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


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


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