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


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!


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