Archive | April, 2011


17 Apr

One endeavor I’ve never talked about is making natural incense. Mainstream incense is all synthetic, made from incense-stick “blanks,” which in turn are made by children in 3rd-world sweatshops, then dipped in synthetic chemicals. Even Nag Champa, a very well-known incense, is, as far as I know, synthetic. Natural incense is soft, and lovely, and warm, in comparison with synthetic, which tends to be very cold. Natural incense is made from powdered woods, powdered herbs, powdered flowers, and a binder, like tragacanth gum, makko, or laha. I long to include natural incense in the Lord’s-Jester line; the main problem is in what form to make the incense. Coating bamboo sticks with incense dough is not too reasonable; so-called joss sticks (with no bamboo stick) are nice but difficult to keep straight during the drying process.
 Both joss sticks and cones (simple to make) need to burned in a bowl of sand (since there’s no bamboo stick to stick into a conventional incense burner). My main guru on making natural incense, Carl Neal (author of Incense: Crafting and Use of Magickal Scents), recommends taking an ideal cone (made out of clay), glueing it to a board, and covering the whole thing in liquid silicone. You then stuff incense “dough” into the mould (after the silicone drys), pop it out, and let the incense cone dry. I tried this once and it failed miserably, mostly because to “pop” wet incense dough out of the mould ruins the cones every time (at least for me it did; my guru says to cut a slice up the side of the mould, for ease in removing each cone, but that didn’t work for me). By far the best form I’ve ever seen for natural incense is this: fat sticks (maybe thee eighths inch to half an inch wide) and about 3 inches long; these can easily be burned in a bowl of sand as well.
 One collaborative effort I plan to work on with my friend Richard (who reviewed some/all of my perfumes) is his idea for a Silk Road “journey.” The idea would be to choose certain towns and cities on the Silk Road. From Wikipedia: “The Silk Road gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive trans-continental network. The Silk Routes (collectively known as the “Silk Road”) were important paths for cultural, commercial, and technological exchange between traders, merchants, pilgrims, missionaries, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from Ancient China, Ancient India, Ancient Tibet, Persian Empire and Mediterranean countries for almost 3,000 years. The Chinese silk trade began during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 CE).”
 We would start with Istanbul (I think) and end in Beijing maybe. We aim to make a perfume for each city we choose, and natural incense, and possibly moisturizing creams for some (I have a recipe for a cold cream based on the one Cleopatra used). It will be a pretty massive project when all is said and done. Richard has some ideas for perfume formulae; he was so inspired by my perfumes that he thought to ask about this collaborative project. It’s exactly the sort of complex, exhaustive, and potentially sublime endeavor for which I literally live. I cannot wait to begin but I know I must. For now I’ll be sketching out perfume formulae for cities I might like to focus on, and incense as well. Soap may well be another addition; I would let Richard make soap–the one time I tried it, the whole thing was a near catastrophe, with me spilling lye everywhere. Incense, facial toners, and creams I’m much more comfortable with.