Sunday, August 31, 2008

Newbie member of Natural Perfumery group posts message #1000, wins rare aromatics

Natural Perfumery Group on Yahoo is very active, with over 1600 members, 15 new ones in the past week alone, and over 1000 messages this month!

Lucky Linda from Iowa introduced herself as a newbie member of the Yahoo group for Natural Perfumery that I've hosted for over six years. We always welcome newbies, and love to hear from them. Linda bemoaned the fact that she works in a florist shop where she is surrounded by scentless flowers! Breeding for looks and the ability to withstand shipping long distances has resulted in roses with no scent - how sad.

The group is very active, with a LOT of dialogue between members on subject as far-ranging as fixatives, sourcing, tincturing plants from their garden, etc. We've had a surge in posts in the past month or two, and I was watching as we approached the 1000th post for the month of August - and it was Linda's intro.

This week a sample of rare florals will be in the mail to her in Iowa for her good fortune in posting #1000. She'll receive rose, jasmine, osmanthus, boronia and pandanus.

Congratulations, Linda, and best wishes in your path in natural perfumery.

The image for this post is the one that has been on the front page of the group since Day One. I once held a poll on the group a few years ago to see if the members wanted it changed, and they voted no. It's so evocative - we'd choose flowers over gold and pearls. Yes, we would ;-)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My response to Ruth Ruane - quoting her and her past actions

My Primer for my online natural perfumery course is copyrighted.

Ruth Ruane aka White Witch is a former student and former member of the huge NP group I host who has been posting, without permission, and in violation of a copyright notice, excerpts of the original rough draft version of my Natural Perfumery Primer on her various blogs. I don't believe she will cease and desist this action, but perhaps what follows will give a clearer picture of the background on this issue. I have no publisher to back me on this, since I publish the Primer. Not she, or anyone else, has the legal or ethical right to post excerpts, except for small bits, with permission. She has stated her intent to post the entire Primer, over time. Ruth Ruane is, for the record, the only student who had a complaint. My online class for natural perfumery has dozens of great students enrolled, and I have testimonials to prove they find the coursework challenging, educational and that it is helping advance their careers in perfumery.

If there is just a single person complaining - Ruth Ruane aka whitewitchzita, and her posts contain libel and rancorous immature rants. Upon review of the following, you will be able to determine motivation. Ruth Ruane recently declared in an interview that she wants to be "the most famous natural perfumer in the world." Then she established an "academy" for perfumery. Very ambitious.

When Ruth Ruane quit the class, she filed numerous complaints against me. Only a week before quitting she was praising me publicly in the class and on the natural perfumery group. Her turnaround seems to be motivated by embarrassment at being put on moderation due to very inappropriate posts she was making to the class via group email, and bullying of the classmates, which they complained about.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) received two complaints from Ruane, the second submitted after her first was rejected. They then rewarded me with a B+ rating due to her harassment, which signals they found my business policies and practices to be "very good." Ironically, I had a "C" rating with them before, which is the average rating of a company they know nothing about. So actually, that worked well for me.

In late November, a few days after she quit, it became apparent that Ruth Ruane stole the NP group email list and spammed the 1600 members - it took months of apologies on my part to clean up her mess.

The following is a very long response I wrote when she complained to the Guild, the BBB, the Florida State attorneys' office, and the local Consumer Protection Agency. They all found her claims to be without merit, and advised me I should sue her for libel. I refuse to do so, as I realize Ruth has problems that, if you read her many blogs against me, are deep and in need of sympathy.

I have dozens of students, including a PhD, certified aromatherapists, several attorneys and none of them have complaints. Why? Well, that is the reason for this revealing post - Ruth Ruane had an agenda. Very sad, but true, and I only hope she can get help for her obsession and anger.

She has now established the "Natural Perfume Academy". A friend enrolled last year when she offered classes for free, and informed me that Ruth Ruane used the Moodle platform I pioneered for natural perfumery, she used my Primer, slightly rewritten, my evaluation forms, and many methods, such as dilution and organoleptic studies. She and another person who has often taken posts from the NP Yahoo group I host are now calling the Primer a Handbook.  Justine Crane is the instructor for this course, since Ruth Ruane does not make perfumes.  How can a director of a learning academy have no experience in the field?

I stand by my syllabus, my teaching methods and my award-winning perfumes. They are original and my product.

Update: I feel so uncomfortable having her language on my blog, I have removed the post. If anyone wishes to read the formal response I gave to the agencies and the Guild, please email me from here and I'll send it as an attachment. Thank you for understanding.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not perfume, just fun and had to share - Lulu the Lulupalooza kitty

I submitted this photo to the famous LOLCats site, I can has cheezburger, and it's in the queue, but I just wanted to share it with y'all in a rare non-perfumed post. Lulu is the apple of my eye, the most amazing sweet crazy kitty ever. She'll be four on Sept. 1st, and she still does the mountain goat act of leaping to the top of the door/bookcase/armoire.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Plants Hunters and Helpful Hands in Natural Perfumery

Gardenia flower

When I was in school studying Economic Botany, (scroll down) I reveled in tales of the Plant Hunters. These were adventurous botanists who traveled to remote regions looking for plants that would be useful to us. Many focused on medicinal plants, but I was obsessed with fragrant plants - of course! I never did become a Plant Hunter, and was a bit disheartened to learn that for the past decade or so, the Plant Hunters tend to be governed by the headspace machine, which although it captures the scent of the flower, results ultimately in a recreation of the scent with synthetic chemicals. Headspace proponents argue that by doing so, they are ultimately protecting the plant because there is no need to harvest it.

Well, I like my essences natural and I like them renewable, and I especially like the idea that there are still Plant Hunters like Trygve Harris of Enfleurage in New York and other entrepreneural souls who strive to establish new plantations and grassroots industries where folks can grow and distill natural aromatics.

I will expand the designation of Plant Hunter to include folks like Trygve and the many natural and botanical perfumers who are Scent Hunters. We tincture and infuse, distill and try our hand at enfleurage to coax the aromatic molecules out of sometimes common and more often, not-so-common plants and flowers with scent.

Trygve worked with some inventive people in Colombia to extract the scent of gardenia, tuberose and "chicle." Gardenia is the elusive Holy Grail of the perfumer's palette. Decades ago, the quest for gardenia absolute was upstaged by the ability of the chemist to produce a cheap substitute with synthetic chemicals. Some are starting to produce an absolute of Tahitian gardenia, but I have not received my sample of that yet. Tahitian gardenia is not the Holy Grail that Gardenia jasminoides (and related species) is, but it is tropical and sultry and we would be happy to have it as a substitute.

Back to Trygve and the Colombians. Using ingenuity, they fashioned an enfleurage-type process, and I am the happy recipient of the historic first batch of what Trygve is calling an "essential oil" of gardenia. Well, to me, it's a sort of hybrid between enfleurage and distillation, emphasis on enfleurage. I received the gardenia, tuberose and "chicle" and some gardenia "butter" (all described on Trygve's blog) today, and they are all lovely.

They are faint in scent, not as strong as an absolute, and Trygve explained this to me before I purchased them. I said that's OK, I want them for the historic factor :-) She will be returning to Colombia to work with them on perfecting the extraction process so as to produce a stronger scent. I know it can be done, and I applaud their efforts.

The gardenia is delightful, sweet, a bit indolic, fruity, lactonic and reminiscent of many tropical flowers. It doesn't scream "gardenia" but we all know how the extracts of aromatics are rarely true to the original, fresh flower.

The gardenia butter is much stronger, yummy, and longlasting. It's a bit "greener" than the oil.

The tuberose is also faint, but lovely and recalls a drift of tuberose flower, as if wafting on the breeze.

The chicle confused me. As a botanist specializing in tropical and subtropical plants, I know the chicle tree as a sort of rubber tree. The bark is scored and the latex that oozes out is collected and made into Chiclet gum (not nowadays, though, they use synthetic gums.) I had no experience with the flowers being fragrant. I called Enfleurage today and an employee read me off the botanical name, and I started to laugh.

This is why it's so important to know the botanical name of the plant - the flower called "chicle" in Colombia is the flower of the Clerodendrum fragrans - a Glory Bower, and a weed in my front yard! It's also called Cashmere Bouquet flower because it smells like that powder and soap. I have over a quart of the strong extract of the flowers. Heady stuff!

Clereodendrum fragrans from my front yard

I was told that they're going to focus on the gardenia for the future, and that is wonderful - I just can't wait for future harvests and extractions.

Others who are also helping in the effort to bring a remunerative industry to another country are the folks from Haiti who traveled to Rwanda and set up a patchouli plantation and distillation factory. I blogged about them before, linking to a You Tube series of videos on the effort. I am having lunch next week with one of the principals in the company because as luck would have it, she lives in Miami. They have a vetiver distillation factory in Haiti, and are interested in beginning work with other aromatics. These are exciting times!

Arghand, in Afghanistan, is a member of the Natural Perfumers Guild, and Guild member Butch Owen of AV-AT, who has decades of experience in nearby regions, and over a decade experience with rose distillation, will be traveling, visa and insurance willing, to Afghanistan to meet with Sarah Chayes in the Fall to see about setting up rose fields and distillation units there on a larger scale.

It's a new breed of Plant Hunters, entrepreneurs with a natural soul, and I'm glad to be a part of their circle of scent.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Anya's Garden of Natural Perfume Launches First-Ever Handmade Recycled Paper Perfume Boxes Embedded With Wildflower Seeds - Flowers for You!

Anya's Garden Packages with Handmade Boxes Created from Sustainable Nepalese "Daphne" Plant and Recycled USA Fibers mixed with USA Wildflower Seeds

*plant and grow a wildflower garden with the box!*

~~~ 15% off everything in Anya's Garden to Celebrate -
click here for the sale ~~~ enter the word garden for the discount ~~~

photo of Fairchild box taken in Anya's Garden Aug. 14, 2008, nestled in the branches of a flowering Aglaia odorata tree

As a natural perfumer, I searched for years for an ecological, sustainable way to package my fragrances. I wanted to source boxes here in the US to keep the carbon footprint as small as possible, and I wanted the fiber for the boxes to be from a sustainable, renewable source. The fiber source is not from the USA, but I am very happy that the harvest supports wildcrafters in Nepal. The Lokta plant is a relative of the Daphne bush, and it's bark must be harvested to insure the plant survives. No fertilizers or sprays are used on these wild-growing bushes.

The Lokta is mixed with recycled paper from here in the USA at 50%, and wildflower seeds are blended in and then handmade into boxes. I love the soft, fibrous nature of the paper, which you can see if you click on the image for an enlarged view. The paper box is acid-free and simple to turn into a wildflower mini-garden: just flatten it, put it in a pot or in the ground, cover with 1/2" of soil and water. Sun or partial sun for a good part of the day is necessary. Don't have much sun in your apartment? Give the box to a friend - or even better, a child - and let them grow the wildflowers.

Both the 3.5ml mini perfumes and the 15ml spray Eau de Parfums will be packaged in these "ecologically-green" boxes. Inside, stiff art paper made from recycled paper will nestle the bottles. The labels are printed on recycled paper.

In the future I intend to have boxes custom made with basil, sweet alyssum seeds or a blend of my own design. This is very exciting, and I feel that the brand is complete - a true green garden theme and product - everything, as much as possible, "from the garden."

To celebrate Anya's Garden launching the first-ever recycled, plantable wildflower boxes for perfume bottles, there is a 15% discount offered through the end of August. Just visit the perfume boutique at Anya's Garden and when checking out with your purchase, enter the word garden as the voucher code.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Perfumer's life can get so busy - with so much great stuff going on!

A perfumer can sometimes dream - or daydream - of little dots/drops - and the dance of the aromatic molecules. Sometimes, if you're lucky, those drops coalesce into a perfume - a cornucopia of rewards of scent, time and place. They can be imagined as people moving together like the fractal cornucopia, all a different color with a unique beauty, all synchronized to help form a beautiful image.

First off - to catch up: I haven't blogged for a few weeks because I've been so busy and caught up in great things. First, I got the perfect boxes and packaging for my perfumes. Finally. It's only been two years, lol. The company will make custom boxes for me in the future, but the regular ones are wonderful in the time being. I'll launch them in the next day or two. One of my webmasters (I have two!) turned out to be a graphic artist of sorts and got my labels fixed. Yay!

Then the new Guild site launched last Friday 8.8.08, and the feedback is fantastic! The Guild members are all fired up (more about that, below) and the response from them and the general public is very lovely to receive. Don't miss the Galleries - you can jump on from the Member's List page or here - because I think eventually the entire Members List will be in the form of galleries.

I also offered an apology to someone who was "done wrong" by the plotting of someone else, unearthed after a year. Hopefully, the recipient will know the apology was from the heart and be able to move beyond the incident. I will always own up to a mistake, it's in my nature, and this was very, very important. I will also keep my eyes wide open in the future to avoid such Machiavellian shenanigans! I felt very humble and also very good reaching out to this person, so I hope it all works out well in the end.

I have been remiss in getting out updates on my online natural perfumery course, and/or advertising it. I'll post more about it in the next week - very exciting because we'll have the first mother/daughter team enrolled for the Fall 2008 course! I think that's it's enchanting that they'll be learning together.

So, on Monday I thought I'd perhaps have a breather or two - but oh, no, I went and casually posted in the private Yahoo group for the Guild members that several had suggested Guild logos on hats and t-shirts. I've looked into having scent strip holders made, but I don't like any of the stuff I've sourced. Well, the email got an avalanche of posts in the Guild group, which is normally pretty quiet. I think there were 90 posts in three days. Here's what I cross-posted to them and the big natural perfumery group I host on Yahoo (almost 1600 members in this very, very active group!)
Well, the private Yahoo group for Guild members has exploded with
chatter - did they catch the talk virus from here? ;-) I think it's just
something bubbling under the surface of connections, critical mass in
ideas and just a general good feeling about what's going on in our
world. (Maybe the launch of the new Guild website helped and the other galleries are
particularly fetching, IMO)

Anyway, I casually mentioned the other day that several folks had asked
me about Guild merchandise - cups, hats, t-shirts, etc. Whoa! A torrent
of ideas, opinions (what types of shirts for men and women, who wants
baseball caps, who hates them, etc.) came forth. I'm trying to sort
through it all and set up an online shop. Several Guild members
generously stepped up to volunteer to help me since I wrote (insert
plaintive wail here,lol) "So when do I find time to clone myself to do
all this? ;-)"

So it looks like Guild Goodies (I'm thinking of calling the shop that)
will launch this Fall - After I finish the new packaging for my
perfumes, finish four perfumes, finalize all the details for the Fall
2008 online perfumer course I teach, etc. I put Beth off in the filming
project until late Fall, and now I have to figure how to juggle all this!

Claire found a great French fabrication company for ceramic and other
fine art goodies. Looks like the Guild is taking off due to the interest
and excitement of the members, and I'll play catchup asap - just
laughing because I thought a hat or t-shirt would satisfy them. Oh,
here's one wish list:

ties, scarves, hats w/ different styles ~even baseball
styles~ you never know (I'd love one!) mugs, stamps, address labels, tees of a
variety of styles, and with the upcoming months sweatshirts. I'll add notepads. Scent strip holders a given.

Oh, Adam had specs on the ties - silk, of course, a certain width, and others demanded tunic-length t-shirts. Mercy. ;-) I think he wanted fedoras, the women pushing for big brimmed sun-protection hats.

I think there's more, but with 90 posts in a few days, I need to reread some of the suggestions. Whew!

I'm just in awe of how the community has grown. We've had some brickbats tossed at us, some folks have tried to steal our membership, others predicted that NP was just a fad. They are so wrong - we're growing and more dynamic with each passing day. Now, where's that cloning laboratory? ;-)