Naturals vs Synthetics?

One of the biggest questions I receive as a perfumer is about whether I use synthetics. Yes, I do, I am unashamed to admit. It is frustrating when people come at me as though I'm a terrible person for this. Yes, some people have very sensitive skin so synthetics are bad for them, but I'm willing to bet those same people would also have issues with various essential oils. Natural is always better right? WRONG.

I have tried to explain this multiple times, but this quote from a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle says it better than I've been able to articulate:

"Industry insider Carol Maa, a classically trained perfumer and CEO of luxury advisory group ofLeisure, weighs in: "Is natural really the same thing as safe?" she asks. And is natural always environmentally friendly? "Something as basic to perfumery as musk comes from endangered deer," which are poached relentlessly in China and Russia, says Maa. "That's not humane. Yet there are now amazing molecular re-creations of musk, the next generation of musk" - hyper-precise synthetics - "that are not only humane, but sustainable and biodegradable and let perfumers play on specific elements. Molecular geeks can geek out on citrusy musks, say, or smoky musks."

Hyper-precise faux ambergris without a touch of real whale? Bring on the atomizer."

Read the rest of the article here, it's got a nice shout out to my perfume group, Seattle Sniff.

**This is not to say that I don't like all natural perfumes, I do. I also don't have a problem with people who only want to use natural perfumes for various reasons of their own. I just don't like it when people are uninformed and mistakenly believe that all naturals are always inherently safer or better. It kind of reminds me of the whole all natural childbirth vs medicated vs csection. IT'S ALL NATURAL DAMMIT. /rant**

Tart of the Week: The Duchess Georgiana Cavendish

For fans of Georgiana, the title of this post is written in jest, you'll find out why below. For those of you who don't know who Georgiana is, or if you just don't like Keira Knightley which seems to me the only reason why you would not have heard of the Duchess, it's story time. Georgiana Spencer (Princess Diana’s great-great-grandaunt) was delighted to find out that she had caught the eye of the influential (and rich!) Duke of Devonshire. Always the aristocrat, Georgiana supported her husband’s political affiliations with friendliness and charm – becoming at one point one of the chief fashionistas in England. She was even pen-pal to Marie Antoinette. However, difficulty in producing an heir led her husband to grow distant and he began a not-so secret affair with Georgiana’s friend Lady Elizabeth Foster. The trio lived as a ménage-a-trois (not by Georgiana’s choice) for the rest of her life.

Despite her marital unhappiness, Georgiana found solace in the arms of Charles Grey who later became Prime Minister. They had an illegitimate daughter whom Georgiana was forced to give up. Charles Grey is the namesake of the ever popular Earl Grey Tea. She died at the age of 48 most likely due to alcoholism.

One day whilst searching for information on historical figures, like I do, I found a website written as a gossip blog in Georgiana's "voice." It's called The Duchess of Devonshire's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century, and while it's a cheeky Georgian version of TMZ, it's clear that the author's focus is history because there's tons of interesting stuff I didn't know. They even have a Tart of the Week section!! Anytime someone uses the word "tart" as an insult I feel warm and fuzzy inside. I wish all people would talk like that, I'd be less weird. There's also a companion site for Marie Antoinette but we'll talk about that tart later. While the discovery of these sites validated the fact that there are other people out there like me, I was kind of jealous I hadn't thought of it first.

Anyway, the point. So, as you know I make perfumes. I read a lot of historical fiction, and biographies for that matter, and thought it would be cool to make perfumes inspired by what I think historical figures might have worn based on their personalities. I love grandeur and tragedy because I'm crazy.

Georgiana was one of the first I made. This perfume is dedicated to the star-crossed lovers by a mix of Black Tea and Bergamot (ingredients of Earl Grey Tea) as well as the delicate florals of Jasmine and Lavender. I giggled like an absolute school girl when I realized that not only had I made a pleasant perfume, but I'd made one that smelled like Earl Grey tea. Because Georgiana and Lord Grey were lovers. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?!?! As of last night I only have one more bottle left of Georgiana. But don't worry, I'm going to make more. It just takes about a month for it to be pretty and I wasn't expecting it to be popular so let's chalk it up to poor planning on my part and call it a day.

If you are intrigued by Georgiana's story, you should read Amanda Foreman's biography which the 2008 movie The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley, is based on. The original title of the book was Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire, but since the movie came out you might only find it as The Duchess.

Perfumed Procrastination

Last night I went to my first show since moving to Seattle. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, a DJ from England, in case you're interested. (His real name is Orlando Higginbottom! Straight outta Shakespeare that dude.) I used to be a music reviewer in Los Angeles, another random job of mine, so I was going through concert withdrawals.

The purpose of me telling you this is that as a consequence of getting my dance on last night, I didn't roll out of bed til like 2pm today. Between taking at least six vitamins and stumbling to 7-11 for some V8, I got nothing done today. As you can see in the picture, I had some oils ready for testing, but the oils have sadly remained unopened.

Lucky for me, tomorrow is actually the day in which my new concoctions need to have carrier oils added. Tomorrow I will be writing a tutorial on how to make your own natural perfumes. Check back if you're interested.

In Which I Discuss the Importance of Huffing

A typical scene my husband comes home to includes me hunched over a coffee table I've re-appropriated as a lap desk sniffing roughly ten open bottles of essential oils in different formations. Frasier, or the like, is usually playing in the background. Husband: What are you doing?

Me: Creating!

Husband: How does one create by huffing?

Me: [leaning down to take another huff of four isolated bottles] One creates by huffing because it is through huffing that one knows what combinations of oil smell good together without wasting pipettes and bottles. It's all very environmental. [gets up to greet him] Woa, I'm dizzy.

That's right. Step one of my perfume making process includes huffing until I find the right combination. Actually, I should back up. Huffing is actually step 1.5. Before I begin anything I think about what kind of perfume I want to create. Is this more of an Anne Boleyn or Kathrine Parr? These are important questions. Knowing what scent I want to achieve narrows down the pool of oils I will test together. From there I grab all the EOs (essential oils) I think would work in such a scent and sniff the combinations until I find one that works. And that my friends, is when I stop being cheap with the pipettes and tester vials.

In Which I Rationalize This Blog's Existence

Hi! Howdy! Bonjour! Hola!

I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is JT (not of any relation to Justin Timberlake) and I have what one might call an "interesting" resume. Right out of school I worked at a tech PR firm even though I barely know how to use Photoshop. Then I worked as a content writer for a psychic hotline's blog. Are you psychic? You're probably asking. Nope, I'm not. Sorry. After a while, I left my psychic friends and became a high school English teacher in schools they label "at risk." That was fun, but too stressful for someone with a Victorian disposition such as myself.

Whilst writing a steampunk adventure during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - I told you I'm kind of random) I started thinking about history and literature, and how much I love the two. I'm basically Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, but I don't limit myself to just the 1920s. I love grandeur and people who are tragically flawed. Alison Weir books are crack to me.

I thought about how fun it was to make and create. I thought about all the palaces in Europe I've been to (a lot). Then one day, I saw a tutorial on how to make solid perfume. I've always loved perfume. It's the one luxury item that I will gladly spend obscene amounts of money on. I decided to make a batch of solid perfume and put it in a locket as a gift for my friend's birthday. That was supposed to be the end of it... but all of those random interests started swirling around in my head.

So I started an Etsy shop called  Sweet Tea Apothecary. I don't actually like Sweet Tea, I think its disgusting to be honest (unless it has vodka and then it's ok). But I am a tea fiend (another interest!) and wanted to have a feminine, flowery name, so there you go. With Sweet Tea Apothecary, I think about the legends of history and literature and craft a perfume or cologne that I think they'd enjoy. It gives me the opportunity to make, read, and then write about the concoctions and the people involved.

I am random. I love that about myself. I'd have it no other way.