Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Changes

Update 28-12-2013: My new blog can now be found at http://www.ajones-aromatics.com/blog/

Hi everyone, I haven't blogged for a while as I've been quite busy preparing for an upcoming craft show, where I will be showcasing a few new perfumes and also some other products. Here's one of the new perfumes I've been working on:


It's a perfume that has a natural base of cold-pressed moringa oil, and is scented with nutmeg, ylang ylang and other special ingredients to be revealed at a later date!
I also wanted to announce that later this month I will be starting a new blog over at Wordpress, where it will be more connected to my business website. There I plan to share more on the perfume-making process, including any new and current ingredients that I learn about, educational perfume books and resources and how to use them. I will transfer a few of the more useful blog posts from here over there as well. And I will still keep this current BajanScent blog open for now as I do have future plans for this blog as well.

Stay tuned,
Amanda

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Afro comb workshop

For those of us who love the beauty and craftsmanship of antique African combs - not to mention their rich culture and history (and I know there are many of us)....

Here's a quick look at two beautiful pieces:


Ashanti comb, Ghana. Early 20th century.


 
Kulango Comb, Ivory Coast
You'll also be pleased to know that The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is holding a series of events and activities until October as part of their Origins of the Afro Comb exhibition which is currently under way. I wrote about the exhibition just recently and why it's a must-see!
Yesterday one of the events held at the Fitzwilliam was especially for children and families and was conducted by K.N. Chimbiri, who wrote a companion piece to the exhibition entitled Secrets of the Afro Comb, 6000 years of art & culture.
She revealed fascinating and beautiful combs like the ones above that have been used over generations. Participants were asked to bring their own afro combs and to take part in actitivities around the exhibition. Chimbiri was also on hand to sign copies of her book.

Participants also got to create and admire their own afro comb prints....

There are more events to come at the Fitzwilliam, including hair braiding demos, a lecture on natural past and present, and a discussion on the art and materials surrounding the Origins of the Afro Comb exhibition.



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dinner at Cafe Des Amis London

Last Saturday I was able to enjoy some lovely French dining at CafĂ© Des Amis, a restaurant and wine bar which serves seasonal French cuisine. The setting is warm and intimate and it's located quietly in Hanover Place just off Long Acre in Covent Garden.

Our evening started with some simple but divine fish favourites.....
....smoked haddock and salmon with carrot and lime salad and horseradish.
And also French onion soup with toasted gruyere crouton.
 
For our main we had...

roast rump of lamb, buttered green beans and pomme mousseline lamb jus.
 
And more smoked haddock...!
 

...in the form of smoked haddock, crushed parsley potatoes, grain mustard beurre blanc and fried egg.
 
They served it with the fried egg on top.
 
This was hands-down my favourite of the evening.

 Then time for dessert.
 Marinated strawberries and pink muscatel sorbet.....
...and vanilla cheesecake with fig coulis. I'll definitely be back.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Five reasons why you should see the Origins of the Afro Comb Exhibition in Cambridge

 
I recently took in the Origins of the Afro Comb exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of  Cambridge in England. This exhibition truly surpassed my wildest expectations.
 
It runs from July to October, and I will be returning soon, so that I can study some of the combs more in-depth. This exhibition is one of those things you have to experience more than once, because there is something new to learn and see each time.
 
Here are a few reasons you should take in this exhibition:
 
 It's truly ground-breaking.
 
 
 More than three hundred amazing combs from all over the continent of Africa are being exhibited in one place for the very first time. Some of the earliest are from ancient Egypt, dating back 6,000 years. And there are also some beautifully silver-plated ones on display which were recently made to depict the journey of the Maroons of the Caribbean. 
 
It opens our eyes.
Ivory comb. 16th Century, Benin, Nigeria.
 
This exhibition reveals so much about African art and culture, pre-slavery. We are usually told that Africa did have civilizations prior to the arrival of Europeans, but to actually see up-close real examples, and the artistry and skill that would have been an every day occurrence back then is fascinating.


There are many surprises.

If you have ever thought that combs are just simple objects for grooming the hair, then you need to see ones like these, created by a 20th century artist from Edo, Nigeria. The exhibition contains different African combs of many shapes, sizes and materials. All created for different reasons - some were small-scale sculpture, others were decorative, others still were for gifts or love tokens, and others were created to denote certain status.

You can get involved.
There's a special digital interactive section where you can record your own hair journey, and also listen to the hair stories of others with African hair type.

There's more to explore.
 
If you're unable to attend the exhibition, or if you simply want to continue the remarkable journey of the Afro comb on your own, you can also purchase the beautifully illustrated Secrets of the Afro Comb: 6,000 years of art & culture, which was written by K.N.Chimbiri as a companion piece to the exhibition. Like the exhibition, Secrets of the Afro Comb is unique in that it's the first book on African combs written for children. But it's definitely not just a book about hair combs or natural hairstyles; the information in this book and the way it is presented is just as mind-opening for adults as well in my opinion. It covers subjects such as hair biology, world art, the middle passage, the history of Islam and Christianity; it also contains some rare, previously unpublished photographs. It's available on amazon.co.uk (pre-order until July 20th), or through the Book Depository, which offers free shipping worldwide, and also at the gift shop of the Fitzwilliam Museum.
  
 
 
 



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Tea & Chocolate

Chocolate & Lavender (source unknown.)

I created a board on Pinterest to showcase various tea and chocolate delights from around the world. Mainly anything related to tea or chocolate that captures the eye or imagination.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Growing pineapple.......in a plant pot


Pineapple Plant photo copyright Dmitry Bryndin. All rights reserved.
I’ve been inspired to do this since some very knowledgeable guys who grow and sell their own fruits and vegetables gave me some tips.

They said it should take about a year before you get a pineapple, but they know of someone who got one to grow in six months!

Also, Pinterest has lots of tips and ideas for growing your own fruit trees like lemon and orange in a regular plant pot.

So I will take the plunge. Will I have success this time, or will it go the way of my other attempts. Like the tobacco, the lavender, the chamomile…… I love herbs and vegetable gardens but haven’t had too much luck with the green thumb so far.

BTW, besides being rich in bromelain, an anti-inflammatory used today in many supplements, pineapple also contains many natural aroma chemicals which contribute to its unique and lovely scent, and which are frequently extracted from the fruit for use in perfumes.

Ethyl lactate is one of these aroma compounds found in pineapple. It has a fruity, butterscotch-like aroma which goes well with blood orange, black pepper and lime, and is used as a top note in perfumes.*
 
Pineapple prefers sunny, dry conditions, so a mixture of half sand and half potash in the plant pot is recommended. Place in a bright sunny area (it’s possible to grow indoors too) and water about once every two days. We’ll see.
* Source: Perfuming with Natural Isolates by Shelley Waddington.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

4,000 year-old perfumes

Clay jugs used to make and store ancient perfumes lie at an excavation site on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The 4,000-year-old fragrances—the world's oldest known perfumes—were re-created by an experimental archaeology center and are now on display at an Italian museum.

Photograph courtesy Maria Rosaria Belgiorno
This discovery was made back in 2003 and was reported by BBC News, but I only recently learnt about it and just wanted to share:

Italian archaeologists discovered a collection of perfumes dating back to the Bronze Age on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Excavation leader Maria Rosaria Belgiorn of the National Research Council in Rome believes the perfumes date back more than 4,000 years.

Remnants of the perfumes were found inside an ancient 3,230-square-foot (300-square-meter) factory that was part of a larger industrial complex at Pyrgos. It's believed that this 4,000 year-old factory manufactured fragrances for export across the Eastern Mediterranean. The buildings were destroyed during an earthquake in 1850 B.C., but perfume bottles, mixing jugs, and stills were preserved under the collapsed walls.

The buildings also housed an olive press, a winery and a copper smelting works. The scale of the site, and the presence of huge 500-litre oil-storage jars, suggests it was once the centre of a prosperous export business.

Laurel
Belgiorn and a team of scientists analyzed the remants found in the mixing jugs and clay perfume bottles, and were able to identify extracts of laurel, cinnamon and myrtle (all of which would have  grown in this particular region at that time) among other ingredients.  They also discovered a number of fragrance recipes that had been created with the ingredients. Plants and herbs were ground up and mixed with olive oil in clay jugs, then distilled in a clay apparatus, Belgiorno explained.

The smell of the perfumes is "a nice experience that re-creates in our mind a sort of ancestral reminder," Belgiorn said in an email interview.

The archaeologist added that she doesn't know why the people of Cyprus started making and wearing perfumes 4,000 years ago.

Regardless of how the Cypriot perfumes were used, she believes today's fragrances just don't compare.

"We have lost the real world of natural fragrances," she said, "because most of the perfumes of today are chemical reproductions of the natural fragrances and scents."

(Adapted from BBC News.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Creating the scent of tobacco flowers - Part 1.



Late last year I managed to acquire a small bottle of tobacco absolute. Using it as guide, I will finally attempt to recreate the scent of tobacco flowers.

The tobacco absolute came from Bulgaria, and was extracted from the leaves of the nicotiana tabacuum plant. It's a dark brown oil, and quite thick and syrupy. . It has a very rich and strong type of scent, which at first sniff reminded me a little of labdanum, but it definitely has a sweetness to it as well.

Some of the starting materials I will use to re-create the scent  of tobacco flowers are: clary sage oil, rose oil, honey, jasmine, clove oil and ho leaf oil. But a few more materials will probably be added to the formula as I go along.

This is intended to be a fun, learning experiment for myself but I'll post everything in stages here, along with my understanding of the specific essential oils and why they are being used in the experiment, the different types of tobacco flower, and how perfumes bases or accords can be put together. So hopefully you will find it fun and educational as well, and I welcome any comments, suggestions or questions.

 
Here's a photo I took of some dried tobacco leaves on a recent visit to the Caribbean Cigar Company. They are located in Pelican Village, Bridgetown, and create cigars the traditional, hand-crafted way. The cigars are all rolled meticulously by hand, - no automation - and they produce up to 1,000 cigars a day.

The tobacco leaves, seeds, wrappers and binders they use are sourced from Cuba, Ecquador and Cameroon.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gullah learning and inspiration

Acquiring knowledge and insight for a Gullah inspired perfume......

Gullah Images: The Art of Jonathan Green


The art and craft of sweetgrass basket weaving.

Sweetgrass Baskets and the Gullah Tradition


Sweetgrass Basket Making, Historic Charleston City Market, Charleston, SC. Photo from The Charleston City Market.

Culinary heritage & culture.

Cooking the Gullah Way, Morning, Noon, and Nightby Sallie Ann Robinson.

South Carolina low country coastal culture and environment.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Orange Blossom gets an upgrade

One thing you come to realize about perfume-making is that the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn. This is probably true of most disciplines, hobbies or skills that you choose to undertake. As I study the materials used in perfumery more and more, read more books on the subject, gain more knowledge about the individual aroma molecules that make materials smell the way they do, and experiment with blends more and more, my confidence grows and with it my willingess to try new things to make each perfume creation even better and stand out more. Doing this means I will also make more mistakes, but there is always something to learn from those too.
 
Orange Blossom is one of the very first perfumes I made for sale, and I am pleased that it consistently got positive feedback from customers. But now I want to make it even better. So Jasmine sambac and a few other floral compounds have now been added to the formula for my Orange Blossom perfume, and it has definitely made a lovely difference to the overall aroma - it now has more depth and richness. It is still the same green floral which my customers approved  of, but now it seems more intricate and not as simple or straightforward as before.

 
I am also thinking of adding a tiny bit of either nutmeg or sage leaf (above) to the top notes. The sage oil I recently obtained is a variety from Spain and it has a lovely, fresh, slightly sweet and floral quality  that works well with the orange flower notes in the perfume. It's very mild, and quite different from the strong, camphorous more commonly used sage oil which originates from other parts of Europe; the Spanish variety is definitely more suitable for perfumery.
My reason behind the nutmeg was to see if I could make the perfume sweet and spicy in a subtle way, and even more complex. But I really love the sage oil on its own and think I will leave it at just that for now.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Medford Mahogany purchases

So here's what I bought from my tour of Medford Mahogany. Their mortar and pestle.....
which will be very useful for crushing herbs and spices.
And also one of their jewellery boxes, in a beautiful matte finish.
But instead of using it for jewellery, I'll be using it to store some of my smaller oils and perfume blends to keep them out of the sun and light.
 
The tour of Medford Craftworks was educational, inspiring, and how nice to come away with something decorative and functional in one.
 




Monday, March 11, 2013

Medford Mahogany Creations


Medford Craft World is the beautiful woodwork studio situated just outside of Bridgetown, which specializes in fine, one-of-a-kind pieces, handmade entirely from locally sourced Barbados mahogany wood. Owner and founder Reggie Medford has been practicing his craft for thirty-five years, carving sculptural works of art from the indigenous mahogany trees that grow on his compound and throughout the island. While his pieces have an organic quality about them, it's obvious that much intricate skill, time and talented hands are involved in the entire process.

The very first time I toured Medford Craft World was many years ago. Visiting the studio a second time last week, it was wonderful to see that Mr. Medford is still as passionate about his work. Everything from the tranquil, natural surroundings to Mr. Medford and his team of master artisans has a quietly vibrant, "alive" and effortless manner about them.

First we were given a brief history of Barbados mahogany and Medford Craft World, followed by a personalized tour of the workshop by Mr. Medford himself.

And we got to see the mahogany wood in its rawest, and most organic state....

....before skilful hands helped it take on a more refined, but still natural form. Look at those elegant curves and lines.


The mahogany is sanded, carved and shaped into different pieces....

before going through a unique and intricate varnishing process developed by Mr. Medford himself.


The pieces are then sold in their shop as abstract originals, clocks, coffee tables, pen holders and smaller souvenir items.

I'll show you the pieces I purchased in my next post later this week. Here's one of the two resident Medford Mahogany ponies.
Medford Mahogany Creations
medfordcraftworld.com