Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Perfumed Bestiary, Letter C for Coral, Part 2

The full "Sturgeon" moon of August takes place Thursday, August 15th in the morning, thus Wednesday evening will be the best night to gaze upon its silvery splendor. The varying names of the moon come from the first peoples around the world and generally relate to an event taking place in the natural world, such as the catching of the sturgeons in the lakes or harvests like "Green Corn Moon", etc.

This August full moon is in the astrological sign of Aquarius. Each full moon carries a message, this one is about letting go what no longer serves and making room for those dreams and aspirations you've been carrying in your magical backpack.

During this full moon the yearly, natural phenomenon of coral reproduction takes place in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, this broadcast spawning also occurs at the Great Barrier Reef during their summer.

In constructing C for Coral the first ingredient I chose was seaweed absolute, which I crowned as the aromatic plant ally. Seaweed absolute is a thick mass which can be a little intense and overbearing in perfume, especially to portray coral, which has a romantic quality despite its mass.

Seaweed absolute is a middle to base note with excellent fixative qualities for anchoring a fragrance. The aromatics are deeply oceanic, with green, herbaceous woody undertones along with a very subtle floral note that is related to Jasmine. Since the exotic qualities of Jasmine evoke tropical waters as well as a romantic character that I associated with coral, it was the second essence I choose and paired with Seaweed. From there I selected some of the same"watery" notes that I used for A for Axolotl, such as Violet Leaf and Cypress. As I added the drops of Cypress I became conscious of Aphrodite and her connection to the sea as well as the ancient thread of fragrance relating to the island of Cyprus.
“Therefore, when laughter-loving Aphrodite saw [Anchises], she loved him, and terribly desire seized her in her heart. She went to Cyprus, to Paphos, where her precinct is and fragrant altar, and passed into her sweet-smelling temple. There she went in and put to the glittering doors, and there the Graces bathed her with heavenly oil such as blooms upon the bodies of the eternal gods—oil divinely sweet, which she had by her, filled with fragrance.”
—Homeric hymn, tr. H.G. Evelyn-White

Continuing the watery theme I choose to add Clary Sage and then brought in a dilution of Oakmoss since it pairs so nicely with Seaweed. For the structural aspect of Coral and to add another story point I reached for smokey Choya, a destructive distillation of seashells from India.

As with most perfume construction, the process is challenging, especially with the creation of a fragrance that will be bottled and sent out quickly, rather then melding for a few months in a dark space.

I went back and forth, like the ocean tides, with adding more floral as it seemed to disappear into the blend, but I was also concerned that over time the floral might decide to make itself more apparent and overtake the watery theme. In the end I had to just let it go and topped the fragrance off with some citrus, knowing that it would enhance the floral note which adding a bit of sparkle.

In total, there are ten essences in the perfume with the watery, salty marine notes quite prominent in the opening sequence followed by what one customer called "The dry down returned me to shore, a pastoral of floral hay."

A close-up view of coral spawning this week. (Image Credit: Philip Mercurio)

Every year when the oceans waters are warm in combination with the full moon corals mate and produce a spectacular primordial scene. Read more about this beautiful event where you can see some footage at the Australian Geographic site. As I make this post live the moon is cresting into fullness just as the Corals begin their mating ritual.

The next fragrance highlights a beastie that begins with the letter D and will ship in August 2019.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Poetry of Scent & Color
The Alchemical Union of Plant Dye and Aromatics
A Workshop with Mona Lewis and Roxana Villa
Seats are limited sign up here

“There's something about materials like copper, woods, stone, trees, shells. 
You walk outside and these materials are part of the world before we touched anything. 
There's a feeling of pleasure that many of us have in materials 
that have some presence before us, like clay and wood and copper.” 
~ Jessica Stockholder

I am delighted to host a series of classes which include a weekend workshop with my longtime friend Mona Lewis. It was at the perfumery in Los Angeles where I invited Mona to do some workshops, those classes have set the cobblestones in place for this new series in Santa Fe. Mona and I both have a love of the natural world and the handmade object, she is a perfect fit for the School of Lost Arts.

The workshop is suitable for anyone wishing to deepen their relationship with making things with their hands, aromatic plants and their own healing journey. Join us for a memorable weekend of learning, sharing and aromatic inner healing... but please don’t delay in booking your place, as numbers are limited!

In this two day intensive we will:
1. Learn the foundations of alchemy and how the principals apply to plant color & scent
2. Create a color wheel using natural pigments, which we will reference for making your very own plant based fragrance.
3. Distill an aromatic scarf with images, colors and scents of New Mexico's beautiful earth & sky.
4. Make a custom botanical perfume from plants.
5. Perceive a greater understanding of the unity of these Lost Arts.

This workshop is intended to help participants develop a deeper and more personal, intuitive relationship with oneself and nature.

Mona Lewis
Workshop Co-Facilitator

Ms. Lewis, the conductor of this special day, uses ecologically sustainable contact print processes from plants as a means of exploring the amazing colors of nature and finding relevant, artistic applications. She has taught handwork for more than twenty years in the Waldorf Education movement sharing her love of natural color throughout the curriculum. She heads up the soft handwork section of Waldorf Initiative Practical Arts Teacher Training Program and holds continuing educational workshops for adults. Her students are individuals of all ages. Learn more about Mona's on Facebook Sunsprite Handwork and Instagram, and keep in eye out for her upcoming book "Natures Paint Box" about her plant dye experiences with children in the classroom.

Roxana Villa
Workshop Co-Facilitator

Argentina by birth, Roxana's family set their roots in Southern California when she was a young child. Roxana make perfumes that draw upon the ancient wisdom in nature creating a heightened sense of timeless elegance. Complex botanical fragrances are life enhancing and have the ability to deeply connect us to our own essential nature. She is on a mission to spread awareness of the many gifts we acquire from the plant world and teach others to do the same. She currently makes her home in New Mexico with her partner, Greg Spalenka where she has founded the School of Lost Arts and continues to work on a variety of projects.

Roxana and Mona share a core vibration in their love of nature, beauty and the handmade.


Make Your Own Locally Foraged Pigments: Friday, August 30th, 2019

Poetry of Scent and Color: Saturday & Sunday, August 31st and September 1st, 2019 (2 days).
Times: 10:00 am am to 5:00 pm daily.
Course Fee: Early Bird $
Please note that the course fee is in all cases non-refundable and non-transferable.
Tel: 505-954-1450 for further info.


To book a place in the course, please submit your contact details and the course fee in any one of the following 3 ways:
• To book in person please contact Roxana to meet at the Perfumery.
• To book by making a credit/debit card payment, please follow the link to the website.
• To book by post, please send a cheque (payable to Roxana Villa) with your name, address, tel no and email address to: Roxana Villa, 1600 Lena Street, unit A6, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

For overnight accommodations near the Lena Street Lofts, we recommend the El Rey Inn on Cerrillos in Santa Fe. One of my recent students recommends the Econo lodge on Cerrillos Rd is a very well maintained property. The landlady is very hospitable and genuinely caring.  

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Perfumed Bestiary, Letter C for Coral, Part 1

Here we are, continuing the adventure in The Perfumed Bestiary series with the letter C. I was planning on showcasing the Crown of Thorns Starfish for "C", but changed my mind on discovering they are quite destructive creatures, much like us human beings, although likely to outlive us. The Crown of Starfish enjoys feasting on Coral Reefs, in a rather monstrous way. Thus, instead, I decided to focus on Coral, a marine invertebrate, classified as a sessile animal.

Coral is a reef builder, their structures consist of tiny soft-bodied creatures referred to as polyps, which secrete limestone (calcium carbonate). The skeletal secretion attach to rock or the dead  skeletons of other polyps.

Most corals contain plant-like organisms that live in a symbiotic relationship with each other, similar to our exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen between with the plants. Another example of a mutually beneficial partnership is the one shared between flowering plants and honey bees.

Coral reefs are the old-growth forests of the ocean, and also its nursery in providing shelter and protection to marine life. Regrettably, these vast and beautiful bio-structures are being destroyed at an alarming pace due to human activities such as overfishing, pollution, climate change and invasive species.


Coral is an element of the water, specifically salt water and like the Bison contains mass. As we learned with the Axolotl, water represents fluidity and is associated with the dreamtime, feminine, emotions and intuition. The alchemical symbol for water is denoted as a downward pointing triangle and often associated with mercury.

As a symbol of living in a beneficial symbiotic relationship, Corals lesson is to live in a state of fluidity and harmony with others. Each of us contains a piece of the grand puzzle where we can live in harmony and grace. Corals show us that with clever collaboration and mutual exchange we can build ecological communities from the ground up and endure for millions of years in harmony.

Coral shows us how to move with the natural flow and remain porous. When you allow yourself to trust in the rhythm of the Universe and trust that you are divinely loved, in mutually benefitting relationships, then well-being, contentment and balance can be achieved.

Crystals associated with the medicine of the Coral
  • Aquamarine
  • Moonstone
  • Malachite
  • Green Calcite
Please do not buy coral, here is an article that explains why.

More about C for Coral will be posted in Part 2 here shortly.

Coral photo by Roxana Villa
C for Coral - a collaboration between Greg Spalenka & Roxana Villa

1 Ocean Service, NOAA: Are Corals Animals or Plants
Inverse.com, Is Coral a Plant or Animal
3 Animal Totem by Susan Jolley

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Perfumed Bestiary, Letter B for Bison/Buffalo, Part 2

The second fragrance in A Perfumed Bestiary series was sent at the end of June to the subscribers. It is the intention to send out the perfume in the first half of the month, rather than the second, as occurred with the "B" fragrance.

I began B for Bison/Buffalo by researching the terrain where this wooly, prairie dweller forages, which includes both grasslands and conifer forests. This is what I jotted down when starting to ponder the fragrance:

Prairie, Great Plains, Grassland
Wallowing -> Soil-> Vetiver & Patchouli
Artemisia tridentata -> *Primary note*
Wood -> Pinon, Cedar, Juniper, Cypress

Since my friend Meghan Walla-Murphy has spent quite a bit of time in Yellowstone where the Buffalo roam, and I absolutely adore collaborating with a kindred spirit, I reached out to her via email. Meghan confirmed a few of my percolating ideas from the list above.

"Love the concept of your new perfume. For the bison I would suggest Artemisia tridentata. Not sure what the common name is- but it grows in the SB back country and many places inland.... Also bison rub up against lots of conifer trees, so that could be a good scent, they partake in lots of dust baths, and they are grazers, so warm grass smells would work as well."

Following Meghans lead I choose the aromatic Artemisia tridentata, commonly known as sagebrush, basin or big sage to be the specific plant aligned for Bison. Although the bison most likely do not eat this plant they likely get covered with its aromatic molecules while roaming through it.

Like many of the beasties featured in this series, the sage brush ecosystem is threatened due to conditions brought on by humans such as urban expansion, "conversion to agricultural land, livestock grazing, invasive plant species, wildfires, and climate change."1

"The indigenous people of North America used several plants for ceremonial purposes that are often confused. The basis for the confusion is the common name Sage, which refers to a variety of unrelated plants:

Sage - Salvia sp. is in the Mint Family (Labiatae) with square stems, opposite leaves and two lipped flowers. If you have a Salvia, the leaves will be in pairs on the stem, generally with wide leaves that are entire (no teeth, lobes, serrations, or grooves along the edges of the leaf, just oval shaped). This genus includes garden sage for cooking and white sage (ceremonial) and black sage, purple sage, hummingbird sage, and innumerable others.

Sagebrush (sage) - shrubby Artemisia sp. is in the Sunflower family. They have woody stems and are bushes (shrubs) with often irregularly shaped leaves. These plants have also been used ceremonially. The flowers are small and yellow centered, includes silver sage.

Mugwort (Sagewort) herbaceous Artemisia sp. is related to the Sagebrush, only it is not a woody shrub, it is an herb (botanically speaking, not a tree or shrub). This is the plant used for dreams."2

Basin sage which also goes by the name big sage is an evergreen with a strong pungent odor, it is an Artemisia, as noted above, not a Salvia. The Cahuilla tribe of California would gather the seed, and grind it to make flour.3

I decided to start sketch #1 with a beautiful Hay absolute I have from France to convey the scent of warm grass, to which I added Sage and Woods. After marinating the scent was in the gourmand family and not at all reminiscent of the warm grass of the dry land prairies. Thus, I began sketch #2 leaving out the Hay. 

In total, there are twelve essences in the perfume including a variety of sages, leaves, woods (including a distillation of local Pinon) and resins. The aromatic profile has sweet woody notes with hints of dusty conifer and incense.

If you haven't already signed up for the next limited edition perfume, illuminating a beastie beginning with the letter C, you can do so here ->

Choose Your Subscription

Each month you will receive a small amount of perfume inspired by a specific
imagined or barely imagined being from the animal kingdom.

The next fragrance will be shipped at some pint this month, July 2019, and will be a liquid perfume in 190 proof alcohol along with a special tincture relating to our featured beastie.

1. Wikipedia
3. Clarke, Charlotte B. (1978). "Big Sagebrush". Edible and Useful Plants of California. University of California Press. p. 134. ISBN 9780520032675

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A Perfumed Bestiary, Letter B for Bison/Buffalo, Part 1

Continuing with The Perfumed Bestiary series is B for Bison or what is termed as the Buffalo from the North American central and western plains. This muscular shaggy beast with iconic horns and hump is considered a spiritual icon of the indigenous tribes of North America.

While writing a post on medieval bestiaries and looking over some of the books I had borrowed from the Santa Fe library I came across our American buffalo and their heart wrenching story. It seemed appropriate to devote the B spot to this mighty creature, especially since I now live in their territory.

In 1888 the artist Albert Bierstadt, a German/American painter "endeavored to show the buffalo in all aspects and depict the cruel slaughter of a noble animal now almost extinct"1 with his celebrated painting titled The Last of the Buffalo. Of course, it was the white man, not an indigenous brave, who were responsible for their near extinction from "a combination of commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century and introduction of bovine diseases from domestic cattle."

"With a population in excess of 60 million in the late 18th century, the species was down to 541 animals by 1889. Recovery efforts expanded in the mid-20th century, with a resurgence to roughly 31,000[5] animals today, largely restricted to a few national parks and reserves."3

So, although Bierstadts painting is quite glorious technically, once again the depiction of reality is off. "Bison slaughter was even encouraged by the US government as a means of starving out Native American populations, which relied on the bison for food. In fact, hunting of bison became so prevalent that travelers on trains in the Midwest would shoot bison during long-haul train trips."4

"Bison are a keystone species, helping to create habitat for a number of different wildlife species, including grassland birds and even many plant species. As bison forage, they aerate the soil with their hooves, aid plant growth, disperse native seeds, and help to maintain a healthy and balanced ecosystem. While bison are no longer threatened with extinction, they remain largely “ecologically extinct” and absent from their historic Great Plains habitat. Substantial work remains to fully restore the species to its ecological and cultural role throughout the Great Plains and we are grateful for those working with us to promote coexistence with our national mammal."5


The Bison/Buffalo is an element of earth. Solid in mass, Bison live in large herds

Earth represents stability and abundance, from the womb of our fertile Earth we plant our seeds and make our homes. The crust of the Earth is rock composed of oxygen, silicon, aluminum and iron. In some parts of the world the ratio of this divine cocktail will be slightly different. Here in Northern New Mexico our earth has a reddish/pink cast due to the decomposition of iron-rich rocks.

The most used symbol to denote elemental earth is the quartered circle, while in alchemical texts the symbol is noted is a downward-pointing triangle, bisected by a horizontal line.

Elemental earth is connected to the mineral kingdom and our sensory experience of this world through touch. Associated with the North, elemental EARTH, is home to our connection to the here & now. Located in the base chakra, this is the place of manifestation, control & restraint and grounded in experience. Home of the Male, strength and ability to create magic.

An aspect of elemental earth is abundance which relates to Buffalo. Living abundantly begins with gratitude and humility, knowing that we are of the Earth and will one day return to her.

Take time to walk in gratitude, mindful of the support of the Earth below your feet with each step. An intuitive that dropped by the perfumery last week told me to become conscious of my backside, that to much emphasis is attributed to grounding via our feet and not our backs where our spine is located. I found this insight quite profound, as I am rarely conscious of my back. When we do put our consciousness there, we become much more whole, round like planet earth and more dimensional. Consider the mass and strength of the Buffalo and that their primary nutrition comes from eating grasses and sedges.

"You cannot receive the bounty of abundance with a closed fist. 
The more you express gratitude, the more Spirit will send you things to be grateful for."5

Crystals associated with attributes of the Buffalo
  • Apache Tears
  • Picture Jasper
  • Chrysoprase
  • Pink Opal
  • Chrysocolla
  • Narmada River Lingam
  • Hematite
  • Bloodstone

The Sioux consider the birth of a white buffalo to be the return of White Buffalo Calf Woman, their primary cultural prophet and the bringer of their "Seven Sacred Rites". Among the Mandan and Hidatsa, the White Buffalo Cow Society was the most sacred of societies for women.

Continue reading about B for Bison in Part 2 here.

Buffalo Nickel
Buffalo photo by Jack Dykinga (Wikipedia Commons)
The Last of the Buffalo by Albert Bierstadt (Wikipedia Commons)
Ptihn-Tak-Ochatä - Dance of the Mandan Women by Karl Bodmer, 1840–1843 (Public Domain)

1 New York World
2,3 Wikipedia, American Bison
4 American Bison
Animal Totem by Susan Jolley

Sunday, June 23, 2019

12th year Anniversary

I've been so swamped between the move to another house, the spa-cation and getting prepared for the Santa Fe Art Tour at the perfumery that I completely forgot about the 12th anniversary of launching Roxana Illuminated Perfume, ugh!

Back in February of 2007 I was contacted by Sandy Messori to be a presenter at the Ojai Valley Lavender Festival. As you can imagine I felt extremely honored considering some of the other speakers were luminaries in the aromatherapy community, like Suzanne Catty & Michael Scholes. Along with presenting I was offered a booth to sell my products.

At the time I had just started coming out of my shell as a "perfumer", even though I had already been teaching, creating my botanical perfumes and custom fragrances for clients. The invitation gave me the impetus to get my branding and a website together, which launched on the day of the event June 16, 2007. You can read a little bit about it here at the journal.

As a gift to you I am offering 25% off the round tins of Vera (pictured above). This lavender perfume was created specifically for the Ojai Lavender Festival to be a reflection of the landscape, it is complex yet simple with notes ranging from lavender, sage, sun-kissed skin, honey and resin. Use coupon code VERA at the illuminated perfume website, or come pick it up at the perfumery.

Here are a few testimonials I uncovered...

"This perfume has redefined lavender for me. It has built it into a scent that is stunning in its complexity; that is both very natural and very feminine in a sophisticated way. This is one little luxury that I hope never to be without again."
~ Customer of Vera liquid flacon

"Lavender is one of my favorite flowers and scents, and this smells exactly like the real thing, not heavy or overpowering at all like those soap and bath products! Thank you so much!"
~ Customer of Vera solid perfume

"I love that you make perfumes I can wear without getting a rash. I love the heavenly scents and I'm thrilled with the extra solid samples you included! Thank you!"
~ Customer of Vera liquid perfume flacon

"Starts as a herbal-y lavender then dries down to soft resins. Exquisite."
~ Customer of Vera solid perfume

"Absolutely beautiful perfumes. As well as smelling good, I love how each seems to be imbued with intention to me; Sierra is joyful, Q is grounding and Vera gives a feeling of clarity."
~ Grace

"Thanks, Roxana! It smells wonderful ~ as per the words of my fiancee. :)"
~ Fireman, Vera liquid for his girl

I LOVE the VERA it has a wonderfully complex scent,
and the "sun kissed skin" note is very sensual!
~ Customer of Vera solid perfume

"This is my favorite stuff in the whole world. "
~ Customer of Vera liquid falcon

"I am wearing this right now. Seeing how Vera is my favorite thing in the world, of course I love it. Love, love, love it."
~ Customer of Vera solid perfume compact

"The depth of this fragrance is amazing. Lavender has a very open, honest fragrance, but Vera is so much more. It is open and subtle at the same time. I love wearing it.
Thank you so much for creating this wonderful fragrance."
~ Customer of Vera liquid vial

Saturday, June 22, 2019

2019 Santa Fe Studio Tour #44

The 15th annual Santa Fe Studio Tour began this morning at 10am with over fifty artist's studios participating. It's a great chance to chat with local artists, learn about their process and support their work. For more information visit the Santa Fe Studio Tour site.

The perfumery is “un-officially” part of the tour since Greg is showing his work in the school portion  of the space. We are STUDIO 44 (an auspicious number), conveniently located in the mid-town Arts District of the city at Lena Street Lofts. Come be enchanted in our synergistic sensorium, grab a matcha from my neighbor Iconik Coffee or hand-made, vegan ice cream from Sunset Swirl across the way. Then head over out to visit the rest of the artists in our collective participating in the studio tour. Todays visitors shared that our space was there favorite!

The scent bar is available for instant olfactory adventures, memory stirring and stories, as well as hydrosol spritzes. Stroll through our macrame permeable wall to the School of Lost Arts where Greg has set up his visionary art with banners, original art, his retrospective book to peruse, and favorite prints for purchase, and get information about upcoming classes planned in the space. Greg and I look forward to transporting you to another realm.