I thought I put a complete explanation on my webpage, and also here, on my “about” page, but I still get letters asking for more detail about how I ended up doing this as a business . I don’t want to bore the rest of you, so you might want to go read all about the latest political scandal and my feelings won’t be hurt. That stuff is far more entertaining anyway.
But for those that really want to know how I ended up an incense maker and perfumer here’s how it really was. My father worked for “That Agency That Dare Not Speak Its Name” and so I grew up abroad. I was raised in the normal way — I cried, I pouted and my parents spanked me regularly. But I do not have “normal” memories of my childhood. Rather, it was filled with smells and I identified from an early age, the scents of my surroundings and my life in general. For example, most children will tell you that they remember the smell of their mother’s perfume. This is true for me also, but what I remember was:
Shalimar, by Guerlain
Emeraude (the classic original) by Coty
Dior by well, Dior.
But these fragrances are mixed in my mind, with the smell of roast beef, cookies, and fresh bread. If anyone were to actually admit in public, that they remember their mother smelled of Shalimar mixed with Rugelach cookies, I’m certain that Guerlain (or Kranzler himself) would boil over in anger.
Anyway, I remember my childhood in the context of smell:
Mamba moving through fresh mowed grass
Jasmine covering swamp crocodile
Benzine cleaner wiping out rose damascus.
Noone bread (spelling in English) mixed with saffron, supporting a wild musk deer
Saffron covering cheap jasmine perfume
Cheap jasmine perfume floating on pieces of Iranian paper
Iranian paper mixed with glass halal vitamin vials. (even the glass containing them smelled of curry.)
Mix all that together, and you have one confused little girl who doesn’t know if she’s supposed to be American and speak English, or an African Iranian who speaks Farsi and Romanian.
As a teen, I was typically rebellious and went off to study “art” in Paris. I came home because the Gendarmes “recommended” that I was too naive to live there. But I spent my summer in an attic there, and that made me an exotic rebel among my friends. While I lived there, I went to Fragonard and spent two months working for them as a lab tester. I worked among the people who create the fragrances that you know as Dior, Yves St. Laurent, and others. Mostly I worked for dead guys whose legal heirs created really bad outfits for women.
After that, I went on “the road” and became a ne’er do well who had all sorts of jobs and two hobbies: scent and new age religion. As a “new ager”, I learned to blend my own oils into liquid incense, and from there, became an herbalist incense maker.
Fast forward 20 years: Since that time, I have been married a few times (outside the Orthodox Church) and I am now single, probably for the rest of what is considered my natural life, whatever that might be. Several years ago, I went on pilgrimage to Romania, and learned to make the incense that our Holy Church is known for. I will never forget the time I spent in the skete there, learning to blend ingredients in huge black pots.
I’m sure the nun in charge will never forget me either, since I knocked over her only remaining bottle of carnation absolute (valued at about $2000 per half pound, AT THAT TIME.) Her name was Theophania and she waved her hands over the spilled carnation, and said, “Nia!” (Peasant for “never mind”.) She proceeded to show me how to make a copy of carnation absolute, using two very cheap and inexpensive ingredients. When I was done, my “carnation” cost about 20 cents a pound. Even my nose couldn’t tell the difference. I will never stop praying for Theophania.
BPI, as a business, is actually fairly young. I began making Orthodox incense and Byzantine perfume in about 1995, but did not start selling it until much later. When I started, I was actually forced to do it because at the time, I was homeless. BPI started here:
I must never forget the smell of desperation, loneliness, and complete surrender to God. If I had to describe it, I would say that it smelled like cedar, broken in half, covered with pure cocounut and olive oils. Maybe someday, I will make an incense from that, just so that I don’t forget.
God bless you for reading my blog. You are always in my prayers.