Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day as part of a business plan - Protecting Perfume at the Source



Jasmine sambac "Grand Duke of Tuscany" from my garden

As an artisan who grows much of her botanical aromatics, I made a conscious decision not to rely on the vagaries of the open market for many of my supplies. Of course, I have to buy concretes, absolutes and essential oils - but not that much anymore. I have a huge stash of stuff I've stocked over the years, all properly stored to preserve freshness. I am increasingly aware of the fragile nature of the supply chain, and I hope you, artisan natural perfumer, if you're reading this, are too. Heck, if I were a perfumer who used synths in my perfumes, I'd be quaking in my business boots. Even worse if I used bases from major supply houses. You're completely at their mercy.

That stranglehold on supply, as more and more smaller supply houses are gobbled up in the EU-fueled stranglehold on the supply of processed aromatics - combined with the weak US dollar, typhoons that destroy crops, adulteration, and the wariness someone must have when sourcing "organic", I've made a big increase in my efforts to "grow my own."

For years now, I've been making organic tinctures and infusions of fragrant flowers, leaves, citrus rinds and other plant parts from Anya's Garden.

Yes, my garden is a real place, not just a name for a company. I have been an organic gardener my entire life, and even wrote for Organic Gardening magazine back in the 90's. I've also studied and practiced herbalism for years, so when I got seriously into the perfume business it was second nature for me to harvest the plants in my garden.

I have tinctures of jasmine grandiflorum, six different kinds of jasmine sambac, thai lime leaves, michelia alba flowers and leaves, aglalia flowers, murraya paniculata and murraya koeniggi (orange flower scented, and curry leaf scented, respectively), himalayan savory (smells like the most delicious peppermint), oak leaves, roots and twigs, cardamom leaves, galangal root and leaves, pittosporum flowers, jasmine auriculatum, jasmine azoricum, dracena fragrans, night blooming jasmine, roses, tahitian gardenia, vietnamese gardenia, rosemary, clereodendron, brunfelsia lactea, true lavender, fragipanis, both peach scented and floral - that's just what I remember off the top of my head. They're all safe and secure in a cabinet, tucked in with soil tinctures, orris root tinctures, elemi resin tinctures, ginger root tinctures, mushrooms, various teas, coffees and scented spice seeds like clove, cardamom, nutmeg - you get the idea. All organic, all luscious, heady and homemade. And I have a liter of Lavender Seville and one of Atlas Cedar because I know I'll never be able to grow them here. They're irreplaceable, along with several other aromatics I have stockpiled.

I have a chunk of ambergris that'll last forever once I start tincturing it up - I already have a quart of aged ambergris tincture. Ancient castoreum tincture that was gifted to me joins the animal scents, including hyrax, goat hair and soon to be joined by sheep wool tincture.

This past week I added lots more with a big purchase from a nursery - osmanthus, ginger lily (flower), almond scented aloysia, chocolate scented cestrum diurnum, night blooming cactus and ylang ylang. More will be added this summer, including sweet alyssum and amyris.


White ginger lily - intoxicating scent

We're all about the artisan, about having our hands in the soil and then transforming the harvest into gorgeous tinctures and ultimately perfumes and now is the time to seriously try to augment and protect our business supplies by growing our own. If I lived up north, I'd be into tincturing lilacs, fir balsam, mock orange and the variety of plants that can be grown there.

I sleep better at night knowing I have a huge patchouli bush, seashells nearby for toasting and extracting, beeswax from friends and fragrant hay to grind and tincture.

Citrus - there's no substitute

Why not? I don't bury my head in the sand and bemoan when something skyrockets out of sight price-wise or gets wiped out by a monsoon - that's the nature of a botanical-based business.

I even have a theory of how to fight the FDA/Global Harmonization threat I've been writing about for 18 months that now has finally caught the attention of others in the handmade toiletries business, but that's for another blog. I'll be brainstorming this weekend with someone who heads a large trade group and we'll spider out from there, gathering forces to protect our Independence and our businesses.

Tropical languor and spiciness at it's best - golden Champaka

It's all about the Independence - it's the new rallying slogan for me and I hope it catches on with others - or we may find our supplies and our businesses ripped out from under us, and I just refuse to let that happen, creative, adaptable artisan that I fancy myself to be.

Osmanthus flowers - apricot, tea and leather scent

4 comments:

  1. I can't grow all of those things so what should I do?

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  2. Alwyn L'hoir7/06/2008 12:33 AM

    grow what you can and trade!

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  3. I have been doing this too.

    I too have been an organic gardener for years.
    I save the scent of my lilacs, lavender, herbs, roses... that I grow to use in my soaps, perfumes, potpourri, bath teas... .
    Some of them are dried, some are infused, and for some - I do a bunch of both.

    Yes, it is a freeing feeling and brings peace of mind knowing that I WILL have my botanicals without being price-gouged and I KNOW they are pure - no chemical fertilizers, bug sprays, or hexane here.
    What a good feeling that is - LOL

    Diana
    Diana's Vintage & Gift Shop
    in Hubbard, Ohio

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  4. Hi Anonymous:

    Anwyn has given you a good answer ;-) I'm going to blog more about this as I really seem to have tapped into an idea that is generating great interest

    Alwyn - we should talk trades, too.

    Diana - isn't it a great feeling? We have the true spirit of artisan (not entrepreneur or hard-nosed businessperson!) and it will serve us - and our customers well. Peace of mind -that's what it's all about, that, and creativity made real.

    ReplyDelete

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