in the last four years or so, actually. It's fun getting back into the swing of it.

Seeing a future, and it smells good!

Friday, October 10, 2014

What I Don't Know

What I don't know could fill a galaxy. If I knew it all already, life wouldn't be nearly so fun. Clearly I'm referencing Kyphi and incense raw materials' research. And everything else ~ ha!

Yesterday I received a little jewel of scent in the mail -- an unexpected fragrant traveler from across the country. A well-known perfumer sent me a sample of a naturally compounded Mousse de Saxe base, and I was immediately struck by how deep and gorgeous and 'vintage' it smelled. It would be the base notes of the perfume Mata Hari wore when she performed her famously near naked dances, with roses and sweet lemon rind in the top. This Mousse de Saxe has some of the same beautiful attributes as DSH's Pandora, only this one is deeper and darker and rich without all the sparkly notes, because, well, it's a base -- an accord, an unfinished piece. I can't wait to see what this perfumer does with this astounding base.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Compounded Incense Resins

The journey continues.

I've read for years that beeswax was used in the making of those lovely super fragrant 'amber resins' but I just couldn't get my head around it -- beeswax? Turns out not really quite beeswax. It's actually a bit of beeswax and significant amount of propolis resin. Bees produce propolis resin when they take plant resins from leaves and buds and maybe even trees, and mix it with some beeswax, maybe a little honey, and then use it to stabilize their hives. Like hive glue. The dirtier the propolis in terms of refinement, the better for incense purposes. So basically another resin but somewhat processed by the bee.



I'm two compounded incense resins in, and I'm already learning the dos and don'ts. Texture is my thing. I'm using beeswax, propolis resin, and lots of cappings, honey, and mad amounts of super fine powdered resins. Once all that's done, I add by drops rare or special essences, like an organic Uttar Pradesh distilled rose oil, and rose floral wax. Just by playing with this stuff, I'm learning about ratios, much the same way I learned with traditionally compounded Kyphi incense, and the kupar-like incense I made sans fruit paste -- it's all about experimenting and toying with the ingredients. I'm finding myself more deeply connected to the raw materials in Kyphi and compounded incense making than I ever did with perfumery, however closely related the two are. There's just something magical about it -- something happens during the grind when resins or woods are being turned to dust, as if the spirit of the plant rises up and fills the room. When I think of this -- when I ponder the emotion that feel, I am reminded of that moment of clarity I felt while beating senseless a small batch of 50-year-old orris root when I kind of went into a trance and snapped out of it in an instant when the scent of orris filled the room. It was sublime. Beautiful. A lesson. It never ceases to amaze me how after combining all these elements, even the ones that aren't so beautiful and sublime (camphor, camphor bark, poopy pine resin, thyme), that in the end, the incense created is so utterly gorgeous and works! Seriously works.

The current project includes finding appropriate prayers and songs to be sung to the incense while it's being created. I'm reading Awakening Osiris: The Egyptian Book of the Dead by Normandi Ellis -- great book, by the way -- and it's turning up some really beautiful stuff that can be incorporated into the process. Well, I read the book when my Nook isn't being highjacked by a three-year-old intent on feeding her Pou. 

Watch this space for more on compounded incense resins, Kyphi, kupar, and other beautiful amalgamations of scent.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Inspiration Abounds

A long time ago when I first started out, I used to buy that amber resin stuff that came in dark, light, rose, sandalwood and on and on and on, that was marketed as natural but was actually compounded naturals and synthetics -- tricky, tricky -- and used it in soap and a few basic perfume oils before I realized it was too good to be true. Anyway, since then I've always been intrigued with creating something like those resins compounded using only naturals. I think I'm going there. Actually, I already went. I've notebooks of perfume and compound sketches -- incomplete formulations that never saw the light of day, heck, never even made it off paper! But within all that were a few fledgling formulations for compounded resins. Then today I had a nice conversation with another incenseur who directed me to a blog where the inspiration was reignited. I cracked open one of those old notebooks and made fragrant gold. Compounded incense resin with rose and tons of myrrh. It is intoxicating. I love following the Kyphi path!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Going Deep!

I used to be really, really, really, really great at research. And notes' taking. Since the advent of computers, at least in my home, I'm not so great at it anymore. Too much bad information online. And the fact that I can now put down in words (type) as fast as my ADD allows, which is pretty flittering fast. I feel like my brain's in overdrive. Reminds me of my severely ADD brother-in-law, who is in his late 40's, who will do 12 things at one time, none very well -- can't tell you how many burnt meals I've had with my sister and her family because he cooked and decided it was also a good time to do an oil change on the car (that wasn't finished), start a bonfire in the back 40 with a gallon of gasoline (did I mention he's a bit of a pyro too?), put clothes in the washer (but never turn it on), and pick walnuts (leaving the buckets of walnuts in the orchard to rot). My brain feels like that sometimes ~ ha! Anyway, I'm researching Kyphi -- again and some more. Kyphi research is fraught with rabbit holes. Down one, up another, one bit says this, another says that, both argue over the same piece of translation -- it's this, not it's that! I want answers and there aren't any. Just the way it is. Most of what's written about Kyphi come from Greek writings after the fact -- even the Edfu Temple inscriptions were done during the time of the Greeks. It's all so flipping maddening!

Okay, back to the snug little rabbit hole I found ~ hahaha!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Being in One's Own Company

Being in one's own company for too long can become maddening. What I mean by that is that not having someone of similar ilk, in this case, someone involved with scent, to talk with on a consistent basis bogs the creative process. At least for me it does. I feel as if I'm creating within a vacuum. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. It's not that I'm alone, no, there are plenty people underfoot to not be considered alone, but if one more set of eyes in this house glaze over while I'm talking about my 'big plans', I'm going to scream. Or move out. Or both. Oh, and don't expect me to listen to you go on ad nauseum about your dreams, and more often now, your fears, if you won't give me the respect by just listening to me. I have no truck with fear these days, so . . . I get it, you're the center of the Universe, and I'm chopped liver. Moving on.

Okay, that was weird ~ ha!

I've lost my camera battery charger again. This is two since I've moved here. I NEVER lost my camera battery chargers before I moved here, but something about this place makes one absentminded. Me. Makes me absentminded. I've had both of those chargers in my hands in the past 30 days, but for the life of me, I can't tell you where either of them went. This is a sign of something not great happening inside my brain. My body is telling my spirit -- RUN!!!!! Or something like that.

So, I can't upload the latest soap photos is what I'm saying. I can't upload ANY photos is also what I'm saying. I feel naked without my photos! It's hard to sell stuff when people can't see what you're selling, and I'm not a good enough writer to describe it eloquently enough to make someone curious enough to buy sight unseen. Can I just say, though, that I'm sitting 10 feet away from a batch of the most gorgeously fragrant lavender and kyphi 'flavored' soap that was ever created? I mean, this stuff is intense! It's taking it's sweet time setting up, though. Soft and creamy. There's another batch, further into the drying area, that's a knock out too -- vetyver mitti and marigold soap -- this is a nice vetyver, too, not bitter or teethy, just sweet smoothness with that lovely pop of sunshine from the marigold absolute. I had this imagery in my mind when I was whipping this scent up of those beautifully earthy and floral fragrant blooming teas, a marigold basket, with jasmine, amaranth, and marigold blossoms that unfurl in hot water. I thought that scent with the earthy warmth of mitti attar and vetyver would be something truly special -- and it is.

I've been putting the finishing touches on the Kyphi class at The Natural Perfume Academy's website. Step-by-step instructions with tutoring, pictures, links, history, and room for research. I'm really hoping to delve into Kyphi as I never have before, and take a few people with me on the trip. I'm also thinking about going through all my notebooks from the Delicia days and creating a little recipe book for the holidays. I know I've said that before, but this time I'm serious. I feel like I need to get this stuff 'out there' now.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Vetyver Mitti & Marigold Soap

Something is different today. My perspective is somewhat altered -- off a bit. I watched a video that was both sad and deeply inspiring, but that was only part of why I'm feeling the way I do. I'm not sure where the rest is coming from -- perhaps it's another one of those shift-lock-change things. I am ready for change. And I am not afraid.

I made soap. Nice, beautiful, creamy, deliciously scented soap. One is a sweet, earthy aged vetyver and mitti oil with vanilla and patchouli and a big bouquet of marigold, and the other is spike lavender with kyphi oils (frankincense, myrrh, orris, santal, et al). Both smell amazing! I mixed things up this time and used sunflower and evoo and just a bit of coconut cream, not a lot, so the lather is fine and smooth and creamy. If I had more room, I'd bust out a couple more batches, but these have to dry and set up and get wrapped and put up in the stockroom before I can spread more out all over the place. Space here is an issue I still can't get used to.

I'm working on a couple of custom perfumes -- one based in sweet vetyver and the other a spicy floral. I used to not be able to work like this, with two 'fume projects going at once because I'd get confused, discombobulated, but not now. It's like one feeds off the other, striking inspiration. It's kind of weird for me.

Vetyver Mitti & Marigold Soap

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cold and A Cold

It's chilly this morning, first time in months it's been really, truly nippy. It didn't rain here, but it did pour in Fresno, soaking the parched earth for about 15 minutes before clearing up and blowing away. I got that news second-hand from friends over there.

I think I'm getting a cold. I can never tell anymore if my runny nose, watery eyes, and chest congestion are from an actual virus, or by the bug spray or flying pollen or dust whipped up by the wind. But this time, I'm thinking cold. The kid had a cold last week, just as I was beginning to feel well again after a summer-long lung problem. Figures. I'm getting on it, though, not letting it settle in and take over another hunk of my time. My nose is my tool, and I can't afford for my tool to be out of commission this long. So it's garlic and turmeric and menthol steams and whatever else I can use to keep things open. I think I'm going to make up a batch of fire cider because it's not yet winter and I'm already getting slugged by the bugs.


Scented herbal sugar scrub ~ jasmine, cocoa, vanilla, herbs, raw sugar, jojoba

I've begun blending sugar scrubs again after a years'-long hiatus. I don't know why I don't make them all the time, they're amazing and I use them when I've got them to use, and they work. The same oil blends that create younger looking soft skin are used in the sugar scrubs I make, and again, they work! I've been using an herb blend made fresh by Shannon at Wilwand Tea, Co., in Atascadero as the herbal portion of the scrub -- things like organic cocoa powder, organic fenugreek, kava kava, organic orange peel, organic rose petals, uva ursi, and wild cherry bark -- these things love us and our skin -- and then mixing all that with non-gmo raw sugar, a few drops of select aromatics (jasmine, cocoa, vanilla, ???), and a drizzle of organic jojoba. The scrubs coming this fall are going to be stellar. I prefer the scrubs over butters because there are fewer problems with melting and leaking with scrubs, and the scents can be just as astounding, and as moisturizing as compared to a butter. But that doesn't mean butters are off the menu this season ~ ha! Small jars might be available from time to time throughout the cooler months. So more sugar scrubs with fabulous herbal potion blends and great oil combinations are on the way.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ah-ha!


I finally figured out what's the matter with me -- why I feel woozy and unwell most of the time, why my sinuses have been acting up since July, why my possible bronchitis hung on for so long -- bug spray. Eco bug spray, to be specific, because, gosh, I don't want to poison my plants or pets. But this stuff. It's poisoning me. What is the safe threshold for clove and mint oils? How about a little menthol? How about whatever the hell else is in there that I don't know about? Because I have to leave the backdoor open for the puppy to piddle and poo, and there is no screen door, the flies have been nearly pouring in the small opening, hence the eco bug spray. I usually don't subscribe to such things as I'm pretty handy in the apothecary and can whip up a batch of peppermint spray to rid myself of the flies and whatnot that manage to squeeze in here and there, but other people in this house think my efforts are lame. The thing is, there are no fewer flies buzzing around now that they're air bombing the house with eco bug spray than there was when I was judiciously squirting a shot of homemade bug spray here and there. Victims of slick marketing, those people. I have no problem, however, shooting that stuff in the back strip to get rid of the hovering masses of flies that alight on a single scrap of puppy poo. The whole city is suffering from an abundance of flies this year, I'm thinking perhaps because of the drought. Everywhere you go where there's an outdoor trash receptacle, there's a black mass of buzzing flies. It's crazy. The upside is that the weather is set to cool soon and the flies will be a thing of the past -- and so will that ineffective eco spray.



So, yeah, that was my 'ah-ha' moment.

I'm out of olive oil and want to make soap, so perhaps on my way home from the costume store in San Luis Obispo this evening, I will stop and pick up a liter. There's a sweet bottle of sandalwood oil sitting here just screaming to be put into some soap.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Off Topic

This is way off topic for me here, but it's something that's been eating at me since I experienced it and I just want to let off some steam. I was having a conversation with someone yesterday about rape and rape culture and all that entails (too much for me to go into here) when the person I was talking to said, "Yeah, well, women aren't the only ones who are raped," with this look in his eye like, sure, he's experienced it and, yeah, it ain't all the guy's fault, y'know, we can be victims too. I felt a brief moment of empathy, and then I remembered a conversation we had two days earlier wherein this same person said to me, after I explained to him about a young man who had oral sex forced on him, "Bullshit. No man has ever had oral sex FORCED on him. Hahahahahahahaha!"

This, men, is exactly the problem.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kyphi ~ Of Spirit and Art

The other day I posted about Kyphi making and all its controversial parts. That post has received hundreds of hits. That can only mean one thing -- people are deeply interested in this artform, as they should be. I think when one embarks upon walking the Kyphi path (thank you, Dabney Rose), they learn things about themselves, about nature, and especially about their spiritual focus, and their capacity for spirituality in general. When we focus on what we're actually doing during the process of creating Kyphi, and that it's not about mixing together of various 'correct' resins and herbs with wine and honey and voila! It is about the truth of what Kyphi represents. As I mentioned in the last Kyphi post, the process of creating Kyphi, particularly based on the Edfu Temple formulation, is a process of resurrection. You become a humble and undeserving creator of something that represents all the wonder that the Universe has to teach -- you create life where there was none. Dramatic, yes, but this is the mind-set one must have when creating Kyphi. Must have, or you may as well be making cake from a box mix.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Facebook is a Mind Numbing, Soul Crushing, Dead End Activity

I've discovered a pattern in my life. Used to be, back before Facebook was an entity, and even before Yahoo Groups dominated the scene, the morning routine included a little light reading with the coffee -- some daily news in the form of paper -- you remember that stuff, right? Newspaper? Well, it was a mind numbing, soul crushing, and dead end activity too, unless you were looking for movie times or employment. But Facebook -- Facebook. I mean, what? What's it for? I started on Facebook as a way to promote my business, and because everyone was bailing from the groups to join FB. People realized that they couldn't sell their perfumes to other perfumers, and FB offered free advertising.  Everybody was doing it. Everybody was getting the word out there. Everybody was happy! Today, Facebook is no longer helping the small businesses that relied upon its free advertising venue. Today when I post on my business page, I'm lucky if two people see what I've posted in their feed. Two. I don't have a regular website. I use Etsy as my selling platform because, a) it works, and b) it's cost effective, and c) I despise web designing that sells itself as easy and ends up needing a computer programmer to help figure out. I have excellent stats pages at Etsy as well -- it keeps track of sales, trends, customers' point of origin. For a fact, less than 3% of my sales come from Facebook. Less. Than. 3%. Chew on that a while you consider I spend hours on Facebook writing and perusing and shoving my business up people's noses there -- this is the pattern I spoke of earlier. I get up, make tea, plop down in front of the computer, check emails, check book sales, check Etsy sales, check blogs (sometimes), then it's on to Facebook, the meat of the meat and potatoes routine here, wherein I spend a good deal of the remainder of the morning, and sometimes the afternoon, doing . . . what? Snooping. Get caught up in other people's business, people for whom I have only a passing acquaintance. I check on the complainers and what their complaint of the day entails, then I check on the never-seen-a-rainy-day people, perpetually optimistic, even when the shit hits the fan, and I wonder at those people. I wonder how they do it. I wonder how they face the day with so much enthusiasm and love and happiness and good heartedness -- I wonder at them with equal parts envy and concern for their mental stability. I wonder, and I get way off track. I was there to promote my business, right? How'd I end up reading about the bog mummies in England?

The memes are great though, aren't they?

Have you not noticed, though, how Facebook has joined so many people who might never have 'met', yet the connections seem much more superficial than those made in Yahoo Groups? There was a sort of intimacy in those groups. More sharing and caring and helping one another up, while Facebook just seems to be the place to brag on one's accomplishments and push people toward their newest, greatest product? I think I'm done with Facebook for a while. I'll check for messages, treat the forum like email, and all those posts as spam. If you need to get in touch, email me at thescenteddjin@yahoo.com. Simple enough.

I have work to do, and Facebook is like the Enquirer -- beyond belief but interesting enough to read page after ridiculous page, and I'm getting nothing done.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kyphi Perfume Formulation

The Kyphi perfume formulation I began working on in September is nearing the point at which it can be added to the menstruum, either jojoba, fractionated coconut, alcohol, or a balm base of beeswax and shea. The formulation possesses some unexpected characteristics. It's bright, for one. Bright and clean and deeply resinous with high lemony notes and warm honeyed tones, and the richness of dried fruit and low lying spices hover along the edges. Once the concentrate is formulated with the menstruum (whatever it is), it will continue to mature and evolve, just as whole botanical and honey based Kyphi does. The more well tended and mature Kyphi becomes, the better the scent profile.

A couple of years ago when the Kyphi Project began at the Natural Perfume Academy, I was hell bent on creating straight Kyphi; not Kyphi oil, not Kyphi perfume, but real (or as real as I could get it) Kyphi incense. A couple of the participants of the Kyphi Project did formulate oils and perfumes, and one in particular, one created by a graduated student, really sticks in my mind. It was intensely sweet, like honey, and had mad masculine tones to it -- like a lovely bay laurel soap with shadows of frankincense and the barest hint of rose. Much subtler than the formulation I'm working on, but no less intense and, if I do say so, beautiful.

At this stage in time, the ingredients in true Egyptian Kyphi is anyone's game. I have seen references online and in books about Kyphi that state copal was an ingredient. My understanding is (was) that copal is a New World resin, grown in parts of Mexico, as in black, golden, and white copal. But after some research, I found that 'copal' has been used as a term to simply mean incense, or resin. These references to copal being used in 'authentic Egyptian Kyphi' are mainly coming from sellers of incense who have, understandably, substituted a resin or ingredient in place of those which no one really knows the true identity. Like peker, and camel grass -- though camel grass today is identified as cymbopogon schoenanthus -- we don't have any way of knowing if this is the camel grass the Egyptians used. And cyperus grass -- if cyperus grass is correctly identified as the cyperus grass of today, I had that stuff growing out by my pond in Fresno! However -- you knew that was coming -- cyperus is a sedge, and there are over 600 species of sedges, which include cyperus grass, papyrus, umbrella sedges, and -- well, over 597 more. See? Narrowing down what goes into authentic Egyptian Kyphi isn't an easy process, as over 2000 years of speculation has proven.

Most folks out there making and selling Kyphi are selling the recipe from the Edfu Temple writings. This included raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, mastic, pine resin, sweet flag, aspalathos, camel grass, mint, cyperus (grass or...?), juniper berries, pine kernels (?), peker (?), and cinnamon. The problem here is with the cyperus grass, as previously discussed, peker, and aspalathos. According to the blog Root and Rock, aspalathos might have been misinterprested as 'asphalt', though later explains that it might be something like rooibos (red bush) as it is a member of the aspalathos plant group, peker is an unknown entity, and cyperus may be nutgrass, which not coincidentally is a member of the sedges I talked about here. So we're all kind of spiraling around the truth here. Now, I know referencing a blog isn't research per se, but it is a way for a researcher to discover who's done what thus far. Not everyone is a scientist.

Here are the common Kyphi recipes which are found online and in various books:

Papyrus Ebers ~ honey, frankincense, mastic, sweet flag, pine kernels, cyperus grass, came grass, inektun, cinnamon

Edfu Temple ~ raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, mastic, pine resin, sweet flat, aspalathos, camel grass, mint, cyperus, juniper berries, pine kernels, peker, cinnamon

Manetho ~ raisins, wine, honey, myrrh, resin, mastic, bitumen of Judea, cyperus, aspalathos, seseli, rush, lanathos, sweet flat, cardamom

Harris ~ raisins, wine, honey, mastic, pine resin, camel grass, mint, sweet flag, cinnamon

See the similarities?

Then there is Kupar, also Kyphi, of which there are three common recipes:

Syriac-Kupar ~ raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, spikenard, saffron, mastic, aspalathos, cinnamon, cassia

Rufus of Ephesus ~ raisins, wine, honey, 'burnt resin' (?), bdellium (guggal, false myrrh), sweet flag, camel grass, cyperus grass, saffron, spikenard, aspalathos, cardamom, cassia

Dioscorides ~ 'sun raisins', 'old wine', honey, myrrh, 'pure resin' (frankincense?), juniper berries, sweet flag, camel grass, aspalathos, cyperus grass

Some ingredients' lists are shorter than others, but they all resemble each other very closely. I've read (somewhere, can't find my notes) that there were Kyphi recipes that used upwards of 50 ingredients!

But, as important as the ingredients are, the process by which Kyphi is made is just as important. Kyphi making isn't a paint-by-numbers gig if you're doing it right. Sure, you can whip up a batch in a day with a good herb grinder and a lot of impatience for the process -- like waiting for the wine to soak into the herbs, boiling the honey and frankincense and pine resins, soaking the raisins sufficiently. You might even make a nice Kyphi.

The Edfu Temple recipe -- and remember, this was literally written in stone -- was made up of 16 ingredients, beginning to end, but not including your reverence. Those 16 ingredients represented the pieces of Osiris, who was murdered and chopped to bits by his brother, Set. The 12 days taken to create a traditional Egyptian Kyphi represent the 12 days Isis spent locating those pieces and putting her husband/brother back together. The making of Kyphi is a recreation of that process -- this is why the reverence is necessary! Through the creation and building of Kyphi, you are resurrecting a god.

Sources: Karl Vermillion, Ancient Egypt online, Root and Rock blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Egyptian Kyphi Doctoring

Added sandalwood powder and whole saffron to the mix. Smells divine.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Creating

Twenty or so years ago I took my first official writing class, a night class at the local high school taught by an esteemed artist and published poet, Don Parkey. He wrote beautiful poetry, and his art was stunning -- it was what he called dream art, and he'd literally wake in the middle of the night and begin to draw with pen and ink what he dreamed. The imagery was intricate, delicate, stunning and otherworldly. This clip below is the only one I've found of his work, but the artwork he shared with us in class was much more fine and dreamlike with lots of Asian influences (think flowing kimonos and flagrant peacocks in black and white, 3-D imagery, busy landscapes). Anyway, he was a different sort of person than what I'd been exposed to before, eccentric one might say, but oh, so very, very talented.



The first assignment we were given in class was to write a paper on why we wanted to write, what was our purpose being in the class, what did we hope to discover. I wrote, "I want to know if I can cut the mustard." Just that. He returned my assignment with a note attached that read, "It doesn't matter. And of course you can."  He later explained in class what it meant to be an 'artist', or creative, in my case, since my fingers were, and still are, in many different creative pies at once, as someone who simply did. They wrote. They painted. They drew. They threw clay. They cooked. They made something new out of different things (ideas, pigments, energy, dreams, etc.) that they could share with others because it was a compulsion, a calling, a niggling itch that wouldn't stop, despite whether or not it was deemed 'good' by the artist or by their critics.

The first story I ever wrote in that class was what some might deem a graphic novel. I hadn't put the artwork to the story when I turned it in for a grade, because, well, I can't draw, but it was all there, in my head, like a movie reel from the 1930's, black and white and stuttering away on the projector, and it was just stunning. Mr. Parkey made me read the story aloud in class. I'm not an aloud reader. I mumble, shuffle, turn shades of red, sweat, tend toward monotones, and this story was long. Thirty pages of single spaced type, 500 words per page, imperfect paragraphing (for which I was not adversely graded) about gangster spiders. Yes. Gangster spiders circa 1932. Big Daddy Long Legs had been found murdered by his lovely black widow wife, Evangeline. And so the story goes.

This was written on a word processing machine. Remember those? Not a typewriter, not a computer, but a machine that could crank out perfect page after perfect page once the return button was hit, and just as quickly as I could type, which back then was about 95 words a minute. I wrote that story in a weekend because I was inspired. The story just came to me and I too would wake up in the middle of the night, ideas bursting to get out, to finish the piece. It was epic. I did it with a houseful of kids, too, all wanting this or that or crying or needing a diaper change. I did it with an angry husband who demanded to know what had happened to the TV remote with the same level of emotional upset as was applied to real issues, like a huge medical bill, or a broken down car that there was no money to repair. I wrote in the midst of a madhouse.

The story was a big hit in class. The other students wanted to know when I would be writing more 'episodes', offering advice on how the story should go, asking me where I got my ideas. You'd think I'd be basking in the glow of their approval, but I wasn't. I was terrified. I was afraid because they now expected something of me. Now they, and more importantly, I, knew what I was capable of. I'd felt the agony and the sacrifice of living as a creative (writer), the shutting off, the shutting out, the long days and sleepless nights of having one foot in the world of domestic goddessness, and the other foot in the world of artistry. And I've been doing that ever since, though not to that degree. So what I'm saying is, if I can do it, with all the turmoil and bullshit that I live with on a day-to-day basis, so can anyone. And I think sometimes we are at our best when we are being tested by the Universe. When the car isn't running and the kids have gone wild and the husband is having a mental breakdown over burnt toast and the dog's torn its stitches and the cat needs neutering and the door's been torn off its hinge and the -- you get what I'm sayin'? If you've got the itch, scratch it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Egyptian Style Kyphi ~ The Trinity Batch

Weird title. All it means is that this post is about that Kyphi that was made during the workshop on August 30, 2014. The trinity represents the three people who worked the Kyphi (though technically there were four as one of the participants was pregnant).

My personal opinion is that group Kyphi following the Egyptian Style formulation I worked out is better than the Kyphi I've made alone, and even those that I've enhanced with essential oils. There is something about the multitude of hands and positive energy that make that Kyphi vibrate with scent and spiritual intensity.

The Kyphi is now 12 days old, and this is how it appears today:

If you look closely, you can pick out different materials -- a piece of orris root here, a wisp of rose petal there, the skin of a raisin.





As you can see, this is a rough grind batch. We simply did not have the time to spend on each raw material, getting them ground down to powder, so we did what we could in the time allotted. It looks a bit like pasture plunk. I assure you, it's wonderfully aromatic in a good way. Rich and sweet and resinous (think myrrh). It's got some really lovely characteristics. What you see rolled in a hunk up there is my third of the Kyphi, and it weighs in at 19 ounces, give or take a gram, so the full batch would come in at around three-and-a-half pounds. That's how I broke down the mother formulation from a recipe of either 10 times or 100 times less than what I figured out from the research I conducted into making Kyphi. So the original batches were either 35 pounds each, or 350 pounds each (right?) -- math is not my first language. The amount would be easier to determine if I knew how often Kyphi was made, or if it was a continuous process, one batch after another being created, then sitting and fermenting and ageing in rotation. More research is necessary here.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Friday, September 05, 2014

Lindenblossom

Today was an early day for me -- still kind'a is. I was sufficiently turned off of Facebook for the day ~ some days I get good vibes, some days it's a festival of depression, most of which I can do nothing about. Today was a festival.

I tried to 'fix' the soap problem I had, specifically rebatching the Drunken Lout & Nettles Soap, not by melting it down, but by chopping it up and cutting it back into a fresh batch of soap. But again, the soap seized on me, then it dawned on me -- and you'd think an experienced soaper would have a better grip on these things -- I was using a seizing essential oil, pimento berry, aka allspice. As soon as that pimento berry essential oil hit the soupy yet traced raw soap, it immediately heated and seized. So, long story short, I'm keeping this batch as the house soap. Again, it's a cosmetic issue.

Now I'm going to disappoint some of you, especially some of my long-time natural enthusiast clientele when I admit that I'm making a partially synthetically scented soap this season to fulfill a familial holiday request. The synthetic in question is a perfumery grade aromachemical that mimics the scent of freshly blooming lindenblossom. This lindenblossom synth smells exactly like (and probably is) the so-called natural lindenblossom that was circulating around about -- gosh, ten years ago?! At any rate, this stuff smells really nice. Subtle and not chemical-like at all. I won't be selling these soaps at the Etsy apothecary. Which reminds me, back 'in the day' when I was making 20 pound batches of soap daily, I made one with a sunflower fragrance oil that I couldn't keep on the shelf. The one and only non-naturally scented soap I actually put up in my shop and it sold like it was made of fulfilled dreams and unbroken promises. And I got many return requests. For a soap scented with a completely made up flower scent. Trust me. Go smell a sunflower and tell me what you get. Maybe sunshine and green grass, but nothing floral, and certainly nothing strong enough to scent soap with.

By the way, real lindenblossom smells nothing like the synth I'm using. Real lindenblossom smells dark and pruney, slightly juicy, with fruit notes (think prunes and figs). Not blossomy at all. Even diluted, it's kind of dark fruity, slightly rotty smelling. Not what you'd expect after actually smelling a live lindenblossom. There is a sweet honey note in real linden -- pink clouds and bees and dandelion fluff. Epic.





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