June 6, 2010

Creams and cats, Velvet and Sweet Pea

It's been both hot and cool lately, but full summer in the city is right around the corner. With stifling heat and humidity, I wish there were access to fountains, pools, springs and sprays of water everywhere, and a lot more shade, but we have to deal with a lot of pavement absorbing the heat and times of the day when there’s no avoiding the full blast of the sun. Cleanliness and simplicity seem like the only way to go. But that’s not what we’ve got, especially while traveling to and from midtown Manhattan, so I settle for showering twice a day. All that soapy hot water along with some harsh sun exposure from just walking around, can get to be terribly drying.

When this is the state of affairs, scented moisturizers become my fragrance medium of choice, especially when it gets to be ninety degrees plus a number of days in a row. I was lucky to run across a delightful post by Beth Schreibman Gehring, on Laurie Stern's Velvet and Sweet Pea. It's a late-Victorian California style of organic products and perfumes by an artist and gardener, who came to perfume by way of floral design. There’s a pampering-of-the bride-getting-ready-for-the-big-day feel to the aesthetic, crossed with a hand-made Californian love of bodily and natural pleasures and ingredients, crossed again with a layer of 1890s Gold Rush influence. I think of ladies in the old Westerns in their hand-made white lacy under-things, getting out of their corsets and sinking into the white claw-footed bathtub. Only Laurie Stern's is out in the open, in a back yard garden in San Francisco with a thick layer of rose petals on the water, protecting modesty.

I was so taken with this idyllic image of bathing in the garden, and the natural and traditional perfume elements, I immediately ordered a sample pack of perfumes and a whipped frosting face and body cream, in Kashmir Rose. I happened to need a face cream and I had a good feeling from the description of the texture and the delicious ingredients, and my expectations were more than fulfilled. It contains Kashmir Rose otto and Moroccan Rose absolute, and an ambrosial combination of organic shea butter, virgin oil de coco crème, avocado, organic sesame, safflower, marula, vanilla infused organic jojoba, rosehip seed oil and vitamin E. I have been using it so often that I got through the smaller size jar quickly, so I am lucky that extra samples were thrown in for me. The Tuberose and Gardenia Whipped Frosting is remarkable in that the gardenia and tuberose fragrance was made through the enfleurage process, a very rare thing these days. It is subtle and entirely uncloying, which is a feat, considering the notes involved. The shea butter and oils are whipped with so much air that the cream makes a tiny crackling sound when you scoop it out, which I enjoy, and also when it melts from the warmth of the skin’s heat, going from the texture of butter cream frosting to a light fragrant oil. Best used at night because it is so rich, I have nevertheless used it in the morning too, letting it sit awhile over breakfast, and then wiping any remaining shine down with a towel before applying makeup. It's very smoothing around the eyes and a good preparation for eye makeup.

My favorites of the fragrances so far are Narcissus Poeticus, a fresh cool floral green sweetness, notes of violets, jonquille, limes and mandarin, osmanthus and iris, hand-made in limited edition; Honey, an accurate warm aromatic, a relaxing soft fragrance, not as sweet as you would expect, more like honey after it has been stirred into the hot water or tea, and Jewelry of Heaven, a calm, classic fond of jasmine grandiflorum and Himalayan and Turkish roses, in a late 19th century style. They also come in solid form.

Velvet and Sweet Pea is named for the two cats that are the patron saints of the concern, and certainly vigilant guardians of good cream sources. Laurie Stern is a great animal lover, and contributes to the rescue of the cats who haunt the Coliseum in Rome. She has received the Leaping Bunny certification, signifying that the products and the ingredients are cruelty free (of course!)

Above, the rose petaled bath of my dreams in Laurie Stern's garden, and a portrait of Lillie Langtry, the great professional beauty of the Edwardian era, and a beloved icon of female beauty in the American West of that era.

15 comments:

Roxana said...

I'm so happy you have discovered Velvet and Sweet Pea's decadent delights Lucy. Laurie is a treasure!

Lucy said...

Dear R,
I seems like California is such a hot bed of natural perfumer creativity.
I sometimes dream of you all getting together to open some kind of naturalistic department store, or market, to showcase yourselves. That would really be a heavenly place...
I think that like the fine natural and organic food restaurants of Alice Waters, what you all are doing is showing a big influence in beauty culture around the country.

chayaruchama said...

Lu, this just makes me salivate.
I feel like a mad creature, which to sample ???

Lillie Langtry- wasn't she SOMETHING ? !

La Bonne Vivante said...

The whipped frosting sounds fabulous; I have such dry skin, anything that is this rich would make me happy.

Lucy said...

Dear C/Ida, considering your collection, and that you don't in fact want to go bankrupt as well as mad, I would say go for the Poeticus and the Gardenia Tuberose cream, because they are limited edition and the enfleurage technique on the GT is such a rarity. I know you would love them both.
Lillie was divine, the first profession beauty, I understand.

Lucy said...

Bonne vivante, yes it would be wonderful for you, it is the richest...

Laurie said...

Thank you so much Lucy for your awesome article on Velvet & Sweet Pea's! I love the Kitty and cream connection! Mais bien sur! You are welcome to visit anytime!

The Frostings will be available again in September and If anyone is in the Bay Area they can make an appointment to visit the Purrfumery, I do have some Frostings.

XOXO~Laurie
www.purrfumery.com

Tamara said...

So you discovered Laurie's wonderful , magical world. I'm wearing her Fir~Ever Young right now which I fell in love with. Laurie deserves all this credit and more because she understands the connection to nature's beauty and our need to be enveloped in it. And she's a kindred spirit!
Her frostings are a real treat also and smell divine. I'm getting her Black Cat for winter wear and her Calliope Body Oil to go with my nightime ritual of slathering with the frostings. I'm gonna smell so good! Bravo Laurie<3

Scent Hive said...

Lucy,
Such a lovely post dedicated to Laurie's beautiful work. Her frostings are my favorite hand cream for night and it's hard to pick which one I like more, Kashmir Rose or Tuberose Gardenia.

I too dream of having all the natural perfumers together in the same place one day. A naturals Sniffa of sorts. :-)

~Trish

Lucy said...

Yes, Trish, like the Aedes of naturals, that would be so great. I am sure it will happen eventually. Maybe the Aedes guys will do it in NYC when the time is right...

Lucy said...

Laurie,

those frostings are worth waiting for, and I'm glad I was able to get them before the summer, I know they have a special texture that might be hard to ship in the heat of the summer... I love the stuff, as you well know.

I'm wearing Honey today, it blooms out in this overcast humid weather we're having here.

Lucy said...

Dear Tamara,

Yes I saw that Fir perfume, I love the evergreen scents, & it's so dicey because people are reminded of cleaning, but even when they do so I find them so uplifting. I have some Black Spruce essence I am holding myself over with. Also walking under the evergreen trees in the park with the needles all around on the ground that releas a little scent when you step on them. That Calliope oil sounds lovely too. I am always wanting things!

Lucy said...

Please pardon the typos! In a rush!

Tamara said...

Lucy, if you ever get a hold of some F.Y. I'm sure you'll see that it is something totally different than that. I didn't get "cleaning products" at all. I live in the P.N. and I run daily in a forest and it reminds me that, the trees in the breeze, wet earth, then the sun shining on the grass, releasing the sweetness and then it ends kinda smokey, like a campfire under the stars there. It's amazing! I haven't tried the Calliope oil yet but everything Laurie touches turns to gold so I have no doubt it will be bomb. :) Can you tell I'm a bit of a fangirl? I'm insatible too when it comes to fragrant things! Take care <3

Lucy said...

Tamara, thanks for the tip, it sounds very much up my alley...I envy your daily forest experience