Monday, March 31, 2008

Smell is a potent wizard

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”
- Helen Keller

The Perfume Inside a Poem two week project comes to a close today. Can you hear me sighing? It has been such a pleasure to participate in and witness. I will miss checking in to read the different artistic interpretations.

For me the project was extremely inspirational from which many seeds were birthed. I will be presenting here.

Many thanks to Heather, all the talent that courageously exhaled their interpretations, those who inhaled our stories and all the commentators who ground our ideas. Enormous gratitude to Greg who contributed his visual interpretation of my perfume brief.

Roxana Villa: Perfume Inside a Poem
Perfume Inside a Poem
Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Perfume Inside the Poem Unveiled

This afternoon, Heather Ettlinger of Memory and Desire, will publish my contribution
to her ongoing project titled Perfume Inside the Poem. I am one of fourteen other perfumers who has participated in this fascinating scent exploration of a poem by Ezra Pound.
Please have a peek and if inspired leave a comment. Those who post a comment on her blog will be entered into a contest for samples of the final perfume creations and other goodies.
Greg has created a beautiful image to go with my final fragrance.
Eventually this image will be an animation on our website.
There have been several off shoot projects which were birthed from the simple three line poem. I will write more on the project and the botanical elements of the perfume creation
here on this journal in the next few days.
Cheers to the art spirit!

Memory and Desire
Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Image of the Lotus flower is courtesy of Christopher McMahon and Manoj Avasthi.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Visual and Aromatic Arts

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place;
from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper,
from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.

~ Pablo Picasso

Yesterday I was filmed here in the studio for an upcoming conference for "solpreneurs" happening this summer. Once I get more details I will post here, it sounds fabulous. I was asked questions regarding what business challenges I face. It's interesting that as a botanical perfumer and visual artist the challenges are quite similar. The main difference is that for an aromatic artist the health of ones sense of smell is paramount to your ability to work. Lately my olfactory sense has been a bit compromised by allergies. It's so frustrating! I can duplicate perfumes which have already been transcribed, however, creating new accords and perfumes can be a challenge. Interestingly enough, sometimes, when I sit down to work my sinuses and breathing clears. I attribute this to the healing powers of the essential oils, focus and working blissfully.

At the moment I continue to work on several custom perfume portraits, new accords, perfumes and the special fragrance I am creating for the Heather Ettlinger Perfume in a Poem Project. Have you been following the project? It's so fascinating to read each perfume artists interpretation of the Ezra Pound poem. Check it out, it's really inspiring. Fellow perfumer and colleague Ayala Moriel was featured yesterday.

Perfume in a Poem Project
Ayala Moriel
Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
Greg Spalenka
The School of Visual Arts

"Butterfly Lady" © Greg Spalenka is an original mixed media painting created for the School of Visual Arts in New York City. The original hangs at school in New York. If you lived in NYC in the eighties and rode the subways you might remember seeing it plastered on the walls.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Duir Way

"I am the Lorax,
I speak for the trees,
for the trees have no tongues."

- Dr. Suess

The latest issue of Sniffapalooza Magazine, March 23, 2008, contains a contribution titled "The Duir Way" detailing the inspiration for the perfume "Q", formerly known as Quercus.

The word Duir means Oak, the letter D corresponds to the seventh letter in the Ogham tree alphabet.* The Oak is the most important of all the trees to the Druids and the Celts. The
word Duir may have come from the sanscrit word dwr meaning door and is considered a gateway between the Worlds.
*source: Omens, Oghams & Oracles - Richard Webster

Sniffapalooza Magazine
Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

The Duir Way

"I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."
~ Dr. Suess

Have you ever tracked what you love, what inspires you, makes your soul sing? Recently I discovered a deep reverence for the mighty Oak, which unknowingly opened the portal to a series of botanical perfumes. Since purchasing our home in Spring 2000, my partner and I patiently awaited the right moment to buy the empty lot next to us. To our horror the neighbor turned around and sold the tiny, substandard lot to a developer. Our intention was to preserve the oak trees and create an indigenous garden. The intention of the developer was to take out all the trees and construct a 3500 square foot palace. We had always been told that oak trees were protected. Indeed, Los Angeles has something called "The Protected Tree Ordinance",
however, the ordinance means basically nothing when it comes to a developer wanting to build.

In the same parallel universe, I had begun a perfume based on Beltane. Beltane is an ancient Celtic/Druid holy day occurring on May 1st. On the eve of Beltane, I went out and gathered leaves from a large coastal live oak with the intention that the trees would stay firmly rooted and thrive. I mindfully cleaned the leaves and tinctured them as the perfume base. While the tincture marinated I created a wood chord of sixteen different essential oils, absolutes and C02 extractions. After filtering the tinctured leaves I began building the perfume, first with the wood chord and then adding other notes until the fragrance was complete. Pondering what to call the perfume I settled on “Q” for Quercus, which is the botanical name for Oak.

As I write this the four large oaks and several other small ones on the lot are still standing. We have gone before our local Specific Plan Board several times insisting that the trees must not be endangered or cut down. Each time we have won. In the meantime I have gotten involved with several local community groups, our neighborhood has been united and we have all learned a great deal. I now look at our native Oaks and the surrounding landscape with new eyes. I have learned the value of an authentic landscape. Did you know that all those palm trees that have become symbolic of LA are non-native?

I bow to the mighty oak and all they continue to teach me. If the challenge with the neighbor had never presented itself I may not have become an active proponent of Oaks and native plants. Sometimes our nemesis can facilitate a clear path to what we love and are here to do.

A portion of the proceeds from the purchase a 1/4 oz bottle of our “Q” perfume goes to the California Oak Foundation.

Q was the first botanical perfume in the series titled "Californica, honoring the aromatic landscape of the State of California.

Q is available for purchase, in a variety of sizes at my shop on Etsy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lavender and the media

Mis-information is currently being circulated by the big media conglomerates in regards to Lavender and the benefits of Essential Oils. It makes me think the the large pharmaceutical cartels, who own many media companies, have launched this attack.

Fortunately there is quite a lot of scientific evidence as to the validity of the therapeutic affects of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy.

An article in todays LA Times quotes a Charles Wysocki, from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, asserting that Essential Oils and Aromatherapy do not work through olfaction. Obviously the LA Times has not done there due diligence in researching this subject. Let's pull up some facts shall we:

1) The Pub Med, a service of the National Library of Medicine has plenty of documented studies validating Aromatherapy:
This great information was brought to my attention by Harry Roth of Alchemy Works.

2) The following is from Dr. Kurt Schnaubelts website, The Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy, regarding recent misinformation regarding Lavender and young boys.

Aromatherapy Won't Make You Well, Study Shows.
This was the headline repeated ad nauseam by online health newsletters such as Science Daily,, eFlux media, healthy living news or yourtotalhealth and the like in the early days of March.

An interesting, multilayered phenomenon is at work. It starts with the publication of original research that appears to pertain to aromatherapy and seems to negate the convictions held dear by the aromatherapy community. In a second step the original research is transcribed with relentless simplification into popular internet prose by the fast writing scribes of the news resellers aka online newsletters. A typical example was the recent nonevent where an an infamous piece of pseudo science was amplified to an online pandemic by senseless repetition in newsletters and even the mainstream press. Someone had speculated that lavender in hair shampoos could cause the formation of excessive breast tissue in adolescent boys.

In the case that led to this headline in Science Daily three distinctly separate aspects need to be distinguished.

First, there is the original article, in this case entitled, in factual scientific manner, “Olfactory influences on mood and autonomic, endocrine and immune function”.

Secondly there is the popular rendition of this in Science Daily and other newsletters which read: “Aromatherapy May Make You Feel Good, But It Won't Make You Well, Study Shows”. Juxtaposition of the two headlines reveals the factual tenor of the original article, which steers clear of overstating any of its findings. It also reveals the screaming nature of the popular rewrite, desperate to garner some attention on the over saturated health-channels of the web.

Thirdly there are issues that can be raised about the purpose and meaning of a recent trend, in which studies like the one discussed here aggressively prove the lack of efficacy of natural remedies. In recent times a number of well financed and immaculately organized studies have reported that the efficacy of various important phyto pharmacons does not exceed that of placebo. Plant medicines demoted in this fashion include St Johnswort, Echinacea, Saw Palmetto and Black Cohosh and soon probably also Gingko. Publication of the negative results generally appear in high level medical journals and spawn endless repetitions in scientific journals as well as the mainstream press generating the impression that somehow all the inherited wisdom about plant medicine is a figment of the imagination, unfit to perform under scientific scrutiny. The aspect entirely omitted from this discussion is that the methodology of the studies is entirely unsuitable to demonstrate the efficacy of neither the whole therapeutic approach of phytotherapy (or for that matter aromatherapy) nor that of a selected plant extract.

These three different aspects merit separate responses.

  • The original study
The original published text of the study, does exactly what it says, it determines whether or not participants exposed to the scent of lemon and lavender oils display any significant responses in terms of the parameters observed, i.e. alteration of the production of Interleukin 6 or Interleukin 10 or levels of salivary cortisol. These parameters were apparently chosen because they are considered to be the currency of immune status in current pharmacology. They do, however, not truly relate to suggestions the aromatherapy literature makes about these two oils. measuring these parameters somehow seems arbitrary!

  • The Science Daily rewrite
The summary style reports on the study, such as the one in Science Daily are a different story. Clearly mining the original study for material that can be crafted into sensational statements, the report intentionally takes a big leap when it aggrandizes “olfactory influences” as equivalent to all of aromatherapy. The omission has to appear intentional as otherwise the study would not yield a loud enough conclusion. An excerpt from Science Daily:

“One of the most comprehensive investigations done to date on aromatherapy failed to show any improvement in either immune status, wound healing or pain control among people exposed to two often-touted scents.”
Again, this entire statement hinges on equating exposure to scent with aromatherapy. A condition the author of the piece almost certainly knows not to be true. If the author of the newsletter piece would apply only minimal critical thinking she or he would have to comment on this. Seriously, most people would apply a wound healing ointment to the wound, inhaling wound ointments appears extravagant......

Much could be said about the culture and shortcomings of this sort of internet prose. Suffice it to mention only one aspect that is common to the whole choir of cross parroting rags, there is not the slightest sign of willingness to inject even a moderate amount of critical thinking into the evaluation of such a study. The original science is treated as wholly sacrosanct, entirely removed and off limits to any kind of question by the merely mortal lay public. If cultural critics were to look for a perfect example of rampant scientism, here is one!

  • Trend: Pharmacology sees plant medicine as ineffective
At the center of the third issue is the question what conventional pharmacology can and cannot recognize. It is clear that it has the tools to recognize specific effects and active ingredients, but it lacks the methods to recognize the health benefits of complex component mixtures with nonspecific effects. The de facto response of mainstream pharmacology to nonspecific effects is simply to declare these effects as non existent. (An example is the ability of lavender oil to sooth or even heal first and second degree burns, when applied topically. Everyone who has tried it knows lavender oil is highly effective under these circumstances. Pharmacology will tell you this is not so, since no mechanism or responsible active ingredient has yet been found!)

Following are some remarks to the issues involved:

What constitutes aromatherapy

What in fact constitutes aromatherapy has been hotly debated in the scientific literature. This debate started in ernest when the traditional use of essential oils, as described in aromatherapy classics such as Valnet’s “Practice of Aromatherapy” met with the opinion of some scientists that only effects mediated by the sense of smell should be summarized under the rubric aromatherapy. Consequently the question arose whether or not physiological effects resulting from trace amounts of essential oil absorbed into the blood stream during smelling (inhalation) are also to be considered aromatherapy. The discussion became rather involved and led to the introduction of the term aromachology by the industry driven Fragrance Foundation. Ultimately the slightly hysterical discourse was laid to rest by the commonsense observation of H. Wagner that since both pathways - olfaction and absorption - happen inseparably in normal life, the combined effect should be considered independent of semantics. It follows from many of the classic studies performed in the 1970ies - not the least those of H. Wagner - and of French style aromatherapy that essential oils can have many beneficial effects and can be applied in any number of ways. So for all practical purposes aromatherapy is the use of essential oils with the intent to heal, whereby the various means of application are not so much dictated by factual reasons, but rather various cultural orthodoxies depending on what jurisdiction one happens to be in, i.e. France or the UK!

Where Pharmacology does not tread:
The biological perspective
There is currently a strong trend to qualify plant medicines as mere placebos, despite the fact that clinical studies and experience often have demonstrated therapeutic efficacy. The discrimination against plant medicines is, among other reasons, based in the difficulty to unambiguously determine the substances (active ingredients) responsible for a given effect. In addition there is generally an expectation, admitted or not, that a single active ingredient can be found, despite the fact that plant medicines almost always contain a complex mixture of secondary metabolites.

To this non-pharmacologist writer the study in question looks very “state of the art’” This is probably what contemporary drug testing is meant to look like. But while the authors clearly state that they investigate merely the influence of odor of lemon and lavender oil on physiological parameters the question remains, whether or not this is a bona fide approach to research potential health effects of those two oils or aromatherapy in general! Everyone who peruses the aromatherapy literature even in the most cursory way must realize that the term aromatherapy is historical and includes the delivery of essential oils in many different ways. However, most likely no-one ever claimed that sticking a tape with odorant between upper lip and nostril - as is the method in the study - is one of them. If one were truly interested in discovering potential health benefits of lemon oil, one could start with the recognition that liver detoxification enzymes have evolved as a response to non-nutritive plant components. See further down Phase I and II liver detoxification enzymes.

Physiological activity of lipophilic plant constituents, essential oils and secondary plant metabolites in general.

Today molecular and evolutionary biology have provided a new perspective to explain the efficacy of plant medicines by understanding the bioactivity of secondary plant metabolites.

Plants need and use secondary metabolites to defend against challenges, by which they are continuously surrounded, such as herbivores, bacteria, fungi, viruses and competing plants. Secondary metabolites are also employed by plants as semiochemicals attracting pollinating as well as seed dispersing animals. Secondary metabolites can act as UV protectants or provide other chemical responses to environmental challenges such as lack or abundance of minerals etc.! Most secondary metabolites are multi functional. Plants generally contain complex mixtures of secondary metabolites providing a diverse array of different types of bioactivity, forming a cocktail of active components with an extremely broad spectrum of physiological effects.

The structural diversity of secondary metabolites that has evolved is immense. Consequently there are secondary metabolites whose specific structure interacts selectively with a molecular target in an animal or micro organism, The advantage of such substances is that they have strong effects vis a vis the animal organism and are risk free for the plant, since corresponding molecular targets are not present in the plant.

Nonspecific Effects

Besides developing selective mono substances plants have most frequently resorted to developing multicomponent mixtures which attack cellular targets not on a specific site but rather in the fashion of a broadband agent. These mixtures of active components simultaneously attack centrally important target structures such as proteins and the cell membrane! Since these structures occur in all cells, animal, bacterial, fungal and even in viruses, essential oils are often effective against animal and microbial challenges!

Typical broad spectrum plant substances are mustard oils, Allicin, Iridoids, aldehydes, Quinones or sesquiterpene lactones, all substances which can form covalent chemical bonds with proteins, the most important building blocks of the cell. When these substances form bonds with proteins they disturb their spatial arrangement (conformation) and consequently their activity!

The formation of multiple non covalent bonds such as hydrogen or ionic bonds, for instance by phenolic or phenyl propanoid hydroxyl groups as in thymol or eugenol leads to a change in protein conformation and thus protein activity.

Of special importance for essential oil effects is the fact that protein structures are held together by the action of lipophilic areas in the center of the protein, stabilizing it’s overall structure. The insertion of lipophilic terpenes into the hydrophobic core of proteins will significantly alter the structure and hence activity of the protein.

An example: Phase I and II liver detoxification enzymes

What is today known as liver detoxification enzymes has evolved in mammals as a means to remove non nutritive plant components, such as essential oils, from the organism. As mammals radiate into new territories they often are required to feed on new, unknown plant species. While the digestive enzymes process nutritive plant components such as carbohydrates, fats and oils and proteins, so called non nutritive components like lipophilic essential oils are foreign to the metabolism and need to be eliminated. As consequence the Cytochrome P-450 or Phase I enzymes evolved to oxidize these foreign molecules (xenobiotics) as well as the Phase II enzymes to further process the oxidized intermediate and facilitate their removal. The resulting effects are among the most beneficial of essential oil use, all be it that much of those happen inadvertently. Whenever we use lemon oil, or also many other essential oils they induce detoxification enzymes. And since induction is highly dynamic more enzymes is induced as is needed for the removal of the responsible essential oil component and further elimination of toxins is incurred.

It is ironic that plants are the native substrates having triggered the evolution of this enzyme system, which also removes the vast majority of all synthetic drugs. In todays medical literature this very enzyme system is generally referred to as drug metabolizing (!) enzymes creating the impression that somehow the removal of the synthetic drug is a feature that comes with its purchase.


If one accepts the fact that the purpose and mechanism of effects mediated by olfaction have developed in the course of biological evolution, it follows that odorants, at least those from the biosphere, would have been subject to evolutionary mechanisms that pertain to events and outcomes for living organisms in a given biosphere, i.e. events of fight or flight, mating or similar real life occurrences. Instances where the semiotics of human olfaction are especially relevant include our sense of individuality, mother child bonding, bonding to family members and friends, sexuality, group bonding, memory of places and nutrition. These instances are familiar to practically everyone and are only recounted to illustrate that odorants from the biosphere do generate relevant responses in human beings, albeit they are sometimes hard to quantify.

There appear to be large unexplored areas of the much denied impact odor has in our lives. Given the divers cultural and genetic dispositions different individuals may have, it is imaginable that some odors may have significant impact on some individuals and negligible impact on others. This is where a wholistic approach, looking at the whole person rather than a symptom or a drug has its moment.

Reprinted with permission from the PIA website.

In closing, we have come to a point in our lives where media sources are now owned by large corporate conglomerates with their own interests at heart. Did you know:

CBS is owned by Viacom
ABC is owned by Disney
NBC is owned by GE

As Harry says, "Wishing you an informed Day!"

Image above is a photogrpah taken of Lavender growing in Ojai at Rivendell Aromatics.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bunnies, Eggs and Mythical Creatures

Happy Easter! The origins of the word Easter are found in the ancient Saxon Lunar Goddess known as Eostre and Norse Goddess Ostara. In both these traditions, as well as those of the Greeks and Egyptians we find the symbolic use of eggs and bunnies. These images, along those of flowers, birds and resurrection are all pagan references to the advent of Spring and rebirth.

We took a walk up the street and into the mountains yesterday afternoon. I was curious to see what plants are currently flowering in the Chaparral. The Oaks have just finished flowering and are now quite green and robust. Many little baby oaks are sprouting in the queerest of places, thanks to the oak fairies, aka squirrels. I encountered a plethora of blue ceanothus in a front garden. The sage has not started blooming, yet looks poised to do so. During our walk, on a whim, we decided to take a different trail from the norm. To our great surprise we came to a fenced clearing that had about ten goats! We are assuming they are their as natural land mowers to clear brush in the Park land. As we approached they all rushed over, greeting us with their merry bleats. It felt appropriate to come across the lovely family of goats at the Vernal Equinox when we bow to the splendor of nature. Pan is the Greek God of the woods and fields, as well as flocks. He is depicted as half man half goat and considered the personification of nature. I am especially found of the portrayal of Mr. Tumnus, by James McEvoy, in the film version of The Chronicles of Narnia. McEvoy is so great at expressing deep emotion, most especially in the film Atonement.

I’m off to work in the garden, followed by another walk in the woods at sunset today with some friends. Perhaps today we will spot some of our local bunnies and quails.

Images: The two engravings are from old books which I've cleaned up and put on parchment. The photo of the goat was taken yesterday when we came across the flock here in our mountains.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

All things Spring

Today marks the mid point when the day is equal to the night, appropriately named Equinox, meaning "equal nights" in Latin. We are now in a period where the light begins to grow, peaking at the Summer Solstice on June 20th.

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ~ Albert Einstein

As I look out at the splendor of the blooming earth I am reminded of the parallels that exist between us and our planet. We humans are little microcosms of the earth. Thus, by looking deep into nature we can learn quite a bit about our selves.

In the northern hemisphere the earth is currently expressing herself through nature with the blossoming of flowers and trees. Words we often associate with the season are growth and renewal.

Hippocrates was the first to develop a theory on human beings as each having a temperament or humor which was relevant to each element and/or season. Galen, Steiner and Eysenck evolved the theory and added new perspectives.
The Spring temperament is referred to as Sanguine. Those born with a soul imprint of the celestial sphere of Spring tend to be painted by nature with vibrant tonalities and have a temperament which is social, vibrant and friendly.

“The light of nature in man comes from the stars.” ~ Paracelsus

As nature shifts into a new season we can assist our own body to do the same with internal Spring cleaning, both mentally and physically. A detox bath with salt and essential oils is a great way to welcome Spring and cleanse body+mind+spirit.

The ancient Druids refer to the Spring Equinox as Mean Earraigh associated with rebirth, fertility and immortality. It is the time for planting our seeds of manifestation. The herbs associated with Mean Earraigh that are also in the botanical perfumers palette are: Jasmine, Iris, Rose, Tansy and Violet. To create a botanical perfume for this high holiday consider beginning with a base note or chord reminiscent of earth notes, such as:
  • Mitti, distilled Earth
  • Patchouli
  • Vetiver
  • Spikenard

To that plant one of the following or a combination of:
  • Rose
  • Jasmine
  • Violet Leaf
  • Iris, Orris Root (Skin sensitizer, use small amounts)

Then fertilize with your top notes. Add a small amount of Tansy, for it’s energetic of the holiday, and then choose from an assortment of top notes, such as:
  • Yuzu
  • HoWood
  • Orange

Once you have put all your chosen essences together, add a few drops to a carrier oil like jojoba, a high quality perfumers alcohol or create a solid perfume. Click here for a basic solid perfume recipe.

Another way to approach a perfume or blend for this season is to look at the Morphological factors. Since the essences that come from seeds are associated with the beginning of life, growth and creation, then perhaps those would be another option. In most cases, but not all, seeds are top notes in perfume formulation.

As you apply your perfume affirm what it is that you would like to manifest in your life now.

All the illustrations are ©Roxana Villa. The illustration at top is titled "Resistence" and was commissioned for the cover of the LA Times Health Section. The two small spots were part of the card deck and book called "Meditations Kit" published by Running Press.

The Four Tempermants
The Keirsey Tempermant Test
Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Monday, March 17, 2008

Perfume Inside the Poem

Heather Ettlinger, devotee of both perfume and poetry, has fused her love into a fun and creative project on her blog Memory and Desire. Heather has attracted fourteen perfumers from different terrains to participate. The collaboration is called Perfume Inside the Poem and centers around the Ezra Pound poem titled In a Station of the Metro. An introduction to the project and the poem has been posted on the Memory and Desire blog. The contributing perfumers are quite diverse with aromatic palettes ranging from Naturals, Botanicals, Synthetics and/or a combination. Besides reading and viewing the contributions from each participant one can also enter to win samples.

The contribution from Roxana Illuminated Perfume is scheduled to be posted on Memory and Desire Saturday, March 29th.

The image above is more evocative of the Poem Inside the Perfume, than the Perfume Inside the Poem. However, it is a lovely illustration which conveys an appropriate mood. The bottle in the illustration is a mason jar which I use to tincture and infuse many of the materials that go into my botanical perfumes. The illustration is called "Preserved Memories" ©Greg Spalenka.

Perfume Inside the Poem
Memory and Desire
Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Everything is blooming most recklessly;
if it were voices instead of colors,

there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring has most definitely sprung here in the Santa Monica Mountains. The little chickadees are out in mass, bunnies abound and the Oaks are blooming! In fact, I don't think I've ever seen the Oaks bloom like they are now. So along with all the wonders of Spring, allergies have hit in full force. (Yuck!) It's also time for Spring cleaning, or re-organizing in my case. The studio is in complete chaos at the moment as I get rid of old art supplies and re-structure the space to accommodate my vast collection of aromatics.

It's super busy here to with six custom perfumes, orders and a new perfume ready to release in the next month and upcoming classes. I've created an amber type chord I am currently calling "DIRT", its not fresh, vegetative dirt, more like desert rain dirt. Two of the perfumes I've been working on were in need of something like this. The aromatic profile is so terrific, I can see wearing it on its own. Alright, it is not technically a true perfume, but heck, it sure smells delightful and perfectly in tune with the season. A botanical perfume chord for planting ones seeds of manifestation.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
~ Margaret Atwood

Happy Birthday to my beloved Greg, today marks his half centennial existence on our lovely blue planet. Time to make merry and prepare for the numerous celebrations that await! The illustration above is one of his digital images, originally created for the Laguna Art Institute.
©Greg Spalenka

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Monday, March 10, 2008


“I am you; you are ME. You are the waves;
I am the ocean. Know this and be free, be divine.”

- Sri Sathya Sai Baba

A divine Goddess in my realm sent me a link to The Hyperbolic Crochet Reef Project because I am a parent of a child in a Waldorf School. Children in Waldorf Schools learn to knit in first grade. Rudolph Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education, understood the profound value in working with the hands.

The Hyperbolic Crochet Reef Project at the Institute for Figuring is super cool! Imaginative and weaving the logical and creative spheres of the brain, in the same way that knitting does. They are using fractal “figuring” to crochet a reef! The site includes directions on how to participate as well as info on the traveling exhibit.
All you crochet-masters out there, get your needles ready.

On a different note, pun intended, the botanical perfumer has quite a number of essences in their palette that are considered “Oceanic”, also referred to as Marine, odors of the sea or seashore:
  • Choya - roasted sea shells
  • Seaweed
  • Chords of Amber, due to its odor similarity to Ambergris.
  • Lichen - Oakmoss absolute diluted way down.

Handmade items have such wonderful vitality. There is an organic, dynamic quality that is unsurpassed....especially knowing that it was crafted by an individual from organic materials. No Borg! What’s Borg, ah, you must not be a “Treky” if you are asking this question. The Borg are a group of organic and synthetic (cyborg) characters from Star Trek. There’s a terrific dialogue between the human Captain Jean Luc Picard and the cy-Borg Queen in the film First Contact.

The Hyberbolic Crochet Reef Project at The Institute for Figuring
Buy Handmade
Waldorf Education: History, Humanity, and Handwork
The Borg
Illuminated Perfume™

The photo above is by Alyssa Gorelick, "Crochet Coral and Anemone Garden" with sea slug by Marianne Midelburg.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Botanical Perfume & Alchemy: Sage

“You are an alchemist; make gold of that.” - William Shakespeare

Alchemy in the Casitas Pass
March 29, 2008

Alchemy is often associated with the art of botanical perfume due the transformation of physical matter through the process of distillation. Sandy Messori of Rivendell Aromatics and Roxana of Illuminated Perfume have aligned their passion and skills to bring you a day of distillation, plant wisdom and scent making. We have chosen White Sage, Salvia apiana, for our day long aromatic exploration. White Sage is a member of the California Chaparral Biome and held sacred by the Native People of America.

Our day begins at 9am at Rivendell Aromatics with hands on preparation of the plant material to be distilled. Once the Prima Materia has been prepared and put into the still we will study the plant from all perspectives including: historical, medicinal and perfumery.

Rivendell Aromatics resides among 3000 Hass Avocado Trees in the lovely Casitas Pass Valley, near Santa Barbara, California. A 50 gallon stainless steel distillation unit with a glass condenser is utilized to distill their own oils and hydrosols from organically grown plants. The farm is owned by the Messori family and operated by Roland and Sandy Messori. Sandy and Roland are graduates of Cal Poly University, California.

Sandy will be the main conductor of the day, as we harvest and prepare the "physical matter" to be transformed into the "quintessence". I will contribute my aromatherapeutic blending and botanical perfumery background to the experience as we learn and create from the plant matter harvested. Together Sandy and I will demonstrate different ways to use both the hydrosol and the essential oil produced from the distillation.

Each participant will take part in the alchemical transformation of the plant matter from solid mass to aromatic treasures as well as prepare at least one item to take home with them. This is a unique and special experience in our local community with a boutique distillation in a gorgeous, peaceful setting. A light, vegetarian lunch will be served. Our day will end at 4pm. Please wear suitable clothing and bring a notebook to write in.

The fee for the entire day, including materials is $140 or $70 for half the day. A deposit of half of which is due up front to reserve your seat. The balance is due before the day of the class. Due to the nature of the class, participation is limited, we encourage you to reserve your seat now. The deposit is non-refundable. We require the full amount at time of registration if you choose to pay with a credit card. Please contact Sandy to reserve your seat and directions: (805) 649-2476 or

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Today was the final class in the California Native Plant Design series at the Theodore Payne Foundation. I now have a complete landscape design using native plants for the front portion of our lot. I chose plants from the Woodland and Chaparral community since that is where our home is located. The intention for the design is beauty and expand awareness of native flora. Aromatic plants were chosen to be included in the creation of botanical perfumes, especially those in the Californica series.

We began the process by removing the vinca, native to Europe, that covered our front slope. I’m sure that process will continue. This past week we started giving away other non-natives in the garden to neighbors, family and friends. Although we still have lots of work to do before we can start planting, I do intend to have some plants in the ground by April!

The painting above is called Sovereignty, the image came to me during a Beltane meditation.

In 1996 I was part of an initiate circle with about seven other women. We would meet once a month at a loft in downtown LA. The intention was greater awareness. We would meditate, drum, read, study archetypal energies, do ritual and practice mindfulness. Here is an excerpt from one of our handouts, by our facilitator and dear friend Kaitryne:
“The Goddess Sovereignty represents the inherit unity of the King and the Land. She also stands for just and truthful dealings among all peoples. She is the epicenter about which the Arthurian Legends revolve, for she is the Goddess of the land and whatever affects the land causes changes in her. The Goddess of Sovereignty holds a four-sided cup of truth and justice: if three falsehoods are said over it: it will shatter into pieces; but if three truths are said over it: it will reunite. Like the Earth itself, she must be respected.”

Of all the archetypes we studied Sovereignty keeps circling back to me, especially now that I find myself defending the Oak trees in and around my community.

If I were to create a perfume in honor of Sovereignty I would start with a base of earthy and woody notes, possibly: Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Mitti, Vetiver, Patchouli. The greenness of Galbanum is a must for its definitive green, fresh earth quality. Where to go from there...hmmm....

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
The Theodore Payne Foundation
Arthurian Traditions

Sovereignty ©Roxana Villa