Friday, August 31, 2012

A Locket in Your Pocket

Eve is leaving on Sunday, thus I have been taking advantage and shooting some photos before then. We have another photo session planned this evening, during magic hour. Here's a shot from last week with the solid natural perfume mini compacts in her hands laid over one of Martha's crochet flowers.
I've also been shooting photos of her for Martha's shop TwoKnit.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Spice Melange

As Summer comes to a close the time of the flowers ends as the cycle of spice and wood enters the landscape. Here in the Northern hemisphere, although the Jasmine sambac and Plumeria are still blooming in the garden, signs of the seasonal shift are upon us. The oaks now have their acorns and the native plants are slowly awakening from their summer slumber.

Yesterday I made Aurora solid for several orders that had come in, today I am making Sierra Solid Gold, both of these are spice perfumes. Aurora is a floriental, with a rich heart of flowers shaded with subtle spice notes, similar to the scent of a carnation. Sierra Solid Gold has much more prominent spice notes with resins, vanilla, frankincense and myrrh, no flowers. To my nose, Sierra Solid Gold embodies what I associate as the smell of Christmas.

Observing what fragrances are trending in my sales is always fascinating, sometimes its due to a write up somewhere or a customer that has infected all her friends with a specific perfume. The latter took place about a month ago with Aumbre.

The popular fragrances over the last two weeks have been mostly those with prominent vanilla notes, especially Blanc followed by Page 47 with Lyra and Cimbalom on the tale end. Just before the Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco I had made a large bottle of the synergy for Blanc, that synergy is almost gone. (gasp!) I believe Blanc may overtake GreenWitch in the overall best seller position.

Another interesting trend I've noticed is that people are asking for subtle fragrances. Some perceive Hedera helix, GreenWitch, Cimbalom and Vera as "too strong", interesting huh? This indicates that there are just as many people interested in botanical perfumes that are subtle as those looking for superb longevity.

My daughter Eve heads back to college this coming Sunday, which makes me very sad but also will open up more focus time on all these projects I've got in the cauldron. Ideally I'd like to take this week off, however that's not going to happen, spice production must not stop. Can you tell we watched Dune recently? Here's an interesting bit of historic movie trivia regarding the film adaptation of Dune and what it inspired, How the Failed Dune Movie You Never Saw Gave Birth to Prometheus.

Images: Anise postcard collage, Aurora solid perfume photo and Vanilla bean photo by Roxana, Dune movie poster image via 80's Movie Posters

Monday, August 27, 2012

Questions, Answers and the GreenWitch

A customer asked:

 "I realize it is not an exact science, but for daily wear approximately how long will 5 g of solid perfume last?  How long will 7 g of liquid perfume last?

I loved Q in the solid form and have not tried it in the liquid form and I am debating which to purchase and trying to estimate if I’m purchasing a couple months’ supply or a year or what.


I asked a few devoted customers how they would answer this question, here is what they said...

From Linda:

"Actually, most everything lasts a fairly long time  --  especially compared to other scents on the market.  I do have more than several Illuminated scents to choose from though, so I alternate, which probably adds to their longevity.  However, with that said, the compacts last quite a long time, which surprises me, since I tend to use these the most.  Because I feel that I have more product, I tend to apply them more liberally.  I know I'm fooling myself, but still, the compacts do seem to last.  Of course, it depends on the scent and how often I reapply it. 

The smaller pots seem to go down faster though -- and the vials' longevity depends totally on the scent and how often I wear it.  Impromptu is very long-lasting, so I still have some in the little sample you sent out earlier.  And I reach for that one a lot.  Some other scents that I have in vials I've totally used up, like Vera and Sierra, because I reapply them more often.

I also feel that your solids retain the scent much longer that those of some other perfumers I've tried.  I have compact-type solids from other makers that are not all that old, but the scent has already changed to the point that I smell the base waxes more than the original scent.  Not so good.  My original Q compact, which was the first one I purchased from you, although nearly gone, still smells just as fragrant as when it was new.  I love that . . . "

From Ginger:

"Very approximate rough guestimate: I had a look at my honeypot (5 g), which I've used almost every day (some days it's been Q or Green Witch) and fairly generously, on several pulse points.

Based on when it arrived and how much is left, I reckon I'm using it at a rate of 1 honeypot / 5 g in 5-6 weeks.

Green Witch I've used for longer and more lightly (and mainly at work). That's in a compact (which I topped up from a 5 g honeypot); I use it about half that rate, so call that 1 compact / honeypot / 5 g in 3 months.

So: depending on lighter or heavier use... 5 weeks to 3 months?'

and from Grace:

"The 7ml seems bottomless - I use Green Witch once a week at least, still have loads left after a year.
1ml lasts about a month or so used every day (sometimes twice a day) - I wore the heck out of 1ml of Sierra one December :)
The honey pots last for heaps longer than that. Months. At least three or more, even used every day."

I'll leave you with this sentence from the book The GreenWitch by Susan Cooper, it describes Janes room after having been visited by the GreenWitch...

"there was a great mess of little twigs and leaves, hawthorn leaves and rowan. 
And everywhere the great smell of the sea."

If you would like to read more about longevity and perfume here is another post on the topic: Immortal.

Friday, August 24, 2012


While prowling social media this morning I came across an interview on the Mountain Rose blog with herbalist Kiva Rose. The last question in the interview is "Is there one herb that you feel especially connected to, and if so, in what way?" Kiva choose the Wild Rose, Rosa woodsii, which is a sister to the woodland rose Rosa californica. I've seen Rosa woodsii at the Theodore Payne Foundation, it looks almost identical to Rosa californica.

Thus my SOTD, scent of the day, will be Rosa

Here is how Kiva answered the question, which is true for Rosa californica....

"While there are a number plants I feel closely allied to as medicine, the closest is our native Wild Rose,  Rosa woodsii. It’s a native plant common to much of the American West, and I love its rambling, brambly ways just as much as I adore its sweet scent, sour hips, and incredible medicine. Perhaps because of its beauty, the Rose’s healing properties are popular yet often underrated in modern herbalism, but I find it to be a profound nervine, anti-inflammatory, anti-infective, and tissue healer, in addition to its other traits. I certainly wouldn’t want to be without it! I also value the Rose for its thorns, the lessons of boundaries and self-protection inherent in such wickedly curved weapons. The Wild Rose is generous but with clear boundaries, abundant but wild, sweet but multi-faceted. I am forever finding new lessons to be learned from this plant and feel connected to it through both shared traits as well as the ways in which we’ve worked together to provide healing in so many people."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Illuminated?

Here is a short video shot at the San Francisco Scent Event by Christi Meshell who asked "Tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are and your perfumes?" As you can hear from the background noise, it was a very well attended event. Thanks so much for shooting and sharing this Christi!

Christi Meshell is the perfumer for Matriarch Perfumes which will be participating with several other niche brands, as well as myself, at the LA Artisan Fragrance Event on September 23rd.  

Opening image is circa 1920 by an unknown photographer via Okinawa Soba on Flickr

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

50 Years on Planet Earth!

Last Thursday we celebrated my birthday, fifty years on planet Earth! Festivities started the evening prior with a pot of deliciously fragrant Stargazer lilies from the Gregster. How I adore the scent of these lilies! When Greg brought them in I was waerning earthy scents like Terrestre and Q, upon inhaling the heavy, sweet florals eminating from the blossoms I craved something similar. I immediately when to the studio and found some Lyra to annoint myself with. Lyra is a sweet, floral, amber fragrance that, to my nose, has a similar fragrance vibe to the Stargazer lily.

On Thursday I spent the early part of the day working in the studio, then at noon Ben came by and the four of us headed to the Getty to meet up with friends Michal, Beth and their daughter Mary. Oh, but before that, look at the cute little card Eve made me at right.

 I was keen to see two shows at the Getty: Gustav Klimt: The Magic of Line and Herb Ritts: LA Style. Both were absolutely amazing and highly recommend them, the Herb Ritts show has been extended. We also spent quite a bit of time wondering about in the garden, take in its beauty and seeking out honey bees.

The zinnias in the garden were in their full glory and a multitude of colors. Every time I stroll this glorious garden I am on the lookout to see what plants the bees are most interested in. As usual they were all over the blue borage blossoms and fuschia echinacea flowers. I witnessed an interesting circular pattern that a few of the girls made while working a few of the flower heads. I'd never seen them work in a circle before, it was mesmerizing.

Here is a montage of photos taken by Eve. The fellow with the colored baseball cap is husband #1, Ben, Eve's father. That's me above with the light brown colored hat. Aren't those ombre shaded flowers spectacular!?!

After the Getty we swung by my mothers home in Encino, she had made fresh ricotta gnocchi with tomato sauce, yum! Later that evening we played geeky games (my favorite) and Eve and I made this delicious Lemon cake. What a grand day, I feel so blessed. xoxo

In the past I've created a Birthday perfume to celebrate the day, Cimbalom was the first, followed by Page 47. This year I've jotted down some ideas and will share soon. My plate over runneth with a multitude of projects at the moment, including getting things ready to launch the Jasmine perfume from last year.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Honey Bee!

The sun is in Leo and just now via a tweet I heard this "Happy Leo new moon! A good time for creativity, play, doing things that you love & being in your heart. What auspicious new as we celebrate the honey bee today!!"

Hope you locals will all be coming out to to Honey Bee Awareness Day in LA from 1:30 to 4:00 with festivities continuing at 423 West Gallery (7-10pm).

Ginger mentioned she would be going to her farmers market today and asking the honey sellers about bees. I enccourage you to do the same, if you feel courageous ask them these three questions to find our how pure their honey is:

~ Do you use feral beees?

More likely they will think you are out of your mind, since most beekeepers have been led down a path unconsciousness, convinced that they need to use the domisticated bee. The challenge with the domisticated bee is she has been bred larger (Bigger is better mentality). This breeding has created a honey bee that has a weakened immune system and thus doesn't survive very well. Meanwhile the tiny little feral bee, pictured above, manages quite well. Another example of how Mother Nature knows best.

~ Do you allow the bees to build their own foundation?

Another likely no answer. Most beekeepers, do not do this because it is easier to extract honey from chemically treated plastic foundation.

~ Do you use any chemical in the hive, like mite control?

Another likely no answer, if they are using the domisticated honey bee than they need to use mite control.

A very Happy and Aware day to you all, my scent of the day (SOTD) is To bee of course.

Honey Bee photo was taken by me on Thursday while celebrating my 50th birthday at the Getty. More on that soon. Image ©RoxanaVilla, feel free to pin.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wax Symposium

On Saturday Chelsea and Rob McFarland of HoneyLove hosted their yearly Wax Symposium. This year it was held at the Celia Gallery space in North Hollywood.

Topics included:
~ An introduction to urban beekeeping
~ How honey bees gather nectar and pollen
~ How nectar is converted into both honey and beeswax
~ How to make beeswax candles and foundation
~ How to make an herbal salve using beeswax

Greg took the photos of me teaching below.

I've been delving deep into my roots in aromatherapy as I create a new line, thus showcasing how to make a simple herbal salve. Seemed a good fit, it is also a cross gender item and features two herbal infusions from flowers that bees love.

Next up, the annual HoneyLove National Bee Awareness Day Event on August 18th. The theme this year is: "Sustainable Agriculture Starts with Honey Bees!" at West LA Civic Center (Bandshell
Amphitheater), 1645 Corinth Ave. in Los Angeles from 1:30pm until 4:00pm. Some of my very fav dude beekeepers will be sepaking:

GEORGE LANGWORTHY > "Vanishing of the Bees"
KIRK ANDERSON > Backwards Beekeepers
DAVID KING > The Learning Garden

I will have a booth there along with:
Backwards Beekeepers
Theodore Payne Foundation
UCLA Extension Horticulture & Gardening Certificate Program
Mar Vista Community Council Green Committee
Del Rey Neighborhood Council
The Growing Home

Beeing and Seeing
Sno-con AMOR
Honeydrop Beverages
Whole Foods Market - Plaza El Segundo

Afterwards there is party which includes Mead sampling (!!!) at 423 West Gallery (7-10pm)

Image in montage are a mix of my photos and HoneyLove.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Impromptu has arrived!

Impromptu liquid natural botanical perfume is now here! The fragrance was first manifested in March and shared with a select group of individuals. The birth of the fragrance was very spontaneous and unplanned. Here are the details from the original post published in March. It all started with clearing my drafting table to do some painting.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of where, when and how, here are a few important specs:

- Main Notes: Wood, geranium, herb and camphor.
- Longevity and silage is really good. I'm looking for all the wonderful comments that fans have sent about Impromptu, in the meantime here is a bit I found from Portia's blog Austrailian Perfume Junkies:

"OMG BETTY! Deep earthy green, like a sexy swamp lady, I smell moss, river water and weed, herbs, torn fig leaves, mown lawn and compost, and some spices that elude me but it is AWESOME!

One of the men at Trivia tonight, that I would never have expected it from, 
leaned over and said, “You smell great, that perfume is….Wow!” As Evie C was also there 
I have back up collaboration on this. He was blown away, and so am I. You can be sure I’ve already written to Roxana asking for 5 litres of it, well, asking if I could buy any of it actually.

It’s morning now and there is still a delicious fat curl and waft of deepest green lingering upon my person. I am mesmerised, sitting still for minutes at a time (not something I do easily) trying to track this amazing scent. It is now a rank, dank thing clawing its way from the sea with a briny broken branch smell. I’m sorry, the words I have are not making this scent sound appealing; it is. I wish there were more words in my head to give you an accurate picture of how majestic this fragrance is, like primordial soup and magic. There was the tiniest skerrick left in the bottle and I have drained the dregs to live this wonderful fragrance again. One thing is for sure, you’ll not find anything this wild, untamed and confronting at your local fragrance counter."

- Impromptu is part of a new line debuting this Autumn and thus is packaged slightly differently from the other liquid perfumes. At the moment it is available as a sample in the three and six pack sets,  1 ml by weight in a small glass vial and 3.75 mls by weight in a amber glass vial pictured above and further below. The top of the amber glass bottle has been dipped in a copper colored wax and stamped with the signature honey bee seal. The wax can be peeled of easily to access the screw top. Since each bottle is individually dipped, the look of the wax and seal will vary. Sometimes they come out looking crisp, like the photos here, other times not so crisp with drips down the side of the bottle. Keep in mind this is a limited edition, like wine.

- The image has been illuminated by Master Gregario which he is offering as prints here. For the month of August I will include 3x3 square prints of the image with any 3.75 vials.

- The groovy label for the 3.75 ml bottle was designed for me by husband #1, Ben Neuhart.

Now, here is how it all came to be. As I was tediously filing papers and reorganizing boxes that held the amber glass containers I noticed a heck of a lot of the bottles were labeled Chaparral with various numbers and notes. Then I started to see other bottles of experiments with words like wood chord 3, earth chord, musk chord experiment 4. As I sat there looking at all these bottles I thought "I'm going to put all these together and see what happens." Well the result was a wonderful woody Chaparral-like fragrance. To shift it I began adding woods and resins, attempting to stay away from many of the expensive essences that I would've liked to add.

The whole process became an exercise in constraint. Is it possible to make an interesting, complex perfume without using costly ingredients? I've actually been pondering this for awhile now, but this new fragrance journey put me smack in the midst of it. Niche perfumer Andy Tauer did something along the same lines but limited himself to only five synthetic ingredients, he called the series PentaChords. I'm not so much interested in limiting how many ingredients are in the perfume, at least not now, for me it's limiting key materials such as Rose, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Orris and Oud. Gosh, I so love Oud.

Perfumes of Yesterday by David Williams, one of my heroes, has quite a lot of formulas from the 19th and 20th century. Not one of them is without Jasmine, Rose, Orange blossom or Orris. In fact most of them have all four. I did find a Lebanon Cedarwood Bouquet where the only floral note was synthetic Rose. It was described as a bouquet of "roses and pencils" for the purpose of scenting incense boxes.

I sat at my drafting table thinking about the spicy woody fragrance that sat before me, although it was nice, there wasn't anything really special about it to me. What could I add to bring in more depth while avoiding the notes listed above? As I pondered spice, Geranium wafted into my mind. Ah-hah, the Geranium would pair well with the spice element already established, add a bit of a rose note and shift the fragrance from a simple wood spice into the realm of leather.

After adding the Geranium I pulled out the formula for the leather chord I use in many of my perfumes. The original formula I had used to create the botanical leather was by René-Maurice Gattefossé, the grandfather of Aromatherapy. I had re-interpreted his formula by substituting notes and my own chords for the animal and synthetic ingredients. Read more about it here at the journal.

Thus I decided to add some botanical leather notes like Tarragon, Basil, Clary Sage and a bit of Mimosa (I know, costly, oh well). The final result is a finely woven botanical perfume with sweet, spice, floral, smoke and leather. The opening, to my nose and on my skin, is: sweet and spice walking in tandem with a warm floral note. As I mentioned the notes are finely woven, thus it becomes difficult to sift out each one. Overall there is a consistent chorus of sweet, spicy floral throughout the orchestration. The final dry down is warm, balsam and botanical leather lasting well over 12 hours on my arm with an end note of Chinese Emperors Pu·erh Tea with a teaspoon of honey.

Since the fragrance was made without a formula, from a variety of experiments all melded together, the name shall be Impromptu. For obvious reasons the first edition is limited. All other editions and a solid will most likely posses a slightly different aroma. Longevity of the perfume on me is extensive, longer lasting than any other fragrance in my line. Keep in mind that natural perfume tends to last quite a long time on me, perhaps because I have no other scents on me (particularly nothing synthetic) or within my olfactory space competing for attention.

Fragrance family is sweet botanical leather. Closest fragrance relatives are Chaparral®, Sierra liquid and Aurora all combined. If you like Aurora you will like Impromptu.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Hive Report

The work on the garage roof and repair of the north retaining wall are done, thus we moved the two hives back. Moving hives is a messy matter and I don't advise it, unless there is no other choice. The bees take a huge hit, resulting in large losses of forage bees and massive hit to the hive as a whole. I'm super happy that they are back in place and can resume their bee-siness without further interruptions.

Just before moving them I did an inspection of the top two boxes on each hive. Both hives had sealed up all the spaces between the boxes, thus removing one box off the other was quite a challenge. During the work on the house our hive tool disappeared, thus I had to use a painting spatula instead, which didn't work so well.

The gals make a paste from tree resin which is called propolis. This paste acts as a sealant to prevent unwanted guests, reduce vibration and increase the stability of the hive body. I normally slide my  hive tool, or in this case the spatula, between the boxes on all four sides to "un-glue" them. Sometimes however, if we haven't done an inspection in a long time, the girls will adhere the interior frames to the hive top. Sigh, this is when things get messy. Such was the case and why I was particularly disappointed I didn't have the trusty hive tool. In either case, I scraped off quite a bit of propolis and have that now "alchemizing" in some organic grain alcohol for future use. The smell is a combination of resin, wood and honey with a strong spice note. The aroma has similar notes to the perfume To Bee.

The Warrior Girls, who arent' quite so fierce anymore, had empty frames in both top boxes. This was very odd and warrant a much bigger inspection in about a month once they have settled in. The other hive, with the Mische Girls, was a completely different scenario, although these gals were not as established as the Warrior Girls they have been jamming and have a top box of honey frames. Weeee! We saw no brood in that box what-so-ever and thus for the moment are suspecting that this box is their honey stores. Since we didn't do a full on inspection and thus do not know exactly how much honey they have stored up, we only stole one frame from them.

This is the derth part of the year for them, thus we mustn't take too much honey or they will not have enough to sustain the hive until January when Spring arrives here in LA. When the bees gather nectar from the plants they store it in the cells of the honey comb, when it is ready the seal the cell of honey with a layer of wax. Thus each cell in a honey comb serves as a jar with a cap.

After crushing and filtering that one frame we ended up with a 1 gallon of our very own chaparral woodland honey. This was a first for us and we are pretty thrilled.

Greg took the photos of me in the bee suit, these are of the hives back in their original location. Notice the California oaks to the right of me, those are the ones we saved which inspired the fragrance Q.

Photo of honey comb and honey jar ©Roxana Villa, ask before using, thank you.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Reviews: A Chypre Double Header!

It's Thursday, ruled by the planet of luck Jupiter and am feeling super grateful. Rather auspiciously two reviews of two of my chypre perfumes have appeared on my radar today.

The first is Ida's Part Two review of Gracing the Dawn where she shares her impressions of the new solid. Via this tweet by Patty at Perfume Posse: More Perfume Crack Roxana Illuminated Perfume Hedera Helix I came across Tom's delightful narrative: Roxana Illuminated Perfume Hedera Helix.

Enjoy dear hearts, if you have sampled these fragrance please add a comment so that others can hear your very insightful points of view. After all, you are the heart and soul of why these nature perfumes are created. If you enter a comment over there I will enter you in a draw for a sample of Hedera helix or Gracing the Dawn solid. Please leave a comment here or send me an e-mail that you left the comment. Wafting my gratitude to Ida, Tom and each of you.