Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Vera

I first experimented with an EDC, eau de Cologne, in November of 2005. I built the fragrance utilizing a tincture of bay leaves and a synergy combining bay laurel essential oil with spices and citrus. It was the first time I had ever added water to a combination of alcohol, essential oils and tinctured material. Referring back to my meticulous note taking I notice it took a few tries to get the whole darn thing working.
The secret lies in the drop by drop approach followed by filtration. The process definitely reminds one of how closely linked to alchemy perfume making is.

In December of 2007 I decided to attempt a more traditional EDC incorporating the classic herb and citrus combination. This is something I had been sketching and pondering for years. The first perfume I ever wore was an Argentine cologne which my mother and grandmother doused me in regularly. It was fabricated by my grandfathers company Quimica Estrella. My cologne experiment didn’t get very far due to other obligations. However three months later, in February 2008, I was contacted by Sandy Messori of Rivendell Aromatics to be the keynote speaker at the Ojai Lavender Festival. I decided to continue my EDC experiments with the intention of creating a fragrance devoted to Lavender specifically for the event. The EDC path took me to the creation of the botanical perfume Vera, named after true Lavender, Lavandula vera. In nomenclature the term "vera" has now been replaced by angustifolia or officinalis referring to the official plant used in medicinals.

Vera began as a traditional eau de Cologne combining citrus with lavender. The fragrance surpassed the simplicity of an EDC with the addition of several base notes and a fully developed heart. I decided to paint an authentic landscape of Ojai with this fragrance and thus tinctured both Lavender and Sage. Both herbals used in the tincture were grown in Ojai. I also utilized essential oils that were distilled in the region by locally grown plants. Upon studying the history of the area I weaved in notes associated with the first natives and the Chumash Indians. The addition of Orange Blossom in the heart was brought in for the orange groves that have become emblematic with the region.

Vera Botanical Perfume
Roxana at the 2007 Ojai Lavender Festival
Rivendell Aromatics
Ojai Lavender Festival

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Image of Bayrum bottle at top and Lavender at bottom are old engravings I placed on parchment in Photoshop ©RoxanaVilla.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

herb + citrus = EDC

History on eau de Cologne is quite varied and difficult to pin down exactly where the word and formula came from. It appears the term eau de Cologne was coined by French soldiers stationed in the city of Köln, Germany. History tells us the first EDC was a toilet water developed by Jean-Paul Feminis and popularized by the Farina family. However the origins of toilet waters most likely began with Hildegard von Bingen in 1100. A visionary and herbalist, the Abbess of Bingen wrote several treaties on flora and fauna, created musical plays, and is credited as the originator of lavender water. Both “Carmelite water” and “Hungary water”, thought to have been developed by nuns and monks in Europe during the 1200’s, are the precursors to eau de Cologne.

A traditional eau de Cologne combines citrus with herb. A modern botanical rendition consists of citrus essences such as: Bergamot, Lemon, Orange, Petitgrain and Neroli with herbals Lavender, Rosemary and Thyme. Occasionally a resin, such as Benzoin of Siam, is added as a fixative. The original Carmelite water was comprised of the herbs Melissa and Angelica, where as Hungary water featured Rosemary. Both these formulas were considered cure alls for a variety of ailments deemed miracle waters, Aqua Mirabillis. Later they became much more complex and eventually morphed into the classic we know as eau de Cologne with a refreshing melding of citrus with herb. The traditional eau de Cologne is not meant as a perfume but as a fresh spritzer for the mental and physical body.

The famous fragrance 4711, is a descendant of the original Farina family eau de Cologne, (German: Kölnisch Wasser). A copy of the Farina version was created by Wilhelm Muhlens and later established as 4711 by the grandson Ferdinand Mulhens. The number 4711, pronounced forty seven eleven, is a street address in Germany. The popular brand has passed many hands over the years and is now in possession of the Farina family.

4711 was one of my standard fragrances before I discovered essential oils. A simple eau de Cologne is easy to make and provides a lovely refreshing quality as we move into the warmer months. Below is a basic formula. I encourage you to experiment with different essences and the proportion of citrus to herb. I’ve seen one formula that utilizes spearmint as the herbal component and lemongrass as the citrus. If you choose to use lemongrass keep in mind that it has a very strong odor and should be used in small increments. Lemongrass is one of those genie in the bottles whose scent can multiply over time. Utilizing aromatherapy knowledge a calming synergy would include Lavender and perhaps a touch of Chamomile with Bergamot and Mandarin. A stimulating synergy might include Rosemary, Basil and or Peppermint in combination with Lemon and Lemon Verbena. The possibilities are endless, follow you nose.

INGREDIENTS

Essential oil Synergy (see below)
7 drops distilled water or hydrosol
90 mls Alcohol: Use perfumers alcohol. Vodka, rum, or brandy can be used if perfumers alcohol is not an option.

Essential Oil Synergy
25 drops Bergamot essential oil
15 drops Lemon essential oil
4 drops Neroli essential oil
4 drops Rosemary essential oil
1 drop Thyme essential oil
1 drop Benzoin essential oil

1. Combine essential oils together into a glass bottle with a tight fitting lid. Allow to meld or move on to to step two.
2. Add essential oils to your alcohol, allow to meld or move on to to step three.
3. Add water drop by drop to the blend and allow to set in a cool, dark space with lid tightly secured for at least a few days, a month to a week is best.
4. Decant or filter into a colored glass atomizer.
5. Spritz as needed.

SUPPLIERS

Essential Oils:
Floracopeia
Eden Botanicals
Sunrose


Bottles:
Sunburst Bottle Company

Alcohol:
Remet Corporation (562) 921-0911 / (714) 739-0171

Images are old engravings which I have scanned, cleaned up and placed on parchment paper utilizing Photoshop, each is ©Roxana Villa.

References:

Kelville, Kathy, Green, Mindy "Aromatherapy: Complete Guide to the Healing Art", 1995, The Crossing Press

Williams, David, "Perfumes of Yesterday", 2004, Michelle Press

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pumpkin

Who would have thought that pumpkin pancakes would work in perfect combination with lentils. This morning I made pumpkin pancakes for the family. (A few of them for Eve and I had chocolate chips.) Greg decided we needed more protein, thus the lentils came into the picture. It makes perfect sense actually, Indian food is often served with naan, in our case the pumpkin pancakes laced with nutmeg and cinnamon played the role of the bread.

While I was adding the spices and vanilla to the pumpkin batter I remembered the 1996 World of Aromatherapy Conference. I attended this gala affair in San Francisco a few years after becoming conscious of essential oils and aromatherapy. The keynote speaker was Dr. Alan Hirsch, M.D discussing his research findings on the affect of certain aromatics on mens libido. His research concluded that the odor of pumpkin pie and lavender stimulated the male species. It seems to me that more specifically it is the combination of spices, vanilla and memory associations triggering the response. After all, in aromatherapy both spices and vanilla are considered aphrodisiacs. However, as Jeanne Rose says “Scent is in the nose of the beholder.”

The first World of Aromatherapy Conference and Trade Show was organized by Ms. Rose, it was both invigorating and classy. The three day event took place at the Palace Hotel in the heart of San Francisco. During the conference I purchased the book The World of Aromatherapy, an anthology featuring many of the women involved with NAHA, the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. The book contains an article by Christine Malcolm, a pioneer of Natural and Botanical Perfume. She was trained as a commercial perfumer and thus has an orientation on both realms. In her article she states, “Using a natural perfume reflects the way in which we honor ourselves by honoring the Earth.”

We don’t, as of yet, have an essential oil of pumpkin. I have seen spinach essential oil on the market though, so...you never know. In the meantime, nutmeg, cinnamon and other related spices will convey that pumpkin pie aromatic profile.

Dr. Alan Hirsch, M.D
NAHA
Jeanne Rose

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Images at top and bottom are old engravings which I have scanned, cleaned up and placed on parchment paper utilizing Photoshop, both are ©Roxana Villa

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Purple Haze


I power walked up the steep street which leads to the Santa Monica Mountain trails early this morning. The birds were singing, bees a humming and as the landscape shifted from homes to plant life the scent of white sage filled my lungs.

There are areas of the mountain with clusters of the native sage shrubs, Salvia apiana, which give a soft purple cast to the side of the hill. It is quite stunning. Best to appreciate it now before the city comes in to clear cut all of it as fire prevention. I am not fond of them doing this. I’d rather they mindfully go in and remove all the deadwood and non-native mustard. The
Salvia apiana, is a member of the California Chaparral Biome and held sacred by the Native People of America. It is the sage often used for smudging. We use it as our incense for its warm and woody fragrance.

Our perfume Chaparral, consisting of botanical essences and handcrafted tinctures, is starting to run low. Inhaling the fresh, woody aromatics of the landscape, I contemplated deepening the palette of this fragrance.

It’s time to go on a hike with Meghan, Queen of the Chaparral. Meghan is one of my girlfriends who has a deep connection with the flora and fauna. She is adept at tracking and embodies earth element. We’ve been attempting getting together since she returned from a sojourn in South Africa. The time is ripe!

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
Chaparral Botanical Perfume
The Chaparral Institute

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Soul Star

The second Whole Child, Whole Planet Expo took place this past weekend under a radiant Sun. The word “whole” being the epicenter of this two day event, focusing on all things wholistic, from the inside out.

Master Gregorio created the image for the striking banner at our booth. The iconic orchid bee, which serves as our logo, was magnetic attracting people to the booth due to it’s color and rich texture.
Our seven perfumes were displayed on an antique serving tray. Vespertina won the prize for the most accolades with all our other six fragrances vying for second place, each having its own entourage.

At 2pm at the Whole Foods Celebrity Kitchen Stage I was interviewed by the lovely Rachel Avalon. Rachel served as a Mistress of Ceremony during the two days, skillfully interviewing movers and shakers within the Green movement. Rachel is a graceful presenter melding intuition with intelligence. She has an uncanny ability to process answers to the questions shes asked and take the conversation to a deeper level.

Although the weekend was extremely warm, a steady flow of fans and attendees visited the booth to sample our botanical perfumes. The event proved a bit challenging for our display as the ambient temperatures reached 100 degrees in the shade. Thank the Goddess for ice packs!

Attendees and exhibitors included a number of educators and individuals involved with Anthroposophy and Waldorf education. I had the privilege of visiting with many luminaries and friends which I have not seen in years.

"I awoke this morning
with devout thanksgiving for my friends,
the old and the new."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am filled with gratitude for the fans who trekked out to see us in the blazing Sun, the new friends we have made and all those facilitating a deeper awareness of ourselves and the planet.

Greg Spalenka
Whole Child, Whole Planet
Highland Hall Waldorf School
Rachel Avalon
Anthroposophy
Waldorf Education
Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The May Tree

Today marks the start of a new Celtic lunar cycle according to the Beth-Luis-Nion calendar. Each of the thirteen cycles, consisting of twenty-eight days, is related to one of the trees which the old Celts held sacred. May 13th is the first day of the sixth moon related to the Hawthorn. The tree is sometimes referred to as Thorn, May Tree and Hagthorn and has a phallic appearance which is probably why is this magical tree is considered masculine in nature. The berries, leaves and wood of the tree are used in herbal medicine. Hawthorn lore is closely associated with the festival of Beltane and the fairae realm. It is one of the trees creating the triad of “Oak, Ash and Thorn.” Where these trees grow together is where one will find the fair folk of the fey realm.

Image ©Greg Spalenka www.spalenka.com
Roxana illuminated Perfume™

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Name that note

He arrived back from the farmers market with the usual suspects: greens for juicing, plenty of salad greens, plump berries of all kinds and a surprise! I thought, mmmm chocolate perhaps? He instructed me to close my eyes, which I did obediently. Then he said "Now smell this." Oh, I thought, not chocolate, brain switches to olfactory mode and I inhale with odor identification in mind. A floral, but not the usual farmers market flowers...a little powdery, a bit of green, a slight spice note and hmmm, is that a back note of soap. I am perplexed, I think...not rose, not jasmine. I finally give up. It was a bouquet of beautiful violet and white lilacs!
Lilac, as a raw material to the botanical perfumer is not currently available. They have tried many times to extract the lovely fragrance, but, to no avail. It is one of those rare beauties whose time has not yet come. Although, may arrive shortly. As I've continued to inhale the fragrance throughout the day, studying the array of notes permeating the dining room. I have come to the conclusion that there is a lilac component to the botanical perfume Vespertina. I have cracked open a few of the perfume books in my collection. Sure enough some of the natural components which create the fragrance of lilac are in Vespertina.

Images ©Roxana Villa. The blueberry photograph was taken at a farmers market in Vancouver last Summer and the Lilacs are the ones that Greg brought me today.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fragrance as Sculpture

Kurt Anderson of Studio 360 features Perfume in this weeks segment of the nationally syndicated, popular radio program. Fragrance authors Luca Turn and Tania Sanchez of the recent "Perfumes: The Guide" talk with Kurt while walking through a
Duane Reade in New York City. Their perspectives are very interesting, especially Luca speaking on structural chemical relationships. Just keep in mind, as Greg has reminded me, they represent the large perfume conglomerates.

The book Perfumes: The Guide was the rave at the latest Sniffapalooza in NYC. All the "perfumistas" have been talking about it. It's on my list, just as soon as I'm done with Jitterbug Perfume.

Studio 360

The image is of a Chinese snuff bottle gifted to me by my lovely mother. I have another one, almost identical that was given to me by my father.

Ah, it's Friday!


I've had a few enquiries as to what I am currently working on. Generally, an artistic endeavor of some sort is happening here in the studio at all times. In the past the studio was mostly a place for creating illustrations for publications. Now there are bottles and bottles of high grade essential oils, absolutes, tinctures, glass beakers, filters scent strips, etc. The bottles of essence seem to multiply like rabbits, both in my studio and the refrigerator. Not to mention all the tinctures.

In this sacred moment I am working on an Eau de Cologne, the perfume The Three Graces and several custom perfume portraits. Currently melding is a Leather perfume that began as a chord, the second edition of Vera, the new perfume and several chords. I am also typing up some of my formulas so that I can recreate them with more grace and ease. What seems to take the longest is assembling all the essences, which I line up, just like a painter does with his colors of pigment. New levels of the similarities between creating perfume and a painting continue to present themselves to me.

Samples, perfumes and aromatherapy blends are being packed and ready for shipping. Last minute preparations are being completed for our booth at the upcoming WCWP Expo. I have been working daily with Greg on imagery for the new perfume and Martha on her extraordinary contribution to our packaging design. On almost a daily basis I dialogue with my website designer who has now become a dear and beloved friend.

A friend met through a passion for native plants has given me his copy of Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins to read. I am thoroughly enjoying it and highly recommend it to all scent devotees. During the eighties, when I had just moved to NYC with Ben, he was reading the book. He is a enormous fan of Robbins and has been telling me to read this novel ever since. It was the act of someone giving me the book which finally got me to read it. Thank you Ron!

There are a multitude of projects in the works, however, they are not ready to be revealed just yet. Even if it is Friday, my very favorite day of the week! Thank you to all the angels who walk this path with me on this lovely adventure here on planet spaceship Earth.

Image above is © Greg Spalenka, see more of his beautiful work at www.spalenka.com

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Secret in the Forest

The main green notes in perfumes come from leaves and stems which give the impression of the scent of grass and crushed leaves. Heather Ettlinger of the blog “Memory and Desire” has just posted an entry about green perfumes which include our “Q” and Sierra. When I begin a perfume I don’t generally start with the idea of working within a particular fragrance family, perhaps that’s the rebel artist in me. Instead I start with an idea and create the perfume using notes which will best convey the idea. With the perfume Q, it began as a tribute to Beltane which auspiciously led to the Oak. In the case of Sierra, it was the great Redwood trees of the Pacific coast which began the long and winding road of its creation.

About a week ago I was in the midst of making a new batch of Sierra, for some reason this perfume in particular has been rather challenging for me. The perfume contains multiple chords within chords, worlds within worlds, thus when it is reformulated all those chords need to be ready and matured in order to begin. I had just finished the new batch and had three family members take a sniff and give me their impressions. The feedback wasn’t quite what I needed. Greg suggested I ask someone within the perfume arena to give me feedback. The next morning, to my delight, I received a message from Heather Ettlinger with her impression of Sierra. I was delighted at how swiftly spirit had intervened to provide input and am so grateful for Heather. Here are bits and pieces from the e-mail she sent me, which she graciously has permitted me to post.


For the last four days, I have been delving steadily deeper into the forest of the green-colored sample of Sierra. The first time I applied it, I was stunned by its lush dark greenness - almost the blackgreen of the evergreens in Austria, and a real sense that I was deep inside that forest in the midst of a snowfall, with the black branches blocking out light and snow and creating an
otherworldy pocket of warmth. The top notes are quite camphoraceous in the first few minutes, and I was a little concerned that this would go bitter, as some camphoraceous notes can turn bitter on me.

How astonishing, then, to find that just fifteen or twenty minutes into that lush forest, I found myself enjoying what seems like it must be orange, spice, and perhaps the ambery resin of labdanum?

It's as though in the middle of an immense and forbidding black forest (Percival probably entered the Great Woods in search of the Grail at just such a point of darkness) I was standing at the doorstep of a cottage, the candlelight and shine of warmth and laughter radiating from within it. I imagine here that it is advent, and this couple is celebrating the winter festivals in their hidden forest home, but they have spared no expense for their guests who have wandered here, enchanted, just as I have. The lady of the house has taken us all in, the fugitive princess hiding in a tiny cave, the weary beggar, the dancing girl, and two tiny little men with bright violet eyes, who speak no language we know, but understand all we say. We sit late into the night; the table is decorated with living branches, sap pouring through the greenery onto the table and crystalizing into amber gems before us. An intoxicating tea is served with exotic fruits, studded with spices. It is a long, marvelous evening, much longer than we thought possible.

This scent lasts much longer than I would ever expect a botanical scent to last, and it has real backbone - real courage! I adore it, Roxana. Sierra remains lively and interesting through a good eight hours..

I am very happy to have had the opportunity to try this lush green walk in an enchanted woods, and if I am the princess hiding in the cave, I am brought out of it and into a home of safety through this deliciously inviting scent. In short, I love it.

Inspired,
Heather

The botanical perfumes “Q” and Sierra each give a portion to a related organization from the sale of the 1/4 oz flacon of perfume. "Q" is affiliated with the California Oak Foundation and Sierra is affiliated with TreePeople. Both these perfumes are part of our series celebrating the
aromatic landscape of the state of California. Learn more about the Californica series by clicking here.

Entirely Green on Memory and Desire

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Images: Above "Sierra" © Greg Spalenka, middle image is a secondary image used for Sierra from our website, the other image is a painting by Sir John Everett Millais titled The Proscribed Royalist 1651, Date: 1852-53 from ArtMagick.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Beltane Perfume

The warming weather, longer daylight hours, the blossoming earth all hearken the turn of the great earth wheel once again. Beltane, one of the high Celtic holy days, has arrived. Traditionally celebrated with wild romps in the woods and dancing around the Maypole the following day. Beltane, also spelled as Beltaine, has very powerful and complex energetics related to it.

For me, it is one of my favorites of the Celt festivals. Appropriately for Illuminated Perfume the holy day marks the beginning of the light in this portion of the great wheel. Boughs and flowers are gathered on the eve before for decoration in honor of the Sun. Cakes and milk is offered to the spirits, standing stones are visited and gentlefolk decorate themselves with garlands, flowers and greenery. The Maypole, masculine energy, is planted into the Earth, feminine energy. Symbolically this represents the movement of energy descending down from Father Sky to meet Mother Earth and bless the land for abundant crops. Two of my teachers, David Crow and Dr. Stephen Johnson, speak of dancing as acupuncture for Mother Earth. I can see clearly how dancing around the Maypole on a high holiday, when the veil between the worlds is thin, would be potent medicine for both Earth and dancer.

Throughout Druidic lore we find the elementals to be at the core of the mythology. Beltane is one of the four "fire" festivals. Fire acting as the primordial source of Life. Water is the second element to be honored for the much needed rainfall assuring abundant crops.

In composing a botanical/natural perfume for Beltane I start with a wood chord/accord for the Maypole. Continuing with Mitti for the Earth, Black Pepper for the Fire, and Jasmine for Water. I add spiritual essences which combine attributes of purification, protection and psychic powers. Tinctures or essences of flowers, berries, leaves and stems are all appropriate for the blooming of the land.

In few years back for Beltane I created the perfume "Q" (for Quercus agrifolia) in honor of the Oak. In the Celtic tree calendar May is devoted to Duir, Oak. This perfume continues to be a favorite, especially for those devoted to pagan traditions and fairy kin.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
"Q" Perfume

The image at top is titled MayTree ©Roxana Villa & Greg Spalenka, created from an old engraving. The image of the young lady in the garland is an old engraving placed on parchment. The image at bottom right is ©Greg Spalenka & Roxana Villa, it was created specifically for the "Q" perfume.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Perfume at WCWP Expo


Roxana Illuminated Perfume™ will be at the upcoming Whole Child, Whole Plant Expo in Los Angeles. The super green event features notables in the green movement such as Ed Begley Jr, Amy Brenneman, Stephen Stills, Erin Gray, Sandra Tsing Loh, Cambria Gordon, Laurie David and surprise guests.

The booth number for Roxana Illuminated Perfume™ is 262 in the Grassy Field, Exhibit Area #2. We will be there with our botanical perfumes, artwork, and music. Greg Spalenka, the artist creating the visuals for our perfumes, and jewelry artisan Lori Patton will be on hand.

Roxana will be participating in a panel discussion to take place on the Saturday of the event at 2pm.

Whole Children, Whole Planet Expo takes place 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sat. and Sun., May 17-18 at Highland Hall Waldorf School, 17100 Superior St., Northridge, 91325.

Tickets are $10 single day, $12 two-day pass for adults; $8 single day, $10 two-day pass for seniors; $5 single day and $7 two-day pass for children 12-18 years. Free for children 12 and younger.

The first 200 people to purchase tickets will receive a free gift. Tickets are available on line or by phone through Brown Paper Tickets, the first and only fair trade ticketing service. Call (800) 838-3006 or visit the Brown Paper Tickets website.

For more information about the WCWP Expo, call (818) 781-8989 or visit the website.

Image above, “Pollinate” ©Roxana Villa, is an acrylic painting originally created for Childrens Hospital.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™