Friday, October 31, 2008

NY Sniffa 2008: One

In the e-mail that the NY Sniffa 2008 attendees received the Karens stated:

We feel it's our duty to warn you that you will have such a glorious time at this event, you'll meet so many fascinating friends, and you will feel so loved and pampered that you will want to do it again next weekend, and the weekend after that... and you won't be able to!
You have
to wait for another Sniffapalooza!

They were spot on., and must have something to do with the magnetism of Team Karen. I auspiciously hooked up with an acquaintance from a dinner party back in 1998, Sarah Squeri. Ah, but I digress, lets begin at the beginning.

The Saturday (Uptown) event began at Bergdorf Goodman commenced at 8:15am with the famous breakfast at Goodman’s CafĂ©. At 10am more sniffers arrived and the morning continued on the beauty floor with conversation with special guests and perfumers, sampling, makeup artists, special GWP's, and the legendary BG gift bags.

At 12:30 attendees wondered over to Opia restaurant for a fabulous lunch and more guest presenters, including Avery Gilbert. Avery is the author of What the Nose Knows, he sat next to Greg and I at the luncheon. He was the first presenter and dazzled the attendees with tidbits from What the Nose Knows.

I also presented during this phase of the olfactory adventure. My sampler packages contained a postcard, bookmark and business card. Some contained a liquid perfume sample with a scent strip while others contained the solid perfume version of Sierra. Greg put together a visual presentation to accompany my seven minute discourse.

At 2:45 the gang walked over to Takashimaya for more sniffing & dessert with special guests, like the beloved Neil Morris. Across the street was Henri Bendels, where Janna Sheehan of Trance Essence and Jessica Dunne of Ellie and Ellie Nuit were on hand. Both lovely, beautiful ladies.

While we were all enjoying ourselves inside Henri Bendels the wind and rain began descending upon NYC. Many arrived at the next destination, Spafumerie, drenched from the across town walk. The owner of Spafumerie, Joe Graces, treated us to chocolate covered strawberries amongst other cocktails & reiki work at his spectacular spa. All in honor of the 60th anniversary of Fracas.

(Pictured below, from right to left Greg, Karen Dubin, Vida and myself.)

At this party is where I encountered Sarah, who quickly became my new best friend! Other conjunctions of the heart-kind included; Leah, a sol sister (yes, i mean sol as in sun, we are both Leos with an auspicious amount of similar planetary line-ups) and the passionate and charismatic, Ida.

The evening festivities ended at a long dining table seating at least twenty of us at an Italian restaurant. Stay tuned for the Sniffa Day Two recap next.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
Images: Heart table illustration by Greg Spalenka, Breakfast area at Bergdorf Goodman by Sarah Squeri, Roxana presenting at the Opia Lunch by Michael Friedlander, Gang of four at Spafumerie by Sarah Squerie and Video clip by Greg Spalenka

ReCycling the Self

"Corn and grain, corn and grain,
All that falls shall rise again."
~ Wiccan Harvest Chant

We have reached the end of the agricultural cycle and begin the Celtic New Year. The veils between the worlds are lifted this evening, making it a good time to communicate with departed souls, the faerie realm and traveling to the underworld. On the physical plane clear your mind and walk a labyrinth, as you spiral out hold the intention of what you are birthing anew.

There is a fantastic Labyrinth at Forest Lawn here in the Los Angeles area. My favorite is the Lavender Labyrinth, known as the Lavarinth at Rivendell Aromatics in Ojai.

Check out the Labyrinth Society online for more info, resources and events relating to everything Labyrinthian.

Some essences to contemplate for a Samhain botanical perfume or an anointing oil: Sage, Artemisia and Apple Blossom concrete. Opoponax is appropriate due to its association with the planet of death and resurrection, Pluto. Other materials to consider in maceration or tinctured form are: Corn, Grain, Pumpkin, Turnip, Arborvitae, Hazel, Oak, and Acorn. Add a little Choya or Cade for the Sacred Bonfire.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
Images: Old pumpkin engraving on parchment and Lavender Labyrinth Photo ©Roxana Villa

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rosa Perfume

"Truth and Roses have thorns about them."
~ Henry David Thoreau

The fifth perfume in our series celebrating the aromatic landscape of the State of California is Rosa. Inspiration for this fragrance came when my friend Meghan took me over to the Theodore Payne Foundation and introduced me to the native rose of California. Up until that moment I had no idea that there existed a native rose. The botanical name for this wild rose is Rosa californica, a five petaled deciduous shrub important to local wildlife.

In the book Introduction to California Chaparral the authors write "As a group species of chaparral roses are tough, resilient, woody survivors of an ancient vegetation that covered much of the western United States millions of years ago." (page 81) I have also been told that the upright, straight stems were used by the Native Americans for their arrows.

Shortly after the Fragrant Alchemist workshop here in Los Angeles I began creating accords. The first two accords I formulated were a wood and a rose. The wood accord was utilized in the perfume devoted to the native oak, "Q". Where as the rose accord was admired by many as a perfume on its own, but took several years before it found a home in this new fragrance. The accord features two of the main notes found in a complex pure rose, such as geraniol (Rose geranium) and citronellol (Citronella). To the accord I added a very fresh Rose otto from Turkey and a deep, resonant Rose bourbonica absolute from India.
Interesting bits and the Rose otto and Rose bourbonia
This Rose otto comes from a family owned farm in the agricultural and rose district of Isparta, Turkey. The family is very conscious of caring for their plants to produce the best product available. Harvesting of the delicate blooms begins in May continuing on through June and July depending on the climate and yield of bloom.
The Rosa damascena plants can live for up to 40 years, are approximately 3 1/2 feet high and pruned every year. Each charge of a still is packed with approx 500 kilos of roses. 1500 kilos of water yields approx 3.3 ounces of rose otto. The rose water byproduct of the distillation is re-distilled (cohobation) and the resulting rose essential oil from that is combined with the rose oil from the initial distillation to create the recognizable rose otto which is sold.

According to David Crow:

"Rosa bourbonica, also known as "Edward rose", is organically cultivated outside the holy city of Pushkar, beneath the mountaintop temple of the goddess Savitri. The flowers are freshly distilled in the fields in traditional alchemical vessels over low heat, giving the oil an extraordinarily high content of Damascenone molecules, which give roses their fragrance."

The perfume Rosa also contains a Leather accord, Vetiver and woods including the treasured Agarwood. The top notes are primarily from the essences that provide a citrus components.
There were many versions of this fragrance, the one I expected to release was just a bit over the top on the earth aspect. I might incorporate aspects of it into the solid incarnation of Rosa.

Rosa is an earthy, warm, woodsy rose that develops into a rich rosey bouquet over time. It literally blossoms on the skin of the wearer.

The fossil records for roses go back into ancient time, perhaps 35 to 40 million years ago. Looking back into history we have all parts of the rose (petal, leaf, fruit and root) being utilized in medicine, ritual, literature and scent applications.

Symbolically we see the rose associated with the love, beauty, the heart, and joy. The aromatherapeutics of a pure essential oil of rose contain the same attributes and more, including anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent and cell regenerative. This is where one can see the value of perfumes made with pure essential oils. Keep in mind that the cost per drop of a true Rose essential oil can run between $2 and $4!

As I mentioned above this is the fifth perfume in the Californica series and Rosa californica has five petals. The fifth element, in the film by the same name, is love often symbolized by the rose.

During the mummification process in ancient Egyptian culture the major organs in the human body were removed. The organ that was valued the most was the heart, for they believed that a humans mind was in the heart. The brain was the least respected organ and was tossed aside. As science now proves that indeed there is brain matter in the heart, I encourage you to dive deep into your own heart center for answers to important questions.

A quarter ounce bottle of Rosa arrives in a glass flacon contained in a hand crocheted pouch. It is not yet on our website, if interested please send us an e-mail. We are happy to include Rosa as a sample in our trio sampler pack, 1 full gram of this perfume is $30.00 and the 1/4 oz bottle retails for $300.00.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
Theodore Payne Foundation

Images: Art Heart detail and Rosa illustration by Greg Spalenka:, Old rose engraving on parchment by Roxana Villa, hand crochet pouches are designed by Roxana and Martha Villa and created with love by Martha.

Perfume Smellin' Things

The expert of repartee and wordplay, Tom, over at Perfume Smellin' Things has published a little write up about our perfumes. Head on over, red rover. While your there, you may want to read some of his other postings, he is the manifestation of wit on earth.

Perfume Smellin' Things

The photo is me at "The Fragrant Alchemist Workshop" smelling some Raz de Hanout and Vanilla tincture created in class by Eva Marie Lind. More on that one day soon...promise...but, first more on NYC Sniffa, Rosa and the new solid perfumes.

The Big Apple

"One belongs to New York instantly,
one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years."
~ Thomas Wolfe

I am back from the big apple with lots of stories and pictures to share. The trip was especially rich with heartfelt connections. We arrived last Wednesday afternoon, after a four hour stint as a sardine. What’s up with those airplane seats? It doesn’t seem to matter how much yoga I do, trying to access my laptop or purse under the seat in front of me was short of impossible.

NYC was grand...the air was crisp, the 24 hour frenetic hum as constant as the inspiration and there was the NYC Sniffapalooza Fall Ball!!!

The Sniffapalooza Fall Ball was so much more than I could ever imagine or anticipate. Two full days of fun, connection with fellow devotees of fragrance. What struck me the most was the kindred spirits I encountered. I knew I would come across some of the most obsessed olfactory beings on the planet. However, as I mentioned above, I was unprepared for the bounty of camaraderie and fellowship.

I’ve experienced some of this type of esprit de corps at Aromatherapy conferences over the past ten years and to a certain extent with artists at the San Diego Comic Con. Sniffa NY was different’s an intangible thing...much like fragrance itself. Part of it, no doubt, was due to being in NYC once again.

"I felt something so intense, I could only express it in a perfume."
~ Jacques Guerlain

We stayed at a friends apartment in the financial district with a spectacular view of the Hudson. On Wednesday we stopped into Enfluerage in the Village and had an amazing Indian meal across the way. Thursday and Friday were filled with visiting friends and colleagues, eating fabulous meals and a tour of FIT, The Fashion Institute of Technology. For those in the city or traveling there I highly recommend the “Gothic: Dark Glamour” show currently on display at the FIT gallery. WOW!

Sniffa took place on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll post about that as soon as I get some photos. For now...from left to right, here I am with Dorothy McCall and Raphaella Brescia Barkley outside of Bond #9 on Sunday morning. The photo was taken by Dorothy’s lovely and talented husband Michael Freidlander. Thank you Michael!

Apple image above, Apple Perfume ©Greg Spalenka

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I've turned into what Wendy so lovingly deems "the sloughful blogger". My apologies, life is rather full at the moment, as we get ready for NYC and the Sniffa Fall Ball.

There will be over 150 attendees at the Saturday lunch I am presenting at. This translates into 150+ sample packages to get ready and ship to NYC. Above is a picture of the package contents so far: new postcard, business card, with one liquid and one solid perfume sample. I may put in
one of Greg's postcards as well.

In the meantime Maestro Gregorio has been putting together a visual presentation to accompany my live auditory wisdoms regarding the value of botanical perfume.

It's been one year since we were in NY, yet, about sixteen years since I moved from there to LA. Gee, sixteen years, it doesn't feel that long. I know the city so well and look forward to walking the streets filled with frenzy and a plethora of olfactory delights and horrors all in one sniff.

Back to making packages.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

LA Sniffa 2008

The LA Sniffapalooza took place this past Saturday, a very full day fragrance adventure. Attendees began arriving early in the morning to get prime seating, schmooze and fortify themselves with coffee from Mauro's Cafe.

The festivities began at 8am with breakfast, introductions and a presentation by Kate Greene and Stephen Nilsen of Givaudan. This was followed by a procession of several niche perfumers: Lisa Hoffman (Dustin Hoffman's wife), Yosh Han, Kate Growney for Saffron James and Sarah Horowitz-Thran. At 10am the shopping extravaganza began in the Apothia shop with all the perfumers and fragrance reps on hand to assist all you every olfactive needs. Due to my sensitivities to synthetic perfumes I spent most of my time outdoors speaking with other perfumers and attendees. My very favorite sniff during this morning event were two candles by Diptyche. The John Galliano and the Feu de Bois are lovely woody and resiny scents that actually smell of the real thing. The rep was having me experience the florals in the candle line which sent my head spinning. I inquired about the John Galliano candle because I recognized the name, my mother once designed a sweater for his line. Feu de Bois (Firewood), smells of pure Agarwood to my nose, a precious wood note that is one of my all time favorite materials to work with.

Next we journeyed over to Pane e Vino for more presentations and a delicious lunch. At this phase in the pilgrimage it was my turn to present and bring consciousness to the realm of botanical perfume and the plants. I brought with me several native plants from the Theodore Payne Foundation as visual reference. Passionately I presented a case for perfumes created with ACTUAL plant material and the importance of California native plants.

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

I launched the fifth perfume in the Californica line of fragrances devoted to the aromatic landscape of California. Rosa is devoted to the California wild rose, botanically named Rosa californica. More details on this perfume in the next post.

Other presenters at the luncheon included Brooke-Harvey Taylor of Pacifica and niche perfumer Kristen Micele. It was fabulous to see Kristen Michele again, she as well as Yosh Han, Faith Heckman and Shannon Metclaf and I all attended the Fragrant Alchemist Workshop here in LA about three years back.

From there we walked down the street to the Scent Bar for more sniffing. Then, much to the relief of our noses, we trekked out to Venice to Strange Invisible Perfumes. This class act natural perfume store was a welcome to the noses of the natural perfume devotees on hand. There was about five of us who felt like we had arrived in heaven as we took the olfactory tour through these gorgeous perfumes made primarily with pure essential oils.

To my pleasure, Wendy and her husband Pierre graced us with their presence at the end of the evening. Wendy was wearing her signature, to die for, handcrafted shoes and had her usual luminous glow about her. Below is a link to Wendys blog.

The full day was great fun and a fantastic opportunity to meet, chat and share with others who have a deep appreciation for the realm of fragrance. For me, I {LOVED} seeing and connecting live and in person with Raphaella Barkely-Brescia. She is a magnetic, warm and loving. Her publication Sniffapalooza Magazine will most likely have details from the LA Sniffapalooza in the next issue on October 17th.

The Basenotes Community has a discussion regarding the LA Sniffa, read it here.

Meanwhile, California burns once more, as fire and air element dance in the local mountains. This is probably a good time to get out there and do some rain dancing rituals, as well as get out of dodge. The air is so thick with smoke that creating perfume is useless.

Sniffapalooza Magazine
Sniffapalooza Forum (members only)

Notes of Shoes, Cake & Perfumery

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Images: Diptyque Candle, Alchemical Rose engraving on
parchment and Fire in the Eyes image by Greg Spalenka.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chaparral Perfume

Creating Chaparral: Roxana Villa's Creative Process

Marlen over at the Perfume Critic has published a piece about the creative process in creating the Chaparral™ Perfume. Head on over by clicking this link below.

Chaparral is one of two botanical perfumes based on California indigenous plants to be featured at LA Fashion Fragrance West presentation tomorrow. Intending I will get to meet some of the readers of this journal. Regrettably the link has disappeared, as soon as I find it I will repost. IN the meantime there are some diverse comments about Chaparral here at Fragrantica.

Image above: Chaparral© Greg Spalenka

Monday, October 6, 2008

Prince Charming

The Prince of Charm, Andy Tauer, came by for a visit Thursday evening. He brought his partner Werner (pronounced Verner) with him. I was so enchanted that I forgot to document the visit with pictures. When I did remember, the affair felt way too sacred for a camera. In fact I contemplated not posting about it and holding the memory close to my heart.

Andy and Werner arrived here at our little tree house-like abode at 5pm. I was gifted with one of the new Tauer Perfume sample packs, shown above. We began the evening with a toast with some jasmine sambac hydrosol. Then I invited them to my studio for some sniffing. Werner declined on the sniffing and choose to hang with Greg and the fresh guacamole.

Meanwhile, I took Andy on an olfactory adventure through each of my fragrances. As he inhaled each individual perfume, from a freshly dipped scent strip, I noticed that he looked perfectly poised like a ballerina. He stands very erect, as if in second position, and becomes completely devoted to the experience of taking in the scent molecules being offered to him. That was when I wanted to snap a picture, but, I was also extremely conscious of the sacredness of that moment.

During the sniffing he asked lots of great questions and seemed most intrigued by Q, Chaparral Vera and Sierra. In fact Sierra was his favorite of the seven he experienced. He asked how could it be that I use up to 50 different ingredients in one perfume. Thus, I shared a few of the accords that go into Sierra, explaining that each accord can have up to ten ingredients in each one. Andy does not formulate using accords in fact he refers to them bases. He shared that perfumer Vero Kern uses some of this accord methodology.

We probably could have spent the entire night in my studio talking perfume and formulation. Greg came in at one point and reminded us that the guacamole was almost gone, as well as the light. From the house the adventure weaved its way deep into the Santa Monica Mountains just as the sun was starting to go down. The view and quality of light was quite fantastic. The sunlight was being filtered through the pink colored clouds to produce a very surreal and magical landscape. An image I don't think any of us will soon forget.

After our walk we served dinner, followed by dessert and more fragrant journeys. This time we sniffed a variety of ingredients found in my palette. It was fun to introduce Andy to precious essences he had not yet experienced, like Mitti and a co-distillation of Vetiver and Rose. It was also interesting to compare and contrast our tastes. The other item Andy was curious about in my perfume formulation was the process of tincturing.

The evening then turned from the olfaction to visual & auditory. Andy and Werner were taken to Gregs world, where visual art reigns supreme. This time it was Greg's turn to enchant with his new film reel and award winning illustrations.

The Andy and Werner duo are here in California for a few weeks. This past Saturday Andy appeared at The Scent Bar where he will present again on October 17th. For now they are off to the peace and tranquility of L'Air du desert.

Here are my thoughts on Vetiver Dance:
I've been on a high dancing with Andys latest fragrance, Vetiver Dance. It is a stunning and beautiful perfume. He managed to tame vetiver essential oil, which has a tendency to get very heavy and prominent in formulas. Vetiver is one of those notes that is extremely viscous and not necessarily "friendly", a tricky one to manage. Andy expertly choreographed vetiver to dance fluidly in the composition of this fragrance. I am most enchanted with the Ambergris note, is it real or married with the synthetic ambriene? Either way, it is a luscious, velvety note that floats up through the dance as the vetiver diminishes. Read more about Andy's new fragrance at Perfume Shrine.

Andy Tauer Perfumes
Vero Kern
Lucky Scent

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Images: Top is a photo I took of Andys perfume sampler gift, Face in the Sunset image© Greg Spalenka, Alchemical bottle on parchment©Roxana Villa and Vetiver Dance image is from the Lucky Scent website.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tag, you are it!

Krista over at the blog Lumineaux tagged me on October 1st. To be tagged is like playing the game tag, so I'm "IT" now and must do the following:

1. Link to the person who tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write six random things about yourself
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up

Okay, since I don't have a blog roll on this blog, the links are embedded in this post. I don't tend to read many blogs, way too many other things to do, and my favorites aren't really tag playing folk.

Now, my contribution to six random things about me:

1. When I was in first grade at Holly Avenue School in Arcadia, I created an illustration for a book called something like The Crying Snail. I won first prize in a whole school competition.

2. I flunked first grade because I couldn't speak or understand English very well.

3. In the eighties I owned an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, a couple blocks from the Promenade.

4. I miss snow skiing with all my cousins in the Andes, along the border of Chile and Argentina.

5. I heard Donna De Lory's music in a yoga class and have been a huge fan ever since.

6. Lately I have been crazy about "animalic" type smells, like some of the really earthy native sages.

Ok, here are six of my favorite bloggers... you've been tagged!

Painted Threads
Judy and I attended Otis/Parsons together, she inspired me to get a blog.

Andy Tauer
Another brilliant, luminous being, playful with a beautiful heart and genius perfumer.

the Art Department
Irene, art director at Tor books, she's smart and witty with a keen eye for art.

Perfume Shrine
A blog about Perfume, explored from a unique and interesting European perspective by Helg.

Process Recess
James Jean, our favorite artist here at the house, he's brilliant.

Memory and Desire
This blog is currently in sleep mode, but, plenty of material there to dive into. The blog is created by artist, poet and perfume advocate Heather Ettlinger.

My other all time favorite blog has disappeared. Intending she will manifest soon in another incarnation.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
Image above ©Roxana Villa, this is a tapestry of different sections of many of my paintings.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I'm off to yoga and have so many things to share, most importantly Andys visit here the other day. First, though...tell five friends because we have the right to do that!
5 Friends

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Image: ©Greg Spalenka

Thursday, October 2, 2008


The LA Sniffapalooza, also termed Fashion Fragrance West, has only a few seats left. Here is a link to read the latest update of participating perfumers, stores and giveaways.

At the LA event I will launch a new perfume that has been in development since March 2005. It began as a complex accord and has gone through all sorts of flips and wiggles, shape shifting regularly. Finally in June of this year, as I was conducting trials for a solid perfume, clarity broke through. I realized sage was the key component.

This perfume is the next in the Californica series, following last years debut of Sierra. I choose the word Californica because it is the species name found in many plants native to California, for example Artemisia californica. (Artemisia is the genus, californica the species.)

I've decided to keep the perfume a secret so that the Sniffapalooza members will be the first to experience the fragrance. Anyone who has been reading this journal regularly may already know which native plant this perfume is based on. The couture pouch, which will house the French glass flacon, was created last Spring. In fact last Spring was the scheduled release for the fragrance. Interesting because the formula back then was not nearly as animalic as it is now. The perfume will also have a companion version as a solid in a antiqued compact.

This mystery perfume shares some of the same accords and tinctures found in Q, Chaparral, Vera and Sierra. A few days ago I realized that this was the fifth perfume in the series. Did you see the film the Fifth Element? Do you recall what the important fifth element was?

My friend Meghan introduced me to this plant which inspired the upcoming fragrance. Up until a little over a year ago, I didn't even know it existed. The native plants of California are a bit mysterious unless you hike regularly in the local hills and pay close attention, beyond the sages. In one of the books lent to me by Meghan, the plant community is referred to as An Elfin Forest. The reason for this name is that one must look closely to indeed witness the magic held in these plants, most of which are quite low to the ground. Besides the elfin sized flora, the fauna found in this community are also quite small.

"These are indeed strange days.
Dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass."

~ Eomer, Lord of the Rings

It seems to me that Natural/Botanical perfume and California native plants both share a magic only revealed to those who stop, and with keen observation, begin to truly witness the secrets of an authentic landscape.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Celtic Tree: Ivy

"Greenest of pastures and sweetest of grasses"

The cycle of the Celtic Tree mysteries are upon us once more, this months learning comes from the ivy. Like the vine, we do not generally witness ivy as a tree. Unless, of course, you have tried to remove it from your garden. This is when I learned that this invasive plant is actually a tree and a threat to native plants in California.

Teachings of ivy, represented by the letter "G", center on resurrection. The spiral growing pattern combined with it's tenacity teaches us strength and perseverance. As an evergreen the plant was used often to decorate altars while other plants slept. It has also been used often as crowns.

I created a perfume for Ivy, it is a very complex composition with the green, powdery quality of this spiraling serpent. The fragrance is being considered for an upcoming series. Originally I thought to use it as the nemeses of our "Q" perfume devoted to the California Coastal Live Oak.

"My favorite potion from Roxana was a special commission per my request. Hedera helix~ the mighty Ivy Dark green leaves, reddish, yellowish pink vines, and that special sharp tang that ivy possesses. This is the big, aged, thick leaved ivy of my Grandmother’s front porch, climbing and twining in the shade. Cool and crisp, an inviting home to innumerable dark creatures." ~ Tonie Silver

Roxana Illuminated Perfume™
Image: Pieces of my paintings woven together like a green quilt.