Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sovereignty, Lady Liberty and the Land

I first came across the word "Sovereignty" during a Celtic Shamanism internship in the mid 90's. The reference was to the Goddess by the same name in the Mabinogion, the first written collection of Welsh-Celtic-Gaelic Mythos.

In Celtic mythology there are many references to powerful and mysterious woman, many as queens, both mortal and divine like Cerridwen, Brigid, Tethys, The White Lady and Branwen (who has been hovering around me lately.)  From the Arthurian stories we have the Lady of the Lake, Igraine, Morgan Le Fay and of course Dame Ragnelle, who teaches Sir Gawain the meaning of Sovereignty. Just in case you are not familiar with that take, here one of the versions I've heard, condensed:
While the young King Arthur is hunting a great deer in the forest an armed knight appears and tells the king that he will spare his life if he finds the answer to the following question, "What is it that women most desire?" If King Arthur fails to provide the correct answer then the knight will cut off his head. King Arthur returns to his castle where he is met by his nephew Sir Gawain who suggests they both go out riding into the country looking for the answer. King Arthur returns to the forest where he is met by a crone who tells him that she will give him the answer if Sir Gawain is to marry her. The distraught king returns to the castle where Sir Gawain agrees to the marriage. Arthur returns to the forest, meets the hag, and once she hears that Sir Gawain has accepted her terms, she  reveals that what women desire most is sovereignty, the ability to choose for themselves. 
Read the entire story here and find out what happens to Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle.
"To the Celts, sovereignty was not about the right to rule over a clan or country; sovereignty was a divine power granted by the goddess of the land. The goddess and the land were one and the same. By union with the goddess, the king became connected to the land and the people. The fate of the land became intertwined with his. Any blemish or unworthy deed of his would be felt by the land and any mistreatment of the land would cause him to lose his kingdom. The gift of sovereignty was NOT shared; instead it was bestowed upon the king by the goddess, and he acted as her representative.

The right to choose, as we saw in the The Marriage of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, is reflected in all of the Great Queen mythos. The goddess maintains the right to choose her lovers and confer sovereignty on a mate she deems most worthy. She acts in the best interest of the land.

In ancient Celtic times, the rulers were mostly men, which ensured the fertility of the land as the land was personified by the feminine. Any king who ruled out of alignment with the good of the land or kingdom lost the support of the Sovereign Goddess. Only when a kingdom was so out of balance did the Great Queen herself battle to reign the land. What is interesting is that female monarchs were considered to have the ability to directly embody the Lady of the Land, Sovereignty HERself, where male monarchs ruled as her consort or champion and never wielded power directly."1

We celebrate the fourth of July here in the USA today with Lady Liberty standing on her island in the
New York Harbour as fireworks burst around her in celebration of freedom. This magnificent statue, gifted to us by the french perfectly embodies the Goddess Sovereignty. Did you know that when work the statue was begun in the 1870's by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi many conservatives viewed her as a "Pagan Goddess with no right to be in a Christian country." Bartholdi designed her after the Roman goddess Liberty. Libertas, Liberty and liberal come from the root ‘liber’, meaning to be 'free, unrestricted, unimpeded; unbridled, unchecked, licentious’— all of which belong in the domain of the Goddess.2

I wrote this while looking out at Santa Fe's colorful landscape. Sovereignty's image in theses parts is usually depicted in the form of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Greg senses her in the sky where as I sense that she is coiled and slumbering under the earth, waiting for her earthy sister to wake her for the return of the Great Queen.


Fountainhead  @GregSpalenka, find a print here
Statue of Liberty: Photographer Fernique, Albert. 1883, public domain
Santa Fe photo ©RoxanaVilla

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Art of Botanical Perfume is Now Open for Enrollment

One of the worlds most beloved courses on botanical perfume is back and open for registration! It will stream 24/7 with downloadable files from anywhere at anytime, on your desktop, mobile device or tablet with lifetime access. A specially designed, essential oil kit created with Eden Botanicals, is sent out when you sign up.

The Art of Botanical Perfume is a pre-requisite to some of the future advanced online courses I've been developing. The seven module course is now open a select number of new students. The first two modules will be available beginning on June 21, 2018. Promo Video by Greg Spalenka

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Perfumery in Santa Fe, New Mexico!

After nine months since our arrival to Santa Fe, New Mexico I have finally located and signed the lease on a terrific space for the perfumery. FYI, none of the pictures posted here are my actual space, they have been taken from the website to give you dear readers a feel for the complex.

The location is a two story unit, similar to the one posted above, at the Lena Street Lofts compound that goes by the motto "Rust is a Must." The architecture has a modern/industrial theme playing off of what use to be an industrial area and the adjacent railroad tracks. Although the exterior has a bit of a rugged facade, the interiors are very clean and bright. Read more about the project and the rather visionary developer Rick Brenner at this article published in the Santa Fe New Mexican. One of the many benefits of renting here is that it is a green building uses solar panels, rainwater collection and my unit has radiant heated floors.

There has been a resurgence happening along the railroad tracks here in Santa Fe, with the most obvious being "The Railyard" which is home to our local movie theater The Violet Crown, the farmers market and a variety of galleries that were once on Canyon Road.

Dotted amongst the seven structures are about twenty seven businesses—including the infamous Iconik Coffee Roasters (pictured below),  a craft ice cream shop called La Lecheria which features some very eclectic flavors like black garlic, green chili and brown sugar red chili. There are also a host of other businesses including fitness, ceramic and artist studios.

My two story unit is an approximately 1300 square foot space in building A, a few doors down from the coffee house, pictured above. Like in Agoura Hills, it will be part studio, boutique and teaching space...which I am now calling a school.

I came across the location on Craigs List along with several others in different parts of the diverse city. In the end it was between a very sweet space in downtown and the one I settled on. Although I was drawn to the downtown location it was on a very tiny street and had no parking. I had also been told by a few respected restaurant and shop owners that the locals don't much like to go downtown because of the tourists, congestion, parking and traffic. Thus, after weighing all the options we choose Lena Street Lofts.

Stay tuned for details as I design and renovate the space to become the next manifestation of the perfumery, this time in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico!

Lena Street Lofts photos from their website. Railyard water tower ©RoxanaVilla.

Memory of a Cosmic Heart

Memory of a Cosmic Heart is a comprehensive project by my husband Greg Spalenka that includes music, visuals and a theatrical performance. Ten years in the making with his buddy Rob Jacobs and a team of incredibly gifted song writers, musicians, and opera class vocalists who contributed their talent to the eclectic classical, operatic, electronic musical fusion.

The music is just about finished with a grand plan for a multi-media theater project in the future. The first step is to get the musicians paid and some income to finish up the production, thus Greg created a crowd funding campaign here. Every little bit helps, thus if everyone could just spare $15 we could make this happen with grace and ease.

In support of the project I am creating a fragrance inspired by the story and music. The main note will be rose, since the main theme of the story and music is the heart. At this early stage I am planning to add frankincense and sandalwood for higher consciousness but also am mindful not to recreate Vespertina.

If after listening to the early versions of the music you have suggestions for notes of the fragrance please let me know, as your thoughts and feelings are always appreciated.

Greg is currently soliciting thoughts on the initial cover images he's created, please head over to his blog and provide your thoughts on which is your favorite.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Marilyn Neuhart 1930 - 2017

As I entered the Girard wing at the Museum of International Folk Art here in Santa Fe, I stopped abruptly and had to catch my breath, stunned at how much it "felt" and resembled the interior of the Neuhart house in Hermosa Beach, CA. It comes of no surprise of course, given that Alexander Girard and Marilyn Neuhart formed a creative partnership in 1961 when she created embroidered dolls for his Textiles & Objects shop in NYC.

Although I had visited the museum and Girard wing in the 80's with Ben, Marilyn's son, the shock of the shared kindred spirit of these two designers was much more palatable, perhaps because of her recent departure from this earthy realm.

Marilyn was born on March 3, 1930, in Long Beach, California. Her birth date 03-30-30 seems extremely auspicious with all those three's and zeros. Three is the number of Venus and the Empress, it is associated with imagination, creativity and the artist.

I always felt Marilyn knew she was an Empress, especially when I remember her sitting at the head of the Thanksgiving table with her feast spread out for everyone to not only savor but also take in the beauty of her orchestration.

She attended Long Beach public schools, Long Beach City College and UCLA. Marilyn began her long career as a freelance designer in the Los Angeles area since her graduation. She taught design, painting and color theory at UCLA, UCLA Extension and at East Los Angeles Junior College.

Marilyn and her husband John Neuhart, worked together professionally since their marriage, and collaborated on numerous design projects, including graphics, films and exhibitions. From 1980 to 1998 they were partners in the design firm Neuhart Donges Neuhart, whose clients included the IBM Corporation, Herman Miller, Inc., The Huntington Library and Art Gallery, the Doheny Library, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Government of Taiwan and local businesses and institutions.

John and Marilyn authored and designed of three books on the history of the Eames Office. The first was Eames Design (1989) followed by Eames House (1994) and the two book set The Story of Eames Furniture, a comprehensive history of furniture development in the Eames Office.

Together John and Marilyn were an inspirational team, working together to create beautiful invites to dinner parties at their home, labels and cards for the holidays or the magnificent doll house that took over six years to create for Eve. Below are a few details of the doll house, including a tiny basket with three of Marilyn's dolls as miniatures. The bright, colorful palette and since of whimsy that was part of their signature weaves throughout every part of their life.

The day Ben and I graduated from Otis College of Art and Design, back in the eighties, Marilyn made us glorious crowns for us to wear that were given to us in a special box made by John. Talk about feeling special! 

There is also a photo of her with Ray Eames and John sitting on the lawn of MacArther Park waiting the graduation ceremony to begin. I believe the photo was taken by her son Andrew Neuhart.

I'd love to share more pictures of their truly wonderful and very authentic style, but the CD's are in a box some where within the scary storage closet here in our temporary rental. I'm not sure if I can readily find it.  I'll take a look in a few weeks when my time should be a but more expansive. What's become quite obvious, as I sift through all the photos of John and Marilyn over the last thirty plus years, is that I'll be sharing more about them and their legacy as designers.

Here's a little quote from Marilyn...

"I started to quilt when I was a small child sitting with my mother and my aunts 
over a quilting frame. I continued to sew, albeit intermittently, as I went through 
high school and college. After I left teaching for a period and with two small children, 
I became a fulltime freelance graphic designer and once again took up my needle in earnest. 
After making small cloth dolls for my children and friends, I made a doll for designer 
Alexander Girard, who asked me to make a large number of them the new Textiles & Objects 
shop he was designing in New York City for the Herman Miller Furniture Company. 
Over the next few years  (in the early 1960's), I made nearly 2,000 dolls 
for the shop and for  Girard's exhibition projects." 

Read more about Marilyn by jumping to this little blog I created for her back in 2007 as Christmas gift, naively thinking she might want to contribute to it by sharing her wit, sense of design, inspiration, recipes and abundant stories. In hind site, it was most likely a projection on my part, I was so inspired, in awe actually, by her sense of style and her very Aires take charge and get things done attitude.

Once I asked her how she had managed to do so much as a mother of two children, wife, designer, cook and creator extraordinaire, etc., her response was..."Just keep going, without thinking about it." Hence her chosen name for the blog "Don't Be A Bump on a Blog." She had absolutely no patience for laziness. As I edit this post, adding more memories and photos, it occurs to me that perhaps I will add more on her blog, building it as a resource for those of you her are inspired by her as well as John.

Besides having a great sense of color, pattern, texture, design and flavor, she was also a bit of a sensualist. Marilyn liked to take baths and enjoyed beautiful scents. Her favorite fragrances were 4711 and roses, the photo below is a vintage bottle of the illustrious perfume that she had in the guest bathroom. I would gift her bottles of my Blossom cologne and bath salts for the holidays and her birthday.

Lucky for us, House Industries worked with Marilyn and John to recreate some of their wonderful designs such as a poster of the hand print, which I've always been a huge fan of.

Marilyn passed on September 1st, 2017 just as Greg and I were driving through the desert on our way to Santa Fe. In a way, one of the many reasons I am living in Santa Fe today is because of Marilyn. She and her fabulous style which will live on for years to come, especially if books about her creative life and dolls are published. Marilyn was an integral thread in the Mid Century modern design revolution whose craft-womanship is an inspiration, particularly to all the makers who are part of the current DIY culture.

See more of the Neuhart house and Marilyn's fantastic style in a few of these posts here at the journal.

Photos: Museum of International Folk Art,  John and Marilyn's home in Hermosa Beach, a variety of shots at the Neuhart house of Marilyn's embroidery, quilt, handprint, 4711 perfume bottle and Mexican statues display.

Edited April 13, 2018

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Birth of Venus

Round and round we go, here we find ourselves at another day of Veneralia, the feast of Venus, although the masses use the modern name Easter with celebrations that include chocolate bunnies and church.

As you know, I tend to like to delve deeper and look at source material, like where exactly did this ritual come from? After all, Spring existed here on planet Earth long before the arrival of the individual named Jesus.

April by the Romans was considered the month of Venus, just after March, attributed to the war God Mars. In Greece the name for Venus, the Goddess of Love and Fertility, was Aphrodite (Aphro meaning seafoam, and dite, bright.) Journeying further back we have Astarte from Phoenicia, a deity that may have been worshipped as far back as 1000BC and the potential source material for Venus, Aphrodite and imagery associated with Mary. 1

We already know that the Goddess culture existed long before the patriarchal Gods took over sacred sites where names were changed or great cathedrals built. It's possible that with the melting polar caps, particularly in Antartica, more clues into ancient time will likely be revealed shortly.

Opening image: The Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabanel via wikipedia

Thursday, March 29, 2018


"A rolling stone gathers no moss."

In my palette as an authentic nature perfumer, oakmoss is one of my most cherished base notes. The damp, forest floor quality of this lichen lends a rich, full bodied, earthiness that reminds me of Demeter. As you may recall, she is the ancient Greek Goddess of the harvest and agriculture who governs over the fertility of the Earth and the mother of Persephone.

Oakmoss is also known as tree moss or Mousse de Chene, and goes by the latin Evernia prunastri. Although the name can be deceiving, it is a species of lichen from temperate forests in Northern Hemispheres. The fragrance note is a key component in the composition of historical Chypre and Fougère type of perfumes. I tend to use it in small amounts paired with complimentary resins and woods in chords which are then added to the final orchestration of the fragrance. 

Oakmoss has been used to construct many of my perfumes but is most obvious in Hedera helix, Q, Figure 1: Noir, Terrestre, Figure 5: Bois and GreenWitch. She is quite robust and requires a delicate hand, but, rewards those who can cultivate patience. 

I consider this very dark and viscous material a scent ally for me, especially since moving to the desert. The scent profile has agrestic notes of decaying earth but also a lyrical component which harkens the dwelling where you find the elves of Middle Earth from the Tolkien series. It's no wonder Wendy Froud wrote this after receiving her compact at the San Diego Comic Con.

"I love fragrances and everything that my favorite ones evoke but I was truly captivated by Roxana's Q perfume the first time I experienced it. It evokes something ancient and at the same time very intimate and personal. To me it's a "remembered" fragrance that taps into the green world of Faerie in the same way that a painting or sculpted image can. When I wear it, which is often, I feel closer to that elusive and magical world."

Photos ©Roxana Villa
Elves image from Movie Magic