Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Essential Oils & Aromatherapy Summit

I just completed the pre-recorded call with David Crow, a long time teacher, friend and mentor who invited me as a guest in The Essential Oils & Aromatherapy Summit. My session title is: Through the Looking Glass: Botanical Perfume for Shifting Consciousness. David guided the conversation so beautifully, as we delved into a variety of aspects related to creating perfumes from essential oils such as alchemy, plant totems, correspondences, individual artistry, formulating and more!

Free Online Event
The Essential Oils & Aromatherapy Summit
with Botanical Medicine Expert David Crow
October 23-26, 2018

This first-ever gathering of today’s top distillers, botanical medicine experts, acupuncturists, doctors, educators, clinicians, scientific researchers — including Rosita Arvigo, Kurt Schnaubelt, Arjun Das, Acharya Shunya, Nyssa Hanger, Eric Scott, Jessie Hawkins, Florian Birkmayer, Kelly Ablard, Cha Roberts, Michael Scholes, Kailash Dixit, and others — will be hosted by botanical medicine expert, David Crow.

I’m honored to join 25+ of my esteemed colleagues to share with you insights, practices, and teachings for experiencing the profound benefits of essential oils for your health, wellbeing, longevity, and spiritual transformation.

I hope you’ll join me for this special online gathering presented by The Shift Network.

RSVP here for The Essential Oils & Aromatherapy Summit — at no charge

During this inspiring 4-day summit, you’ll discover:

  • How to use essential oils easily and effectively for healing and vitality
  • A holistic understanding of essential oils and aromatherapy
  • Key Ayurveda aromatherapy essential and base oils
  • Confidence in creating essential oil blends from scratch
  • How to use oils with specific applications for integration & healing
  • The use of essential oils & the power of sacred aromas to unblock the channels of intuition
  • And much more!

Plus, you’ll quickly see that working with essential oils and aromatherapy can complement any existing practice and help you achieve greater fulfillment and success in life — for you and (if you’re a health care professional) your clients.

Here’s what just a few of the speakers from this incredible lineup will be sharing with you:

Rosita Arvigo will explain how to use common aromatic plants like basil, marigold, and rosemary to relieve emotional disturbances such as fright, grief, and fear.

Kurt Schnaubelt will reveal why essential oils are effective remedies to fight bacteria, yeasts, and viruses.

Arjun Das will explore ways use essential oils to promote a vibrational protection for yourself when caring for your clients… so you don’t absorb their energy.

Acharya Shunya will highlight how aromatherapy has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.

Nyssa Hanger and Sylla Sheppard-Hanger will reveal grassroots data they collected, clearly showing that there are injuries and adverse effects occurring from improper use of essential oils… and they’ll share key points for helping prevent future damage.

Jessie Hawkins will discuss pediatric toxicology, aromatherapy, and how to safely use essential oils to heal your little ones (even the 4-legged, furry types!)

Eric Scott (one of my faves!) will share insights on artisan essential oil distillation and the value of domestic and regional distillation.

Florian Birkmayer will introduce ways you can connect with the wisdom of  aromatic plants to transform life’s obstacles into opportunities.

I had the opportunity to meet David in Los Angeles during the mid nineties when he inspired by his reverence for the plants, knowledge of ancient medicine and razor sharp focus. He has such a vast understanding of nature from the poetic to the scientific, which has helped his empire build Floracopeia. What a tremendous honor and opportunity, I'm truly humbled. Please check out the upcoming summit, as so many of my friends and colleagues are adding their wisdom to the collective. 

Opening photo of David from the Floracopeia instagram feed, most likely taken by his lovely wife Sara Crow, other photos Roxana Villa from NAHA conferences in Utah and Bastyr in Seattle.

Allegory of the Four Elements

At the new perfumery in Santa Fe, New Mexico I recreated the sprawling boards I had in Agoura onto two boards, one vertical and one horizontal.

The arrival of my new glass distillation unit that I brought down from Kymia Arts in Taos had me moving things around in the lab which resulted in the reconfiguration of images on the horizontal board. One of my treasures, the promo for artist Mark Ryden's 2007 The Tree Show, had to be moved when a small type case and Greg's antique clock ended up blocking the piece.

While carefully removing the pins from the piece I became curious of how he using using the alchemical symbolism. The painting is titled Allegory of the Four Elements. In the piece you see four young girls sitting at what appears to be a tea party on top of a tree stump, under an oak. Each girl has a different colored dress with one of the alchemical elements on the front as well as a related animal totem on top of their heads. What unites them are those large soulful eyes that Mark paints so well.

Some of the symbols are rather easy to interpret, although I have not discerned the story Mark is telling. The girls are drinking mercury, associated with spirit/the mind, why did he choose mercury? Is it because there are references to Mercury, also called Hermes, being the vital force, the hermaphrodite that is both masculine and feminine as well as neither—the great trickster?

I thought the three babies in the nest represented the three elements that compose the prima materia: mercury, salt and soul but then upon further observation with a magnifying glass, I saw that on their chests are the letters C, P and M. After some speculation I realized that they stood for cardinal, fixed and mutable, the modalities of the zodiac, also called quadruplicities.

While searching for information about the painting I came across a quote from Mark in reference to The Tree Show that I thought you, my dear readers, would appreciate:

“The show is about our relationship with nature,” Ryden explains over lunch. “There are many different parts to it, but you know, some people look at these massive trees and feel a sort of spiritual awe looking at them, and then other people just want to cut them up and sell them. It’s amazing how people can look with such different screens. Some see a tree as a commodity, an inanimate material to use for themselves, or even worse like it’s some kind of heroic thing to cut down this tree that’s taken 2,000, 3,000 years to grow. Like in the vintage photos of these lumberjacks, when they line up — it’s just mind-boggling how they do that. And it’s mind-boggling that it’s still going on today.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Word Rant Wednesday: Alchemy

While attending a lecture about honey bees in February 2016, the presenter Benjamin Pixie, mentioned an "alchemist" that lived in Taos. The equation of the words alchemist + Taos sparked my curiosity immediately. The word "alchemist” currently is an amorphous term with a myriad of definitions, which gets thrown about abundantly, without much gravitas.

At the time, Greg and I were contemplating moving from Los Angeles to another state, New Mexico was on my radar, specifically Santa Fe. The idea of moving to a beautiful location in a mountainous area that had a local alchemist combined with the proximity to our friends Cathy and Florian was extremely appealing.

Next step was to find out why the presenter was referring to this fellow in Taos as an alchemist, was he for real?  In our modern day, the term alchemy or alchemist usually relates to a transformative process with a product, especially if the process involves plants or gold. For example there are visual artists, psychotherapists, musicians, chefs and aromatherapists who use the term, often with another word acting as an adjective, like visual alchemist. Even I have used the term, first to describe my illustration work and most recently in reference to perfume.

After returning home from the very informative and fun lecture by Benjamin, I googled this alchemist named Avery Hopkins. To my surprise and further curiosity, he seemed closer to the real deal than anyone I had ever met or heard of. Thus, I became more committed to moving to New Mexico and meeting this Avery dude.

In November, 2017, after several attempts, our schedules aligned and we met for lunch at Clafoutis, a french bakery here in Santa Fe. I wasn't sure what to expect, from the photos and instagram feed he seemed like a very focused and intense fellow, besides being young and handsome. Sure enough, all those descriptives can be used to describe Avery, as well as charismatic, visionary, intellectual and compassionate individual—equating to a very magnetic person.

I remember quite clearly when he walked into the room at Clafoutis, he seemed part god, as if he were the manifestation of Mercury himself, the conductor between the mortal and immortal realms. Although it all happened within seconds, I wondered if everyone in the crowded cafe was aware that a semi god had just arrived. He had the same energetic dynamism and beauty that I noticed with Tom Ford, it's an extremely arresting, mesmerizing quality that includes beauty, charm and a heightened electrical charge. No one if the restaurant seemed to notice, thus I assume it was just me.

As I attentively listened to him speak of alchemy, his journey and processes, it became quite clear this was the real deal and I wanted to learn from him! I wondered if my intellectual capacity was at a level to truly understand, so much of the language he used was full with the scientific jargon that usually was way over my very artistic, poetic head.

Eventually we closed the place down and I left in a spellbound state. Since then I have had the extreme fortune to spend more time with him and ever so slowly begin to understand what he calls operative alchemy. This is where we transition "from 'interested looker' into full-fledged alchemical practitioner"1 we begin to fully absorb the various realms of alchemy by observing the internal and external dynamics within and without.

"Ancient alchemists used laboratory practices to not only heal the body and the mind but to solicit conscious evolution and render a mortal to be immortal at its highest tier of mastery."2

As with learning any new skill set or language, allowing material to gently to work its way in derives the best results. We move from base matter to a more refined understanding and then go through the process again and again, like the cycle of the Phoenix, the ouroborus, in a constant loop.

I learned the term alchemy to mean "transformation", the art of transmutation, referring to consciousness or a substance from a base form to an enlightened state. This definition appealed to me because it covered both the psychological (internally) and scientific (externally) aspects of the word. Avery, after years of research, has come to define alchemy as the understanding of how consciousness relates to matter, a map by which all experiences are generated and transformed.

Listen to an interview with Avery on the Pete Evans podcast at I-tunes and/or Spotify, Learn more about Avery and his business by heading over to the Kymia Arts website.

1-2 Avery Hopkins, Kymia Arts website
Images: Photo of Kymia Arts lab, Mercury oil painting by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1898. Galería Belvedere, Vienna.

Monday, September 10, 2018


After my last blog post rant about the mañana quality of Santa Fe, I am thrilled to share that the chandeliers and bookshelves went up last Tuesday—Hallelujah!

Since then Greg and I have been classifying all the books, first by putting them into different subject or genre piles followed by another layer of organizing once we determined where they would be placed on the shelf.

Yesterday's new moon in Virgo makes it a very auspicious time for details, especially if you, like me, are a detail-ist! Sometimes I feel like I can spend hours, days, weeks on all the teeny, tiny elements that go into creating beauty and harmony.

The new space is divided into three parts, like in Agoura, although much larger. The bottom level contains the boutique area and the school, which is where the shelves for the books are.

My lab/studio is up the stairs in a large loft type space where my three white tables are as well as a couch, a new rectangular worktable in the center of the space and a sink, yes a sink!! I've never had a sink in my studio before, this makes the cleaning up of lab equipment, mixing bowls, etc. quite easy. Once the space is more organized with fewer packing boxes I'll share photos that show more of the macro and less micro. Although, I tend to focus and photograph more of the micro, as you know.

Although we sold and gave away many of our books before leaving Los Angeles, we still have quite a large library, perfect for staring a school! Although I did not order enough shelves (ugh!) thus one more item to attend to while continuing to do the juggle dance of getting the new space in order.

A formal opening will take place on October 20th, from 2pm - 7pm in conjunction with an event happening at Lena Street Lofts, where the perfumery/school is located.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Magnify, Sanctify

Everyday I work on the new perfumery space tirelessly, sometimes obsessively, sandwiched between other pressing responsibilities and distractions.

We're ebbing toward an opening on the Autumnal Equinox, September 22nd. Santa Fe has a mañana quality which can be frustrating for those of us who arrive here from big cities, which reminds you that is both a virtue and a hashtag patience. One arrives here with intentions but the land has her own ideas and will easily crush or spit you out ,if flexibility ain't part of your paradigm.

As of this evening I'm intending to get the electrician back here to finally hang the chandeliers and get all the book shelves up, both by the end of this week. We have, what seems like, hundreds of boxes of books to organize into different sections and make sure they all fit.

I'll check in here next week and let you know how things are coming along, in the meantime, mark your calendars—September 22nd is what we're aiming for, come hell or floods! So get those plane or rail tickets and head to the land of enchantment. While you're here I recommend daily hikes in the crystal clear mountain air, sunset gazing, soaking at Ten Thousand Waves & Ojo Caliente, savoring the diversity of tastes in this foodie town and just unwinding.

Saturday, September 1, 2018


Mid morning, one year ago on September 1st we continued on our trajectory toward Santa Fe from Tucson in my sea green Prius packed to the gills with suitcases and boxes. The trip originated from Los Angeles with a stop at the University of Arizona where Greg shared principals of Artist as Brand for two classes.

The drive toward the enchanted lands of New Mexico were both bitter and sweet as we embarked on a the new adventure. Traveling across the beautiful, expansive desert landscapes toward our destination was awe inspiring as we looked out on a completely different palette of colors than those we knew so intimately in Southern California.

Later that afternoon I received a text from the landlord of our casita in Tesuque suggesting we stay the night in Albuquerque since it was the night of the burning festival of Zozobra. Neither Greg nor I had a clue as to what Zozobra was, what we were absolutely clear on is that we were fed up with hotels and yearned to begin our new life. Thus, we choose to do some research on the festival and proceed with our plans.

Zozobra is a giant 50 ft marionette called "Old Man Gloom" that is burned at the start of whats termed Fiesta season. The burning of the effigy has become a symbolic gesture of burning away all our challenges of the year. Individuals write their "glooms" on papers that are placed in a gloom box that is to be burned along with the grotesque looking old man. I read one story that mentioned Zozobra looking like Nixon in the 70's which made me think of another US President that would make a perfect symbol for  a pagan-like torching of a marionette.

One origin story of the ritual states that it began in 1924 by the artist Gustave Baumann, a marionette maker who collaborated with his friend William Howard Shuster, Jr.  They decided to create a giant effigy resembling a conquistador using the Spanish word for anxiety, Zozobra, as its name. The concept was influenced by the Yaqui Indians of Mexico where large papier-mâché sculptures are exploded along with an effigy of Judas as a symbolic gesture expelling evil from the community and oneself. Me thinks Burning Man may have evolved from this event.

While there are multiple stories to the tale of how the fiesta came to be, the event has now been woven into the historic La Fiesta de Santa Fe, a Catholic celebration begun over 300 years ago, commemorating the reconquering of the area by the Spanish on Sept. 14, 1692, after their ousting by local Pueblo Indians 12 years earlier. Regrettably this is a bit of a mockery of the commentary the artists were attempting to make, but, as we know, history can be a bit of a shape shifter.

Instead of attending the burning along with the thousands who stream into the normally peaceful city, we headed up the Ten Thousands Waves to celebrate our year anniversary in Santa Fe. Soaking in the healing hot waters of the communal tub, which was unusually sparse that night, we watched a fantastic lightning storm overhead while feeling gratitude for living in such a beautiful place, amongst nature and crystalline air.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Visit From John Steele

I had some real quality time with one of my favorite peeps visiting from California today, Mr. John Steele, the man who introduced me to the realm of perfume back in the mid 90’s.

We started the day with a tour of the perfumery, lab & school and a taste of honey from our girls in Topanga. Then a simple meal at Iconik, followed by listening to the new tracks of Memory of a Cosmic with @GregSpalenka while sipping some of @KymiaArts gold elixir in water. 

After that I had him smell three pure fumes, Figure 1: Noir, one his favorites, the perfume temporarily titled Muse (which he refers to as "Agua Dulce for the Soul") and a Tuberose solifleur.

The photo of John and I is from the LA Fragrance Event held at the Santa Monica Convention Center in September 2012.