2nd Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco, March 24th 2013

So this is what I've been doing last Sunday... 2nd Annual San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon.  Spent the entire day at Fort Mason's Festival Pavillion with Miss T who helped me (well, mostly she just put up with all the boring perfume talk; and waited patiently for quieter moments when we can play Slamwich together...). It takes a lot of energy for me to settle back from trips, especially with it still being spring break and all. Besides, there is a lot to process, absorb, take in after such trips. They are inspiring yet exhausting... And I've met some wonderfully creative and inspiring perfumers who I want to try a few more times, write about and share with you. There was definitely a lot of exciting, high-quality stuff coming out and worth trying! 

As in previous salons, it was exciting to meet some customers face to face for the first time - and reconnect with those who were in the historical 1st Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco last July. And then there were bloggers and writers, such as the darling Tama Blough from Ca Fleure Bon, who also did a talk about how to write a perfume review; and Virginia Blanco from the bi-lingual blog Te de Violetas. Some customers travelled from the far southern parts of California, and others from as far as North Dakota (!!!) just to smell our creations and shop for perfumes directly from their makers. I hope this will be a destination - if not a pilgrimage - for perfumistas and scent afficinado to travel to once a year. There's a lot that's happening in the indie perfume scene on the West Coast and you can't find in the big trade shows on the West Coast - or Sniffapalooza, for that matter.

And, most importantly - the wonderful fellow perfumers who were also showing their creations that day, some of which were even students of mine, such as Ragna Rostad-Ruffner (Divine Life Perfumes).
Lovely Ragna of Divine Perfumes

Divine Perfumes
Divine Life Perfumes' Super Natural Cologne (above) and the rose collection - Trinity Rose, Rosita and Dharma Rose (below).
Divine Perfumes

Mick Moi who launched his line (he only did a one afternoon workshop with me last June in San Francisco - and now debuted his line at the salon. He was right next to me, and his table was buzzing with friends and paparazzi, so I never was able to take a close shot of him and his colourful perfumes, but here is a funny one: 

Jane Cate - A Wing and a Prayer
And across from me were Jane Cate from A Wing & A Prayer (based in San Francisco)
Sanae Intoxicants 
And also across from me - Sanae (Sanae Intoxicants) from Los Angeles.
Olympic Orchids
Olympic Orchids' Ellen Covey and her husband - they came all the way from Seattle!
I was excited to discover a new osmanthus perfume in her collection - Sonnet XVII.

Brent Lenoisio (SmellBent) from Los Angeles with his helper and his usual tongue-in-your-cheek expression.
Imaginary Authors
Josh Meyer from Imaginary Authors) (hailing from the cutting-edge city of Portland) hard at work selling his novels! 

Artemisia Natural Perfume
Lisa Fong (Artemisia Natural Perfume) setting up her table with flowers and smiles.

Up a couple of stairs on the gallery, were the rest of the perfumers, most of which (except forRoxana Vila and PK Perfumes) I was able to take photos of:

YOSH Olfactory Sense
Yosh was there, back from long travels in Europe, and was using her innovative aura reading and portraits to help customers in the scent-selection process. So much fun!

Dannielle and her team at the COGNOSCENTI table - you'll be happy to learn that she now has travel size spray atomizers of all three fragrances. I picked up a No. 19 Warm Carrot and now can enjoy it in more lavishly, along with the beautiful Warm Carrot body butter than Dannielle gave me at the tea party.

Sherri Sebastian from Sebastian Signs is a line I'm just beginning to explore - so there will be more write ups on that later after I process this trip.

Sebastian Signs team
Purusa Petalum natural perfume gel by Sebastian Signs. I think I found a new osmanthus love!
Purusa Petalum by Sebastian Signs

Maggie Mahboubian of Parfums Lalun
Maggie Mahboubian (Parfums Lalun), who came all the way from Los Angeles (I met her in September at the salon in Santa Monica and her line is exceptional).

Mario T Gomez at EnVoyage PerfumeryMario T Gomez manning Shelley Waddington's table (EnVoyage Perfumes). Notice the wild display of real orchids and plants!
EnVoyage Perfumery

Laurie Stern of Velvet & Sweetpea's PurrfumeryLaurie Stern's whimsical display (elvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery), full of details and treasures.

Bruno Fazzolari
And in contrast - Bruno Fazzolari's minimalist booth, which debuted at this salon. I promise I will write more about his scents later - he gave me his sample kit, so it's actually feasible to promise such a thing. 

Jennifer of Smells & BellsNext to Bruno - the dreamy Jennifer Craine from Smells & Bells. These photos don't do justice to how adorable her packaging looks in person. Unfortunately, I hadn't had much of a chance to smell her creations during the event.
Smells & Bells
Jennifer also makes soaps and body products - and they are all natural and beautifully packaged. 
Smells & Bells 
And last but not least: the glowing and beautiful Ineke  and her abecadary collection and Floral Curiousities collection she created for Anthropologie.

Little girl in a bit convention centre...
Little girl in a big and not yet full Fort Mason's Festival Pavillion, just before the show.
Ayala Moriel Parfums team
And here's my team again - me in the middle, with Tamya and Dave, who kept me company (and made sure I eat something).

And as if the travel, the work and all the other efforts weren't worth it on their own - I just got the word out that I won no less than 5 awards at the salon: 2 golds and 3 silvers!
The golds were awarded for "Best Ingredient Combinations" (along with
Bruno Fazzolari,  Roxana Illuminated Perfume, Artemisia Natural Perfume and Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes); and for Top Artisan Perfumer (alongside INEKE, Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery, Roxana Illuminated Perfume and COGNOSCENTI).
The silvers were given to me for Best in Salon (next to Bruno Fazzolari), Best Aroma (next to Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes, Imaginary Authors, MIKMOI, Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery and Parfums Lalun); and Top All-around Product Line (again with Bruno Fazzolari). 

Lost In California

In California by Ayala Moriel
In California, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
The best part of traveling is getting lost.
It's the street corner I never intended turn into, the subway I boarded in the wrong direction (easy to fix, but still...), the dangerous neighborhood you somehow managed to get out of safely, the cafe that nobody ever talks about in any travel guide, and might not even be worth mentioning - but was just the right place to sit at after walking an extra hour on those sore feet... And then there is the perfume shop tucked away behind a flower market that you must only visit on Sunday...
Tilden Regional Park Botanic Garden
I had two days for playing tourist in San Francisco, and most of them I actually spent in Berkeley because of a couple of injuries I had to be careful about. The first day was still raining and misty and cool (Wednesday, March 20th), we took the ferry from Jack London Square to the Ferry Building, got our fill of cutesy pastry shops, hopped on a cable car (so we don't need to walk, aforementioned injuries still in effect), and ended up at the wrong side of Powell street (wrong being needing to go downhill). Taking a cab for 5 blocks down Powell, I finally but sought refuge from the pain at Barney's, where I spotted a couple of favourite new perfumes (I'll tell you about them later). It might have not have been fun at the time, but I'm already remembering it fondly. We toughed it out, and survived.
The second day (being Thursday, March 21st), the sun finally showed her lovely face on Northern California again, and I decided to be adventurous again and go to the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens, which I tremendously enjoyed in my last visit to the Bay area. Information about how to get there by public transit is nearly non-existent. But for the record: you should take the Bear Bus, a black vehicle that serves the inter-campus transportation within UC Berkeley. There are clear signs for the bus stops where it does stop; but you actually have to wave it down. Of course, I did not know that at the time, and let a Bear Bus slip by. So I hopped on the No. 65 (from the corner University & Oxford), the line that was promised to be stopping "very close" to the botanical gardens. Somehow the route did not look right. But what else is new with public transit? They are known for their roundabout. I got off where I was told I should, and a lovely lady gave me directions. I was puzzled at how completely different the place was than what I thought I was visiting. Turns out I was heading to the Tilden Regional Park Botanic Gardens, which are "much better", as the lady assured me, "they are free". OK, I thought to myself - this could go either way.
Sonoma Sage  
Sonoma Sage

I walked on following her instructions to the best of my ability. There was no sign in sight for the Botanical Gardens or any gardens for that matter. I avoided the gold course, as per her instructions - only to find myself walking slowly up a hill alongside the very same gold course I was instructed to avoid. After about 20 minutes of walking, and no gardens in sight except for the gold-course fenced-up green, I've decided to stop a car for directions. And we got a lift right to the gate of the gardens from a young gentleman who was driving that way anyway. Upon entering the garden (a vague point in space, when there are no gates or admission) I immediately thought to myself - no surprise this is free. It's just a bunch of native Californian plants growing about, with some plaques stuck every now and then to indicate their botanical names.
Tilden Regional Park Botanic Gardens
Well, that was just the tourist way of looking at that. If you love plants, and especially if you are a perfumer - every garden is a little piece of heaven. This particular one happened to be a perfumer's heaven. A very rustic perfumer, to be exact.

The air was filled with the scent of aromatic plants warmed by the sun - sage (aka artemisia) of all shapes, sizes and kinds. Cacti in full bloom, towering over the sun-warmed lichen-covered rocks. Sweet scent of pollen and the vegetal, surprisingly barely evergreen at all scent of redwood needles. And the opportunity at every corner to just bask in the sun. What more can a tourist ask for?

Redwood Height
Five Fingered Fern
Five Fingered Fern

Tilden Regional Park Botanic Gardens

Pittosporum & Rain

Pitosporum, a photo by FOTOGRAFIES CATA on Flickr.
After our brief Portland encounter, we arrived in Berkeley in the late afternoon of Tuesday, March 19th.
The moment we got out of the rabbit hole and got out, three distinct realizations hit me:
First of all, it was raining, in California - which is a most profound cognitive dissonance for a Vancouverite (and what we supposedly hate the most when on vacation). I didn't only not mind this rain (which was soft, and slightly warm, at least in comparison to its relatives up north). I liked the smell of the rain, which we rarely actually get in Vancouver (where it rains about 90% of the year). Besides, I wasn't exactly on vacation. I had lots of work to do - and the lack of sun would make me feel less like I was missing out on fun.

Secondly, the street dwellers of Berkeley turned out to be the most colorful bunch, and far outweigh their brethren in Vancouver in most categories (except, perhaps, politeness). To prove my point: they were wearing war paints all over their face when we arrived, made probably from flower pollen and exotic spices.

Thirdly and lastly - the air smelled fantastic, and it wasn't just the rain hitting the dry pavement; and it wasn't laundromat either. I spent the remainder of my time trying to find out where the smell came from. And it turned out that the majority of Shattuck Avenue is lined with tall evergreen trees, whose blossoms release the most intoxicating aroma reminiscent of osmanthus, orange blossom and orchid.

A few days later, I learned from Bruno that those trees are non other than Pittosporum undulatum. I'm not sure which kind exactly, but they certainly grow tall, beautiful and fragrant - something you might want to consider when planning your garden!

Hiking with Hall at Steep Ravine (Marin County, California)

Hiking in Marin with Hall Newbegin
On June 6th, I joined Hall Newbegin and a group of 10 interns from Slide Ranch on a wildflower hike at Steep Ravine. Hall picked me up from El Cerrito, and his car smelled strongly of all the wild herbs and needles he picks to scent the Juniper Ridge wildcrafted line of fragrance products. These include cold processed soaps scented with the real juice of plants, sachets made purely of dried plants from the wilderness, incense sticks, cabin sprays, and most recently - Backpacker's Colognes & solid perfumes that were designed to capture the unique scents that stick to your clothes and your memory after a day of hiking in places such as Big Sur, Steep Ravine or the Mojave Desert.

The hike was full of wonderful plants, beautiful scenery, people who are passionate about plants (which I rarely brush by in my urban daily life), and lots of learning, fresh air and we even got to pull out some weeds - invasive species that threaten the unique wild habitat and increase the frequency of forest fires.

So-called sage (a type of artemisia), which is part of the coastal sage scrub.

Cow Parsnip
Cow parsnip, a natural nerve-tonic.

Unusual formation of redwoods (they usually grow straight upwards), unique to the Marin coastal habitat.

We also stopped by the Douglas Fir tree and picked and smelled needles, which we added to the water. They have a pleasant, citrusy aroma, reminiscent of tangerines. So it's no surprise that they were valued by the natives as a source of vitamin C throughout the winter months.

Pissmint (was that really the name?). It smelled musky, warm and a little like patchouli.

Amercian Ginseng
American Ginseng. That's what ColdFX is made of... The leaves smell heavenly! Sort of herbaceously spicy and cucumber-like. Really hard to explain.

Trillium, a type of lily, also called birthroot (used by midwives to assist in labour).

Steep Ravine

Wild Violet Leaves
Wild violet leaves.


Onion-like flower, which we weren't able to identify...

Poison Oak
Beware of the poison oak!

Usnia: Lichen with properties good for treating Athelet's Foot (steep in alcohol to make a tincture). Recognizable by the white threads that appear when stretching out it's "branches". It also smells strangely watery, similar to calone...

Goldenback Fern
Goldenback fern: The yellow powder on the back of these little ferns can create a temporary mehendi. Fun!

Redwood Clover
Redwood clover.

Mountain Meadow with Pearly Everlasting

Top of the hill and view of the ocean.


Pearly Everlasting
Pearly everlasting: Beautiful in and out - this flower has a soft, warm, spicy herbaceous scent, more deliacate than other helicrysums that I've smelled.


Hills with lots of coyote bush.

The only part of the hike that was really steep: a small group of us went down this cliff to the bottom of the creek to uproot an invasive species that takes over the habitat. The rest remained on the top meadow, to get rid of thistles that bring on too many frequent forest fires and chase away the native plants.

View of Slide Ranch educational farm
View of Slide Ranch - an educational farm just by the beach.

Blue Eyed Grass
Blue-Eyed Grass.

Gum thorn
The flowers of Gumweed (Grindelia), a native American thorny plant, have a liquid white, sweet, sticky gum that's used to clear out lung infections.

Cypress near Slide Ranch
Gigantic cypress trees by Slide Ranch. This photo really does not do them any justice.

On the way back, Hall pulls out a bottle of oil infused with desert Chaparal from the Mojave desert and slabs some on my hand, than douses his face with it, contemplating compounding a beard oil out of it. The car fills with the bitter, spicy, smoky, warm and intriguing desert dryness, transporting me to somewhere I've never been to and make me feel as if I'm standing under the starry desert night and brewing a bitter tea on the campfire.

It was an inspiring, adventurous day and the highlights of all the plants from an aromatic point of view were the pearly everlasting and the white gum-producing plant. Next I will tell you about the Steep Ravine perfume and soap that Hall has created as an inspiration from this beautiful trail.

The Lady Oyolaela

Fruit & Flowers

When Laurie Stern of Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery has invited me to stay at her cottage in El Cerrito - little did I know that I signed up for an aromatic retreat among her bees, cats, fruit and flowers. And most importantly - made a new perfumer friend!

Rose Canopy
Laurie and I passed each other's paths virtually at Persephenie's shop (then called Blunda). Laurie was there in March 2009, and I arrived a month later for my Hanami exhibit. I fell in love with her whipped body frostings, and we exchanged emails, samples and beautiful greeting cards.

Laurie's Honey
It wasn't till last year when we drove to Yosh's party that I finally had the pleasure of experiencing her genuine warmth in person. She's literally as sweet as the honey made by the bees in her garden, which is redolent of the many aromatic plants growing within: jasmine, honeysuckle, lavender, geraniums and mints (the beehives are in the photo below).

Laurie's Bees

Rose Petals Bath
Nothing beats a morning stroll, getting my feet wet with fragrant dew from the mint and geranium; counting the petals of yellow roses shed in the bowl of water just outside my cottage...
Laurie's Herb Garden
The garden is so full of life, and the aromas weave from all directions. Laurie had a flower business in her past life, and her husband is a landscape architect. Together they make a wonderful team, and their home is just beautiful and full of little treasures to feast the eyes and the nose on. The sealing of the living room and kitchen is decorated with dried bouquets of hydrangae, and even the kitchen window is a beauty.

Kitchen Window

Angel's Trumpets
At nightfall, the garden and my room filled with the sweet, citrus and heliotropin confectionary maddness of Angel's Trumpet. I put a flower right by my bedside, and it never failed to bring a restful sleep.

4 Post Bed

Melon and helicrysum sweetened the last evening of my trip; including the company of a few perfumer friends who stopped to say hello (and goodbye).

Of all the things in the world, Laurie Stern reminds me of the Lady Oyolaela in the Neverending Story (excuse my spelling: I cannot find any reference to this wonderful character's name). She's a lady of the garden, and is the garden - and it is always in full bloom and brimming with luscious ripe fruit that put her guests under a spell: time stops at her garden and one would forget they need to leave and go about their business... Which was like a gift from heaven on such an action-packed trip.


And indeed, I didn't want to leave this place of serenity and friendship, and if it wasn't for my daughter I probably would never have... My only consolation was that I'll be back in San Francisco in less than a month, for the Artisan Fragrance Salon, and will be able to see all my perfumer friends again!
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