Monday, August 19, 2013

Scented Powder

My summers are spent conjuring up ways to stay cool.  Middle age has caused a heatwave in me that needs as much chilling as possible.  I have a few standby tried and true remedies I use including cucumber water, violet tisane, mugi cha (Japanese roasted barley tea) and an evening bath followed by a delicate dusting of body powder.

Most commercial powders are made with talc, a mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate, a known carcinogen. There are other materials which are far less toxic and also have great absorptive properties.  Corn starch is often used but bacteria can grow easily in corn so the less noxious alternative is arrowroot powder, a starch obtained from the rhizomes of several tropical plants.

Another alternative base for dusting powder is clay.  Kaolin is often used but I use bentonite (simply because it's what I have on hand).  Clay is absorptive so it's perfect for homemade powders.

My Herbal Body Powder
Scenting the powder is a matter of choice.  You can simply add essential oils to your powder base and mix them up, either in a blender or carefully spraying the oils over the powder and shaking it up.  I prefer to use powdered herbs to scent mine.  I started with powdered orris root and was using an equal amount of that and arrowroot.  Powdered roses and sandalwood are also big favorites of mine.  Some other choices are chamomile, calendula, orange flowers, lavender or just about anything you can manage to grind up.  I buy some things already ground (roses, orris root, sandalwood) and other things I grind myself in a coffee grinder I use specifically for herbs.

Swan's down is the traditional material used for making powder puffs.  I'm opposed to animal cruelty and I'm not sure what the effect is for the swan.  Another alternative is lambswool.  Far less expensive than down and quite a bit larger, you get quite a whomp of powder from one of these beauties.  Otherwise it's synthetic polyester, not even an option in my book.  There are also vintage down puffs available on Etsy and Ebay, some are quite beautiful.  

We have a bit of summer left before the cool autumn blows in.  Pamper your heatstricken self with a little fragrant dusting.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Time Again to Tincture

Colognes and tinctures brewing in my studio
I don't know what it is about summer but it's then that I start trying to capture the fragrances around me in tinctured form.  Maybe it's because I prefer lighter fragrances in the summer, when I switch from heavy perfumes to a splash of cologne instead.  There's something old fashioned about an after bath splash and I thought so even as a teenager in the 70's with the lilac cologne I liberally applied after each nightly bath.

Last summer I had some very good luck tincturing some of the dried herbs, flowers, roots, barks and berries that I've been collecting.  Over the past year I've collected quite a bit more plant material to experiment with.  I've not only collected plants in the park and from my community garden but also collected some from a couple of reputable herb companies.  The first was Dandelion Botanical Company.  My original intent with this order was the accumulation of the necessary ingredients for making bitters.  Not surprisingly I couldn't resist ordering a few other scented materials such as osmanthus flowers and sarasparilla bark.  Recently I received another order of herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, a package I waited anxiously for which included such luxuries as tonka beans and meadowsweet blossoms.

Another heat wave had me conjuring up cooling and fragrant elixirs to calm the heat-addled spirits.  My new materials had me quite inspired and I made a list of them categorizing them by top, middle and bottom note, just as I would if I were making a perfume.  From there I jotted down some ideas and began blending.  My mortar and pestle were put to good use (that always makes me feel like a real apothecary).  They've been brewing for a month now and today they're being strained off and I'll soon be bottling them up for sale.

My favorite so far is Swamp Water which I dreamt up thinking about the bayou and tall grasses, night air thick with heady florals and sweet tea.  I also made a fougere, my latest obsession, using sweet woodruff, tonka beans, patchouli, jasmine, cassia and lavender.  Eau de la Who is inspired by my guitar hero, Pete Townshend, who I learned wore the classic 4711 when he went onstage.  I plan on sending him some.