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

Perfection!




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