Friday, October 28, 2016

Making candles just for fun

Dipping the candle into a container of hot beeswax

   I was reading about some small, prestige (luxury) perfume marketer and noted that among their offerings were candles. Successful, smallish luxury perfumeries always seem to offer candles. Candles are easy to make and you don't have the shipping restrictions that come with (liquid) perfume.

    As kids in grade school we made candles for Christmas, one red, one green -- or two brown if you mixed up the red wax with the green wax and dipped into the wrong pot.

    Anyway, between reading about luxury perfumeries and their candles, childhood memories of making candles, and a box of beeswax I had for making solid perfumes, making a few candles seemed like a fun idea. All I lacked (so I thought) was wicks.

    Wicks are easy to find online. They don't cost much and mine arrived quickly. I ordered wicking for "hand dipped tapers." Different styles of candles require different types of wicks or so I read. I haven't made any tests.

    My wicks arrived, I set aside some time, I gathered up my materials and started on the project. The first issue was containers. I had the hotplate I'd been using to melt wax for solid perfumes. I had a pot to melt the wax in. The problem was to find a container into which I would pour the liquid wax after running it through a strainer to get out the larger impurities. This was, after all, unprocessed wax, wax straight from the beehive.

    I had envisioned making dipped candles at least eight to ten inches tall. The best container I could find in my studio was only about four inches tall.

    Now here's the scoop on dipping containers. Ideally they should be an inch or two taller than the size of the candle you want to make. To get the candle started, you need to tie a weight on the end of the wick to keep the wick straight until you've dipped it enough so the wax itself will keep it straight.

    The other issue of the dipping container is that you have to fill it with liquid wax. The greater the diameter of your pot, the more wax you'll need to melt and filter to fill the container. The diameter of my container was small, meaning I wouldn't need too much wax to fill it, only slightly more than what would go into the candle itself.

    Now, with my equipment prepared, I began to execute the steps.

    Wax burns so you've got to be careful when melting it. Also, since both pot and wax are hot, you must be careful so as not to burn yourself. I put the container with the wax in a Pyrex measuring cup and filled the cup part way with water, just enough water so that the wax container wouldn't float.

    Then I set the hotplate burner on high and took out a book. It takes a while for the wax to melt and you don't want to leave this operation unattended. Too many hazards. The wrong people could wander by, spilled wax could catch fire. Just stay there and keep an eye on it from start to finish.

    Bees wax has a pleasant scent of its own but because this is just an experiment for me, a test, I added some fragrance to the wax, a couple of small blocks of a solid perfume, wax that has already been scented.

    When the original, right from the beehive, wax has melted, I poured it through a strainer into another container. This is now the clean wax.

    Now I fill the dipping container with the clean wax and begin dipping, lowering the wick until the bolt hits the bottom of the can. I want to keep the wick as straight as possible as I dip so my candle will be straight.

    To speed the operation I have a tank of cool water and each time I dip my candle in hot wax I then dip it in the cool water so the wax will harden and I'll be ready to dip again.

    Here I've dipped until my candle is almost as wide as the opening in the dipping container. Then I'm finished.

    I let the finished candle set for a while in the cool water. Then I trim the wick and I'm done.

    The result? Small but beautiful and burning with wonderful scent.

    I've posted some more photos of this project along with a few more comments on my website. You might enjoy looking at them.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summer 2016: The Plan

Two years later, this is as far as I've gotten on this one.

    In front of me on my desk are nine trials from a perfume I started working on about two years ago. I didn't intentionally set it aside but other projects kept coming first.

    Working at this desk I am enjoying the faint aromas wafting toward me from these small mixing pots. But for the next two months I won't be doing any more mixing for this project.

    This summer, when we left Walden for Cape island, unlike other summers, I left all my cans, jars, and bottles of aroma material behind.

    It wasn't accidental. I was looking for a bit of space in my head to store up new scent discoveries and just rest a bit. Here in Clarks Harbour I have everything I need to work on a perfume -- alcohol, bottles, smelling strips, mixing pots -- everything but the aroma materials themselves but this summer I’ll just be thinking about scent.

Cape Sable Light, seen from the Hawk, NS, Canada
    Our house here in Canada is full of beautiful fragrances. Some are ones I’ve made for my wife; some are ones I've purchased for her. Outside we have flower gardens and a sculpture garden; the ocean is a few footsteps away. Lots of inspiration.

    There is more to creating a perfume than mixing. You might start by thinking of your "market" -- the people with whom you want to share your fragrance. Or it might just be a personal project, some scent idea you're chasing to see what will come of it. Regardless of why you want to develop a particular fragrance, it is central to your project to have a scent goal, the wished for fragrance you hope to achieve.

    This takes some thought, some meditation, and some time to mentally distill what you hope to achieve.

    So this summer I'm thinking about perfume. Collecting ideas. Storing up scent memories.

    In the fall I’ll be mixing again.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Your first step toward large profits from perfume

    Making your own artisinal perfume can be a rewarding activity and your starting point, your inspiration, can come from almost anywhere. But, if selling perfume profitably is your interest, there is only one starting point and it is the same for every company and individual. The starting point is your market.

    Any company that spends millions producing and marketing fragrance spends a great deal of time and money defining and researching their market. The fragrance they offer will "fit" the market they have identified. This market is where the money is to be found. If you want to sell your own perfume profitably, defining and researching your market is your first step. This step comes before you begin to develop your fragrance.

    What happens if you work backward? The fragrance first and then the search for a market? The result will almost certainly be a fiasco. Why? Because now you first have to find a market big enough to offer the potential you need. Then you have to find media that will let you communicate effectively with that market. But the reality is this after-the-fact market you've identified is likely fragmented. Fragmented markets present promotional difficulties. If your market is scattered you must use multiple media to try to round up buyers. Each has its own expense. You now have to work harder and spend more hours and dollars to make sales, assuming you are able to discover where potential buyers might be found.

    The emotional problem that puts the product before the market is enthusiasm for the product. This enthusiasm is typical of creative people. The cool-headed marketer on the other hand studies markets and looks for opportunities to sell perfume. Like a shark getting a taste of blood, the cool headed marketer rushes to develop a perfume after the market is spotted.

    For the creative person, developing the fragrance is the the fun. Working on a fragrance can make for great conversation. Talking about markets and market analysis and media costs is pretty boring, unless you are that marketer shark looking for an opportunity to make money.

    Then too, the person inspired by the desire to make perfume may have only the vaguest idea of how it will be sold. Ask this person how they intend to sell their fragrance and they might say, "Macy's," or "online," or "Walmart. This is simply not real. This is not how the start-up perfume entrepreneur makes money.

    So how do you, the novice perfume entrepreneur, go about finding a viable market for your first perfumes? Sadly, you must put aside your creative outlook and become analytical. Think small. Can you spot an opportunity to sell a few dozen bottles locally? Look around, in your community. Talk to people in the business of selling. Look for clusters of people with similar interests -- clubs, religious organizations, sports teams and their followers, local bands, local tourist organizations. Get out and talk, meet people, look for modest opportunities. Small successes are better building blocks than large failures. Small successes can lead to significantly larger opportunities.

    But whatever you do, if it's money you want, don't start spending it on your perfume until you've nailed down a ripe market.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why my men's fragrances are better

    It strikes me from time to time that the men's fragrances I've developed are good; better than my women's fragrances although those, too, are not without merit.

    I think the "refreshing originality" of my men's fragrances results from my interest in developing, for my own pleasure, fragrances outside the handful of commonly accepted scent styles for men. The world is full smells that can be found to be beautiful. The world of smells is not limited by popular taste.

    Why can I have such a warm feeling about my men's fragrances and feel less so about my fragrances for women? I suspect it may have something to do with sex bias. My wife is my chief tester and I suspect I'm a bit uncomfortable having her wear a fragrance that in some cases might be a bit "risky," scent wise, and in other cases simply not as good as what she can buy from Estee Lauder.

    With my men's fragrances I attempt to seduce neither men nor women. I am simply seeking my own pleasure. I do want it to be pleasing to others. I wouldn't wear a scent I believed to be offensive. I suspect that my men's fragrances blend closely enough with the environment so as not offend even those who speak out against fragrance.

    One of my fragrances caused some controversy with my wife when I first used it. The first 20 minutes of its evolution bothered her. After those 20 minutes she found the scent pleasing. In time she began to enjoy it right from the beginning. Tastes can evolve and this is where I part ways with the scents of many marketers. Rather than encouraging the consumer to stretch a bit in their tastes, they simply target the consumer's taste as it is. Good business; poor art.

    I sometimes feel I should drop women’s fragrances altogether and focus on scents for men. But in truth there are also scents which interest me which I feel should be worn by a woman. I have one in particular that fits this description but I only made a small quantity, and I used aroma materials I may never find again, and so I've never been able to offer it for sale.

    "Passion" is the word that best describes your attitude when you're doing your best work. I've probably put more passion into my fragrances for men because of my urge to create something I can use, myself.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Two kinds of perfume: Personal -- Commercial

    What kind of perfume do you make? I make two kinds of perfume: commercial and personal. If I explain the differences between them it will help you better understand what kind of perfume you are making -- or aspire to make.

    Let's start with the commercial. In many ways the scent is likely to be less interesting but it is more demanding to create. For a small perfume making operation to develop a commercial scent you focus on three issues: market, cost, and continuity. To sell, the fragrance must be acceptable to the market into which you hope to sell it. Oddball fragrances are risky. They are hard to sell.

    Cost -- what it costs you to produce the fragrance -- is a big issue because you are limited by what you can sell it for. For a commercial fragrance there is always competition and keeping your price at a level expected by your potential customers is important. Price your fragrance too high and you lose people. But to hit your retail sweetspot price-wise you must calculate backwards, allowing for wholesale pricing, and then decide what you can afford to spend for each bottle you make and make the profit on that bottle you're looking for. When you do this calculation you may be surprised at how little you can afford to spend to produce that beautiful fragrance you had in mind.

    "Continuity" refers to your ability to replicate your fragrance in new batches, which means you must be able to purchase more of the identical materials you used to make your perfume and mix then in the exact same ratios under the same conditions. You must be able to make more of the exact same fragrance which generally means going back to the same vendors who (hopefully) have not raised prices.

    If you use any "natural" materials the problem is particularly awkward because you must be assured that your vendor has not switched sources. If so, your "fresh" supply now becomes an unknown.

    As to other aroma materials, if your formula includes bases, as many formulas will, you must be certain that there will be an ongoing supply of that base. Many long since discontinued fragrances (say from around 1900 to the 1940's) are difficult to recreate because they make use of specialty bases that are no longer available.

    Continuity for packaging materials is less of a problem unless your sales are supported by a particular visual presentation of your fragrance. Then your ability to obtain more of that same bottle, pump and overshell becomes important.

    When developing a commercial fragrance, you've got to consider all of these elements before you start putting money into the project.

Personal fragrance

    Personal fragrances are a whole different story. When you are making a fragrance for love of the fragrance, with no plans for commercialization, none of the three elements required of a commercial fragrance apply. There's no market research to evaluate -- the market is you. There's no cost consideration. You can use whatever materials you have on hand or can afford to buy. There's no continuity consideration (unless you get really lucky with a formula and like it so much that you want to make more so you can use more, share it around, or even sell it.)

More distinctions

    When you're just messing around for your own pleasure you may be a little lax in documenting your formula or marking the bottle with your favorite trial, which means even if you have the materials on hand, you may not be easily able to produce another batch -- an identical batch -- since you're not sure how you made the first batch. If your goal is a commercial fragrance, you can't be lax. Every bottle, vial, mixing pot or test tube must be labeled and that label must relate to an entry in your notebook showing each material you used, how much of it you used, and where you obtained it, so that you can get more of the (exact) same. If you were planning to commercialize your fragrance on a re-run you would not, for example, use vetiver from a different source. The two sources would not be providing you with the same material, regardless of their being sold under the same name. But when you're making a perfume simply for your own pleasure, this isn't so important and you might find the slight variation interesting and both equally appealing.

Try both paths

    Professional perfumers mess around and, for both pleasure and professional development, create for themselves scents that will never be commercialized. If you have been creating fragrances just for your own pleasure, try, as a test, to develop a "commercial" fragrance -- one that will please people in a particular market, be affordable to them and yet be profitable for you to make, and be fully repeatable -- if the market cried out for more.

    Best wishes.!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

How to find the best name for your perfume

    The best name for your perfume will come out of your own imagination but it might not come out as quickly as you would like. Give your imagination some inputs. Let them settle a bit and then begin to play -- PLAY -- with names, not trying to hit on THE NAME but just playing to see what names you might come up with. When you've played, and played, and played you'll suddenly realize you're looking at more than one good name. Now you've got to decide which of these good names best represents your perfume and the story you have envisioned for it.

    Give it time. More than just overnight. But in a few days you'll find that one name stands out over the others. THAT will be your best name.

    But let's look at how you can give your brain some input that will help suggest names. The wider the variety of input, the more good "name ideas" you'll produce. Here are a few tricks I've used --
Scrabble tiles

    I have a box of Scrabble tiles on my desk. I'll throw them down at random and then start to look at letters that seem to be drawn to each other that make names or partial names. The spelling doesn't matter. It's the sound that's important. The more you play with the tiles, the more names will suggest themselves to you. I've written about this before.

830 perfume names

    More recently I've been playing with a list of 830 perfume names that was generated by computer software. Many of the names in this list are stupid. Many are a bit nasty. Some are nice. Some might be unusable for other reasons but the game I've played is not to use the names but to let these names suggest names, to let them be a starting point to spark my imagination. It's been working for me and I'm guessing that it will work for you.

Other sources of inspiration

    Go through the pages of a dictionary. You might find good names, good parts of names, and inspirations for names. Go through magazines and look for words that sound nice to you and inspire visual images for you. Go through books, novels in particular, and see if some words don't jump out at you and inspire you with variations of these words.

In short ...

    You know your perfume. You know what sounds, words patterns and ideas might work for it. Make lists of lots of names, for a game, without much thought. Then start to match up the names on your list with the images you have of your perfume. You're going to find the best name possible for your fragrance!