Thursday, July 29, 2010

Comic Con: Super Heroes

Besides being the largest event for popular art culture in America, Comic Con also boosts loads of super heroes. Most will define a super hero as a character like Spider Man from Marvel. At two panel discussions in the big Ballroom of the SDCC Deepak Chopra and Grant Morrison got down and dirty with these concepts.

Grant and Deepak shared that this idea of the super hero is something that each of us aspires to and might just be attainable. I believe it is. We only use 3% of our brain, don't you think if we used 100% we might have some of those super hero capabilities? These heroes are reminders that these archetypes are embedded deep within our psyche, which is why Comics, SciFi and the Fantastic are such popular genres.

The other type of hero prevalent at Comic Con is the celebrity, usually an actor like Angelina Jolie. For me the super heroes are the master writers and visual artists, these are the folks that the first Comic Con, in 1970, was all about.

I had the auspicious fortune to speak to some of my heroes like JJ Abrams, who I spotted while he leisurely strolled the convention center looking for toys. The moment I saw him, I shot up from my chair and quietly walked up next to him. I had no idea what to say so I expressed my gratitude for his mastery at story telling.

On another occasion I met the two producers and cast of the only TV show I watch, Fringe. There seems to be this ridiculous nervousness that comes over me when I meet folk of high mastery. Even holding a strong intention to stay relaxed and present I find myself in "awe mode" and have a hard time accessing my brain capacity. It's so silly. I did manage to get out a few coherent thoughts to both Jeff Pinkler and JH Wyman, the producers and masterminds of Fringe.

I asked JH Wyman if they planned to incorporate the honey bee into the story line of Fringe. He said he has been thinking about it quite a bit and enjoys weaving in story elements that relate to current situations. He expressed that he really likes to get people thinking. My kind of hero!

I also met and attempted to communicate with the cast, they were all there but I got "froze mouth" and wasn't able to say much. I did ask the actor Joshua Jackson, who plays Peter, if he lived here in Topanga. He said "Yes, but lately I've been mostly in Vancouver...which actually has a similar vibe to Topanga." Indeed! Maybe I'll run into Joshua at our local farmers market or post office....but what to say?

Photo of Wonder Woman ©RoxanaVilla

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gracing the Dawn

Gracing the Dawn has finally arrived after being sniffed and sampled by hundreds at the San Diego Comic Con. Exclusively at the E-shop for the moment, you will find the .25 gram and 1 gram glass vials. The flacon size with signature pouch will be added shortly.

This fragrance begs to be sampled on the skin. The aromatic experience via a scent strip or from the glass bottle stopper is very different than when inhaled on human epidermis, especially if you are keen on the subtle violet notes.

Gracing the Dawn is a floral chypre natural botanical perfume featuring a bouquet of some of the most expensive aromatics found on planet Earth.

The fragrance and inspired image is called Gracing the Dawn, a reference to the Three Graces from Greek mythology. Fantastical butterflies sit on the bough of a tree with freshly opened blossoms just as the first light of dawn illuminates the sky.

The perfume is velvety and sultry evoking a vintage from days long gone or perhaps an alternate dimension where we glimpse luminous winged sprites on a wet, black bough.

A myriad of exotic essences are artfully woven in this composition including Cestrum nocturnum, Night Queen, from South India. The main notes in this botanical medley include violet, mimosa, wood, and Italian bergamot. Read more about the composition of the fragrance at this link here at the journal.

The beautiful crochet pouch has been skillfully handmade by my very talented mother Martha. When I am finally ready to debut a perfume we collaborate on the color and style of the pouch.
I feel very fortunate to have these beauties that compliment the intricate, handmade aesthetic that I bring to you. For Gracing the Dawn Martha created two small violet flowers. Like nature, each pouch is unique and features the violets in different shades of purple.

The perfume is part of a series titled Flowers of Fortune associated with artwork by my award winning husband Greg Spalenka. Artwork and image debuted at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con.
The postcards and posters will be available at Greg's E-shop and a dedicated website shortly.

Images: Photos of perfume and pouch by me, Roxana Villa. Butterfly images ©Greg Spalenka.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Defining Handmade

On Etsy right now there is a huge outcry for the word handmade to be further clarified. The rise of popularity of the indie handmade online site has magnetized resellers in all parts of the world. The term "handmade" might include slave labor in China.

A few years back I spoke to a fellow perfumer who informed me that she hand makes her perfumes. Puzzled I asked, "Your perfumes are created in a lab in Marina del Rey, how can you say that you hand make them?" The response, "I am there when the oils are poured."

Thus, like the words "natural" and even "botanical", the term "handmade" can mean many things to many people. After all...
"Perception is an act of Creation." ~Anon

If you are an individual passionate about handmade, how would you define it, what is some of the criteria you would want for such a label?

Meanwhile, I sold out of almost all my handmade perfumes at Comic Con and am now back to the grindstone. Just me, here in the little studio in the Topanga foothills.

Images ©RoxanaVilla

All that Jasmine

Jasminum sambac, Arabian Jasmine, is now blooming in my garden. The little white flowers begin as tiny buds which slowly unfurl their waxy petals. As the day progresses the white color of the petals turn to red and white.

Each day I go out and harvest the heaven scented flowers for a tincture I am creating for the liquid botanical aspect of Cimbalom.

"Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom July is dressed up and playing her tune."

~ Seals & Croft

Originally I had bought almost all my plants at Lowes, this year I plan to pick up more from a local nursery called Boething Treeland. I'd much rather support a small, family operated, local nursery that a huge corporate conglomerate.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Comic Con: Costumes

The costumes at the San Diego Comic Con(vention) each year are pretty spectacular, a true testament to the creative spirit. Although we weren't browsing the show as much as we normally do this year, we did catch some fun peeks from our booth.

Leelo, from The Fifth Element, "Multi Pass"

Wonder Heros

The Green Hornet (Pretty cute huh!?)

Gladiators, they remained in character and never smiled. Yes, those are their muscles, drool.

Fred Flintstone, YAH-BAH-DAH-BAH-DO!

Cat Woman, strike a pose, MEOW!

QuanYin or Asian Princess?

Pink was a popular color for hair this year.

and the most clever, in my opinion....

AquaMan and one of the guys from BP!

Photos by me-self (Roxana Villa), Eve Neuhart and Maestro Gregorio.

Comic Con 2010

Once again we journeyed south to participate in the wonder and spectacle known as The San Diego Comic Con. This year our booth was in a slightly different location which presented a few challenges as well as blessings.

I have many stories and photos to share from the five day extravaganza. Check in here as each of the following headings will have it's own post.

Super Heroes
Around the Booths

Friday, July 23, 2010


Every once in awhile a bright star will write a review of one of my natural perfumes that brings me to my knees. Beth has done this with her latest post at Perfume Smellin' Things. She has weaved a story that includes Viggo Mortenson in Hidalgo and the wild west. The review includes a giveaway.

Chaparral Perfume; A Real Bodice Ripper

Hidalgo is the perfect hero for this fragrance that embodies both the American Native Indian and cowboy of the California. I re-watched this film the other day, so delicious, here is a clip.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Butterfly Splendor

The epic popular art culture event of the year is happening right now here in San Diego, California. Thousands of eclectic patrons of the arts have arrived ready to saturate their senses.
As I sit here at our booth in the "Illustrators" section, I am meeting individuals from all sectors around the globe. The trending botanical perfume this morning has been Rosa, everyone seems to want rose today.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Jen of Sewn Natural has done a splendid review of my perfumes on her blog Sewn Natural Studio. She shares auspicious events which transpired on the day her natural perfume order arrived. The post is highlighted with photos of the sampler and her impressions. Jen is a holisitic parent, like myself, she lives a whole life choosing to surround herself and her family with a lifestyle imbued by nature.

Our booth here at Comic Con is a little island of tranquility — bees, butterflies and fairies are such a nice alternative to vampires and zombies, don't you think?

Image: Commutatio by Greg Spalenka

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Queen Bee (keeper)

A glimpse into the next perfume in the Flowers of Fortune series, can you guess what it will bee based on? NPR just did a segment on the growing trend of Urban Beekeeping, catch it by following this link.

The image is part of a limited edition art card scratch off game which debuts tomorrow at Comic Con in San Diego. They are a card set of four created by artist Greg Spalenka.

Monday, July 19, 2010

High Art

We are in full Comic Con prep mode here. Only two more days and time to pack up the car and head South. Besides all the product there are the elements for the booth. This year we are going for more of a shabby chic, Victorian quality. The store Bountiful in Venice is a huge influence on me, I love Sue's style so very much. We have borrowed from her, as best we can considering the circumstances.

We are fortunate that both Greg's color palette and mine are almost identical to what one sees at Bountiful. We have some sheer fabric curtains to hang in the back, a big banner of Gracing the Dawn, an antique candelabra with beeswax candles (only for show), silver platters and a glass dome.

Then there is what to wear!?! If circumstances are like years past it will be hot outdoors with icy winds bearing down on us at the booth. Thus layers need to be considered while formulating outfits. There is also the comfortable versus stylish factor to ponder.

Images: Opening image and last two are from on Bienenkiste on Tumblr, the Bountiful image was taken by moi while in Venice, CA.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Perfume Illuminated: Carrot

As temperatures sore here in the land of LaLa, deep in the earth edible taproots are descending further and further into moist dirt. The carrot, in all her guises from seed, flower and root is illuminated this very fine hot summer day.

Although historical evidence is inconclusive, most likely our modern carrot originated in Afghanistan from the wild carrot. The domesticated Daucus carota, sativus is native to Europe and now grows throughout the world. Over time the root transformed from a small root used mainly as a medicinal plant to a world renown sweet, fleshy edible root. Infamous in the natural food sector the carrot not only evolved in texture and taste but also in color from white to purple to reddish hues.

The World Carrot Museum offers a plethora of fun links and educational information regarding our umbellious orange friend, including carrot festivals throughout the world. The city of Holtville, California will host a celebration complete with floats sometime in January/February.


For aromatherapy and botanical, natural perfume we have Carrot Seed essential oil, steam distilled from the dried, crushed seeds. The golden yellow essence has a pleasant dry, earthy character laced with wood and spice notes which works well in Chypre and Oriental compositions. I am extremely fond of the aroma of carrot seed essential oil and have included a few drops of this middle note in the new Gracing the Dawn perfume.

Carrot seed essential oil and the C02 extract is valued in aromatherapy for it's performance in skin treatments, detoxifying formulas and as an aid to digestion. There is also a carrot seed hydrosol which is terrific sprayed on the skin. Read more about hydrosols in the book by expert Suzanne Catty.

As a seed, in morphological terms, it is associated with new life, growth and the base chakra. According to the Blending Manual by Jade Shutes the keywords associated with essences from seeds are: Creation, Movement, Reproduction and Release.

Considering we are now in an Earthly phase of dynamic change and shifting carrot seed essential oil is a great choice. The essence will work well in blends to designed to balance and facilitate movement, especially with any bodily dis ease attributed to stress.


According the Steffen Arctander the French use carrot seed oil in flavorings for seasonings and liquors. In our home, during the summer, we tend to use carrots raw in smoothies and for salads. Our favorite smoothie is inspired by one we sampled at Paru's Indian Restaurant in East Hollywood. Into a blender we add fresh raw carrots, almond milk, almonds and cardamon.

Images: Carrot Flowers are Pretty on Wikipedia by Fir0002, Carrot, Nose and Mouth on parchment by Roxana Villa.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Dawn

Tomorrow we journey south to San Diego for the Survey Select: Narrative Art Show opening. I will have a new botanical perfume on display as you enter the multi-sensory extravaganza. The show consists of 65 hand picked artists from all over the world, mostly painters.

When I was invited to participate in Survey Select I recalled a composition reaching back to March 2008 with a challenge by poet Heather Ettlinger. Heather invited fourteen perfumers to interpret the Ezra Pound poem titled In the Station of a Metro. At the time the perfume was all theoretical, although I had begun a few sketches in the form of accords.

For Survey Select I have resurrected the formula, made several alterations and now present it a new. The original image that my husband, artist Greg Spalenka, created to illuminate the perfume has also been revamped.

In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
~ Ezra Pound

The new perfume and image is titled "Gracing the Dawn" referring to three nature sprites,
"apparitions" which have descended on a wood bough. The sprites have arrived to ignite the Spring, to bring light to the dark. Originally the perfume was titled The Three Graces, however, research indicates that another perfumer is using that string of words.

Orchestration of the fragrance began with a dark base consisting of three separate accords. Some of the accords are found in other perfumes, particularly GreenWitch. The heart of the perfume is composed of sweet woods for the "bough" harmonizing with rich and delicate floral notes representing our triad of sprites. The three main floral notes are Rose, Jasmine and Mimosa. The wood and Mimosa bring warmth to deep base. There are a myraid of exotic essences in this composition, including Cestrum nocturnum, Night Queen, from South India. For the dawn, which reveals these luminous deities to our eyes, I've chosen bright top notes of citrus and ginger.

I had my daughter whiff the fragrance and she proclaimed "Purple! This smells like a perfume for a sophisticated lady. A good addition to the line since you don't have anything like it."

There are velvety violet notes present in the aroma weaved in with the woods. The perfume is of another era, you will see (smell) what I mean when you experience the aroma. If you are keen to sample the fragrance please stop by the show. Soon I will list vials and flacons for sale, but first, samples will go out to a few bloggers and the select members of the Faery Circle.

Gracing the Dawn is part of a new series of perfumes in collaboration with Greg Spalenka's Flowers of Fortune limited edition art card series and scratch off game. The cards and perfumes will soon be available online and at Comic Con in San Diego. Our booth this year at Comic Con (The San Diego Comic Convention) is number 5553. I admit to feeling a small rush of excitement at the anticipation of Comic Con.

“Survey Select” premiers with a private event at the Wonder Bread Factory located at 1440 Imperial Avenue, San Diego, CA (14th and Imperial) from 6pm to 11pm featuring a full bar, tasty treats, live music and off course arts and artists from all parts of the Earth. The show will be on display Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm each day with a full calendar of events.

Related Post: Narrative Art Exhibition.

Gracing the Dawn illumination ©Greg Spalenka.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Perfume Illuminated: Duets

"On hearing that sonata,
I could no longer tell whether I was breathing music or listening to scent.
~ Guy Maupassant

Perfume borrows much of its linguistics from music, the aromatic field blooms with words like accord/chord, note(s), orchestration, composing, organ, tone, harmony. Perfume is illuminated today by the concept of duets, another musical term. A duet is defined as a musical composition performed with two individuals or two instruments. For flavor and fragrance this translates into two individual ingredients paired together, like a good marriage, to form a whole greater than the sum of their parts.


Artists often look toward patterns and connections when creating a composition. In the creation of botanical, natural perfume there are specific notes that I have learned work well together. Many times when I am sitting at my drafting table, working out the details of a perfume, I will take into account what materials pair well together. Coupling together notes, often in groups of larger than two, is referred to as an accord or chord. I am rather abundant with generating chords. The best way to begin is by paring two notes that work well in unison, here are a few based on allied aromatics, I encourage you to discover others.

Jasmine + Ylang Ylang
Vanilla + Tolu Balsam
Patchouli + Rose
Vetiver + Clary Sage
Cabrueva + Sandalwood

Some essences are like social butterflies, they are very friendly and blend well with most. Others are curmudgeons and can be tricky or need a little coaxing.


Some flavor duets that immediately come to my mind are:

Salt + Pepper
Peanut Butter + Jelly
Cumin + Red Pepper Flakes
Basil + Tomato
Kalamata Olives + Feta Cheese
Chicken + Orange

I discovered this website which has a food pairing tool which is fun, some of the flavors they are putting together seem really unusual and worth exploring. Who would have ever thought of combining Mango with Peppermint?

Music, Heavenly Maid by Sir Edward John Poynter all other images Roxana Villa.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Hive Report

Last time we did the hive check we decided to add a second "super", which is bee lingo for another box. We did this because we noticed there was a lot of activity and normally at this time of year the colony expands rapidly.

In the opening photo and the one above you can see capped honey, lots of empty cells and toward the bottom pollen filled cells.

This week when we did our inspection we were very disappointed to find that not all that much had transpired in one month time. What's up? Either the Birdhouse Bees are laid back or they don't like the cardboard starter strips. Thus, we took out all the frames the girls were not using and replaced them with the new ones which have beeswax coated wood starter strips, instead of cardboard.

The reason Backwards Beekeepers use starter strips is so that the bees will "draw" their own comb. Most beekeepers, especially the industrial beekeepers, use what is termed "foundation" for the bees to build upon. Most foundation is made from beeswax, but, there is also plastic foundation. True organic honey and beeswax is from beehives which do not use foundation, a secret I learned recently from John Lingle.

Starter Strips

This is how we went about making our starter strips. First we picked up some balsa wood strips at a craft store (paint stirrers from the hardware store also work well.) Greg cut the wood to fit the width of our frames, we then used a waterproof wood glue to glue the wood in place. Once the glue was dry I melted down some of the beeswax I use for my solid natural perfumes and painted the wood. Although the photo is of cardboard not wood, I recommend wood.

I gently melt my wax in a small ceramic pot over a very low flame so as not the overheat the delicate matter. I have a dedicated paint brush which I only use for the starter strips. I make sure to cover the entire piece of wood as will as any cracks and holes in the frames. This can help prevent moth and beetle larvae.

Here is my mentor, Kirk, making them in this video below.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


While Greg and I were on our evening walk through the chaparral a few days ago I noticed that the Sugar Bush shrub, a native known as Rhus ovata, was in full bloom. I went back yesterday morning to get a few sprigs of the pretty white flowers for the photo above.

As I came up to the plant I heard a tremendous buzzing and saw that it was filled with happy little honey bees gathering the botanical nectar. How marvelous! Where as the non-native Oleanders across the street had no honey bees what so ever. Conclusion: plant Rhus ovata and encourage others to do the same.

Photo ©Roxana Villa