Archive | October, 2011


30 Oct

 We bought quick-drying clay from which to make cones. Tami made a few nice cones–which is tough to do: you want it to be very narrow at the top, but big enough that a cone will have a good long burn time. Then I made the mistake of buying liquid _silicone_ instead of liquid _latex_. The liquid latex actually says “mold builder” on it; I think I used the same substance, same brand, back when I tried this task five years ago. Silicone is used for waterproofing leather; I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought it. Latex will harden, and we’ll be able to peel it off the cone/wood combination once it’s dried. The idea is you glue an ideal cone to a piece of wood (I’m using 1.5″x1.5″ pieces); then you paint latex over the whole thing.
 When I tried this for the first time, this part of the process was the most difficult: after you stuff the incense dough into the mold, you need a way to remove the cone from the mold. The idea is to cut a slit up the side of the mold, and keep it together with a little bit of tape; then once you’ve stuffed the dough in, it’s simply a matter of taking the tape off, and gently popping the cone out. That part of it was difficult for me, partly because it was difficult for to make a straight slit (the tremor in my right hand was just beginning). With Tami and Pop, I can trust they’ll be able to make a straight slit. I won’t give up this time–trying to extrude joss sticks was a complete failure.
 The manual gun extruder and the pasta maker both failed miserably. I don’t feel liking paying a machinist to make an extruder just for incense joss sticks (as a professional incense maker told me I had to do); that process might be prohibitively expensive. If the first cone mold doesn’t work, we’ll try again. I plan to make at least four molds, but one might be all we need. It would be nice if we could make three or four cones at once; I could work on one or two, while Tami also works on one or two. The first necessary step is to come with some fine formulas–my benchmark is Mother’s Fragrances’ Nagchampas from India. Would that I could come up with some formulas which come close to the high-calibre of Mother’s incense.


16 Oct

 Back when I still didn’t fully understand the concept of natural perfume, Chris Tsefalas, owner of The Perfume House in Portland, Oregon, used to spin me literal fairy tales on the origins of certain perfumes. Perhaps best of all was the legend of the “Snow Rose.” As Chris told the story, 300 years ago (maybe 400 now?), a European nobleman was hiking in the Himalayas (as only the wealthy could afford to do); one day he fell into a ravine without anyone noticing. He was trapped in the ravine for at least three days, and everyone was sure he was dead. Miraculously, he lived, and he swore that at certain times while he was trapped in the ravine, he could smell roses. This was so high up, there were no plants, and the few trees barely survived. None of the locals believed the man, but being from a noble european family, a perfumer was hired to come all the way to the very top of the Himalayas.
 Sure enough, the perfumer found that every morning, little tiny roses would poke their way through the snow and ice; they apparently lived for only a day. So the perfumer took a syringe-needle and sucked the aromatic principle from the plant; it took some time, because the roses were very small and there were many of them that sprouted up for a day. Then I found something about the basics of extracting an aromatic principle from given plants; roses are typically distilled. I called Chris back, and asked him outright, “Tell me again how snow rose was extracted?” He stuck to his fairy tale, and emphasized that the stuff was very rare because the perfumer 300-400 years ago had only been able to get a small amount. He was trying to sell me synthetic swill for $200 per ounce. That’s when the idea came to me of “liquid grifters,” whose aim was simply to separate a given mark from his hard-earned (or otherwise) sizable amount of money–expecting us, in blissful ignorance, to pay big money for what we’re told is rare and precious when in fact it’s nothing more than synthetic fragrance chemicals.
 That clinched it for me. From that moment on I dedicated myself to becoming one of the best natural perfumers the modern world has yet known. I literally felt wronged by the entire perfume industry. Here I’d come to think of certain perfumes as precious, when in fact, in the main, they’re all fakes. I thought when people talked about particular notes in particular perfumes, they were talking about actual essential oils. I didn’t know that after Chanel No. 5 was released in 1921, all perfume became synthetic; I bet most perfume lovers don’t know that either. That’s why most people generally abhor the perfume counter in a department store; you can’t help but be exposed to offensive, overwhelming, and literally toxic fragrances. I decided to become the best natural perfumer because, to be honest, that’s just the way I roll. I’d say I’m on my way, but work needs to be done on my business, my web site, my choice of perfumes, PR stuff, getting my perfumes into stores, etc.
 I wish I could say there’s time but, unfortunately, there’s just not. It’s not just because of my poor health, which is getting worse by the day. It’s because there’s simply not enough time for me to become a household name, as my heart desires. Unless something big happens soon (I know I should be _responsible_ for making things happen), I just don’t know much longer I can continue sinking money into a business which is not even making any sort of profit yet. I have some money, many thanks to my mother, but it’s not limitless, the way that it is for many people I grew up with in New York. The truth is, the time will come when I have to say no more money into the business, which basically means I’ll stop making perfume altogether. First I have to make my web site universally accessible; right now, you can’t use it at all with Internet Explorer (which, therefore, is the enemy). Once I update things, I suspect business will start pouring in. Let’s hope so!


1 Oct

 This Brave New Scents Natural-Perfumers-Guild project involves 11 Professional Perfumers making perfumes out of a list of under-used or only-recently available extracts, available for perfumers in the past 10 years or so. I myself made something I’m very proud of, Hermes eau de parfum, 15%. Unfortunately, I used a couple of extracts which are suddenly unavailable: rosa bourbonia and jasmine auriculatum. Rosa bourbonia I could swear I’ve seen commonly at most natural-perfume suppliers; I was wrong, and now I have to be in touch with an original supplier in India. They have both rosa bourbonia and jasmine auriculatum, but not at the moment; I’m waiting, because those two aromatics are essential to making Hermes. I have enough of those two aromatics to make maybe two more cups of Hermes, which is not what I hoped for.
 It’s been quite an intense journey to get where I’ve gotten in natural perfume. I started by spending hours at the Perfume House in Portland, Oregon; back then I wanted to become a perfumer, but I was under the mistaken impression that to become a perfumer, you had to get an entry-level job at one of the big perfume houses. Then I read Mandy Aftel’s Essence & Alchemy; I hadn’t yet realized that the mainstream perfumes, many of which I’d come to think of as precious, were in fact a collection of the lowest grade fragrance chemicals–not the essential oils I’d heard so much talk of, just a collection of synthetic fragrance chemicals. At some point she writes, “Your task for now…,” and I hadn’t yet realized if you wanted to become a natural perfumer, you simply had to jump in and start making natural perfume.
 I quickly started making perfumes good enough to write home about, and which my friends immediately loved (I learned quickly to discern a person’s true feelings about a given perfume composition). I started out by taking Mandy Aftel’s Level I natural-perfumery workbook; a year after I passed with a solid composition (about which she wrote, “You thought out the essences for your perfume in a very considered and thorough manner, and the final perfume shows a lot of attention to evolution and structure;” that perfume eventually became Selene solid (Selene was titan of the moon, and I think of Selene solid as very nocturnal, sort of like moonlight itself)), I applied to be a Professional Perfumer with the Natural Perfumers Guild; I was quite confident I would easily be accepted into the ranks of other Professional natural Perfumers. Once I got there, I dedicated myself to becoming one of the best natural perfumers the modern world has yet known.


Feminine Things
The Examiner
Perfume Critic
Perfume Shrine
All I Am A Redhead
Ca Fleure Bon
Bloggers for Ca Fleure Bon include: Michelyn Camen, Neil Sternberg, Ida Meister, Mark Behnke, and Leslie Robinson


Perfume by Nature, Ambrosia Jones
Anya’s Garden Perfumes, Anya McCoy
Providence Perfume Co., Charna Ethier
House of Matriarch, Christi Meshell
Belly Flowers, Elise Pearlstine
A Wing and a Prayer Perfumes, Jane Cate
JoAnne Basset
One Seed Perfume, Liz Cook
Ascent Natural Perfumes, Rohanna Goodwin Smith
Lord’s Jester Inc., Adam Gottschalk