Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Narative Art Exhibition

I am one of the contributing sixty five artists at the Survey Select Narrative Art Exhibition. The event has been organized by art lover/promoter and designer Mark Murphy. Over the years Mark has organized many events with artists including the Heaven and Hell collaborative exhibition, held at the Abbey church in San Diego, (which included 110 paintings, fashion show, belly dancing, burlesque...) The piece I contributed to Heaven and Hell is titled H2 Illuminated.

My training as a conceptual illustrator is evident in how I formulate and conceptualize a natural perfume. Perfume becomes another tool of artistic expression. Creating perfumes with pure plant material brings me closer to the plant world than creating drawings and paintings. Albeit I still love making visual imagery.

Instead of illustrating for magazines, books, etc. now I create narrative perfumes. Olfactory stories, illuminated perfumes, working intimately with prima materia, plant matter. Shortly I will share about my contribution to this project, in the meantime make sure to RSVP to opening on July 15th.

Image by Kevin Paulsen, one of the talented artists participating in the show.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Turn the Page

"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket"
~ Chinese proverb

For the last two years, in August when my date of birth rolls around I create a fragrance. It began with Cimbalom with a few hours of time for myself in a quite house. Last year I created Page 47 just after returning from a two week adventure in the Amazon. Who knows what I will do this year, it's a mystery, until that day.

Page 47 natural perfume has been re-orchestrated and available once more in the solid perfume format. Her color harmony is a vintage the page out of an old book. Which book?

The botanical composition begins with finely woven details of fresh ginger, cilantro and mouth watering blood orange. In rhythmic flow the fragrance unfurls a rich, nectarous jasmine bouquet laced with underpinnings of golden amber.

Landscaped with memories of summers spent in Malibu and Catalina Island this aromatic portrait evokes the aroma of verdant flowers on a hot sandy beach with a whisper of sea air.

The solid perfume has been created by my own hand, utilizing a complex base accord I have prepared. The main notes are: Vintage Mysore Sandalwood, Seaweed, Labdanum, Jasmine, Ylang Ylang & Cilantro, Ginger and Blood Orange. The fragrance of Page 47 shares a similar experience as Lyra.

"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Page 47 solid natural perfume comes in an American made, antique finish metal compact contained in a alabaster hand crocheted pouch. I pour each solid perfume into a separate tin that fits inside with the antique finished metal compact. This ensures lasting performance of this pure, natural, botanical perfume. The vintage gets better with age.

The name Page 47 is layered with two meanings, for now I will leave that as a mystery for you to uncover.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Perfume Illuminated: The Mead Moon

The full moon tomorrow is called the "Mead" moon in reference to the time of year when bee hives are full of honey, which in turn is used to create mead. When I hear the word mead I think of the Renaissance fair and times of old.

Mead is a wine beverage made with a combination of honey, water and yeast. The yeast is the alchemical component which transforms the the trio of ingredients into wine. Find a series of links here for Mead Making Tutorials.


There is no "Mead" essential oil, however there is honey and beeswax absolute, as well as our own creativity.

Honey absolute, Apies millifera or Apis melliferra, is an extremely, viscous material with a delectable aroma. The raw material, in general comes from France and India, it resembles honey both visually and aromatically. Some honey absolute is only soluble in alcohol while others are soluble in both alcohol and an oil base.

Beeswax absolute, Apies millifera, also termed Absolue Cire d'Abeille in most cases comes from France. The material is either a waxy, paste-like mass or a viscous liquid. The aroma resembles pure beeswax with a stronger animalic and hay-like quality.

A few years ago there was a Wheat absolute on the market that would work nicely here as the "yeast" element of the mead. Another alternative is to make a Yeast accord including Hops. Since varieties include herbs, spice and fruits consider creating accords of each and adding them to create different versions of Mead perfumes.


The flavor of mead is dependent on the honey as well as the addition of fruit, herbs and spices. Spices most often added to mead are cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, herbs tend to include hops, thyme, oregano, lavender and/or chamomile. These types of mead are called metheglin. Fruit meads, termed melomel, contain a berry such as blackberry, strawberry and raspberry. The spices, herbs and fruits included depend of the variety of local materials available.

For more mead flavor goodness visit Beth at the Windesphere Witch blog.

Reference: Wikipedia, Mead
Images: Old engravings digitally enhanced ©RoxanaVilla

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Holistic Beekeeping

Today, by some cultures and calendars, is the zenith of MidSummer, it also happens to bee the day that Etsy has piece I contributed to their blog called the Storque.

Please fly on over, have a look and a read and if you are a member of the community please leave a comment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Mead Moon

Garrison Keillor on The Writers Almanac has this to share with us...


Tonight is Midsummer Night's Eve, also called St. John's Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It's a time when the hives are full of honey. The full moon that occurs this month was called the Mead Moon, because honey was fermented to make mead. That's where the word "honeymoon" comes from, because it's also a time for lovers. An old Swedish proverb says, "Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking." Midsummer dew was said to have special healing powers. In Mexico, people decorate wells and fountains with flowers, candles, and paper garlands. They go out at midnight and bathe in the lakes and streams. Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. Legend says that this is the best night for gathering magical herbs. Supposedly, a special plant flowers only on this night, and the person who picks it can understand the language of the trees. Flowers were placed under a pillow with the hope of important dreams about future lovers.
Shakespeare set his play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on this night. It tells the story of two young couples who wander into a magical forest outside Athens. In the play, Shakespeare wrote, "The course of true love never did run smooth."


Thanks to Peggy for sending this over. Now...which is the special plant that blooms this eve so that we may pick it and converse with the trees?

Images: Oberon, Titania with Fairies Dancing by William Blake, Midsummer Night's Dream, Titania Sleeping by Arthur Rackham, second image

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Sun Dance

The Summer Solstice is upon us once more, resulting in the longest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. Henceforth our day light will begin to shorten as we cycle toward the dark part of the season. Luckily it is a slow transition, hard to think about darkness just as we are entering the summer holiday season.

The ancient Celts celebrated the sun on this day, emblematic of the light winning over the dark. On this day we give gratitude to the sun as it is key to our survival here on planet earth.

The honey bee is often referred to as "The Queen of the Sun" because the sun is their compass. When a forager bee discovers a plentiful site she comes back to the hive, shares a bit of the pollen and does the waggle dance to instruct the other bees how to arrive at the source of the pollen.

Today our birdhouse bees got a second story added to their periwinkle home. we are intending that the energetics of the Summer Solstice will help them expand into their new dwellings with grace and ease.

Related Summer Solstice Posts here at the Illuminated Journal:
the SUN
A Summer Solstice Perfume
Summer Solstice

Opening photo by Andrew Dunn, found on Wikipedia.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Perfume Illuminated: Butter

Creamy, delicious butter is our star today at Perfume Illuminated, yum! In today's modern, western culture we automatically think of butter coming from cows, but the origins begin with goat milk. More on the history of butter can be found at this link.

In our home as a child we didn't have margarine, my mother bought real unsalted butter. However, my fondest memory is when we would visit my grandmother in Argentina where we eat real, fresh farm butter. Every morning my grandmother would set out on her various market rounds, which included the butcher for meat, the fresh produce stands for veggies and fruits and the pastry shop for baguettes and mouth watering croissants.

I followed a similar path in the eighties when I lived the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. I would go to the Fish store for the fresh catch of the day, the Italian deli for fresh pasta, the pastry shop for breads and cookies. For my fruits, vegies and flowers I tended to head to a local farmers market or the little Korean market. There was something so quaint and vital about going to these little indie stores than the big markets.

Ever since watching the film Julie and Julia, which inspired this weekly blogging project, I have come to associate butter with Julia Child. The power of films and stories is truly amazing.


Butter in perfumery appears in a variety of formats. Let's begin with a fairly new raw material for the natural, botanical perfumer Butter c02. Butter c02 is obtained through a molecular fractionation by super critical carbon dioxide. The result is extremely true to the aroma of butter left out in a dish.

This aromatic works best with other gourmand notes like: Cardamon, Tonka Bean, Vanilla, and Cacao. However, interesting and new scent sensations can be achieved by combining it with other butter notes like Tuberose and Wild Ginger Flower. When working with Butter C02 consider how one uses it for cooking, as a base to harmonize flavors. In perfume we have a term called "bridge note" referring to a material with the ability to harmonize and bring other notes together. This is fact how Butter C02 acts when blending, however, the material demands mastery, use it judiciously and you will be rewarded with new and unusual fragrance pairings.

Other butters used in perfumery are those that are derived from plants such as Cocoa, Mango and Shea for example. Here is a basic recipe to make your own Body Butter, which is very similar to creating a solid perfume.

  • 4 oz. of one or all of these: Shea butter, Mango butter and/or Cocoa butter
  • 4 oz. Jojoba seed or Almond oil. or a combination of both
  • Essential oils for fragrance, use approximately 15 drops
  • Double boiler
  • Plastic or Metal spoon with a rubber handle
  • A jar for your finished butter
How to:

1. Begin by melting the butter(s) over low heat using a double boiler. When making solid perfume I use a small ceramic casserole dish which works really well.

2. Once the butter has dissolved add the oil and stir well. I use a laboratory glass rod to stir with.

3. When the butter and oil are well combined and the mixture has cooled for a minute or two add in the essential oil, drop by drop and stir.

4. Pour your liquid butter into your jar and allow to set uncovered until solid.

5. Your final product is now ready to use or gift to someone special. Store at room temperature with a tight fitting lid and enjoy!


#1 Herb Butter with Lemon
Our friends Peleg and Ricki came by for dinner last weekend. Greg prepared most of the meal, while doing so he asked "What shall we serve with the bread?" Since I had been researching butter for this post I exclaimed "I'll make an herb butter!" The basic recipe I followed is in the Silver Palette cookbook, one of my trusty cooking bibles lest over from when I lived in NYC in the 80's. I began by softening one butter stick by leaving it next to the stove top while Greg cooked. Once softened I placed the stick in the Cuisinart with one tablespoon freshly chopped herbs and lemon juice.

#2 Tarragon Butter for Lobster, from the Julie & Julia website
Melt the 1 cup butter over medium-low heat in a small skillet. Stir in the onion, tarragon, parsley, lime juice, salt, and cayenne. Generously spoon some of the herb butter into the tail of each lobster, the cracked claws, and the body. Keep remaining butter warm for serving.

Now, onward to Beth at the Windesphere Witch blog for more buttery flavor musings.

Images: Old engravings cleaned, enhanced and placed on parchment by Roxana Villa.

Blog it Forward: BEE up

Thursday is ruled by Jupiter, the largest of the planets in our Solar System and named after the Roman god. In esoteric terms the influence of Jupiter corresponds to all things royal and abundant.

Bestowed to you is a bountiful display of affection for the honey bee with members of the Global Etsy Artisans Gallery team. A Blog it Forward: BEE up beginning with the Artisan Gallery Blog, bee sure to visit each of the participating blogs, delicious, honey laden treats await.

Blog it Forward:Bee up Image ©RoxanaVilla

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Bugs Life

Just before entering into new millennium I met my husband Greg Spalenka. At the time I didn't know he would be my future life partner. It was when I walked into his "happy house" that I got the first whisper of the potential.

He took me on a little tour, including his vast collection of insects. I never quite considered myself a "bug" person, until witnessing the beauty of these little pinned creatures. Each one was so beautiful! Some looked like miniature African masks, while others looked like a helmet for an army man. The most spectacular, in my opinion are the gem stone colored ones. I totally get why the Volkswagon company named there 1960 classic with the word BUG.

I became fascinated with Tribal arts while in art school as well as Folk art and Primitivism. These insect certainly have a bit of that tribal aspect, yet also feel somewhat modern and SciFi-esque.

In May 2000 Greg took me to my first ever Bug Fair at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. If you haven't attended an event like this I highly recommend it, especially with children.

Recently I was pondering if there was anything along my path thus far that hinted I would one day be tending bees. A little voice, or was it the hum of a bee, reminded me of our vast bug collection. Aren't they great! I know there is a sort of beautiful horror aspect to them, I highly recommend seeing them in person, the luminosity is so much better in person. This is only a small sampling, I'll share more when I next get access to my daughters really nice camera.

I remember the film Angels and Insects was really rich with insects, although the story is a bit disturbing. Curious if it holds up over the years, must re-watch it and see.

and Naked Lunch, one of the best Art films ever!

Bill Lee: What do you mean, "it's a literary high"?
Joan Lee: It's a Kafka high. You feel like a bug.

Bill Lee: I thought you were finished with doing weird stuff
Joan Lee: I thought I was too, but, I guess not.

Photos ©RoxanaVilla

Friday, June 11, 2010

Venus Day Tidings

The planet Venus is named after the Roman goddess of love an beauty. I tend to feel like a Venusian much more than an Earthling most of the time, especially these days.

On this most vibrant day, attributed to Aphrodite, I offer you a splendid review of the new Vera solid natural perfume at Scent Hive. It was the liquid version of Vera that was the catalyst for Trish and I to meet. Please fly on over to her most sweetly scented hive to read the review and perhaps leave a comment, especially if you have experienced Vera. At Scent Hive you will also find a giveaway for a trio sampler of Vera, Rosa and Chaparral® which I've decided to match here!

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to tell me which is your favorite scent from the natural know, like fresh roses, lavender, the ocean, sun baked or damp earth, the smell of a new baby, etc.

You must include your first name -or- etsy username AND email address with each entry or it will not be included.

For additional entries you can do any or all of the following:
  • 2 entries (total) - Blog about this giveaway, leaving the URL to the post in comments (1 blog per entrant, please)
  • 1 entry: Be or become a follower of RoxanaVilla on Twitter
  • 1 entry: Be or become a fan of Roxana Illuminated Perfume on Facebook
  • 1 entry: Be or become a follower of this journal: IlluminatedPerfume
  • 1 entry per day of the contest: Twitter this message: RT @RoxanaVilla is hosting a #natural #perfume giveaway! Visit for a chance to win
This giveaway is worldwide and ends on Tuesday, June 15th at 10pm PST.

More fine print, learned along the way
1. If we cannot contact you we will give your prize away to someone else.
2. Depending how many entries I receive I determine how the winner shall be chosen. Normally each entry is assigned a card from several decks here at the house, I then shuffle all the cards and have someone handy (like my daughter) choose a card for the winner and a runner up.
3. If you have won a Giveaway in the past you may enter again.
4. Please don't make up any new guidelines, what is outlined above is what we follow.

Good Luck everyone.

Photo of Lavarinth from Rivendel Farm and Lavender Illustration ©Roxana Villa

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Hive Report

Yesterday we did our weekly hive check, eventually these will become less frequent. At the moment we are still in massive learning mode so we are eager to expand our vision, see what's happening and garner new insights. Off course there is that "not knowing what you don't know factor", which is always a drag.

We saw her highness the Queen, pictured below with her assistance and a couple drones. The drones are the large bees you see, they have large eyes specifically geared for locating the Queen during mating runs. At this point they serve no purpose, unless something happens to the current Queen.

On Facebook there was some discussion that the Queen should have a name. Some of the names mentioned were Beatrice and Beelinda, I personally like Elizabeth. What do you think we should call her?

A Queen bee can lay upwards of two thousand eggs per day! Our Queenie appeared very productive when we saw her yesterday, Greg managed to get photos of her laying eggs. Look closely and you will see the little white egg emerging from behind her.

This photo above shows comb with capped honey above and brood cells in varying degrees. There is white larvae in some of them while others have already been capped. My daughter Eve is rather disgusted by the bee larvae while Greg and I see them as the future of a big healthy hive.

The image below shows some of the bee cells, we are concerned that the large peanut shaped one down toward the bottom might be a Queen cell. If it is, the second Queen is born than the two Queens would fight or one of them would leave the hive with half the colony

Aromatic Garland

Herbal and floral garlands, also referred to as "swags", are a variation on the wreath theme. Spring and summer bring us a plethora of plant materials to make bringing a bit of nature into the home a breeze.

My monthly contribution to the Lillyella blog is super simple do it yourself "Herbal Garland" project that you can make with local flora, your garden or farmers market finds. Next time I am going to make a long one for one of our living room windows, bulking up the plant material like this photo above featured on Fragrantica. Using clothes pins is a fun idea, especially since you can get some great vintage or cute little tiny ones.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Many native plants of California have the word Californica as their last names. For example the California Rose is Rosa: first name/genus, californica: second name/species.

Elena over at the Fragrantica fragrance blog has published a piece I originally created for Marlen at the Perfume Critic. The article features the trinity involved in great art and how that applies to the perfume Chaparral. Here is the direct link, enjoy, she has done such a great job with the graphics!

Image at right is an old engraving which I collaged onto parchment.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Song for Rosa

The ancient survivor of the native California woodland known as the chaparral is Rosa californica. A five petaled deciduous native shrub important to local wildlife.

“And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies.”

- Christopher Marlowe

Rosa liquid botanical perfume was first unveiled at LA Sniffaplaooza during Fashion Fragrance Week when I was invited to be a speaker at the luncheon. Raphaella, the editor of Sniffapalooza Magazine, writes this about the liquid expression:

Rosa is a gorgeous natural perfume and an instant hit with those that sniff this natural perfume. Many of us were fortunate to receive samples of Rosa at a Sniffapalooza event where Roxana Villa was a featured guest speaker. Roxana continues to amaze with her naturals perfumes and is garnering quite the reputation as a top natural perfumer. This is a fragrance that truly blooms. I consider this my top "metaphysical perfume" along side Amouage Attar.

Rosa, besides being the name of the California wild rose and this perfume, it was also the name of my great grandmother. Look closely at the antique postcards I have been using lately as props for my perfume imagery, you will see her name Rosa Groppo.

The solid expression of Rosa debuted with her two other sisters Vera and Page 47 on the Flower Full Moon on May 27th. Although the solid expression contains the same accords the aromatic profile has a sweeter opening than the liquid. Rosa is a sparkling rose perfume unfolding from a green powdery rose bouquet into deep rich rose and wood notes. The fragrance blossoms on the skin of the wearer. The climatic ending of the orchestration is treasured Agarwood.

The fifth perfume in the series celebrating the aromatic landscape of the State of California is Rosa. Inspiration for this fragrance came when my friend Megan introduced me to the native rose of California.

"The rose distils a healing balm
The beating pulse of pain to calm."
~ Thomas Moore

The base ingredients for this perfume are golden jojoba seed oil and organic, beeswax from a small farm in Ojai, California. The beeswax is the only item in this fragrance that is non botanical. This green, woody botanical perfume has been created by hand utilizing pure essential oils, c02 extracts and absolutes. The ingredients include: my own leather and rose accords; vetiver and precious woods like the treasured agarwood; a very fresh rose otto from a small family farm in Turkey; a deep, resonant rose bourbonica absolute from India and several citrus oils.

Fragrance family: FLORAL
Leather Accord, Vetiver, Precious woods, Rose, Rose Accord, Citrus and and hand infused Lemon Geranium from an organic farm in Ojai.
There are two accords in this perfume, the Leather accord contains several accords within it.
More about Rosa here at the journal
Lucy of Indie Perfume on both Rosa and Sierra, liquids
Scent Hive Review of Rose products including Rosa liquid

Rosa solid perfume comes in an antique finish metal compact contained in a dusty rose hand crocheted, heirloom pouch. I pour the botanical perfume synergy into a combination of beeswax and jojoba. Once gently melted it is then poured into a tin placed within the metal compact. This ensures lasting performance so that the vintage gets better with age.
Another benefit to this is that when you are finished with your solid perfume the tin can be replaced with a new one. The compact is contained in a Dusty Rose hand crocheted pouch and packaged in a silk lined purple box.

Rosa is available as a single sample and in the Flower Full Moon trio set with Vera and Page 47. The tops of the little pink pots are color coded with a honey bee wax seal. Leave a comment here at this post and I will enter you in a draw for pink pot of Rosa in a lavender colored pouch. The draw ends on Monday, June 14th at 10pm PST.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Perfume Illuminates Perfume

"Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it." ~ Patrick Suskind

I'm crazy busy, thus for today's contribution to the project here is Perfume: The Story of a Murderer as a film, although I liked the book better...and the book on tape is good too. It's intersting, now when I see Ben Whishaw, I think of him as the poet Keats in Bright Star.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Makes Me Happy

Tea every morning....and just about all the time, rain or shine, night or day. Preferably Earl Grey with some artisan honey and milk please.

Botanical perfume, natural perfume and plant sage, plumeria, the native California rose, jasmine sambac and more. Lately I've been really getting into bee related smells. Their hive, honey, beeswax, etc. Love their natural musk perfume...pure fume.

Speaking of bees....gosh, I am totally smitten and honored to be assisting in their survival here on planet Earth. I heard recently that Rudolf Steiner called them "Love Incarnate" and that they are the facilitators of Paradise on Earth.

A great story...whether a book, a film or told by a great bard. Some of my favs are Great Expectations the 1998 film version by Alfonso CuarĂ³n, Phillip Pullmans His Dark Materials (the book), The Hours (film and book), Perfume: A story of a Murderer (the book), and Love in the Garden (book). I'm sure there are more but I am anxious to get to work so I'll stop with these.

California oaks, specifically the natives from the chaparral that go by Quercus agrifolia and Quercus lobata. What splendid trees, another endangered species like the honey bee.

Travel. I've had the fortune to travel since the age of three. Lately, due to this ridiculous economic crisis, my travel adventures are not as abundant as usual. The last one was Ecuador, I am intending Paris and London, Hawaii, Egypt, Argentina and the list goes on.

PreRaphaelite art, I think my favorite artist of that brotherhood is Waterhouse, I think.

Thanks to Jess at Epheriell Designs who nudged me to do this. Now I am off to work on wonderful smelly things for you. Are you following your bliss today? What Makes you Happy? Do a post like this, leave a comment with a link and make sure to link it up at the Epheriell Designs blog.