Thursday, August 28, 2014

No More Ugly Soap?

Who needs it, eh? I've decided not to use the ugly Drunken Lout & Nettles Soap as-is, and have chopped the bars into tiny little pieces to add to other batches of Drunken Lout & Nettles Soap, for a little extra punch. I watched those bars as the days rolled by and saw how they became less and less attractive, not that they were cute to begin with, and realized, ugh! Can't do it! I reiterate my initial pledge -- I will NEVER make hot process soap again. Now that that's out of the way, I must admit it's been a pretty stressful week for me. The changing seasons always bring with it joy and expectation and hope, but also hay fever and sinus goop and headaches. This time it brought bronchitis, though somewhere along the line I must have picked up a virus because it's my understanding that's how bronchitis begins. It must have been that day back in June when I noticed my throat felt a little scratchy and I chalked it up to all the traveling between home and the valley. I'm not contagious or anything, and when I was, by my best recollections, I wasn't even home. I left the virus in Fresno, along with the dust and heat and salt-sweat crystals in the eyebrows and vacant eyes and anger. The longer I'm away, the more I realize what a cesspool it is. Don't get me wrong, I love my home town, but compared to other places less wracked with poverty and homelessness and screwed up local government and the extreme haves and the extreme have nots, gangs and addicts and urban sprawl, loss of identity and loss of hope, it looks pretty darned bad. And I'm going back over there tonight, prepping for my Kyphi class on Saturday. I keep having dreams that I'm there and ready for the class to begin and realize I didn't bring any of the supplies! The equivalent of those junior high dreams where you go to school without pants or a shirt -- it's just jitters.

Just a bit of wailing here -- last month, or was it July? -- anyway, I got a semi-poor review of my book, Working the Bench. Basically, it's one of only two reviews, so no pressure guys, but if you bought my book, liked the CONTENT, please speak up! I could use a good word here and there. So, I got this poor review that basically said the formatting was bad and that would be a reason to return the book. I fixed the formatting issue (I think I wrote about this in an earlier post here), but since that review, my book sales have been poor. I've temporarily reduced the price on all the books I sell at Amazon trying to encourage potential readers to buy. The price goes back up in October, so if you're interested even a teeny bit, I fixed the problems, AND the books are cheaper! I've friended and liked a lot of authors on Facebook over the years, and one of their biggest complaints (from the self-published authors) is that once a bad review hits the stands, sales tank drastically. What people don't understand is that a review is just one person's opinion (even the good reviews), or in the case of something so specialized as soap making or perfume making, it could be someone intentionally setting up the writer to deliberately tank their sales -- like a competitor or a jealous colleague or just a nasty human being. Not only is what they write just an opinion (like those movie reviewers who consistently get it wrong), a lot of writers and authors rely on the sales of those self-published books to live. On the other hand, I've been tempted to leave poor ratings for some of the Nook books I've read from the ninety-nine cent bin . . . it's a conundrum. There have also been several times I've based a book purchase on good reviews only to find later, after reading the book, that it just wasn't my cup of tea, or it was plain bad. So it does go both ways.

The Kyphi perfume oil is coming along beautifully. All the players are present and accounted for -- there's frankincense, myrrh, orris, santal, galbanum, and a host of other Kyphi-like elements. I'm using a gorgeously deep and sexy smelling passionflower extract as the raisin/fruit element, and a little beeswax and cappings infusion for the honey. I do have a little honey absolute but it smells strange to me. Too good to be true strange, so I'm leaving it off and going a more natural route. I've also simultaneously begun one of the non-Kyphi perfumes, a patchouli and jasmine number that's so intense I've twice considered diluting it, but have resisted. This is what I want to be known for -- deeply rich and intense smelling perfume oils. Oh, and Kyphi. Soap. Soap too. And perfume. Regular alcohol-based perfume.

The Kyphi class I'm teaching is this Saturday, August 30th, from 1 to 3 PM. The address is Seasons of Spirit, 60 Academy, Sanger, CA 93657, phone number (559) 284-6213.

The Natural Perfume Academy is beginning its fall course September 22, where I teach perfumery. We're recently opened a payment option that includes a monthly payment for the entirety of the six-month intensive. In other words, you don't need to come up with the bulk of the course costs up front.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ugly Soap, Allergies, and Kyphi

Cranking out soap, that's what I'm about these days. I just want to make batch after batch, play with combinations of scent, and pour, or plop, something decadent and delicious and ridiculously rare and expensive into the pot. The decision to be less focused on strictly perfumery was a good one. I'm almost back to my old creative self, experimenting, messing with ratios, pushing the envelope. I'm not good at following rules, even my own, which is why I've been making errors in soap making. I decided, after very little self debate, to make a hot process batch of soap -- a shampoo bar, to be precise -- obviously having forgotten that making hot process requires more attention and less of the languid, meditative, laissez-faire attitude I usually work within. One must be in a mood for intensity, and lately I've not been. So I cranked out a lumpy, ugly soap. Not my best work. Smells good, though. And I'm still going to sell it, warts and all, because there was no mistake except that the bars are cosmetically challenged. No more experiments in hot process for me. The next shampoo bar will be smooth and lumpless.



I've offered custom perfume oils in jojoba on the Etsy shop and I've been getting bites! Not to sound unusually excited since I've been doing this for a few years, but hey, when I was offering customs in alcohol, I didn't get anywhere near this kind of attention, and it's kind of nice.

It's weird, I always feel like I've nothing to do creatively and then I look at my log and say, oh, yeah, I have that custom, and that order, and that formulation I'm working on, and that, and that, and that -- then I remember I am busy, I'm just overwhelmed with life stuff, as usual, and can't think straight. I'm considering a big white board with a calendar on it so I can write in all this stuff I'm working on, so the people here don't think my only reason for existence is to clean the litter box, feed the dog, wash laundry, scrub toilets, and fix something fabulous for dinner. Oh, and be at their beck and call when they need a car registered or a special part from the auto store, or some doohickey from the hardware store that ultimately ends up not getting used. Yeah, I have that kind of life.

At any rate, I've been struggling with allergies lately, more or less in my lungs and head than in my sinuses. Roaming back and forth between the blast furnace heat of the central valley to the cool climes of the central coast have ripped my poor respiratory system to shreds. Lots of irrigation and steam bathing has gone on. And I'm going back to the hot valley later this week to teach the Kyphi class at my friend Shannon's shop in Sanger - Season's of Spirit. I'm really looking forward to building this Kyphi with the class. I'm thinking about doubling my usual recipe to get even more out of it. The energy raised during these group Kyphi-making classes is astounding. The Kyphi always turns out so much more -- vibrant. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sensational Headline

Ignore the title, it's an inside joke between me, myself, and I.

Life is funny, isn't it? Just when you think you have it figured out, or you think you know what you're finally doing, something comes along and totally changes your perspective -- again. I'm not sure, but is this normal? I mean, is it supposed to feel like a roller coaster ride? Or is it supposed to be a cool, lazy swing in a hammock? I often wonder if it's just the crazy machinations of my mind and -- and, well, that there is no 'normal', and turmoil reigns, and stress is a given, and death lurks in the tiniest crack so that we can't see it until it seeps out and surprises us with a visit. I'm being morbid. Sorry. It's just been a lot of life happening lately.

I've been charging organic virgin coconut oil with the honeysuckle, which you know if you read this blog regularly, and I'm not really noticing any difference in the scent of the menstruum. I've charged the oil four times so far, once in a fit of experimentation I took an entire arm of live honeysuckle branch and wound it up into a spiral to place under the glass. I even wrapped the cut end of the branch with a wet paper towel so the buds at the end of the branch would live long enough to bloom. That's about the time I noticed the oil wasn't really picking up any scent. So now I'm back to cutting blooms and piling them up under the glass. I think this blooming season will last a while since the weather's been fairly mild. The lack of water might be an issue since there's really no way to water the honeysuckle bushes without lugging buckets from inside the house.

I've also been emptying more boxes from the move six months ago. Nearly all of the boxes are perfume-related materials, treasures. Going through everything slowly feels like a smoother assimilation process than trying to empty them all at once -- this new house lacks storage and willing bodies to help put things to rights, so that the terrain of the house changes from day to day, something moved from here to there, something else hung on the wall, tucked in a closet, shoved in a drawer, or displayed in the middle of the room. I've also found some things of my mother's that she'd given to me prior to her passing, things she wanted me to have or sell. There are antique knick-knacks, textiles, and a few dresses from the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's. It's pretty cool stuff, and if I had anywhere to keep them all, or I could wear them, I would.





Monday, August 18, 2014

Working on the Base Formulation for a Lovely Kyphi Perfume Oil and Body Balm

Fall is coming, I can feel it in my ... sinuses! I've been working on a Kyphi project, not a Kyphi incense, but a Kyphi perfume oil. I've been asked repeatedly to do this, and I just didn't give the requests much credence before. I am now because of the change in direction with the biz and all. Again, I reiterate, I'm not out of the smells business, just not the froo-froo bottles and accoutrements that go with high dollar alcohol-based natural perfumes. I've got this really cool idea to make bath bombs again and calling them Djinn Fizzies. Y'know, like a sloe gin fizz? Or maybe you don't know. Sloe gin was really popular back in the 40's and 50's, gin made with sloe berries tasted a little bit like cough syrup, which is why you cut that medicinal bit with some carbonation (the fizz). Back when I was a youngster hanging out with the older crowd, we'd hit up a steakhouse in the oldest part of Fresno where the owners would freely and without question serve me and my equally underage best friend cocktails. We got talked into sloe gin fizzes and the rest was history. Well, not really. That was the only time in my life I ever drank them, but the fun established through those drinks remains firmly branded in my old brain. To make a sloe gin fizz, you'll need two ounces of sloe gin (pretty red wine colored alcohol) poured over two or three ice cubes, one ounce lemon juice, one ounce of simple syrup (more sugar!), and top off the glass with soda water, the fresher the better. If you've a mind to be silly, make sure the glass is very sturdy, heavy bottomed, place your palm over the opening of the drink, then holding the glass with the other hand, bonk the bottom of the glass onto the counter (make sure that won't break either), so the bubbles erupt, then drink it all down in one shot. Anyway, now that you've had your alcohol lesson for the day, let me move onto what I was originally talking about -- Djinn Fizzies for the tub.


 I made a lot of bath bombs back when I ran Delicia, the skincare store in the Tower District. Lots. We had buckets of those babies -- Hot Buttered Hippie, Your Mama Wears Jasmine loaded with real jasmine grandiflorum absolute and sparkling green and pink glitter; Ylang-Ylang; Caramelita with shea butter, burnt sugar, and jasmine grandiflorum; Meditatio with frankincense, myrrh, pink grapefruit, santal, and bergamot; Evangeline with bergamot, lemongrass, ylang and geranium. There was also Antonia, Mocha, Padrino, Stella Negro, Stella Vermiglio, Aromatizzare (clove, frankincense, bergamot), Seaweed, Sophia (rose and vanilla) -- we were the bath bomb hub in our little corner of the world. The problem was the molds. We were using those Christmas ball molds, the ones where you put your own Christmas whatever inside and snap the two halves back together. They wore out quickly. Then we had a mold that made bath bombs the size of a newborn baby's head. No kidding. You could almost go bowling with those bath bombs. Then space became an issue again once the store front shut down, I didn't have anywhere to store the big bags of raw materials necessary to make the bath bombs, plus I kept getting requests for plain vanilla or plain chocolate and that got boring very quickly. I don't do plain well. Then I really got caught up in the perfumery biz and let all the other fabulous stuff I made go by the wayside. Well, it's coming back! I can't help myself. The scent formulations will be much more complex and perfumey than what I did before, but that's okay, right?

So soon on the menu will be Djinn Fizzies in varying scent combinations, and Kyphi Perfume Oils. I've been treating the Kyphi perfume oil formulation with the same reverence I do when I make incense. Each oil is given a day to meld and marry into the whole, I play soothing music, burn incense, have a 7-day candle burning, and repeat the process daily, adding one more oil to the formula. The current Kyphi Perfume Oil formulation I'm working on is based on a more traditional Egyptian style Kyphi recipe. Thus far it contains three different frankincense oils, two myrrh oils, and a vintage lemongrass oil. Next up is the cognac (wine element), then galangal, calamus, santal, mastic, and more. So far it smells very cathedral.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Yesterday

It was another one of 'those' days yesterday, a day of sadness and reflection, some regret, and ultimately, acceptance that it is what it is. I actually hate that. 'It is what it is' means giving in, something I don't do well. And this news came on the whipping tail of another tragedy, another friend lost, this one at his own hand. Last Tuesday a man I knew some 30 years ago took his life after years of addiction. I guess one might say it was inevitable, considering the track he'd found himself on. But that's not fair, really. He was brilliant in a non academic way. His Bull-Shit-O-Meter was set high -- or low, depending upon where the low tolerance level is on a Bull-Shit-O-Meter -- and he had a way of seeing clear through the lies one tells themselves into the soul of the problem and then stating them with a sink or swim attitude. Too bad he didn't see it in himself soon enough to do something about it -- or maybe he did and just didn't care anymore. The other tragic loss, the one from yesterday, was my friend (and I call her that because we had a connection, though we rarely spoke or saw one another) Sara Barillas (Phillips) of Kitchen Sink Collective aka Lobeliarama fame. Brilliant doesn't even begin to describe her intellect. And yet another with a Bull-Shit-O-Meter set at the lowest tolerance level. She was quick-minded and saw the world with such clarity. I envy people who don't let expectations cloud their judgements, and Sara was definitely one of those people. Plus, she was ethereal. I mean, it was difficult to believe, once you met her, that this diminutive, sweet-faced fairy doll of a woman could possess such a whip cord wit and intellect. The last time I met with her, we had lunch with our friends at a Pakistani buffet (which, as weird as it sounds, was actually pretty damned good), and even with the meds and the ever present exhaustion she experienced, I could still feel her curiosity-filled eyes taking it all in -- even caught her staring for a moment, figuring something out about me in my profile, I suppose, and then she smiled and looked away. There was a lot of love in that last meeting, and I felt, as I walked away from her house, that it would be the last time I'd see her, and I hated that feeling. I will miss her. So much.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Not So Idle Hands

Lest you think I've been sitting idly by as I watch my perfumery being sold off to the highest bidder (literally), I'll have you know that I have not -- been sitting idly by. I've done some distillation, and I've reconsidered my perfumery involvement and come up with some pretty good goods to sell at the apothecary. The next project will be oil perfumes based on the Kyphi formulations I've already made. I've been asked for years to create oil-based perfumes and I stubbornly rejected the idea. I'm not doing that anymore. Oil-based perfumery is still perfumery and can be as beautiful and classy as a mist of spray from a pretty little bottle of natural perfume.

Here's what's up:

Tuberose & Patchouli Body Mist 2.5 oz

Rose Geranium & Olive Leaf Hydrosol 2.5 oz



These are going up on The Scented Djinn's Etsy Apothecary right .... now!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Question for Ya

I've posted this on my Facebook business page, and on my private page, but have only generated a couple of answers (basically, it's one or the other), so I'll ask here, and feel free to elaborate ~ to those of you familiar with the central coast of California, which would you consider a better place to open an incense/perfumery/botanical shop, Pismo Beach, CA, or Cambria, CA?

Treasure

I've been doing a bit of bookwork and whatnot for a friend, and she paid me with this:


It's a Turkish brazier, used for burning coals to keep the home warm, like a primitive portable space heater. It is meant to go into the Thurifercorum when I set up shop and we'll be burning incense in it, as I've already done a time or three.






It's quite large, as evidenced by this nickel-sized coin I placed on the rim to indicate the, um, size.


I think it was once in pieces and someone had to put it back together, the handles and the finial on top, because one of the handles is upside down. I'm hoping the screw and nut haven't rusted so I can remove them and turn the handle right side up. It looks kind of old, but I haven't had much luck figuring out exactly how old, or what it's worth. I know what it's worth to me as a piece to use in my shop, but I don't know it's true value monetarily.

I've been going through more thoroughly all the boxes I have here full of perfumer's stuff, and I'm discovering things that I thought were gone (as is the norm with me). It's probably fairly apparent I don't do inventory well. I've made a decent bit of cash selling off my perfumer's treasures, but again, I've barely scraped the surface. The closer I get to the books, the more anxious I become. Getting rid of the books is going to be the hardest thing I will be doing, but it must be done in order to move on from this rut and to where I want to be. I can't help but think about the next time I move and how much lighter it will be. When this is over, the culling of the perfumer's wares, I'm going to take some time off to think about the future. I feel the last year has been like riding in a car with no steering, things just happen and the car careens along without my consent (images of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride). I understand, the Universe doesn't require my consent, but sometimes, just once, I'd like to have my hands on the wheel for a little while. And I want to write more. Some fiction. Some semi-fiction. I just finished up a booklet for Kyphi making primarily to hand out at the Kyphi class on August 30, but I've also put it up on Amazon for sale. It isn't much yet, but as I teach and gather more diverse materials and work with their spirits, and I have cleared space in my head (the cull), I will bulk up the booklet into a book with much more research work and theories and try to present something that's special, and perhaps necessary -- and information gleaned from seeing into the hearts of the students whose hands mold the Kyphi, because, as I've said time and again, making Kyphi moves a person's soul into a place they've never been before. A transcendence commences.

I'm looking forward to focusing more on what my heart wants to do, rather than what I've trained my brain to do. My creative skills are much more eclectic, and standing staunchly with alcohol-based perfumery has revealed itself to be a mistake. Yes. I said it. A mistake. I've learned a lot, taught a lot, tried to help people and move them forward, but all the while I was doing this, I was spinning my wheels. This is, perhaps, a character flaw that I have, that I will bend over backward, put myself out, and generally work for someone else's benefit while allowing my interests to falter.

Before I got side-tracked by perfumery, I had a booming skin care business. Some of you might remember that. I let all of it go by the wayside when I started working in perfumery because it's what I wanted to do at the time. I had found a new love and wanted to spend as much time with 'him' as I could. As the years progressed, I realized that what I loved most about perfumery was the raw materials. I loved evaluating, formulating accords, finding out if this would work with that, and then building upon it. When it came to production, I sucked. Still suck. My perfumes are good, they really are, I just suck at marketing, public image (as this post can attest), and consistency.

Right now, I feel like I've come full circle. I've learned what the perfume had to teach me, and while I may produce a perfume once a year, or once every two years, I won't be wracking my brain 24-7 trying to come up with formulations to please myself or anyone else.  I'm going to work with Kyphi, soap, simple oil-based perfumes, body oils, body butters, sugar scrubs -- basically the lovely skin care I used to make, only mo' bett'a because I've got a solid decade of perfume practice under my belt. This should be fun.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Less is More

The purge continues. I've got 27 items listed on my ebay, not all of which have sold, but thank heavens for ebay's automatic relist thingey or I'd be trudging through that rigamarole again and again. I've also got some vintage perfumer's raw materials listed on my Etsy page. Yet, with all that's posted, it's nothing, a drop, compared to what's stacked under the work bench, in the closet, and languishing still in boxes in the garage. I've made little headway through the morass that is my broken perfumer's studio. I've had a few inquiries about what I'm doing, am I quitting the perfume business and whatnot. The answer is no. No, I'm not quitting. I'm reorganizing. I did it back in 2006 and 2007 (and  I was soundly  blasted online for it) when I took off a year from my shop to work with a collective to better learn perfumery before going ahead full force. I've been in the scent business since the 80's, and I've been collecting scent-related materials, collectibles, raw materials, and supplies, since the 90's, so you can imagine the loads of stuff I have that I haven't touched or used in years. Years. That's a long time to drag things around from house to house, keeping them because 'some day'. The only part of this collection of perfume-related paraphernalia that I am loathe to part with are the books. Some of them are irreplaceable, and I'm a book hound anyway, books of any subject tickle me to no end. To me, a book is a treasure chest. While it's been freeing to rid myself of the knick knacks of a perfumer's life, there is some small part of me that thinks, well, what if this is the end? What if I purge too much and can no longer do the work I so love doing? Then I remember, I started from scratch before, I can do it again if I have to. Plus now there is this advantage I have of not having to re-learn all the stuff that took me over a decade to learn about perfumery. And I'm keeping the bones of the work intact -- all the lab equipment, with the exception of the new gently used glass distillation unit I just purchased, I'm keeping. Plus all the new bottles I purchased to sell the perfumes in, I'm keeping those as well. It's insane that I have three plastic bins filled with varying types of perfume bottles and vials and tins and containers. I don't need them! I don't use them. I just drag them hither and yon, creating a mess of excess wherever I go. I've had enough. Plus I could use the money, and the space, and the peace of mind to proceed with the next step in this journey. My losses are potentially your gains.

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