Sunday, March 29, 2015

What a roller coaster few weeks it's been! Personal stuff, business stuff, other folks' stuff -- it's overwhelming, yet . . . the sanity remains because I've got incense. And aged sandalwood oil. And a big bottle of beautiful cane alcohol. And determination not to let the world get me down. Just finished up an enfleurage of pink jasmine and made it (the pommade) into a hair serum that included some nicely aged sweet, buttery, warm, creamy Sri Lankan sandalwood oil from the heartwood. It's incredible! I'm still working on the lilac enfleurage (ran out of lilac but should be restocking those in a few days). Lilac takes a long time, especially since I don't use deodorized coconut oil. I love the rich coconut-y-ness of unrefined organic coconut oil. There's also a bit of French grapeseed oil for the antioxidants, vitamin E in particular. I'm tempted to keep the entire batch for myself, but alas, bills must be paid and work enjoyed.

Finally -- after what now, a year? -- got through all the boxes in the garage from the move and found the last bits of raw materials that had been missing from the organ this whole time. One would think that being in a dusty garage in a box for a year would make it all turn bad, but this garage is fully insulated and stays pretty much the same temperature all year round -- about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides, it never really gets hot HOT here. Found a 50% dilution of Biolandes cypress bioabsolute -- stunning! Smells like fresh fig flesh and blonde tobacco. It's really quite special. I also found a well-aged bottle of frankincense absolute, an eight ounce unopened bottle of Indonesian vetyver oil -- grassy, green notes in this one -- and my wee bottle of blue lotus phytol (3 grams remain). Oh, and a tin with 18 grams of apple blossom concrete, extra rare, that, and probably not much floating about in the world. I might be convinced to sell off a few grams since I will never, ever use it (all).

I'm once again considering teaching classes in person (I know, I say this often) but I've gotten a bit of encouragement from a local shop keep who would like to host a few workshops. I just need to get my head back into the game and make a plan for the workshops. Something I can handle with all that I do, without getting overwhelmed and wearing myself out. As an introvert, a day out shopping in crowds is often enough to send me to the divan for the remainder of the day, so a day spent teaching people eager for information can put me to bed!

Friday, March 13, 2015


Based upon universal rules, I should have been out of this gig long ago. I started with zero spare dollars in my pocket, five unruly kids in the house, a stressful part-time job, and a partner who'd tuned way, way, way out (he had his reasons), which left me to either flounder in the raising of children, keeping house, and working a hatefully stressful part-time job, OR flounder in the raising of children, keeping house, working a super stressful part-time job, AND creating aromatic art. I chose the latter. And let me tell you, it wasn't easy. Fast forward 17 years to where I am now, no small children in the house except for the occasional babysitting job, a partner who at least grunts every now and then, and years and years of experience in the trenches, nearly all of which went completely uncompensated. Why would anyone keep going knowing that year after year they were throwing money in a hole that might never fill up? Me, obviously. Because I'm stubborn, obstinate, determined, and tenacious. Because while doing it, as long as I told myself it was an education, it justified the costs. Because if I stopped, I might have withered up and floated away having never encountered the joy inspired by a beautifully crafted artisan extract of hyacinth, or felt the glow of saffron in shea, or met some of the most amazing human begins I've ever known.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Natural Incense Sticks and Their Creation

Some time ago I bought up a bundle of naked organic bamboo incense sticks to create my very own self-igniting incense. Since that time, way back some time ago, I've made experimental batch after experimental batch of crap. Whoever said making incense from scratch was easy wasn't telling the truth. In fact, I'd say they were straight up lying, and possibly laughing at me behind their hands. I have figured out a few things, though, with all those garbage batches. Patience, for one. Humility, for another. I've also ferreted out what works and what doesn't and to what degrees they do or do not work. Dust works, grains do not. The problem with dust, however, is that I'm blowing it out of my nose after a mixing session. Grains don't quite make it up that far . . .

I'm working on a new rolling technique, one found on Youtube (of course). Once I get it down, I'll video the process and share it here -- or someplace. There's a new instant incense stick machine on the market that's taking over all the jobs of the ladies on the roofs who have been hand rolling each stick since incense stick making was born. (not the exact same ladies, obviously). This machine harkens an end of an era. And puts a lot of ladies out of work. As we've seen time and again, progress doesn't always mean something good. While this machine will put more money in the machine owner's pocket, it yanks it free of the ladies on the roofs' pockets, many of whom are supporting families with this work. And one can't help but wonder what kind of meditative vibe a machine made stick puts out into the universe.

In my incense stick making researching forays on the interweb, I discovered a few other disheartening truths. Not all is what it seems in the incense stick making world. One business in particular surprised me. They were being transparent about their process, which is a good thing, but to call something handmade or handcrafted and then only actually crafting part of the finished product seems a bit dishonest. Like when I made 'hand dipped incense sticks' back in the olden days of my scent life, I got raves for my incense because it was so extra smelly. I felt like a flippin' fraud, though, because I was buying pre-made incense punks, unscented, and soaking the punks in buckets of incense oil, some natural, some not so, as I found out later. I'd bundle them up into packs of 200, filled a small pail with scent oil (no DPG), and drop the punks head first into the bucket for an hour or three. Then the bundles were pulled from the bucket and spread over butcher's paper to dry. I made them, but only sort of. These kind of sticks are prevalent and they have their place, but not in my studio. Not anymore. There is an art to creating incense sticks, and all incense in general, that is utterly lost when we machinize the process, or cut corners, for mass production. You can't phone this stuff in. 

Snob rant over.

First shot at a paste that actually stuck to the stick



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