Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, August 28, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

The Internet is very quiet this morning. Hurricane Irene is impacting tens of millions of people in the mid-Atlantic to NE USA.  I'm watching the minute-by-minute coverage on TV and feeling the stress of those in the path of the hurricane.  Here in Florida, we have PTSD two ways: pre-traumatic stress disorder (the wait for the storm to hit) and post-traumatic stress disorder, which is the emotional hangover.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the folks up north.  If we can find some fragrant levity today to alleviate the mood, let's go for it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boxgasm - for perfumers, aromatherapists, bath and body manufacturers, chandlers. What the heck is a boxgasm? Well, read below and you may have one.

Project Boxgasm Announcement: If you are an artisan who makes perfume, bath & body products, aromatherapy products, candles - you can now make your own custom boxes!

The Natural Perfumers Guild wishes to share this discovery with everyone, so please share the link to this blog with other groups, forums and chat places you may frequent.  The more the merrier - let's upgrade our products to the next level, with lovely, custom boxes!  I am the President of the Guild, and I like to roam social media sites and check out, and "like" the various projects and announcements of the Guild members.  Little did I dream when I visited a Facebook page of one of our members, a page that only had 21 followers, since it's new, that I'd discover something that can help all artisan small business owners. But there it was, an iconic image out of South Africa - custom perfume boxes!

When I called some members of the Natural Perfumers Guild and told them about the discovery that they could now start making their own boxes for their products, they either screamed, moaned, said "wow wow wow" or "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god."  I mentioned this to the fourth member, as she started moaning - I said everybody seems orgasmic, this is so exciting and fulfilling for y'all".  She said "well, we're all having boxgasms!" Credit this sassy term to Lisa Coburn, who gave this creative, catchy name to the phenomena. To date, Aug. 23, only Elise Pearlstine,(click here for Elise's blog on the boxes)  Emily Pienaar (click here for her blog on the boxes) and myself are ready to blog about this.  I expect several other Guild members to join in the next week or month. We just wanted to get this out to the general artisan community asap.

If you're not an artisan in the fields mentioned above, you might wonder what all this is about. Practically every member of the artisan bath and body community I've spoken with over the years has told me they have spent hundreds of futile hours searching the Internet and trade shows for boxes for their products.  There are some box makers to the trade, but their minimums run from 1,250 up, and that's just ridiculous for our small businesses. Lisa in LA and Noelle in Toronto had just been to trade shows the week before I called and didn't find one suitable box. Not one. Many B&B and perfume folks just use jewelry boxes, pouches or pillow boxes. Oh, and let's not forget the organza, satin and other little bags.

You want to get your products into a store? Great boxes will help you get in. Boxes also protect perfume from light, which can degrade the perfume.  We needed boxes desperately - and now we can have them.

So here's the story, and it's a great one....including lots of details on the process, links and ideas.

Emily Pienaar of Rose en Bos Fine Fragrance

On July 30th, Guild Professional Perfumer Emily Pienaar, of Rose en Bos Fine Fragrance, The Western Cape Perfumery in South Africa, posted on Facebook  that she had her new bottle and box photos up. I knew Emily had taken advantage of the Guild bottle buy in April, so I went over to her page to look. She had stunning black boxes with red foiling. Now, I knew she had only purchased maybe 100 bottles, so I wondered how she got custom boxes, and I wrote her.  Imagine my shock when she wrote back "my mum made them on a little machine." What?!

 I wrote back for details, saying we don't have anything like that here, what is it?  She wrote back "I grew up thinking you had everything in America!" It was a scrapbooking die cutter called a Cricut - and it's made in the USA!  I had seen them on TV, and knew they cut paper, but never put it together.  It seems 99% of the artisans I know hadn't, either, or they would have been using it and I would have noticed more custom boxes.  I have no connections in the scrapbooking world, so I had no idea about all this. Wow, so easy,   so accessible!

Her mom Ros said she used a software program that was not allowed for use with Cricuts in the USA because of a lawsuit, so she sent me to the webpage for Make-the-Cut software to see what machines were sold in the USA and could use the software.  I spent days researching the different machines, and settled on an eCutter, made by Craftwell  in purpleberry.  They have a lovely choice of colors.  They also have great videos of the machine on the website.

eCraft Purpleberry die cut machine

Ros kindly shared her .svg (Scalable Vector Graphic aka SVG in the scrapbooking world) file for Emily's boxes with me, Elise, Lisa, Noelle, Kat, Stephanie and Chris so we could get an idea of what a box layout looks like. I've included how to measure a box and how to use a ruler (helps on the weird increments I had forgotten how to measure) below.

Click to enlarge

How to measure for the SVG template to die-cut your boxes

Note: Box dimensions are always inside dimensions and must be stated in the sequence of length, width and depth.

The length is always the larger of the two dimensions of the open face (flap opening); the width is the smaller. The depth is always the distance perpendicular to the length and width, and is measured from the inside of the box.

I needed this, since I was out-of-practice using a ruler. Click to enlarge.
The above were images from a box website, and it's for regular cartons.  Note the difference between those boxes and a perfume bottle template, such as Ros/Emily's. 
The eCutter was $400, and I wanted to spend $300, tops, so went to a discount site, and found it for $249, and was ready to buy, but decided to check it out a little more on scrapbooking forums before I bought. It got great reviews, and, on a blog linked to scrapbooking forums, I found a link to Cutters Creek, a small business in Maryland, who also had them for $249, with free drop shipping from the manufacturer. Plus, since she's a small business owner, I was able to get the owner, Kim, on the phone to answer my final questions about the machine. Always support a small business owner!

The eCutter from Craftwell will cut tissue paper, paper, cardstock vinyl, chipboard and fabric. It cuts materials up to a 1/4" thick. It can cut and draw at the same time. Make sure if you check out other machines that they have that ability, if you want that feature.  It's the new geneation of digital electronic cutters which have freed scrapbookers from having to use a stickymat and handcut their project paper - and it's a boon to us artisan product manufacturers! Turns out with the Craftwell machine I don't have to buy the Makes The Cut (MTC) software, since my machine has software built in.  It connects to my computer, or can work alone.

I had to go to Michael's hobby store to get some supplies in before the machine arrived. I found a "scoring board" (see below) which I will use until I get my graphic artist to figure out how to use the draw feature for automatic scoring, some paper and odds and ends for my research and development (R&D) phase. The standard paper for cutting machines is 12" x 12" (figure in a 1/2" border). I found the paper at Michael's ok for the prototypes, but I'll probably want heavier cardstock paper for my final boxes for my fine fragrances. The Craftwell machine has an adaptor that will allow you to load a roll of 12" wide paper on it, but I don't think that will work with heavier paper.  I could only do so much R&D in the time period allotted - I wanted to get all this out asap so y'all can start experimenting.

The machine arrived. I was soooo excited, and wondered if I could get it working right out of the box. I could! I was happy using the on-board software to cut out some simple forms, like hearts and stars. I was still waiting on my .svg software box design files and Elise to come over before we could really get into box-making.

My first cuts - easy!

Using Emily and Ros's SVG template, set at a smaller scale than the original, we had quick success!
You have to have your bottle measured, have a graphic artist draw the box design up on Adobe Illustrator (AI) and then save it for you as a SVG file. When it arrived from Stephanie, my webmistress, and Tim, Elise's stepson, we got to work.  We figured it was good to have two artists working on it, because it's the R&D phase, and there's bound to be a switchoff from one to the other in how they approached and executed the designs.

The Process

We had to practice feeding the paper into the machine, and determined the auto feed from the back tray was the best, not feeding it manually from the front. Lisa Coburn asked how I dealt with the fact that the paper measurement guide (a plastic piece that fit inside the feeder tray) kept trying to feed itself into the machine, causing a real racket.  Well, Elise and I never used it!

We had a lot of success with the cutting and were delighted with all the colors and sense of accomplishment.  So much fun for an R&D template project ;-)
Since we don't have the score lines programmed in yet, we had to manually press in the score lines with this scoring tray.  The white stick is called a bone folder, and you use the point to "cut" across the paper in the appropriate groove. 

Then we use the flat edge of the bone folder to actually fold the score lines.

The double-stick tape has a red backing which is peeled off. I am going to look at alternatives, since this was very time consuming.  Glue sticks or pens will probably work well.
Box with sticky tape on seam, ready to fold.

My existing labels do *not* look good on these boxes, but these are just R&D prototypes.  Chances are you'll have to completely redesign your color scheme and labels, too.  Still, the excitement of creating store-quality boxes (except for the leaner on the right) was something I'll never forget.  I'll bet when you get your first boxes finished, you'll never forget that either.

One designer gave us great tabs, which are necessary to hold the box closed when the flaps were tucked in. One had the measurements more tightly aligned to what we needed. One gave us a flat bottom flap when we needed one that tucked in. The designs were great, though, especially since it was their first time designing boxes, and we currently have our feedback in their hands, and we'll go forward once the SVG files are tweaked.  If you know AI, you're in luck, you can create your own, but if not, most graphic artists will tell you it takes maybe a half hour to create your design, and that's affordable. Factor in the cost of a tweak or two before you get your perfect SVG.

Emily uses corrugated paper inserts to stiffen the box. That is an alternative that I may consider and keep using the softer paper.  You can buy the corrugated paper in 12"x12" sheets and have an SVG design made for it.

The blade that does the die cutting is very sensitive to the setting you give it, otherwise, a low setting of three may not cut a thicker cardstock/paper, and a higher setting will tear up the paper.  Be prepared to mangle a lot of paper and cardstock. You need to practice a lot. Craftwell has videos that will help you with the settings. It can be set so sensitive it will cut a sticker from the backing paper and not cut the backing paper. Amazing.

McCoy Paper catalog - did they know I'd be celebrating? ;-)
So on a long worksession Sunday, Elise and I tore through a lot of paper, got a lot of successful cuts, and used the scoring board, double sided tape and some labels to produce BOXES! These are just prototypes, and I will be buying heavier weight paper from McCoy, a company I just discovered when I was googling.  Turns out their papers are rated among the best in the world, especially their silk finish, so how can I resist, with that name? ;-)

Turns out there are stores nearby where I can go and look at the McCoy paper in person. Now on to the options for design.  Have the paper printed? Use the pen to draw delicate scrolls on the box? Get a printer to use my cut out boxes (not assembled) and create a plate that will allow the printer to emboss and foil my boxes, like Emily does? Use this technique and try to emboss on my own? Elise is thinking she might like cut out designs on her soap boxes so the customer can see the beauty of handmade natural soaps.

I'm also thinking that if I get sturdy vinyl, maybe I can get an AI/SVG file with my logo and perfume name cut out, lay it over my bottles and hit it with sandblasting/etching spray.  Part of the reason I've been so excited is that my head is full of creative ideas.  My existing labels, which I used on tan recycled boxes that I have been using, and not loving, since they were softer paper and I had to stuff pretty tissue paper in them to make the bottles steady, look awful on the prototype boxes, no matter what color.  Elise played around with matte clear labels and those look good on the matte finish neutral color boxes.  However, I'm thinking a silk to shiny finish paper might be better, because the matte ones seem to show fingerprints, but then, maybe the shinier ones will, too.  R&D will take some time, and it will for you too, but don't you feel excited now that you can take one of the most important, previously-elusive components of your packaging and take control of it?

Lisa, Elise and I, the three that have actually played with the machine, realize that we have to completely re-do the graphics and aesthetics for our businesses. Color, font, texture - everything has to be redesigned.

Some considerations:


The initial outlay is for the machine, papers and maybe the software, if your machine doesn't come with it.

Paper costs:  I can fit three of my 15ml bottles on one sheet that costs $0.69-$0.99/each and six of my 3.5ml bottles.  More could fit, but when there are too many jammed on there, the cutting blade can have "too many nodes" to work with. I think soapers can get two boxes on each sheet. The costs are easy to absorb for perfume, and I believe the brand image upgrade with soap and other B&B products can justify the cost.

Adding corrugated paper liners adds to the cost, and they'll be respective to the number of items you have already fit on the sheet.

Designer costs:  Graphic designers per hour fee can vary greatly.  I need to check this out more, but I think the Make The Cut program is all you need, and some training on it, and then you'll be able to be create your own templates.  Ros, Emily's mom used it, and I need to get back to her on the learning curve.  The eCutter comes with its own software, but I haven't figured that out yet.  It should be simple, but I was so carried away with research I didn't have time to sit down with it. I will and post about it.  Knowing how to make your own templates will also help you be immediately responsive to a custom perfume bottle, if custom perfume is part of your business.

Software costs:  MTC is around $54 and you need to check carefully to see if your machine comes with an alternative, as mine does.  If you live outside the USA, you can use the Cricut with MTC.  If I understand correctly, Cricut doesn't produce a cartridge (don't understand that bit) to aid in box design/cutting, so the MTC is needed.  AI is pricey, and has a steep learning curve, as I understand.

Lisa discovered after she got her eCutter that there isn't a program for her Mac yet.  She may just purchase a PC notebook, which is inexpensive, especially refurbished ones, to start using the machine. So, check before you buy - is the machine compatible to your computer?

Some final thoughts and links

Elise and I used 1/4" double-stick tape to seal the side seams of the box, and hated it.  Very time consuming. We'll experiment with glue stick or glue pens next time.  We also had to score each line and can't wait until that is done by the machine.

I love the thought of embossing/debossing and will experiment with that.  In this video, the scrapbooker seems as excited by this method that was described to her, and that she successfully completed, as I was discovering the die cut machines. Since the eCutter draws and cuts at the same time, I need to perhaps draw in the score lines and turn the pen upside down to impress in the scores.  Maybe. Not sure that will work.

I'm going to take photos of Emily's boxes around to local printers and ask about the foiling process. There's another way to foil.  Using a laser printer for the text/images, and using a heat iron foiling process.  I'm just not sure that the paper to be cut can be registered properly and go through the laser printer.


I think this is the most exciting discovery for our businesses that I can remember in my lifetime, except for the Internet, which helps us get our supplies and sell online.  And to think it all happened because last year I saw there was a natural perfumer in South Africa, and I felt she might be isolated, so I offered her a one-year membership in the Natural Perfumers Guild. She took part in our bottle buy, and then posted the pictures of the bottles and boxes on her Facebook page, which only had 21 subscribers at that point in time.  I am so thankful that I was able to recognize something that could revolutionize our small businesses and have the audience to bring it to, complete with links, images and prototype ideas.


  I was going to include a lot of scrapbooking links, but instead I'm encouraging you to search for yourself like I did because you'll probably find treasures and ideas that way.  Don't forget Youtube where there are thousands of videos on methods and tips. Just google scrapbook die cut machine also.  Good luck and be sure to share the link to this post to all the Yahoo groups, forums, social media you may be on because this discovery will help all of us in the artisan community.  Upgrading to beautiful boxes will help all our brands and heighten the perception of our products in the eyes of the public.
The Natural Perfumers Guild is happy to share this custom box information with everyone. Enjoy! 

Leave a comment before Friday, Aug. 26th, noon, EST USA, about this boxgasmic discovery and you may be chose to take part in a private chat group as we figure out how to create SVG files for ourselves, so we won't need a graphic artist!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, August 21, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Slept late, but I'm here now to answer your perfumery questions.  Today my cohort in the most exciting project I've ever worked on is coming by later to, well, work on the project.  We may be able to blog about it, with photos and links, in a few days.  I predict that within one month or so we will see aromatherapists, perfumers, soapers, bath and body manufacturers and allied arts using this "thing", this great discovery.  I'm soooo excited, and you will be, too!  Can't let a word of this slip out yet, but just subscribe, or check me on Facebook, or in the natural perfumery yahoo group, and you, too, will be in on the ground floor.  Oh, did I mention, I have no financial interest in this, and I won't make a dime from anybody on this?  But if you have a business mentioned above, you will be able to upgrade your business to the next level, with something you dreamed about but could never find. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Natural Perfumers Guild will soon share a discovery that will revolutionize the businesses of artisan perfumers and bath and body folks

I discovered this by accident, just because of my natural curiosity, on August 6th.  Historic day.  My jaw dropped, I was totally stunned by the simplicity and availability of a "thing" that will take all of our small businesses to the next level.  Everyone I've shared this secret with either yells or moans with excitement. When I teased one of the recipients of this good news that everyone sounds like they're either a screamer or moaner orgasmic type (she was a moaner), she said well, yes, it's "-------gasmic".  And it certainly is.

So a few of the Natural Perfumers Guild members are in R&D right now, myself included.  We're holding off a little blogging event until we've got some good stuff to present to everyone.  I already have semi-good stuff, but there's tweaking that needs to be done.  I'll provide links, tips and more to get you on your way.  I have no financial interest in this, and I know it'll be affordable to most folk's wallets.

This discovery and sharing is from Natural Perfumers Guild members to the artisan fragrance community at large.  Believe me when I say it will so upgrade your businesses you will not believe it.  Stay tuned, be prepared to be happy, happy, happy.  Like me :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Natural Perfumers Guild and the Enforcement of the Guild Code

The Natural Perfumers Guild is dedicated to protecting the identity of what a natural perfume is in the eyes of the public. On Friday August 12, 2011 the Guild review committee met and voted to terminate  suspend the membership of DSH Perfumes. This action was necessary because of complaints received about the website. It was found that several pages and declarations were in direct non-compliance with Guild code. This was a difficult decision, but we wish Dawn well and continued success.

The public can now be assured that all Professional Perfumers on the Guild website use only 100% natural ingredients in their perfumes. To read the Guild Code, please visit

An international Guild committee was recently formed to review and revise the terms of the Code to make it more stringent in the definition of natural aromatics and natural perfumes, application requirements to join the Guild and other important factors that will allow us to be self-regulating in the eyes of governments. That will also allow the public to rest assured as to the naturalness of all of the Guild Professional Perfumers websites they visit.  In the end, this path will surely and completely allow the Guild to define and enforce the definition of natural aromatics.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

Hi Everyone - it's a lazy, hazy, hot Sunday. A fragrant scent cloud hugs the ground in Anya's Garden. I'll admit I'm intoxicated by the fragrances blooming all around me and I hope I can answer your questions in a timely manner. Have you ever been overwhelmed, in a good way, but the fragrance of summer blooms? Magnify that in the Miami summer, blessed with a Full Moon radiance. Yawn. Stretch. I think the narcotic blooms are taking me over!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, August 7, 2011 - until 10 PM EST

I had blender's block really bad last week. Just one comment from a perfume editor (Michelyn Camen of Cafleurebon) that wasn't even related to my block, since I hadn't told her about it, turned me around, and the new mods I created are gorgeous!!! Have you ever had blender's block? My problem was I let my ego get ahold of me. You can't fit a square peg into a round hole, and you can't make an aromatic be diffusive if the other aromatics are dampening it. Any blending problems? Let my bruised, yet happy, ego be your guide.