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.




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