Tuesday, August 31, 2010


While lamenting the loss of our Birdhouse Bees my friend Jamie called to say that a swarm had appeared in her neighbors mailbox and could I come and get them. How auspicious we thought! Thus we organized all our supplies and treked out to Northridge, stopping at John Lyons to borrow his bee suit. We choose to arrive close to dust so that we could capture the swarm and bring them home immediately.

The white mailbox was shaped like a little house and had a pretty large swarm inside. Thanks to fellow BB member Michael who suggested we unscrew the top of the box, which is exactly what Greg did. After removing the very long bolt Greg took the box off and made a clean dump into the nuc box. Regrettably, due to the pitched roof, only a portion of the bees had gone into the box. Thus came the tedious task of scooping out all the bees into the box with the rest of their clan.

Once the the bees were in, we taped up the box and put it into the green laundry bag we still had from the Birdhouse Bee retrieval. At home we choose to move them into the hive box immediately as part of a seduction plan to get these girls to stay.

Meanwhile fellow BB member and pro Roberta offered us one of her Squirrel Box Bees. We figured best to have two swarms just in case something happens to one. Roberta caught us off guard by arriving with the Squirrel Box Bees late Monday night. The box had fallen out of a tree with all the bees, comb, brood and honey. Roberta had placed all the pieces into a big cardboard moving box and arrived here ready transfer to our second hive. Thus, at 10:30pm we all suited up, surveyed the scene and began the messy transfer. Roberta choose to leave her second Squirrel Box here to do a cut out and transfer over the weekend.

The following morning there was complete bee mayhem in the garden, hive wars were taking place at all three hives including an ant attack on the little Squirrel Box. YIKES! We took a deep breath, reduced the hive openings and hoped for the best. In the end the Mailbox Bees choose to leave and Squirrel Box bees #1 and #2 are doing just fine. It's still a bit of a mystery to us why Robber bees would have attacked the Mailbox Bees since there was no honey to steal.

What the future holds one never really knows in BeeVille, adventure and learning is the only constant. I'm starting to view Bee keeping as a form of spiritual practice, has anyone written The Zen Guide to Feral Beekeeping?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Perfume Illuminated: Peach

Illuminating our post today is the fragrance and flavor from the fleshy fruit of the peach tree, Prunus persica. A native of China, the highlight of this tree is the pretty blossoms in Spring followed by juicy edible fruit in late Summer. The corrugated seed shell of the peach is like that of the almond, both of which are categorized in the botanical subgenus Amygdalus.


In the realm of natural botanical perfume there is no peach essential oil, although I have heard of a pear extract coming out of the Bay area in California. There does exist a dark viscous peach leaf absolute from France. The substance is a bit challenging to work with due to its very thick and gooey nature. Some perfumers advocate diluting the absolute with alcohol before working with it. I prefer using the essence whole and diluting it into other essential oils. The aroma of peach leaf absolute is primarily herbaceous with a fruity character and subtle honey notes.

For our project today I thought we would delve into history and a preparation based a French apertif referred to as Vin de pĂȘche, Peach Leaf Wine. This recipe would be best made early in the season so that you could capture the aromatic almond notes of the leaves. However, that might be tricky since there is no peach fruit yet. Thus, I suggest beginning the process early on with the leaves and adding the fruit and pit once they become available.

Vin de pĂȘche, approximately 1 quart

- Unsprayed, young peach leaves, about 40 is a good number, but will depend on your jar.
- Peach fruit sliced with the skin and the pit(s) crushed.
- An alcohol with as high of a "proof" as you can obtain. I use an Organic Grape alcohol, but something like Everclear or a high proof Vodka will do the trick.
- The container should be sterile, made of glass and have a tight fitting lid.
- Strainer
- Unbleached cheese clothe

1. Begin the process by cleaning with a damp cloth, make sure everything is completely dry before moving to the next step.
2. Place the leaves into the glass jar.
3. Pour the high proof alcohol over the leaves to cover completely. If you plan on adding fruit later on, make sure to add extra alcohol so that the fruit and leaves will all be covered.
4. Keep your jar in a dark cool space and shake daily.
5. When peach fruit is finally available, follow step 1 and two, substituting the fruit for the leaves.
6. Replace your jar in the dark cool space and continue to shake daily until the aroma is to your satisfaction. A full menstrum is ideal, although two weeks might just be enough.
7. When the aroma is to your liking, strain your maceration to remove all plant matter. You may need to do this a few times.
8. Now...use this summer infused base alcohol for the beginnings of a a true, authentic Peach Perfume or another fantastical creation from your vivid imagination.

I'll be back next Summer with mine!


The Goddess of flavor Beth Shreibman Gehring awaits your arrival at the Windsphere Witch blog to share her gathered wisdoms on the flavor of Peach.

Images and text ©Roxana Villa, pilfering content is a violation of copyright, don't do it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feast or Famine

This one person sweat shop has been super busy lately and hasn't had a chance to feed the journal much. Tasks consuming as of late include the ongoing Jasmine tincture which now includes an infusion, gathering acorns from the oaks for various projects, bee related stuff, shooting process photos for a bunch of interviews and the ongoing making and shipping of botanical natural perfumes.

Seems that this roller coaster economic cauldron is heating up a bit. I'm working harder than ever to just scrape by...if even scrape! Mind you as an illustrator I lived in a feast or famine type atmosphere, but never quite this close to famine. In fact, I can't even really say I've experienced a whole hell of feast. The feast side of things in the past was more symbolic, it was the fact that I was able to pay my bills from making art.

Intending this economic cycle is starting to shift into an upward motion just as the mighty oaks are starting to produce the fruit of their labors.

Opening image: Belshazzar's Feast by John Martin, Jasmine and Apothecary image ©Roxana Villa

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Hive Report

After returning from the San Diego Comic Con we decided to conduct a hive inspection. Our hope was that the bees would have multiplied considerably and we would be adding a third box to the existing two boxes.

To our dismay the hive seemed to have shrunk considerably, no new comb and very little brood. Thus, with a sigh, we removed the empty frames from the lower box and gently placed the full frames in the top box back to the original lower box. After doing so we pondered what the problem might be...could it be the queen? If so, what do we do? The idea of having to kill our queen and replace her with a new queen seemed a little harsh. So we decided that we would add a queenless hive to the existing hive to see if that might get the "Birdhouse Bees" into a more productive framework.

In the meantime our Birdhouse Bees we attacked several times by large, dark "Robber" bees. Robber bees are honey bees from another hive looking to steal honey. We had noticed this happening to our hive on a regular basis since we set the girls up. What we didn't realize was that our hive had gotten so weak that they were on the verge of ruin.

Sure enough, Thursday another attack ensued. We put small cedar wood blocks in front of the entrance leaving only a small hole so that our girls could defend themselves easier. We also placed a damp clothe on the hanging from the top of the hive and down the front. I don't know why we were told this would help, we did it anyway. Greg even stood out there with a hose giving the big ugly robber bees a good wetting. Alas, nothing seemed to help. Through the afternoon, evening and next morning huge amounts of bees descended on our hive. By Friday afternoon all was quiet. Thus we did another hive inspection. To our dismay, our entire colony had been killed, raped and all honey stores were emptied. The photo below was taken one week before the attack, the honey stores are in the upper quadrant, capped with a white layer of wax. When the robber bees finally got in they opened up all the honey stores and emptied them, not even one little drop left.

This has all been a bit traumatic for us, we were told that the ants were the big problem, not other bees! In hindsight we should have replaced our queen, the colony is only as strong as its queen. Thus, we are cleaning everything up and getting the frames and boxes ready for another set...probably two new hives. With two, the loss of one isn't quite as depressing...at least according to other bee keepers.

Photo above is how we found our hive after the attackers had left, the corpse of our girls were strewn about with golden beeswax from the opened honey stores lettered everywhere. Anyway, today is National Honey Bee Day! I'm intending you will vow to avoid pesticides today and forever, support the Organic food movement and your local beekeeper. Remember, as my bee mentor says, BACKWARDs is the new FORWARDs!

Just found this on my the backwards Beekeepers site, seems I am not the only one plagued with Robber bees....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

Over at the Etsy Artisan Gallery Team blog members have been pairing up to feature interviews on each other. Jen of Polestar and I decided to pair up as interview buddies. I invite you to head over to our team blog where you can gather even more insights about my long and winding path into the fragrant world of botanical perfume.


The jasmine sambac plants continue to over up their splendid little flowers, the tincture is getting stronger with each summer day.

At top: My rose bouquet when I married Greg. Above: Jasmine sambac flowers from Wednesdays harvest.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gathering Blue

Sometimes when I sit to write a post for the blog I find myself in a chaos of inspired imagery leading me from one thing to another in a frenzied state. I usually can tell from the energy of it that there will be an interesting intersection transpiring at some point. All I need to do is faithfully follow it, even if the end does not reveal itself immediately.

Such was the case yesterday morning, just after returning from taking Eve over to the Theatricum Botanicum for her first performance of Much Ado About Nothing. I checked in at Etsy to see what was happening with sales at my shop and was mesmerized by a beautiful photo. The image, by artisan Lisa Jordan, was of a cluster of felted acorns on wood with an autumn leaf (pictured above). I hearted the photo and began to build an Etsy treasury inspired by the image titled A Rich Patina for Autumn.

As is the case when I make treasuries I contact the featured individuals to alert them that they are in the treasury. I then went about the very busy day with the intention to photograph Q solid perfume in a way that captured some of the feel of Lisa Jordan's felted acorn image. I went outside in the late afternoon looking for a piece of wood to bring into the house for the shoot. Instead I found a log that I was using in the garden as a design element amongst the native plants. Since the bottom of the log was covered with dirt, spiders and leaves I choose to do the photo shoot outside. Here are the results...

Today, while editing the above photos, I received back a thank you message from Lisa. I clicked on her shop buttom within the convo and decided to send her the new photo of Q solid natural perfume that she inspired. We got into a little message exchange which led me to her lil fish blog and opened the duirway to Ms. Jordan's vibrant artistic life. Upon seeing her post on a natural dye bath with mushroom and lobster I immediately knew I had met a kindred spirit, in fact her dye baths look like my tinctures and infusion! Reading about her process made me think of one of my favorite novels Gathering Blue, which spiraled down another worm hole.

This bridge led me to discover that Lois Lowry, the author of Gathering Blue, has a blog and that she was inspired by my compatriot Jorge Luis Borges when she wrote The Giver.

So much beauty and interweaving creative paths...like the richly colored robe that Kira finds herself restoring in Gathering Blue.

Images: Verdigris copper and wool felted acorns by Lisa Jordan, Etsy treasury titled "A Rich Patina for Autumn" and Q Natural Solid Perfume photos by Roxana Villa.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In the Garden

California native sage is the predominant fragrance outdoors in the garden this morning. Indoors I've got the fresh crop of Jasmine sambac blossoms which is infusing the studio with their heaven scent.

A few days ago I went out to get some oak leaves for shots of Q solid perfume and I noticed the oaks already have small green acorns. These little gems have become props for my new photos, although I am not 100% satisfied with the shots yet.

Meanwhile, in another area of the garden, there has been lots of drama in Bee-ville, which I will be reporting in the upcoming Hive Report.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perfume Illuminated: Lime

Perfume Illuminated is back with zesty and cheerful Lime! Might as well return in style with the marvelous little accent this green fruit offers to both fragrance and flavor.

Originating in the tropical and subtropical areas of Asia the Citrus aurantifolia is a small spreading tree similar to other citrus bearing plants of the Rutaceae botanical family. Bright, glossy green in color with neon yellow green pulp Limes can either be sour or sweet depending on the soil condition and climate of where they are grown. Limes were introduced to the West Indies via Spanish explorers in 1493, arriving to the shores of America in the 16th century.

Known as to prevent scurvy along with Limes sibling Lemon, the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases document these vitamin rich fruits facilitate the prevention of arthritis.


In herbal folklore Limes are associated with clearing negativity from a space, which might include ones head. For aromatherapy and botanical, natural perfume we have Lime essential oil, steam distilled or expressed from the peel or zest of the fruit. The green to pale yellow, clear essence has a jovial, uplifting quality. Lately I have had a bit of an obsession with Lime in fragrance and flavor. I have a new aromatic item appearing in the E-shop shortly which features this note, stay tuned!

The most valued essence of Lime is the expressed, also termed cold pressed, from the rind of the fruit. Extracts from different varieties and countries exist offering quite a diverse lime palette to the botanical perfumer. In culinary circles lime is used to boost and or bring out the flavors of other ingredients. The same property is also applied to Lime in natural and botanical perfume. Use lime with other citruses to boost and modify the citrus note. Lime also offers nice affects when paired with conifers, coriander, spearmint, rosemary, clary sage and an interesting contrast to an amber base.


For today's associated DIY project let's make a Lime Infusion, sometimes called a Phytol. Infusions start with raw plant material, in the case of lime we will use the rind of the fruit where the bulk of the essential oil in contained. Since so many citrus fruits are covered with waxes I suggest obtaining organic fruit to avoid unwanted additives in your phytol and the food chain. Use a zester if you have one, or a grater to remove the skin. Make sure there no water content in the zest. Place the zest into a glass jar. Cover the rind with an oil such as jojoba, sunflower or olive and secure with a tight fitting lid. Place the jar outside in the full sun or next to a sunny window and shake everyday. After one to three weeks, or one full menstrum, strain the oil through cheese clothe to remove the plant matter and wahlah your phytol is now ready to use as a massage oil or a base for other aromatics goodies. If you make this infusion with olive oil it will serve as a delicious addition to salads and/or fresh bread. Store the infusion in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid, preferably in a cool dark location.


Lime flavoring in food is used throughout many different cultures including Southwestern dishes of the US, Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand and Persia.

Now, off you go to the Goddess of flavor Beth Shreibman Gehring at the Windsphere Witch blog for her culinary magic illumination with Lime.

Images: Lime Postcard by Roxana Villa thanks to my great grandmothers postcards and the Lime photo by Darwin Bell, Exclusive crate label via CrateLablesonline, all other images by Roxana Villa.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Scent of the Day: Grace

In the midst of pouring a 1 gram vial of Gracing the Dawn for a customer I decided to put some on since I hadn't worn this one in over a week. Today I am experiencing some spice black pepper notes in the opening which I hadn't picked up on before.

As I walked from my studio into my husband's he remarked, "Wow, something smells REALLY good!" I thought, hmmm, could it be? So I put my wrist out for him to smell, his second remark, "That's a beautiful one." Conclusion: Gracing the Dawn has some nice silage girlfriends.

Apologies to all the members of the Faery Ring, your samples are going out in the next few days. I got hung up on making your packages really pretty visually.

Image: Violet tincture on antique postcard ©RoxanaVilla

Sunday, August 8, 2010


"Ah, these jasmines, these white jasmines!..."
~ Excerpt from The First Jasmines by Rabindranath Tagore

The fragrant little Pikake flowers continue blooming daily in the garden. Each day I go out to check if it will be a harvesting day or not. Today was such a day.

Before placing the delicate little blossoms into the tincture I take a few photos. This is the only time of year I have the opportunity to take such photos. Did you know it takes approximately eight thousand of these flowers to obtain one ounce of the precious Jasmin sambac absolute?

For the tincture I swap out the spent flowers and replace with a new fresh crop. The spent flowers I put into another jar with my pure grain alcohol just in case there is still volatile aromatics to be extracted. Today I sampled a bit of the botanical perfume tincture and am happy to report that the aroma is very fine like that of the fresh florets.

Although I may not make it to Hawaii this summer, I do have a very lovely reminder here of the Hawaiian flowers referred to as Pikake.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Comic Con: Around the Booths

Normally while at Comic Con I spend much more time wondering the floor and checking out what friends, artists and fellow comrades are working on. These year was a little different in that I didn't get out much except for early mornings before the doors of the hall opened.

Tara McPherson, one of Eve's fav artists and a great example of Artist As Brand.

The Hi Fructose booth had a super nice display with lots of high quality printed books
and oddities to tempt you.

Cool, suave retro design by Ragnar. His 320-page retrospective book Eponymonstrous is published and available through Brand Studio Press.

Over at our old stomping ground, the Allen Spiegel Fine Art booth
Barron Story taking a break with Clair McKean.

The yearly lego display featured Buzz Lightyear and Woody.

Who needs to leave the booth when you have fine folk like Jeff Soto coming by to see us!
Jeff, pictured above on the left, has a really great painting in the Survey Select Show
down the street on Imperial at the Wonder Bread Factory. The painting is titled Matterhorn.

Sometimes the views outside the hall were just as interesting as inside.
Check out this fellow his pants match his artwork!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Delve Deeper

"Roxana Villa is an imaginative painter and illuminated perfumer who created a signature perfume for “Survey Select.” Read on and discover Roxana’s approach to her illuminated perfumes, a pleasant change of pace to the otherwise visual overload typically covered at the Survey Select blog." ~ Mark Murphy

Enjoy the interview and feature here: Roxana Villa: Illuminated Perfumer

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dream Scape

During my first year in art school I discovered the book Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. That book completely shifted the way I "saw" and in turn my drafting skills. These days instead of seeing I am more focused on aroma...but there is a unifying thread. The binding unifier is my interest in the brain, how it works and the possibility of being much more than we perceive and using more of our brain capacity.

Certain books and genres explore these themes brilliantly, one such luminary is Christopher Nolan. Christopher hit the radar with the psychological thriller Memento, although he didn't peek my curiosity until later when we met Wally Pfister through our children. Wally has been Nolan's photography director since Memento.

Our friends took us to the Gold Class Cinema in Pasadena last night to see Christopher's newest film Inception. Like Memento and the Prestige, Inception is a mind bending, psychological thriller set in layers of the dream scape. A genius concept, which like Fringe, taps into science and visionary ideas in the same way that the Matrix did in 1999. Wally's photography direction in Inception is his best ever and might just finally earn him his well deserved academy award.

Although the Matrix is much more in the SciFi arena than Inception both share the idea of simulated realities, action and exceptional visuals. In fact, Inception has raised the bar on film visuals just like the first Matrix film.

Getting back to the brain and the senses, the principal raw material used in authentic botanical perfume is essential oils. These volatile essences have been scientifically proven to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Marguerite Maury and Rene Gattefosse, the mother and father of aromatherapy, recognized the physiological and physicologial affect of essential oils.

When an essential oil such as Mandarin is inhaled the tiny molecules go up our nose traveling to the lungs and limbic system of our brains. The limbic system, the oldest part of our brain, is our emotional brain. Mandarin essential oil, according the Chapter 13 of Aromatherapy for Bodyworkers, tempers tantrums, depression, anxiety and may assist in clearing out old ideas. I personally use mandarin as one of the ingredients in my evening relaxation essential oil synergies which promotes sweet dreaming.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Scents of the Mediterranean

Sun day greetings with a combined blogging fest celebrating the "Scents of the Mediterranean the World Over." This event has been organized by Ines of All I am - a redhead and Elena of Perfume Shrine. Links to all the participating blogs are located at the end of this post. Hearty gratitude to both Iris and Elena for inviting me.

The Mediterranean refers to the inland sea by the same name which connects to the Atlantic Ocean. The land masses surrounding the sea are Anatolia (Turkey), Europe, North Africa, and the Levant.

When I think of scents from the Mediterranean my first thought is culinary herbals such as Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Chamomile, Sage, Bay Laurel, Rosemary and Lavender. As I continue to ponder a bit the horizon expands to include the fresh smells of the ocean and gourmand notes wafting from outdoor cafes.

Southern California, where I dwell, shares similar climatic conditions to the Mediterranean. This eco-system is termed the chaparral biome. The dominant characteristics are a warm temperatures, a long dry summer with the rainfall season occurring in the fall. This specific system is found along the west coast of the US and South America, the Cape of South Africa, the western tip of Australia and the coastal regions of the Mediterranean.1 In some areas of the world the chaparral biome is also referred to as the Mediterranean scrubland or sclerophyll forest. Some of the common plants found in this biome are oak, pine, eucalyptus and acacia. This is the reason so many Mediterranean plants thrive in southern California, so well that they are crowding out our own native plants. A good example is the eucalyptus from Australia.

This photo above by Rebecca Plotnick, a fellow etsy artist, looks out over the sea in Italy. The photo could have easily been taken from Malibu hills or a lookout point at the Getty Villa. The main difference in is the depth of history one finds in the Mediterranean, perfectly depicted in the architecture.

If I were to draft up a Mediterranean perfume sketch I begin with the idea of creating the fragrance as a liquid perfume in a base of Organic grape alcohol, since the area is known for fine wine. The predominant unifying scent for all four land regions bordering the Mediterranean are those of the sea. I also like the idea of orchestrating this as a Chypre, since this fragrance family is connected to the region.

From the paint box of the natural botanical perfume artist that raw material is seaweed absolute with a touch of oakmoss and a bit of choya (distilled sea shells.) To this base I add some labdanum, not only because it works well with those thus far selected but also because this deep resinous aromatic is native to the region. I also add cyprus wood, Cupressus sempervirens, from Crete or Spain. For the middle notes I choose rose and orange blossom as the two main florals in the accord of the heart, which while blending I invoke Aphrodite. For the top notes I add Bergamot from Italy to complete our Chypre orchestration, lemon verbena for little extra zing, a bit of a culinary herbal note like thyme and some middle eastern spice for an exotic twist. Once the initial sketch is finished I will analyze the different scents together and research more materials to weave in. I'd very much like to use a bit of my olive leaf absolute...or perhaps some of the absolutes that come from Europe like genet (broom), beeswax, helichrysum or black current. Then again, I might fall in love with one of these ingredient and start over again.

Perfume Shrine