Friday, November 28, 2008

Perfume is a Luxury that is a Necessity and Timing is Everything

The dreamy, sensual image above is the chosen graphic for one of my two new perfumes, MoonDance. It's one of the few images I've used that aren't either a collage piece of art that I created or a photograph I took. I just fell in love with it when I saw it, and it snapped me right out of the mindset I was in, with rather literal images of people dancing under a full moon.

I also believe that the image helps a person imagine the gossamer beauty of a perfume, wafting and swirling up off their skin, an item of delight - and don't we all need a little delight right now? As my friend Chris said "I refuse to participate in this recession." You might not be able to buy a new car, or you're worried about your job, but a recent article - or two or three - have pointed out that perfume and lipstick are two luxuries women refuse to give up when the economy tanks.

I've decided to push back the launch of MoonDance, and it's accompanying launch partner, StarFlower until after the New Year. True to the ladies loving luxury, I'm overbooked with custom perfumery work, and holding of on some consultation work because there just aren't enough hours in the day. Loving perfumery as I do, I refuse to skip corners or rush things along.

Here's a look at the photo for StarFlower perfume. It's a photo I took several years ago of the single-flowered tuberose I grow in my garden. It's so dreamy and hazy and yet so commanding looking in its solitary splendor. I may retweak the labels I'm using for this because I want to crop the image in closer. Tell me what you think about the images because for once I'm not waiting until the launch to reveal the images. I just wanted to share them with everyone. You can twitter or find me on Facebook - oh, and here on Facebook, too - a new group I added today. Oh, if you click on the image of the Vietnamese gardenia on my twitter page, it open in a page at its full size - glorious! I took that photo a few months ago and use it on each page of my (hush - not officially launched yet) new website. Its at the bottom of the menu on the new website, but I do love it in all it's white flower showiness as seen on twitter, don't you?

Of course, Vietnamese gardenia tincture is in StarFlower, and heck, I may change the image of StarFlower to that because it really is yummy, isn't it?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Herbal Perfumed Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving always is the day when I give thanks for living in the subtropics because the weather has cooled down from steam bath to cool and breezy. It's also the real beginning of our growing season. This year I regret not getting tomatoes or veggies in the ground yet because I've been so busy, but my herbs are always booming at this time of year and ready to go into the holiday dishes.

I harvested bay leaf, sweet marjoram, oregano, lemon balm and lemongrass today, and I just love the slight fragrance they leave on my fingers throughout the day. The meal is in various stages of preparation, and I'm feeling very relaxed, fulfilled and happy. What more could you ask for on a Thanksgiving day? I'm thankful for everything in my life, it's all wonderful and prosperous.

I'm especially thankful for natural perfumery, because the gorgeous botanical essences compliment a meal, and a gathering of people because of their understated scent - you won't have to "smell/taste" the perfume of the person next to you if they're wearing a natural perfume.

The connection of growing herbs and other scented plants is very much tied in with the philosophy and ethos of natural botanical perfume. My garden is an extension of my art, and there is a seamless connection between it all. Just the other day someone looked at me and said "I'll bet you never move from this house." I have plans to move to Austin Texas but between the housing market and my mother's increasing frailty, those plans have been put on hold. I always hope that I'll make the move, and part of my plan is that the house would have a huge solarium/passive heating greenhouse attached. It is becoming more apparent as the years pass that I truly crave and need to have fragrant plants growing around me all year long.

Something to really evaluate as I ponder the move.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What type of perfume blogger are you?

Actually, this test can analyze your blog personality, perfumer or not. I found this fun bit of time-wasting silliness floating around the 'net. Supposedly based on the Myers-Briggs Personality system (which has classified me as a Field Marshal in lengthy tests I took a few years ago.) Maybe I'm mellowing with age. Probably not, but truthfully I guess I have little patience for time wasting, although my silliness meter is often set pretty high. So I'm a "Doer" aka an ESTP. The image of a teenage dribbler for the Doer is pretty silly, actually, but I'm game. Get it - game? OK, so here's my profile:

The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

How to tie this in with perfumery? Well, I'm a firm believer that a perfumer must have a solid grounding in logic (thinking) and sensing which this graph describes as order, habit, details. That's how I create perfumes and how I teach it. You can't spell or write if you don't learn your "abc's", and if you start out by being a feeling or intuitive perfumer, you'll create mud. Every time. Or, say you hit upon a nice accord or series of accords you feel are "pretty" you'll repeat them time and time again. I've seen this time and time again. The artistic perfumer is a thinking, logical perfumer with a some intuition in the mix and some feeling for the process.

Just as with writing - your left hemisphere must be engaged or you'll write gibberish. I'll bet this test finds the majority of bloggers are mostly left hemisphere in their analysis and writings, otherwise well, you'd have gibberish, muddy blogs. It's like some who take a phrase I put out there - alpha brainwave mode for creation - and get it all wrong. The silly part of me kind of enjoys it when I see it repeated incorrectly. It's kind of like seeing somebody skim the cover of a book or magazine you write and they have the intent and content incorrect and pass it off as 'the word." Yes, that's just plain silly.

And the Field Marshal in me is saying "back to work, or at least thinking about work!" - LOL!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The demise of natural perfume ingredients from Grasse? Perhaps the rest of World should take up the slack.

I blogged a few days ago about the decline of the rose-de-mai farmland in Grasse and a French Perfumer, Isabelle Gelle commented on the Natural Perfumery group listing the reasons she perceived to be at fault, and offering her prediction as to the future of rose (and other natural aromatics) production. Reprinted here with permission:

To me, there are 2 main guilty ones:

1) the consumers who will not pay for pure rose products because as mentioned in the article 'rose is not rose' any longer - I actually browsed the latest website of Scents of Time in which I saw that the
great idea of reproducing various Scents of Time has been once again transformed into another 'chemical' venture, using the now widely spread HEADSPACE technique (which is still leading to reproducing
scents in a laboratory).

2) the European Union who by trying to place every citizen in a sterilised bubble and create a Federal Europe is slowly killing national identities and regional specialties. Note: link and photo from a previous anya's garden blog)

In the end of the day, the decision lies in the willpower of the people to preserve their heritage. Despite the pressure of EU, the French succeeded in making their 'Foie Gras (goose liver pate)' a national
heritage product which cannot be touched. Why don't the Grasse producers (who are all gathered under the Association of Producers in Grasse) fight for the same?

If Grasse producers were setting up a lobbying group to put pressure on the government to declare Grasse and its production fields, national heritage, they would win. I believe that if the rose producer is selling to real estate agents, it is because they get a good financial deal out of it: nothing less, nothing more... France has entered a recession 6 months ago so any buck from real estate developers is welcomed however sad it might be...

However sad it is, I am convinced that rose oil will still be produced in various countries (existing and future) and Grasse is slowly loosing its status of 'capital of perfumery'...

My 2 cents...


Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Fairchild perfume as a food flavoring? Two perfumistas surprise me!

This is a graphic collage I created for the launch of Fairchild,
the first perfume in the Anya's Garden line.

The image is meant to show the wild and exuberant nature of the perfume, where citrus and powerful tropical flowers mix with seaweed and clamshells - yes, toasted clamshells. The levels of drydown are many - some joke over a dozen according to their nose. It's such a strong perfume I can only wear it at night, because if I wear it during the day I become woozy, it's that narcotic and demands that much of your attention.

Imagine my surprise when I checked back into the comments section on Perfume Shrine today and saw that both Helg of PS and Maria of the BitterGrace blog are asking I create some food that contains Fairchild. The blog topic was cooking with animal essences, so I suppose the ambergris, dosed generously in Fairchild, was the jumping-off point for the request.

It did get me to thinking - perhaps a drop in vodka? A drop in some honey? It would certainly be intoxicating and exciting to eat or drink. On such stimulus, from friends whom I hold in high regard as connoisseurs of scent and food, will I move forward. Fairchild chocolate!?.

Cross Cultural Differences - Scent Memory and Continental/Cultural Perfume Learning Experiences

A student in my online perfumery course stopped me short during our live chat the other day: she had no scent memory connections with the aromatics in the study kit supplied with the course. She's from Nigeria, and rose, jasmine, lemon, etc. - many of the common scents we know and associate with people or places in our past have no reference point for her. I'm just guessing here, but I suppose they just aren't used in the home and environment as they are here. I'll have to ask if there are any lemon-based dishes or lemon-accented food in Nigeria. I have a book on perfumes made for regions of Africa based on the travels of several French perfumers. Perhaps that will assist me in helping her.

There are, of course, many aromatics produced for perfumery in Africa: rose geranium, jasmine and rose, frankincense, grapefruit, clove, vanilla, etc. Since we were in the middle of class, I didn't have time to question her in depth, but I did promise to look further into how to help her create scent memories now "in real time" so she could go forth with her studies.

Perhaps since I know she lives in the Carolinas now, I can suggest she sniff the diluted oakmoss absolute and then see if she has associations with the briny salt quality of it and the Carolina shore. Maybe she can visit a tobacco store and sniff the various tobaccos to get to know that scent and memorize it. Vanilla? Bake a cake? Squeeze oranges for juice? She'll have a lot of catching up to do, quickly, and I'll assist her via a phone call and encouragement to create those scent memories - now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Obama Natural Perfume project moves forward

Members of the Yahoo Natural Perfumery group are moving forward with the plans I wrote about earlier. We wish to create a series of perfumes in honor of the election of Barack Obama, unifying the perfumes under one theme yet to be decided. The project is less than a week old, and many ideas have been submitted on the NP group, but we felt to be able to sort through participating members ideas and lists, we needed to create a smaller group for the project. Above is the photo just uploaded to the new group's webpage, and below is the draft description:

This is a cooperative worldwide project of natural perfumers wishing to create a perfume honoring the spirit of unity and progressiveness we feel because of the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

We are going to create a list of natural aromatics that have relevance to the new President: oils from Africa, Indonesia, America and perhaps all the continents will be considered. We will refine the list and each perfumer will create a perfume from any they choose from that list.

Then the perfumes will be collected and sent to the President. We will decide on packaging, message and other details as this is a cooperative effort meant to show several things, including the beauty of natural perfumes, the O.N.E. factor - Obama's New Era - and all of the associated HOPE and CHANGE. Each perfumer will choose the name for their perfume and we will decide on a phrase - such as ONE, HOPE or CHANGE to use as our unifying title for the project.

There will be frequent updates as this project moves forward.

On the critically endangered list: Rose de Mai from Grasse, one of the most beloved perfume ingredients

Rosa centifolia harvested in Grasse, France

Natural perfumer Haley Alexander van Oosten visited the rose fields of Grasse, France for the harvest and reports on some sad, inevitable news in the Huffington Post. She reports that the general public is so used to the scent of fake rose that they choose it in a sniff comparison. The price difference, declining demand and land development pressures may soon make this lovely oil a thing of the past.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just got my review copy of Roja Dove's book "The Essence of Perfume

This is quite a beautiful book, lots of eye candy which links the mind to the scent candy. I'll be reviewing it soon, but all I can say for now is that I am very happy with it, just glancing through it, as it is a book I know I'll treasure for the photos. Shallow, yes, but eye candy is lovely, isn't it? ;-)

I'll post here when the review is up - it will be on Basenotes.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

So nice to see my works and methods copied, but please give me credit

When I discovered, a few years ago that Justine Crane, a very ambitious and gregarious perfumer, was happily taking ideas I posted in my Natural Perfumery group on Yahoo and posting them on her Yahoo group (as her own ideas), I contacted her and asked nicely that she credit me. Emails were exchanged, and in a telephone conversation she agreed, but nothing happened, so I let it slide - there are probably tens of thousands of words written by me over the years on the group, and if one person decides that the stuff is just too good to pass up, I decided I have to learn to live with it. In fact, I even sent her an early release of another Primer I did on the IFRA issue regarding regulation of aromatics to show there was no bad blood.

After all, isn't it just the idea that knowledge and ideas have to be shared?

Unless it's taken and passed off as one's own works with no credit. I wrote previously how Ruth Ruane violated copyright and posted my Primer contents on her blog (since removed.) Turns out Ruth, who has little or no perfumery experience, established a perfumery school and named herself director. Then named Justine teacher. Well, I'm sorry to report that Justine has now authored a Primer, and now posts a method that I, and only I, have previously shared. One part of the sharing was in the Yahoo group, the other in my Primer only. I'm the only perfumery teacher to use a specific method of scent evaluation and it's in Justine's latest blog, along with a specific secondary method. I know nobody else has taught this, and I know it was in the copyright-violated Primer, so it's easy to put two and two together.

They're offering a "free" perfumery course, but you have to purchase the Primer, and the kit, and other supplies from them. They're using the Moodle platform I trailblazed for perfumery, the year-long module/unit structure, and many other copycat elements.

I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I'm very flattered. However, not getting credit and having ones work passed off as someone else's is just, well, you fill in the words. In the perfumery world, there are copycat fragrance producers, so now I guess we have copycat teachers.

Anyone who is in my group or my class knows that I offer knowledge freely, and have done so for eight years (counting the perfumery group I had before Yahoo.) I love to teach, and I love to guide students on the perfumery path, but I have to admit - stealing my works stinks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Celebrating Obama's Election - the Natural Perfumery Group on Yahoo is Blending up a Celebratory Perfume - Naturally!

The photo that has graced the main page of the Yahoo Natural Perfumery Group for six years

The Natural Perfumery Group on Yahoo that I host has a fun project just beginning. Some of us were posting today about how elated we are about Obama's election, and we decided to do something to celebrate - create a perfume in honor of the new era his presidency will usher in. Not sure how many will participate, since we just started posting about it a few hours ago, but I'm sure it will be international in scope, since the members - almost 1700 of them at this time - come from countries all over the globe.

Evie - Selkie - posted a deliriously happy note about the election to the group that Adam picked up on, and I said something to the effect that this would be a wonderful extension of our artistic and emotional response to the election if we created a perfume. Here are the suggestions I threw out to get us started:

Why don't we turn this into a group project?
We could have worldwide participation here!

We could brainstorm on the aromatics that best represent the new era and the celebration.

Those who wish to participate could commit to a blending group to swap our mods.

That way we could see what everyone else is coming up with.

I think it would be a lot of fun!

I have a Perfume Brief form I use for my students I could upload when
we're ready.

You'd fill in the form, upload it back here so everyone could access it
at anytime, and start the swaps.

Participants could enter their names and addresses in a database phone book I'd set up here.

It could be an incredible, bonding, fragrant project!

First, we need a name for it - I just tossed out Obama New Era, but that is rather weak. I'd like to hear what others think, and we could vote on it, then work out the aromatics, and then get to creating a perfume in
honor of the new era.

Goodness, the communal hippie side of me is showing ;-) Let the blending and bonding and swapping begin!

Redesigning my Anya's Garden Perfumes Website

Anya's Garden Perfumes website due to relaunch with redesign in a few days.

The photo above was taken by me two years ago on the spur of the moment with the only flower I could find blooming in my garden that day. It's a clereodendron and it's fragrant, and it's just "right." Paul Kiler, the photographer, cleaned up the photo and brightened it, and I am thankful for his help and his skills (see photo below.) The photo will be the "splash" page for the new website. Click on the photos to see them full size.

You know how it is - artists always need to redesign, tweak, reevaluate and just plain fix everything. I was increasingly unhappy with my old website, despite lovely people telling me it was beautiful. It's still up there for now, but over time I have fiddled with the code and just found it blah.

My webguy didn't respond to my request (probably sick of the templates I had sent his way, they were too complicated) and I found I had to do it all myself. Taught myself a lot about coding in the past week, and by accident, hit upon an aesthetic that I love, absolutely love. Would would have thought I'd go towards pastels!? Not me, but pastels it is and I'm totally happy. To those that I've given sneak peeks, the response is as good as the response I got for the recently-redesigned Natural Perfumers Guild website, which I also did, from a template, with the webguy's help.

I guess I stuck to working with my old template because the complicated database and php stuff he put in there scared me - I was afraid if I got a new template I might not transfer it properly.

But....back to aesthetics, which, of course, is what perfume is all about. Whether considering the juice, the packaging, or the website, the aesthetics are Number 1. Packaging is a nightmare for perfumers, and I'm luck to have found my perfect boxes recently. Their discovery came together quickly, just like the new website. When it's right, everything flows, that's for sure.

Photo credit: Paul Kiler

I sent some bottles of perfume and boxes to Paul Kiler in California, and he's turned out a series of gorgeous photos. Amazingly, they fit the aesthetic of the website, even though they were taken before I stumbled upon the new design this weekend. I was going to have a white background - and after I ditched it for the new background - which you'll see when I launch the site - I was afraid Paul's photos wouldn't look right. One test page and I was happily proven wrong. It all came together. It's so beautiful. Sigh.

You'll have to wait to see it. I know you'll love it. I've never seen a website like it before. Simple, beautiful. Pastel. Still giggling over that - I'm such a jeweltone person!

Actually, I'm going to announce a different aesthetic for my upcoming perfumes - scent aesthetic, that is. I guess I'm just full of surprises lately. I'm even surprising myself!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Vetiver - soil microbes create the scent and create healing properties, too

Photo of soil microbe Rhizobium beneficially infecting the root of black eyed peas. The swollen nodules are the little "houses" the Rhizobium built by tunneling into the root. The Rhizobium supplies nitrogen to the plant, thus lessening the need for nitrogen fertilizer, cutting down on water pollution and costs.

I love looking at the cycle of nature and how it relates to perfumery. Taste and scent are closely related, soil health and plants are a given equation, and how the world of insects and microbes interact with all of the above is fascinating.

I have a background of study in agriculture, plant science and economic botany. I took courses in plant physiology, plant ecology, soil science and various other related subjects. It always is a wonder and a delight to read of yet another secret unlocked by plant scientists. The latest bit of information added to our knowledge database involves the symbiotic relationship between soil microbes and the roots of vetiver plants. Vetiver, prized in the cosmetic, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic and perfumery arts, is the only grass root used for its scent. Deep, earthy vetiver - you can smell the earth and water in it. Dry, grounding and containing fixative properties (it can help the drydown of a perfume in extending the life of the perfume), vetiver roots now show us how they evolved with another biological entity - a lively soil bacteria - to create its scent.

Not only is the scent made more complex and valuable because of the soil microbes, these microbes also add properties of antibacterial, antioxidant and insecticidal to the list of uses for vetiver oil. To quote the article: "microbiologists Pietro Alifano and Luigi Del Giudice, the plant biologist Massimo Maffei and their colleagues found that Vetiver root cells produce a few oil precursors, which are then metabolised by the root bacteria to build up the complexity of the Vetiver oil."

The ability to look at the cellular level of plants, their root zone and the soil was opened up to me at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the University of California, Riverside. Those schools housed fabulous plant and soil science departments, and I loved to soak all that knowledge in. I must admit I have forgotten a lot over the years, but some things really are memorable: soil science lab where we actually tasted soils. Yes, acid soil is sour, and alkaline soil is sweet. The scent of wet earth after a rain is mostly due to the expelled gas of soil microbes - I think - I do admit my memory is a little fuzzy there.

Soil is not just "dirt" under our feet. It is a world unto itself, teeming with microbes, insects and charged with gases like nitrogen and oxygen. It's a veritable other world under our feet, and we're still discovering its secrets every day.

Back in the late 70's, my ex-husband was a soil microbiologist working towards his PhD and I was his non-science-oriented helper. I still learned a lot about nitrogen-fixing bacteria increasing the yield of black-eyed peas, gas chromatographs and massspectromaters, the patience and precision needed in scientific studies, and most of all, the need to keep your eyes open to all possibilities in the biological world - there are always surprises and discoveries to me made.

This vetiver/microbe discovery is just joyful to me. I love this stuff. My mind races ahead, fantasizing about soil or ocean discoveries to be made in the future - maybe one will give us a replacement for the musk deer sac so prized, and now prohibited, in perfumery.

One amazing story remains with me from those studies so long ago, and reinforces the desire to experiment after closely observing the forces of nature: some scientist went to South America and noticed the forest-dwelling people applying mud to their cuts and scrapes. Aren't we taught to keep out cuts and scrapes as clean as possible? This schmutzing of a wound confounded the scientists, so they took samples of the soil and found the fungus Streptomyces present. It was the fungus that was antibacterial, and that lead to the development of actinomycin antibiotics, which have saved many lives.

Here are some older links from the website hosting the article cited here. They might be oldies but goodies, but they really interest me: how Turkish essential oils like rosemary and peppermint are better at defeating aphids on plants that other methods (my opinion: the oils don't have to be Turkish.) Or another article on how oregano oil may combat drug-resistant bacteria - funny - on one hand the bacteria help the plant, but the oils from a plant can be used against the microbes.

Just a fun musing on a lazy Sunday afternoon to share with y'all. Motto: don't underestimate dirt - or bugs. It's all a part of the cycle of life, and the air we breathe, the food we eat, the perfume we wear - it's all connected.