Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Soap and Chon and Jasmine and Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Waiting For the Coffee to Kick In

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

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

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

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

Here's to dreams and beautifully scented futures.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lavender Kyphi Supreme

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

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Honing the Dream

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lonely Work

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

The other messy bench

Friday, March 07, 2014

Kyphi Dough

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

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

Wet kyphi complete, prior to drying

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

Monday, March 03, 2014

Lavender Kyphi Supreme ~ The Fussing

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

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


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