Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tree Ogham: Ivy

Greenest of the pastures, sweeter than grasses.

Ivy, the twelfth letter in the Tree Ogham goes by the letter G and the name Gort, meaning green field or garden. According to Blamires some legends and poetry refer to honeysuckle and woodvine interchangeable with Ivy.

We interpret the message of a plant by observing where and how it grows. Ivy is a very tenacious, evergreen which uses another plant as a host eventually smothering and/or killing it. Ivy in the physical world is witnessed growing as a ground cover, on trees, and the side of a building. The deep green waxy leaves have four or five pointed lobes growing from long vines which rapidly cling and wrap themselves spiraling upwards. Paul Rhys Mountfort in his book Ogam, The Celtic Oracle of Trees calls this a basic archetype of growth and endurance which we can witness in the structure of our DNA and the patterns of the

The survival instinct of the Ivy is fierce with the ability to grow in adverse conditions, exploiting anything found in its trail in order to prevail. Ivy is a ruthless parasite prepared to use what might appear unfortunate as a benefit. The lesson of the Ivy in our physical world is related to a aggressive warrior spirit. There are moments in our lives when an indomitable will force is needed to move forward, this is the positive aspect of the Ivy spirit which we can tune into. In doing so clear mindfulness is needed so that we do not choke others or ourselves in the process.

For the Tree Ogham of Ivy I have created a liquid and solid natural perfume title Hedera helix. Originally created in April of 2007 as a liquid perfume, I have duplicated the original formula with a few minor additions for the solid. When this fragrance was first created I began by making a list of essences which smelled green and Ivy-like. I then created five different versions labeled Ivy 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Number five in the end prevailed, like Coco Chanels first perfume.

The list of essential oils, C02 extracts and absolutes is quite vast
including thirty three individual essences from a variety of families:

The structure of the fragrance has the characteristics of a Chypre with a very classy air. The oakmoss and resins in the base give the liquid perfume some powerful longevity. The aromatic notes are woven very tightly so that individuals are not easy to perceive. The best words I can use are: mossy green, floral Chypre. I utilized many essences with a green profile as well as those that come from green leaves. On the skin of those who have tested it for me it is quite beautiful with fabulous silage. I have sent samples to varies bloggers thus perhaps you will have the opportunity to read some collective thoughts.

This perfume was made at a time when I was removing large amounts of Ivy from my garden in order to plant California natives. I had witnessed how destructive Ivy was to the oaks and other plants that grew alongside it. Thus, had Tonie Silver not made the request for this fragrance it probably would never have manifested. Here are Tonies words about Hedera:

"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."

The color harmony for Ivy is a deep, mossy green. Hedera helix is currently available as a liquid and solid perfume at my website.

Happy Autumn Equinox to those in this Northern hemisphere, a time to breath in this sacred moment as we begin our preparations for the impending darkness of the seasonal year.

Images: Portrait of a girl surrounded by ivy leaves by Henry John Stock, Flora by John William Waterhouse, A Hamadryad by John William Waterhouse

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tree Ogham

The constant in Celtic tradition accepted by all the scholars is a deep reverence for nature, specifically the trees. Like the native people of the Americas, the Druids viewed the world holistically, seeing the connection between all things. There was an intrinsic understanding of the link between the physical/outer world and the spiritual/inner world.

Most of the Celtic myths we have with us in practice have evolved over time. Many have been interpreted into the modern Neo-pagan traditions based on the book The White Goddess by Robert Graves. The Tree Ogham has roots in Druidic history but is also part of the re-invention tapping into an inherent understanding of the Green World, the mighty trees and an understanding that magic and symbolism are dynamic and evolving constantly.

For the Druid's trees were sacred, an outward symbol of the cosmos manifested here on Earth and beings of great wisdom which held memory. When gathered together in a grove the vibrational field is heightened. The branches of each tree reaching up towards the heavens with deeply connected roots spiraling down into the womb of the earth. Sacred groves were referred to as nemeton, these were ancient sites of worship with very old trees. Many of these sites were cut down by invading Romans and later by the church as a way to dissipate the strength of the Druids and their holy places.

Regrettably humans have not learned the great value of our forests and trees, despite several movements throughout the world working diligently to save and restore our woodlands. Instead of the plight of Roman invaders and religious zealot now we face the Corporate entity with its ferocious, greedy appetite for all the natural resources Mother Earth has to offer. As an alternative the Corporation offers us synthetic, mass produced, industry made replicants.

As my continued contribution to the greening of consciousness I've created a new, ongoing series, based on the Tree Ogham, handmade with intention, respect, tinctures, infusions and the vitality of nature. They are great draughts of wisdom from the Green World, magical elixirs meant to connect each of us to the verdant entities yearning to share their knowledge and heighten our inner and outer awareness.

Let us begin with defining a few words and setting the stage. The word Ogham or Ogam is an ancient script developed most likely by the bards of Ireland in search for a sacred form of communication. Ogham script is seen as a line with smaller intersecting lines and notches most often carved into standing stones. Sometimes these lines could be found carved on trees and there are also individual characters with reference to specific trees. Ogham is also a form of linguistic communication that was used by "heroes, champions, bards, and druids"1 which most likely predates the script and alphabet. Steve Blamires, author of Celtic Tree Mysteries: Secret of the Ogham suggests that the Ogham language was not a spoken word but developed as an inner form of communication between us and the trees, or our own higher self.

The Celtic Tree Calendar is one of the Neo-pagan traditions mentioned at the start of this post. For the Druids our modern system of compartmentalizing time did not exist. They were deeply, spiritual beings living very much in the here and now, time was fluid and cyclical tuned into planetary movement. Even the Wheel of the Earth with its eight holy days stems from Celtic revivalists.

The Book of Ballymote has two Tree Alphabet lists both beginning with the letter B for Birch, one consisting of twenty four letters and trees and the other with twenty six. The Steve Blamires book lists twenty trees to begin practical magic work. This is the main book I am using for my inspiration as it is the one that feels most grounded and balanced.

Below is a list of the twenty totems within this Basic Tree Ogham, keep in mind that not all are trees, but plants found within the Celtic forest:


1 Celtic Tree Mysteries: Secret of the Ogham, Steve Blamires, 1987 Llewelyn Publishing
Images: Divinus and Graphic Tree on parchment by Greg Spalenka.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


The new camera arrived yesterday via Fed Ex and I am absolutely thrilled with it. The camera is a Canon Rebel T2i, we choose this one because I can use it to take my product photos and create films. For my birthday this year I told Greg that more than anything else I wanted a camera, given that Eve was leaving and taking her trusty Nikon with her. Thus Greg recruited friends and family to pitch in and wahlah, manifestation. Thank you everyone who helped out, I so very grateful and happy, happy to be shooting again!

At first when we were researching cameras I was pretty set on getting a Nikon since I've been a Nikon gal most of my life and really liked Eve's camera. However, Ben mentioned that the Canon is the one used in lots of video and film these days. After exhaustive research online and speaking with other photographers we settled on the Canon, we made the right choice, it feels great in my hands and is very intuitive.

Here are my first few shots yesterday afternoon walking around the garden. Today I've been shooting To Bee and Hedera helix photos. The plan is to introduce Hedera helix to you are in the morrow, Friday, now to go find some ivy for the photos.

Images: 1. Self portrait at the front door of our woodland home, 2. Cactus and 3. Dried leaves in the garden.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To Bee at Perfume Shrine and World Peace Day

Tomorrow is World Peace Day and today Elena over at Perfume Shrine has published a very sweet review of To Bee Natural Perfume.

Thus, for this day I am advocating we all anoint ourselves with a combination of the Perfume Devoted to Peace and To Bee. Both of these fragrances have honey notes and as is the case with all my "fumes" they have the ability to bring one more inner peace due to the high essential oil content.

There are many ways to layer or wear more than one illuminated perfume at a time. When I am in full production mode here at the studio I generally will put one perfume on each limb. Yesterday for example I had Aurora on my left arm and To Bee on my right. I also will often layer a solid over a liquid or vice versa. If you have really dry skin I applying the solid the liquid may facilitate more longevity. Above all experiment, have fun and breath in the moment deeply.

I'll leave you with this quote from my customer Beth about To Bee solid:

"This is one of those scents that makes me realize how inadequate our (or at least my) language is to capture fragrance. So, I'll have to fall back on what so many others have said about it: it's exquisite, complex, and lingers beautifully. It makes me feel better about being in the world: I can feel myself walking taller and breathing more deeply whenever I wear it. An experience more than a perfume. (and beautifully packaged, too!)"

Monday, September 19, 2011

John Neuhart 1928-2011

Graphic designer John Neuhart transitioned from this Earthly realm today at noon. Although we knew his departure was approaching it is still a shock and a pull on the heart strings. I met John during art school at Otis via Ben. Johns love of letterpress, typography and fastidious attention to detail were huge inspirations to my creative life. It's a comfort that much of his letterpress equipment now resides in the back studio where Ben and I plan on starting up projects in October.

John was a detail master, a titan of organizational thinking and orchestrating space. He would take enormous amounts of time and attention to hand make items like the dollhouse for Eve when she was born, which took seven years or a simple box to house a crown made by Marilyn.

The Eames office scale model took ten years to make, between 2001-2010. Constructed on a one-quarter inch to one-foot scale, the model is a replica of the Eames Office at the time of Charles Eames death in August of 1978. Painstakingly constructed over nearly a decade John, with the assistance of Marilyn, aimed to recreate the office with precision. With a demountable roof and cross beams the model reveals the 10,000 square foot interior equipped with appropriately-scaled furniture, the equipment and tools of the Eames Design Office, as well as the graphic displays decorating the walls at that time. The model was sold as part of an auction to the Vitra Museum in Switzerland.

Marilyn and John's most recent project was the two volume set The Story of Eames Furniture which was published in the Autumn 2010. Here is a video on Vimeo with both Marilyn and John being interviewed.

The Story of Eames Furniture: Marilyn Neuhart with John Neuhart - Interview from Gestalten on Vimeo.
John attended Long Beach Jordan High School and from there went on to Long Beach City College where he met Marilyn. After receiving their degrees they attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where John would eventually teach typography and graphic design while working at Eames office with Charles and Ray.

Eventually Marilyn and John opened their own office, Neuhart Donges Neuhart (NDN), with friend and associate Richard Donges. They created environmental graphics for the Mathematica show at the IBM building in NYC and designed the torch for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. John had a brief career in the film industry working ona montage in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but his real love and gift was as a teacher, he retired from UCLA as a full Professor Emertus in 1984.

During college it was a treat to visit John and Marilyn's home in Hermosa Beach or their studio in El Segundo. Their modern design sense was magnetic as well as the awe inspiring collection of books which was easy to get lost in for hours. If I ever felt a lack of creativity all I needed to do was visit that amazing compilation of books on every subject imaginable.

My camera has still not arrived thus pictures of Johns beautiful creations will be posted here later along with other links as I am sure many people will be sharing stories about him throughout the internet and print.

We live in this world with full consciousness that one day we or another being in our lives will pass from this dimension onto another. Despite this knowing, western culture still hasn't quite figured out how to embrace the process with consciousness. John left his mortal coil in his home surrounded by loving family members. Please join me in sending him light as he enters a new journey.

October 11, 2011 tribute to John: UCLA Design Media Arts / Faculty

Photos: Graduation day from Otis college at MacArthur Park in May 1984, pictured from left to right John Neuhart, Marilyn Neuhart, myself and Ben Neuhart. The crowns Ben and I are wearing were made by Marilyn, photo by Andrew Neuhart. Black and white photo of John in 1957 from Ben Neuhart. The hand image was designed Marilyn Neuhart and used as a bookplate. I took the angel photo on Christmas day 2011 at John and Marilyn's home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vermont Honey Bee

A Vermont honey bee photographed by Eve on the campus of Bennington College where they keep bees. Eve purchased some of their local honey this week. Can't wait to hear how it tastes, eventually sample some and find out if the school practices treatment free bee keeping.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Winged Messenger

Wednesday is ruled by the planet Mercury which governs the mind and communication. Named after the Roman god, Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and closest to the Sun. In Greek mythology Mercury is the winged messenger known as Hermes. Astrologically Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo, two signs associated with intellect.

In keeping with the flow of the winged messenger here are a few things currently taking place in the woodland apothecary.

ToBee as a solid compact has just been listed in the shop. The price reflects the increase in the cost of raw materials, like Mimosa, Beeswax and Clover absolute. I'm still working on the To Bee LookBook, a task which is a bit all consuming and challenging to my skill set as artist, photographer, designer, writer and computer techie. I've been waiting on the arrival of the SLR camera for some final photos, but, the camera seems to be taking much longer to arrive than anticipated. Thus, I will move forward without additional photos.

As a means to understand the needs and desires of my customers I have put together a survey on Google with a few multiple choice questions. If you feel inspired to fill it out you will receive a 10% discount which can be used on anything in my E-shop. The discount may not be combined with the same item that you use the birthday coupon on but may be used in the same order if you choose two items. Once you fill out the questionaire please e-mail me (roxana at so I can give you your coupon code to use in the shop or send you a paypal invoice.

Images: The Marriage of Persephone by Henry Siddons Mowbray. To Bee solid compact montage and gift box photo and by Roxana Villa.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Drawn Together

Saturday night we journeyed over to the hillside of Silver Lake to the home of our friends Peleg and Ricky. I first met Peleg ages ago when we worked together to found the Los Angeles chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild.

We were greeted at their home by the scent of Nag Champa incense burning in the living room. After hugs, kisses and the presentation of gifts we drifted to the kitchen where Ricky made all of us delicious Basil Lime martinis from a blend created by Peleg.

Nag Champa, Lime, Basil, tendrils of smoke from the lighting of the tea candles on the dinner table...a perfume was formulating in my head, I can't help it, smells do that to me.

The meal was a series of small dishes beginning with a very fresh arugula salad that featured watermelon, followed by a caprese salad and cumin spiced stuffed zucchini. (Cumin..another addition to the perfume being orchestrated in my minds eye.) We had brought over an infused olive oil balsamic dipping oil from our local farmers market that worked perfectly with the caprese and fresh bread.

Conversation was just as delicious as the meal, as we shared favorite books, films, stories of anal retentive dish loading tendencies and our favorite places to purchase food. After the absolute perfect apple tart with port we moved to the living room for more sharing.

When I first met Peleg he had a graphic design studio in Van Nuys, we hit it off together immediately, a creative soul entanglement. Since then he has graduated from cooking school, organized graphic design conferences, and is now a coach and mentor to creative entrepreneurs and more. He even documented the cooking school experience which you can read on his blog.

His favorite illumuniated perfumes include Q and now GreenWitch, which he chose as a solid. I'm going to make it for him in a bigger container, a la body balm, stay tuned. Meanwhile, Ricky liked the warmer Aumbre over Pelegs preference of the fresh, crisp notes of GreenWitch.

Just before departing to our own nest in the woods, Peleg gave us a tour of his art studio where he has embraced his inner artist and is cranking out large acrylic paintings and pastel drawings in gorgeous moleskin books. He asked me, "Aren't you painting anymore, don't you miss it?" Although I'm not painting anymore I am creating and expressing myself daily, just in other mediums. His question combined with my newly cleaned off drawing table inspired me. Yesterday I did a simple, pencil line drawing and will start doing them daily. Today I am working on one called Hedera helix. Yesterdays image is a remake of one from a few years ago which I felt needed a little fine tuning and am visualizing as an animation, I'm calling it Drawn Together.

My friend Aztechan asked "Did the inspiration stem from (A) an amazing meal (B) Martinis (C) Peleg Top (D) All of the above?" My answer "A synergistic affect." Last week when Alyssa, the film maker, was at the house I had cleared off my drafting table from perfume formulas and rapidly reproducing amber glass bottles with chords, essential oils, perfumes in the works etc. The cleared space made me comtemplate drawing again. Thus, triggered by Peleg's question, I choose to hold off on some perfume and marketing work to just draw for the sake of drawing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Winds of Change

The silver solid natural perfume compacts are back, well, sort of. I have received a few and supposedly more will be available shorty. If you've been waiting all year for the return of these exquisite delicacies than I suggest acting quickly since the supplier is a bit unreliable. If all goes well, the shop will be fully stocked with the compacts by the end of September.

"A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts.
And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are far-reaching."
~ Sivananda

In other news, the handmade crochet pouches that go along with the compacts and flacons are slowly returning. These gems are hand made by my mother Martha of TwoKnit. If you look closely you will see that the design on the edge of each pouch is different. We designed them so that there is a relationship between to the concept of the fragrance. Notice the sea shell / wave like pattern in Green Witch below.

The price for most of my aromatic raw materials continues to escalates, weather and transportation costs (like gasoline) are the main factors. Regrettably this means I also need to raise prices so I can continue on.


"Return often and take me at night, when the lips and skin remember."
~ A snippet from a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy

The third jasmine perfume in the Birthday series remained in a dark, cool hideaway completely topless for quite a long time. I rather liked her that way, but she wasn't quite whole and certainly not a proper perfume without a top.

After pondering the formula and looking for interconnections within the chemical structure I settled on Black Pepper, Gingergass, Bergamot and Myrtle for the top. The result is a bright, sparkling opening which slowly spirals into darker rich body notes. In the final dry down the aroma is very warm and balsamic, similar to the ending of Lyra. Be aware that these scent impressions are based on my olive complexion skin, on you it may be very different.

As stated in a prior post this fragrance is based on an old formula created in 1997 with Jasmine, Patchouli, Spikenard, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Nutmeg, Blood Orange, Mandarin and Gingergrass. I began by first combining the Jasmine, Patchouli, Spikenard, Vanilla, Sandalwood and Nutmeg. Then I added Wheat and Cocoa absolute along with darker woods and resins. At this point I adored it but was extremely disappointed when Maestro Gregorio commented that it reminded him of a medicine from when he was young. I thought wtf (?) I'm not getting that at all!

Then a whole dialogue started in my brain about following my nose and heart or paying some attention to the tastes and smell associations of others. As the solo flying, uber niche perfume artist I pretty much follow my own taste and whims of fancy. However, I am an odd bird and do not perceive fragrance as others.

Thus, I continued adding essences with a bit of attention to balancing the medicinal note that may have been from the Spikenard. I also added Galbanum to pair with the green of the Jasmine sambac as well as a tad of Basil, Tarragon and Mate. In total there are 24 completely botanical essences composited together in a base of organic grape alcohol and a tincture of Ambrette seeds from India.

This is a bit of a Noir Jasmine on a bed of velvet and hay. Rather purposely I avoided adding elements that would make the fragrance similar to Page 47 or Cimbalom. I'm not sure what her color harmony is of yet, or the name which she will be known by. For now she will go by the alias Jasmine Noir. Once you have draped her on your skin I would love a few suggestions for what to call her, if you sense a particular hue for her and imagery for the illumination which Greg will create. Leave your ideas here at this post or e-mail me privately. If I choose the name you have donated then I will send you a special gift of the honey pot or 1 gram vial of the re-vamped edition will be yours.

Please note this is the first edition of the trail version and I only have a limited amount available as a liquid. Find them here, once my camera arrives I'll take some photos.

Image: Psyche Opening the Golden Box by John William Waterhouse

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Carpe Diem

It's a brand new month filled with possibilities as we stroll into the firelight energetics of Autumn. Although, here in the Southern California woodland, Autumn will probably not be showing her face or cloak in these parts for another few months. Her whisper however is evident in the oaks, lots of green acorns are hanging from the branches of the sturdy evergreens that surround my home.

With the children heading off to school many of us can now focus more on other activities. For me, Eve in Vermont has been a blessing as now I can pour my energy and time into all these various projects I've been juggling.

Besides new perfumes and products, I've been revamping some of the packaging. Although the wax sealed info sheets are romantic and beautiful, the time and energy it takes to make them is exhaustive. Compounded by Eve's extra two pairs of hands not being here to help out. Thus, I am redesigning and printing up the small, folded booklet that is enclosed with the perfume flacons. I'll still have the wax sealed sheets available for those who ask for them, but, these little booklets will be the new norm as well as individual cards for each perfume. This will save loads of time, especially around the holidays.