Saturday, January 17, 2015

Alchemy

I have always loved potions - as I've mentioned many times on this blog. I was that teenager with an organic essential oil collection. Put something that smells good - and feels great - in a gorgeous glass bottle and I am sold.

I dabbled in making oils, lotions and scrubs in my early 20s and then I met my husband. He was not into bombardment by numerous fragrances as I practiced my witchy art. So, in the interests of solidarity, and because my life went on new trajectories in early adulthood, I left the chemistry behind.

However, I've never abandoned my love of self-annointing with all the things that smell divine. As y'all may know, I am at my most sensory when it comes to taste and smell. I'm that person who can tell you what grape the person at the next table is drinking. I'll tease out the secret ingredient in your special dessert, the one that no one else can put her finger on. Sure, the flip side is that I'm most likely to throw up semi-regularly, at the whiff of anything, when pregnant. But happily, it's unlikely I'll ever revisit that state again.

I consider myself exceedingly lucky to be as scent-sory as I am and, given how I'm motivated to find all the ways I can enjoy living in my body (especially in the last couple of years), I recently decided to take up my sorcery again.

It doesn't hurt that my kid discovered scented candles last year (hideous ones) and I observed that my husband doesn't have the heart to tell her to throw them away. Strikes me that, if he's willing to smell chemical sludge to keep her happy, my natural stuff will barely register. Note to self: I should take up toxin-free candle-making at some point in the near future.

At any rate, the other day I found myself at this shop I've never heard of, though it's around the block from me and it's been there for a while. Let's call it kismet cuz they sell all the ingredients for potion making - from the sustainably produced, ripe-nut shea butter (a canary colour I've never seen), to the locally made hydrosols and nut oils. Did I mention they also sell all the glass bottles that cost a bomb to ship and never seem to be available locally?

I do feel like I fell down the rabbit hole when I walked into this shop - it was like the most absurd skit Portlandia has ever conceived. At one point, the SA feigned shock at the fur hat (yeah, it was -20C, I was in fur from head to toe) that I was holding in my hand as I shopped. She thought it was a toy dog, apparently.

Somehow the experience took an entire hour and, at some point, I started talking with all the organic ladies about our birth experiences and methods of natural contraception. Two of the clients shopping with me were registered midwives in their spare time. Not one of us had experienced a hospital birth (with multiple children between us). If you've never been asked if you check your cerivcal mucous daily - by someone you don't know - you're really not missing out.

I was utterly bemused by the whole, nutty experience till I it occurred to me that I too had had a home birth and I practice a method of natural birth control (have done since my mid-twenties). Yeah, I'm a yoga person. Not to mention I was in that shop to purchase organic and sustainable precursors to natural skincare so that I could make it for myself in my own kitchen. Fuck. (Thank goodness I could sideline utter stereotyping on the basis that I was wearing commercially produced lipstick and fur.)

Cut to this morning, when I decided to experiment by making lotion. I will revisit this topic (and provide a recipe, once I've tweaked one that doesn't produce thinly-veiled grease). Let me just say that it was entirely fun, if only moderately successful. But, hey, lots of peeps can't even get their natural potion to emulsify on first try, so I don't feel as if I've failed. And, since potion-making is often merely cooking with edible ingredients you won't eat, I felt entirely liberated to experiment as I went. My thin lotion was ameliorated in a jiffy with some cornstarch from the cupboard. I used all of my intuition and chemical knowledge from cooking (the art at which I am most in my element) to produce a product I will happily use. Moreover, I can see many gifts - in the name of product-testing - for my friends in the near future.

So, today's questions: Are you some crazy, granola potion-maker? (Personally, I prefer to see myself in the vein of European apothecarist..) Would you ever give it a go? Let's talk!

16 comments:

  1. If you want to get great results with your potion-making do check out Susan's blog swiftcraftymonkey.blogspot.ca/ - she has all the details you so love! NAYY but warning: I got lost in her posts for hours.

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    1. Oh, Louisa, I sense I've got a few hours of reading in my afternoon :-) Thank you!

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  2. Love making lotion - it's like making mayonnaise. That emulsification thing never gets old. NEVER! Plus, my fussy skin seems to like it better. It's definitely a rabbit hole, no question....

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    1. Yes - it's so true. It's magic to watch those things turn into a creamy sauce!

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    2. I've never made my own lotions, so I'm looking forward to your tips. I do make my deodorant. http://howaboutorange.blogspot.ca/2010/04/how-to-make-your-own-deodorant.html
      I'm afraid locally sourced coconut oil is not going to happen tho'. ;)

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    3. Oooh, that's interesting. Off to look up that post. And no, locally sourced coconut oil is not in my future either :-)

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  3. i would, but i could see myself becoming completely obsessed. however, i'm getting sick of finding soy in EVRRTHAAANG (i'm allergic). if i ever get back across the dividing line, maybe you can show me this magical place...

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    1. OK, really, if you're allergic to soy, you have to do this! You can control all the ingredients and make things that smell great. Come back and we'll do witchcraft!

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  4. Well, you know I'm on board with this! Which shop? The one on Roncesvalles?

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  5. I admit to being a little bit granola... So curious about your lotion-making! While I've yet to really fall down the rabbit hole, I'm definitely interested in your experimenting!

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    1. Oh, you'll get there - I have a hunch :-)

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  6. I've definitely had a granola history but have never made my own potions. I'd be willing to be your guinea pig so feel free to send me samples :)

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    1. Let me know when you get the serum! :-)

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  7. Potion love coming your way from the U.S.! (Northern New England, so I've spent some time in the Maritimes and Quebec.)

    You may just have inspired me to try to duplicate a lovely, locally available lotion that includes certified organic aloe Vera, apricot kernel oil, vegetable glycerin, unrefined shea butter, etc., etc. Plus enough lavender and patchouli to lift the wearer's spirits but not so much that it can be detected three offices away. (I had a boss who put me off patch for several years by slathering it on.)

    I'd also like to do something with vetiver. I had a meeting once with a professor in my grad program, and I couldn't get over how much I loved her perfume. Halfway out the door, I turned and said, "I know this is frivolous, but what scent are you wearing? I really like it!" "Just vetiver essential oil!" she replied.

    Then we talked for 5 more minutes about how difficult it can be to comment on how someone smells -- even if you like it -- and about our experiences in our respective fields with having to play down any interest in potions and such for fear we'd be seen as not serious enough. (As if dabbing on sandalwood would short-circuit my ability to write an editorial about cuts in food assistance ... Please!)

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    1. Ha! You can do all the things with utter credibility. It's magic. I love vetiver but a friend of mine feels it smells like smoke (or cigarettes, she says, but not in a bad way?!)

      I totally recommend that you repro that product. All of the stuff is available and I bet you'll manage to make it 98% the same as the original. For 10 per cent of the price.

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