Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hand Rolled Incense on the Menu

I'm going to be all alone this coming weekend. Everyone has plans to be off somewhere and I don't, so the house is mine! I'm working on a new incense formulation with Hawaiian santal wood, a gorgeous Somali myrrh and Omani frankincense -- the good stuff -- and I'm toying with the idea of adding some of this honey powder I've been hoarding as a binder. I'm also debating whether to roll the incense paste into long sticks sans the bamboo, or roll it onto the bamboo. Decisions, decisions. And there's soap on the menu as well. That hops and artemisia formulation has been stewing for a few days and is almost ready to go in the pot. There's also the writing, which has suddenly taken on a life of its own. The chapters I've been putting off writing have awoken and are very nearly writing themselves! Most of the time I think of myself as an amateur in this 'fume gig, and I am, actually -- no formal training and nearly all avenues of education leading to closed doors, I've struggled to dig up as much as I can about perfumery on my own, and the most important bit -- how to go about getting a hands-on education. It hasn't been easy. Digression! What I'm trying to say is that as much as I think I don't know stuff about building perfumes, once I begin to plumb the old brain pan for useful information to impart, the floodgates open and all this stuff I'd forgotten about comes pouring out! It's all about the 'bird-by-bird' idea -- taking each process and breaking it down into its parts and explaining from step one to step two and so on, and really focusing on imparting that information in a useful and understandable way. In this book, I'm trying very hard to make building perfume something anyone can do with minimal gadgetry, because creating natural perfume -- using those lovely rare aromatics -- isn't about how many toys you have to make them. It's about the sheer beauty of the perfume created. Right? A magnetic stirrer has never 'stirred' my senses ~ ha! But a beautiful aged absolute of frankincense has sent me to other worlds. Just sayin'.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

On Writing and Creating Perfume

I'm back to writing again -- well, I never truly stopped. The flow might be more stilted and jolty these days, but the writing is still happening. I tend to get too wordy, too explanatory, perhaps even over explaining things, so I am forced to go in with the editor's blue pen and mark, mark, mark until all those ragged edges are smoothed down. It's a bit like creating perfume. Smoothing down the rough edges in a composition can be very much like writing a chapter on perfumery. And much like my perfumery style, my writing on the same subject tends to be bold and risky -- I have ideas about how one puts together a perfume that others have not yet begun to entertain. There is certainly a process, but the process only works if the perfumer can make it work.

To date, the new book is over 46,000 words. With two chapters remaining -- well, three, one is halfway done, while two are still just the bones of the story. I've put much of the focus on the ART of creating perfume rather than the BUSINESS of creating perfume, and I'm finding that I dream about it often and lightning bolts of inspiration and ah-ha moments are found in those murky, misty dreams. I have a notebook and pencil next to my bed for when I'm able to rouse myself to write them down, otherwise they're lost to the ether of my subconscious, or I find traces of them in my memory when I wake. Like this sunflower graph. I was thinking of all the ways I've graphed perfume on paper using circles within circles, and colors within colors, and once even tried building a musical composition using Piesse's odophone (disastrous), and because I was working on a sunflower accord, this happened. It made sense in the dream state. I can see room for improvement in the light of day, but since it is conceptual . . .?

I fret overmuch.

I would also like to share a RESOURCE with you perfumers and perfumery students. My son-in-law works for Acme Vial in Paso Robles, CA (to my absolute glee) and they sell -- what else? -- vials! All sorts of vials up to 4 drams (14.7 milliliters = roughly 1/2 ounce) to anyone who wishes to buy them. The 5/8ths shorties are here, as are the tall clear with rubber corks, and glass dropper bottles in wee dram sizes too. They offer amber, green, and cobalt bottles (and clear), AND perfume sampler vials in 1/6th, 5/16th, and 3/8th sizes.  As far as I know, they do not have a minimum order requirement.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Oh, No!

For the past day and a half we've been under the gloomy stare of some seriously wicked thunderheads -- the humidity is off the charts (90-100%) and the soap I was planning to wrap today, the Honied Ginger, is in a bit of trouble. I poured powdered honey over the top of the soap loaf before cutting, and now the bars are weeping honey because of the high humidity! I'm going to pop them into the dehydrator for a while, then quickly wrap them and store them before the humidity gets to them again.

Windows 10 and Lost Computer Stuff

A few days ago I downloaded the new Windows 10 onto my chugging old computer, since then I haven't been able to figure out how to upload pictures from my camera! It used to be practically automatic -- plug in camera cable, and then *ding!*, a sound prompt and a window would open asking me what to do next, and then I'm happily on my way to both uploading pictures and erasing them from the camera memory card in one fell swoop. Now I plug in my camera, the *ding!* sounds, though a bit more aggressive and deep-throated than the previous *ding!*, and then nothing. No prompt screen, no window, nada. I'm definitely not a computer person -- I bought my first computer to connect with the internet for research and for writing, and to set up shop, and still that's all I do -- beyond that it's all in Martian context for me. I'll figure it out eventually . . . until then, I'm using a very convoluted method of getting photos of my stuff onto this dread box!

I'm nearing the end of what I can do with soap. Not really. It just feels like that because the soap rush has slowed. I'm still deeply intrigued by this honey powder, and then there's that hops soap I'm going to be making. The granddaughter was 'helping' grammie with soap stamping and wrapping and we were discussing soap scent and I whipped out the bottle of hops and an accompanying bottle of artemisia afra for her to sniff, expecting the typical reaction of someone who smells hops -- scrunched up nose, watering eyes, and a loud shriek -- "yuck!" But none of that happened. Instead, she inhaled deeply through her wee nose with her eyes closed, then opened them quickly and said, "It smells like something a witch would wear!" So that's it then. The designated Halloween soap of the season is hops and artemisia, both on the upper end of the narcotizing spectrum, both very strong, potent, and deeply green smelling. This will be a dreaming soap. Something to help calm rattled nerves and allow the user to settle into the dark side of the seasons, all warm and cozy and relaxed.

Here's something -- when I talk to people about natural perfumery, people who never experienced natural perfumes or didn't know they existed before meeting me, they almost always ask how did you get into that? And my answer is always because of natural soap. Yes. If it weren't for a trip back in 1996 to a little ramshackle wood building on the edge of the Columbia State Park in Columbia, California, and a beautiful mossy green bar of natural rosemary soap, I might never have grown into the perfumer I am today. Working with the natural soap making materials for all those years allowed me a slow and naturally progressing education in aromatics. I've never, not for a moment, given a rat's patootie about aromatherapy, no disrespect toward all the great and fabulous aromatherapists out there, but I just didn't care about what oils were used for an ailment. My approach was completely hedonistic in nature. I just wanted to make stuff that smelled gorgeous, period. So when the natural perfume revolution happened in the late 90's, early 2000's, I was on that ride. And what a ride it was! The roads back then were bumpy and poorly paved, and there were 'bandits' at every turn waiting to knock someone off the cart. It was little scary, and a lot of fun. Then I got off the ride because -- well, because it was all a load of pucky. I began to walk the side paths, deeper and deeper into the woods, and found a place I love to be. Right here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

More Soap

Poppymint ~ extra virgin olive oil, organic virgin coconut oil, organic hemp seed oil, with organic poppy seeds and peppermint essential oil

Honied Ginger ~ extra virgin olive oil, organic virgin coconut oil, organic hemp seed oil, honey powder, ginger root essential oil, rosemary essential oil, and Egyptian basil essential oil

I've been toying with the idea of a narcotic-like soap, something to put a person to sleep that isn't lavender or chamomile -- so hops soap is on the list. If you've never smelled hops, let me cue you in -- it smells like the skunky nuance found in artisan beer . . . or pot. As in weed. Mary Jane. Ganja. So if you use it, do so just before bedtime and not before work or school . . . or a job interview. Aromatherapy books suggest people who are in the throes of a 'deep depression' abstain from using hops essential oil as it can intensify the depressive situation.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Soaps! Finally . . .

Soaps are finally up at The Scented Djinn Apothecary at Etsy ~ making more today, so I'd best get this post done so I can get into it.

This is Original Kyphi. This soap was made with the leftovers of unfermented Kyphi incense made on September 19, 2015 at the Kyphi workshop I hosted. Nothing else was added -- no essential oils, no absolutes, no scent boosters of any kind -- it's just this -- this wonderfully dark and fragrant Kyphi soap. It's really quite unique.

This is Sunflower, comprised of whole raw aromatics like tuberose floral wax and marigold concrete and vanilla and galbanum resin. It's sweet and rustic, like wind rustling through the late fall harvest of golden wheat. Very nice grounding fragrance.

Herbal Yin is made up of perfumery alchemy at its best -- it started as a plain old spike lavender soap, a little bit medicinal and somewhat boring, but then I threw in some myrtle and then a bit of palmarosa, and just for fun, I chopped in four whole vanilla pods and then added a dash of vanilla to the mix. It's turned into something pretty interesting -- balancing and super fragrant and just lovely.

This is Djinn Rising, also very fragrant; a firey scent with resins and woods, ginger and angelica, and a bit of choya loban providing the char. The 'flames' in this soap are made of turmeric powder, patchouli powder, and dragon's blood resin powder. Enchanting.

And finally -- for the time being -- Honey, a surprisingly intense and beautifully warm scent made up of myrrh resin powder (lots) and honey powder (lots) enhanced with vanilla and jasmine sambac, clary sage and spicy warm mace. It's just stunning. I have a bar in the shower right now and I can't even describe how wonderful it is to use -- super bubbly and soft, and the scent that lingers on the skin is incredible -- warm and floral and sweet.

Well, I'm off to make a few more batches. I've got the usual Poppymint soap on the roster, then after that? I'm not sure. Wherever my fancy takes me, I suppose. I'm toying with the idea of pink lotus, or something else with that honey powder, maybe a cinnamon and honey concoction, or a cocoa and honey mix. Ta ta!

Sunday, October 04, 2015


The past week has been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows -- as usual. My very best friend in the world went in for surgery, and thank heavens, came out the other side better than she went in. I knew something was going on before I received the news she was in the hospital -- I had this pit of anxiety in my gut that kept waking me up with her on my mind. The next day she texted to say she was sick. A lot of emotional energy goes into worry. To let off a bit of steam, I went to Cambria, CA, about 30 minutes from home, with one of my older son's who was here for a day trip. I'd forgotten how lovely and pleasant Cambria was. They're in the throes of their annual 'Scarecrow Festival' and every shop and corner in the wee little town had a scarecrow on display. I found a sweet shop there called 'Verde' which is based around tea and fairies, and found bags of honey powder for sale, so, of course, I bought three. Honey soap is on the agenda this cool, cloudy, and damp Sunday. The shop keep offered to mail more honey powder to me if I was ever in need, then asked if I was a local, which I guess I am, so I turned down her offer of sending powder by post -- Cambria's too fun to miss even if I'm only going for a bag of honey powder. And the beaches there are divine. Not your summer fun-in-the-sun California beach, but a windswept, salty sea spray fogging up your glasses, coastal pines bending low to the ground, and tremendously vicious surf and rip tides kind of divine. Very grounding kind of environment.


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