Marla Bosworth is the founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company. She teaches classes, corporate events and experiences including candle making, soap making, organic skincare and perfumery.

July 05, 2012

New York City August Soapmaking Classes - Learn to Make 15 Products!

Ready to learn new soapmaking techniques? Want to brainstorm with three movers and shakers in the handmade soap industry? Your timing is perfect, as we are heading into the busy sales of the fall and holiday seasons. Join us and learn how to make and sell more than 15 different types of soap (cold process natural bars, advanced color designs, felted soap designs, wine, beer and champagne soap, cupcake, chai latte and salt bar soaps, and four kinds of glycerin soaps, including photo and personalized bars!

This New York City Soap University 3-day weekend is an exciting, three-day soapmaking intensive program is a fun and educational soaping experience! Whether you're new at soapmaking, or a veteran soapmakers, you'll learn new techniques to apply to your line of soaps to help you increase sales or just have more fun at soapmaking. Choose one class, or come join us for all six classes.

Students receive six classes of training from: Marla Bosworth, founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company (Massachusetts), Amanda Griffin of Lovin Soap (Texas), and Holly Port of Lotion Bar Cafe (Colorado). With more than 25 years of combined bath and body industry experience, these ladies will share their selling and product formulation expertise as well as their in-depth knowledge of soapmaking throughout the weekend with you.

This course intensive is perfect for entrepreneurs who own a business as well as for budding entrepreneurs who are seeking training in the field of bath and beauty. Students receive a certificate of completion at the end of class on Sunday and a photo with the teachers.

Remember to check with your tax accountant, as this class fee, your travel and accommodation expenses and more could be tax deductible.

Students have traveled from Ghana, South Africa, Germany, Chile, Guatemala, Ireland, Venezuela, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Israel & and from around the United States to participate in our programs. 

Dates: Friday, August 24 through Sunday August 26
Times: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily

For detailed class descriptions, or to sign up for single classes, please visit individual class pages under "NYC August Classes" on our website.
Learn how to make these wildly popular felted soaps with Holly Port of Lotion Bar Cafe

Day 1
Morning Session: Cold Process Soapmaking with Marla Bosworth
Afternoon Session: Creating Beautiful Felted Soaps with Holly Port

Amanda Griffin of Lovin Soap will teach students how to make these adorable 
cupcake soaps as well as chai latte and salt bar drink soaps!

Day 2
Morning Session: Glycerin Soap Techniques with Marla Bosworth
Afternoon Session: Cupcakes & Specialty Drink Soaps with Amanda Griffin

Ready to color and swirl like a pro? Amanda Griffin of Lovin Soap will show you how!
Day 3 Morning Session: Cold Process Soap Advanced Coloring with Amanda Griffin
Afternoon Session: Wine, Beer & Champagne Soapmaking with Holly Port

Happy Hour Soaps! Holly Port of Lotion Bar Cafe will 
teach students how to make beer, champagne and wine soaps!

Our classes are held at Little Shop of Crafts, 711 Amsterdam Ave. at 94th Street, New York City. 

We hope you will join us!

For more information or to register, visit our website for NYC classes.

June 11, 2012

Student Spotlight: New York's Soap Cartel

The following is an interview with Dayana and Hernan of Soap Cartel. Both took our New York City classes:

Dayana and Hernan of Soap Cartel

1. Tell us a bit about your background. Where were you born and whatever else you'd like to share as to how you got to this point in your life?

Soap Cartel is comprised of two extremely passionate New Yorkers. I, Dayana, was born in New York City and Hernan was born in Medellin, Colombia during the 70s. We are both artists and as true Pisces that we are, both of us enjoy expressing ourselves be it through music, writing, dancing; you name it, we've tried it at one point or another. I dabbled in TV production after moving back to New York in 2005, studied Information Systems at the Florida State University and Hernan studied at Purchase College in the Acting Conservatory. He is currently an analyst and I work in marketing. We both longed for something we could create with our hands, share with others, and something we could enjoy doing together, that's when Soap Cartel was born.

2. How did you get interested in making bath and body products?

Hernan has Tinea-Versicolor. It's a skin condition that causes discoloration of the skin. Many doctors had told him that there is no actual cure for this; after doing our research we came to the realization that some essential oils such as tea tree and lavender have healing properties that fight against the condition. We began understanding the difference natural products have on your skin, your body, and most importantly your overall health. After our extensive life-changing research we decided to become involved in the process and took better control over what foods we consumed and also what type of products we indulged in, as well as giving more thought into who was making the products we chose to spend our money on. What better way to handle all of this than controlling the process from start to finish by making it yourself; and so that's what we had in mind when we started Soap Cartel. 

Egyptian Rose

3. When did you launch your company?
The thought of the Soapcartel came about three years ago in 2009. We became an official LLC in April of 2012, trademarked our name, and handled all those pesky little things that need to be done in order to be considered an active business. We launched our website May 1st!

4. What do you sell? What sets you apart from other bath and body companies?

We have a complete line of naturally scented cold-processed soaps, which range from a variety of scents and homeopathic preferences. We also carry effervescent bath tablets, shea butter balms,  massage candles and currently working on lip balms and soy candles which should be available on our site soon. I suppose the thing that sets us apart from the rest is that we do this because we truly love it. We chose this path and were fully aware of the hurdles and obstacles that you have to overcome and so we are trekking on, enjoying every minute of it and giving people the best of us, our creativity, love, passion and doing so fully confident in the quality of the products we are offering.

Gorgeous Soaps

5. What course(s) did you take with Marla and what did you learn?

What didn't we learn! We took the How to Run a Successful Bath & Body and Hernan also participated in the Blending Natural Perfumes with Charna Ethier. This was a packed course full of extremely important information and we didn't put our pen down not for one minute! I think one of the most important points for me was that Marla taught us how to properly price the items we are selling. We dedicate so much time to our craft yet we neglect the importance of pricing our items appropriately.

6. What is your favorite part of running a bath and body business?
The favorite part of running a bath and body business is the creating process. Being able to have an idea after having a conversation with a colleague or a friend and feeling inspired to create a particular scent or a bar of soap that derived from an interaction/experience. One of our personal favorite bars of soap is Limonata and it came from a fascination our friend Rose has with all things lemon scented. Smells wonderfully and she loved it too!

7. What is your least favorite part?

Our least favorite part will definitely have to be the accounting process. We are a small business and so we try handle all aspects of our business but that doesn't mean we enjoy it all.

Limonata Soap

8. What are your biggest challenges as a small business owner?
We would have to say that the biggest challenge as a small business owner is being able to manage time wisely and effectively. This was a challenge in the beginning of this process and continues to be a challenge now as we wear many hats and also work full-time during the day.

9. When you have free time how do you like to spend it? Hobbies, sports, travel, etc.?

When we have free time we are creating soap; it's therapeutic and fun for us. When not creating we are diligently working on new concepts that we envision and want to see come to life. We also enjoy outdoor activities with our dog Hankie, as well as camping, hiking; anything that takes us out of the routine of life and places us in a state of total relaxation which allows us to disconnect for a bit. Difficult to do in New York City.

10. Do you have any words of wisdom to share?

What we learned along the way is to be patient; that's the best pearl of wisdom. This cannot all be accomplished overnight! Building a business takes hard work, dedication, research, and most of all patience and belief in yourself and what you are trying to accomplish no matter what anyone says or what obstacles you may encounter along the way. Have a list of things you need to get done and make sure you get them done. Cross them out as you go along and when you look back you will see all that you have achieved throughout the process, pat yourself on the back and then keep going.

11. What are some of you greatest business accomplishments?

One of our greatest business accomplishments is seeing people enjoy the fruit of our hard work and dedication. Nothing is more gratifying than hearing back from our customers letting us know how much they've enjoyed our products. Best.feeling.ever

12. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you Marla for this opportunity, you are truly an inspiration and we can't thank you enough for all you have taught us as well as many others that take your classes and hear your words of encouragement and wisdom every day.
Ready to buy these fabulous products? Visit Dayana and Hernan at Soap Cartel, send them an email at or call 646.926.SHOP.

June 03, 2012

How to Spot Beauty Products Trends: Part Two
This is Part Two of a two-part blogpost on how to spot beauty trends to help grow your beauty business. If you missed Part One you can read it here.

In this post, we're going to continue the discussion and also provide tips that you can apply to your own bath and body business to update your beauty products.

Most “futurists” study what is going on now and apply trends that are happening in other areas to new ones. For example, the news and media keep reporting how insular we have all become within our smart phones and social media addictions. We nod and carry an in-person conversation while texting someone else and laughing. We are losing the ability to communicate in the real world.

So reading what people need now isn’t necessarily going to be some great new product. Sometimes it is a marketing angle or packaging  aesthetic that plays off of the situation.
When futurecasting, ask yourself how will you update an existing product to adjust to trends or capture a new vibe?
Here are some ideas to consider to get you started:
  • Try new color names, new color labels, update font or text.

  • A variety pack of small items instead of one large item to get across a theme or aesthetic.

  • Ask yourself, “What are my competitors doing? What are they promoting? Am I on-trend or are they wrong?”

  • What are getting the biggest hits on your website? Is it selling or do you need more variety in that area?

  • What is dying off? Do you need to put that on “hiatus”, discontinue or repackage with a new name, color or some other tweak?

  • What new lines or products are being promoted in the marketplace ( i.e: spa or organic categories). What’s happening in In Style, Allure, and Vogue magazines? Take advantage of the large corporation’s millions of dollars and expertise in reading the marketplace.
  • What is happening in home, bathroom and kitchen trends with style, color (i.e.: towels, drapes, accessories, etc.)? If your product relates to this – are you up-to-date?

  • Are you shopping in retail stores and researching competition online within your distribution level, above and below? You have to be aware of everything. You may see the same idea at all levels. How is it interpreted? How does it differ? Where does your price, quality, packaging fit in? Does it make sense to your target market? Evaluate and adapt. What do you need to do to catch-up, keep-up or change-up?

  • What products are being promoted on the beauty spots on morning shows (gifts, at-home spas, organic, sustainable, high-end organic, yoga, glam, etc.)? Would you fit in or could you raise the bar in regards to that product offering?
Futurecasting isn’t always finding the next trend or expanding on the one that seems hot...sometimes it is looking for the twist on the existing or the need caused by it. It doesn’t have to be innovative and startling in thought- being too early is just as bad as being too late. 

Be aware of who/what you want to be and who/what you don’t. Find one or several inspiration/ aesthetic/innovation “mentors” in the industry or outside of it. Apply those same thoughts or innovation or ideas to your own line with your own twist and the idea will probably cast a fresh light on your product.

This article is republished with permission from the May/June 2012 issue of The Saponifier Magazine. It is written by Jennifer Kirkwood and Marla Bosworth. Jennifer Kirkwood is the founder and owner of La Dolce Diva, Inc. ( a bath & body novelty gift boutique collection. She is also an award winning activewear designer and for 25 years has been reading trends and designing into them as an in-house designer and as the president of her own design consulting firm. She has worked at length with companies such as Callaway, Hanes, Disney, Russell Athletic, Soffe, LA Gear, Target and Spalding as well as for the Atlanta Olympics. 

Marla Bosworth is the CEO and President of Back Porch Soap Company (, a wholesaler and retailer of sea-inspired bath and body products. She is also an independent bath and body business consultant and teaches soap, natural cosmetic formulation and bath and body business classes in Boston, NYC and San Francisco. She is a market research analyst and has worked with companies such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Canon and Xerox.

June 01, 2012

How to Spot Beauty Product Trends: Part One 

Looking to spot trends and develop new beauty products for your bath and body line? Futurecasting – the study of change - can do just that for you. There are three rules to futurecasting or trendspotting: observe, analyze, and execute. Implement these three rules to your own line of products while taking into consideration your the aesthetics, demographics and budget of your brand. This blogpost is part one of two posts.

One of the best futurecasters was Steve Jobs, the former co-founder of Apple Computer. He knew what people wanted before they did. He didn’t believe in focus groups. He went with his gut, and his vision of the future. Jobs was inspired by a Xerox prototype (the Xerox Alto 1973 Prototype Workstation to be exact) and he took it from there to combine technology with his own love of minimalist form and function.

Can you learn or acquire the ability to futurecast? Absolutely. The level of expertise in execution can be a combination of luck and talent and this eventually turns into a skill.  Successful futurecasting and applying learned evaluated knowledge causes others to see you as innovative and fresh- it doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel or copying. When you see a new product announcement, look closely and see if you can identify the inspiration or the trend. When you start observing the everyday products you use you will begin to notice subtle updates in color and type or packaging. Sometimes this change is announced with bold lettering, or the print on the front label panel announcing that the formula is “All New!” or “Improved!”. Often times it is just subtle and changed along the way so it looks fresh and timely.

The trick is to find inspiration and constantly study what is going on around you. Futurecasting is not a sudden bolt of lightning- although it feels like that. It is usually observations stored in your memory that all come together in an instant by a seemingly unrelated spark or impetus. Somehow your brain reaches inside and pulls it all together sub-conscientiously. This is why brainstorming is so great – it is free-form relating and it can spark great ideas. The skill is to learn how to be in the moment and objective at the same time. Try and apply abstract thoughts to the central idea and see how what develops. Once you start reading the market- it becomes innate and you will be able to see your own bath and body line in a new light. 

Why It’s Valuable

It’s important to stay ahead of what is happening with consumers in your target market and know what future trends are coming. Why? Because from that birds-eye view you can deliberately develop and market new products to appeal to a growing trend for great success.

Here’s an example: Since consumers are still “cocooning” (spending more and more time at home) and spending less time in stores shopping for gifts, one way to futurecast is to think in terms of how this applies to gift-giving. Most of us are spending less time in stores purchasing gifts and mailing them to friends and families for birthdays or other special occasions. Instead, we’re looking for internet “solutions” or gifts that we can buy online and simply ship to the recipient. We can do this with our feet kicked up watching our favorite television show instead of driving store to store looking for the perfect gift.

Now that we realize “cocooning” is still prevalent in the U.S. (a trend that began before the economy’s collapse in 2008), we can understand the popularity of such technological conveniences as the internet, home entertainment, cellphones, smartphones and other advances in communication which allow for work-at-home options. With that understanding, we apply that thought to how it relates to our bath and body customers. Get inside the customer’s head. If they are spending more time at home, what does that say about their purchasing habits? Perhaps more of their bath and body products are bought online. Better yet, how about putting more time and development into providing gift-giving solutions to online consumers? If they are spending more time at home, we now understand that there is a need for convenient gifts that can be sent to a recipient with the click of a mouse or a few keystrokes versus getting in the car and driving to the nearest retail store to pick out a special gift.

In Part Two, we'll continue this discussion and also share tips on how to update your beauty products.

This article is republished with permission from the May/June 2012 issue of The Saponifier Magazine. It is written by Jennifer Kirkwood and Marla Bosworth. Jennifer Kirkwood is the founder and owner of La Dolce Diva, Inc. ( a bath & body novelty gift boutique collection. She is also an award winning activewear designer and for 25 years has been reading trends and designing into them as an in-house designer and as the president of her own design consulting firm. She has worked at length with companies such as Callaway, Hanes, Disney, Russell Athletic, Soffe, LA Gear, Target and Spalding as well as for the Atlanta Olympics. 

Marla Bosworth is the CEO and President of Back Porch Soap Company (, a wholesaler and retailer of sea-inspired bath and body products. She is also an independent bath and body business consultant and teaches soap, natural cosmetic formulation and bath and body business classes in Boston, NYC and San Francisco. She is a market research analyst and has worked with companies such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Canon and Xerox.

April 18, 2012

10 Important Tips for Choosing the Best Soapmaking Classes and Cosmetic Courses

Soapmaking classes
Soapmaking classes in New York City taught by Marla Bosworth.

Wondering how to make soap or how to make lotion? There’s no better way to learn than taking a hands-on class. Even if you are an experienced soapmaker or cosmetic formulator, continuing education can be a vital link that keeps you up-to-date with the latest techniques and new ingredients on the market.

Just as there are varying degrees of students, there are a plethora of teachers and classes from which to choose.
Here are my top 10 tips for choosing classes to best match your needs:

1.       Expectations – Depending on the type of class you’re interested in taking, check your own expectations. What it is the “takeaway” that you want most from a class? Are you taking it solely to learn how to make a single product or two as taught or do you wish to develop a product beyond the recipes that will be covered in class? Perhaps you’re interested in learning new techniques to add your existing products?  Inquire about the level off curriculum. If you are already familiar with the basics, will the class teach you above and beyond what you already know? Or on the other hand, if you are a beginner you’ll want to confirm that the information taught in class won’t “leave you in the dust.”

2.       Class Description – Try not to make any assumptions when it comes to reading class descriptions. If you’re not sure what will be covered in class, email or call to clarify. In addition to the class description, inquire about whether you will receive a thorough class handout with instructions. Does the instructor share a list of suppliers and industry contacts? Also make sure you understand any cancellation policies. What is included in the class: is there an additional materials fee, do you need to bring anything, and is the teacher available through email to follow-up with any questions once class is over?

3.       Class Size – What is the maximum size the instructor will allow? Will this class size allow for enough personalized attention?

Will you receive hands-on training?

4.       Instructor –Each instructor has different strengths. Some might be better at making creative soaps and can show you how to do the same. Others may have a better understanding and background in developing successful and profitable businesses. You can gain quite a bit from an online picture. Here are some questions to ask in regards to the teacher:
·         How long has the instructor been teaching classes?
·         Does the teacher appear professional?
·         Do they have affiliations with industry associations?
·         What is their background and experience?
·         Does the instructor have their own full-time bath and body business?
·         Confirm that they have teacher’s insurance in case of any unforeseen accidents in class. Ask for proof if this is something that concerns you.

5.       Location – This may not be at very top of your list, but it is certainly something to take into consideration. Are you interested in the class because is it located close to you and convenient? If you need to travel can you justify the level of teaching that you will be given in exchange for the additional cost of accommodations and other expenses? Also, will you be able to deduct your travel expenses? Perhaps there other opportunities in the area if you are traveling to a city. For example, target potential wholesale accounts or visit a trades how that coincides with the class dates.

6.       Website – Does the instructor’s website appear professional and organized? Is there a lengthy, in-depth description of the class? Typically this is a good sign that if the teacher is organized and will carry the organization through in the class.

7.       Contact the Instructor – Make the connection with the teacher. Leave a message if you are prompted to voicemail and make not of how prompt the instructor is in returning your call. When you do connect, are you treated professionally? Does the instructor have time to answer your questions? Does she or he sound organized and knowledgeable? Ask about class size, what is covered during class, whether the teacher is available for followup questions after the day of class, and where to find pictures and class information online. Ask how long the teacher has been making products, how long she or he has been in business, how long they have been teaching, inquire about their professional background, whether the they have a full-time soap or cosmetics business, especially if you want to learn how to run your own soap or cosmetics business.

8.       Search for Online Reviews – Search, Facebook business pages, Twitter, and conduct a Google search for class reviews. Simply type in the name of the instructor or company and see what online feedback you can determine from previous students. Check out previous class photos to see where workshops are held and the structure of the class.

9.       Ask for References - If you’re making a substantial investment, perhaps for an extended program, ask for references from former students. Also ask for success stories from the instructor. What have some of their students done with the information they gained in classes? Are they hobbyists or are do they have a business?

10.   Depth of Class Offerings – It this a one-time class or ongoing series that you’re taking? Would you like to develop the business while working with one instructor, or are you looking to work with a number of teachers?
With a bit of research and preparation, you'll be able to find the class that is the right fit for you. Set expectations and ask plenty of questions. A little time invested into research will give you a great payback in matching up with the type of class that fits your needs. 

This article is written by Marla Bosworth and reprinted with permission from Saponifier Magazine

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April 11, 2012

Natural Perfume Classes with Charna Ethier - Getting to Know Your Instructor

natural perfume classes
Charna's line of natural perfumes.
Charna Ethier is the “nose” and founder of Providence Perfume Company (, a natural perfumery specializing in luxurious botanical fragrances. After spending years working with large beauty and fragrance companies such as Aveda, she desired to create her own line of perfumes that were truly natural.

She is a member of the Natural Perfumer's Guild obtaining Professional Perfumer status and a regular participant in global perfume projects and collaborations. Her perfumes have received critical acclaim and have been featured on AOL, The Rhode Show, numerous magazines and fragrance websites and blogs.

Charna teaches natural perfume workshops in our Boston and NYC studios. Her next perfume intensives are scheduled for May 4-5, 2012 in New York City.
Let’s start at the very beginning, where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Rhode Island and grew up in New Hampshire and Vermont.

nyc perfume classes
Charna Ethier
What is your first fragrance memory as a child?
Probably wood smoke. Our home in rural NH was heated solely by a wood burning fire.  We lived in a very rural area of New Hampshire at the top of a steep dirt hill. Our car would get stuck in the wintertime. I remember all of those winter smells walking the rest of the way up the hill to our house  – wet wooly mittens, the smell of cold air, snow and ozone – all those New England winter types of smells.

I draw a lot from scent memories. I like to try to create perfumes inspired by places or events or times in my life. I’ve always wanted to create a “summertime in Vermont” fragrance – inspired by the fields of sweet clover, the smell of hay and citrus sunshine. 

What were some defining moments of your life? How did they shape your personality?
After I had my children I realized I didn’t want to be in corporate America anymore. I wanted to have my own creative freedom. I jumped off the gerbil wheel.  (Charna’s children are Poppy, age 3 and Graham, age 6). Having children made me realize what was important to me in my life.

When did you realize that you had a “nose” for fragrance?
I remember walking into our house as a child, smelling something and asking my mother what smelled like wet dog, cornchips and glue? I was four. It happened to be a casserole that our neighbor had dropped off. I remember my mom looking puzzled. I remembered thinking that I could smell better than other people at that moment. I remember thinking to myself, “Mom doesn’t know this food smells like wet dog, cornchips and glue?” It was then that I started to piece together that perhaps I had extraordinary smelling powers.

I also remember as a kid I always knew it was about to rain. The wind shifts and you can smell something metallic in the air. It doesn’t smell like rain, but like pennies or iron. It smells different suddenly. I thought everyone could smell the same.

How do you interpret a fragrance when smelling it? In other words, how does your mind analyze the blend?
I used to just get an initial positive or negative impression of a scent as I guess most people do. But now I try to figure out the notes, whether it’s a department store fragrance or something I’m making. In a way, it’s sort of a bummer because my head starts to break it down into mathematical equation whereas before I was just enjoying the fragrance.

I’m continuously re-smelling fragrances because they change as they evolve through the top, middle and base notes. So I’m constantly sniffing my wrists every few minutes to get an idea of how the perfume changes as it dries down.

I’ll smell a perfume, and then again in two minutes, and then again in another two minutes. I’ll note that perhaps a sweet orange top note will be really strong, but then transitions quickly into something else, maybe into a creamsicle sort of fragrance because the orris becomes more prevalent.  If I notice a sharp peak or something that doesn’t transition into the next note smoothly, then that’s an indicator to me that I need to tweak the blend or seriously alter it.  Perfumes should be well blended and should have a smooth transition through the notes. It can be difficult to achieve – and I work on that.

How do you define a natural perfumer?
how to make perfume
Divine by Providence Perfume Company
I define it as a person who blends fragrances created from botanical or animal-derived essences using essential oils and absolutes. Beeswax is the only animal-derived ingredient that I use, but I would consider perfumes that use ambergris, for example as natural. I just prefer not to use most animal essences myself.

What are your thoughts on fragrance oils being used in natural perfumes?
 If you use fragrance oils, it’s not natural. Fragrance oils are made in a laboratory from petrochemicals, not made by nature.  That being said, I love all perfume . . .  I just choose to work with this palette of all-naturals.  I think natural essences are beautiful – I just love them. For instance, real jasmine – there’s a little sexy dirtyness to it. Naturals just speak to me more. 

What are your top tips for creating natural perfumes?
Be prepared to make a lot of duds. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to get a prince. You can’t get better without trial and error.  I’ve run out of quips!  It takes time to discover how natural ingredients interact with each other in the perfume. I’ve made some horrible smelling things. You need to play and you’ll learn as you’re playing.

I still to this day keep and age my bad blends. Natural perfumes really change a lot with aging and you need to revisit these blends and learn from your mistakes. A few months later you might discover, “Oh I thought I used way too much sandalwood, but it is blending very well with the rose.” At this point the perfume still isn’t good, but I realize the ratio of rose and sandalwood is good, now I have to work on other parts of the structure, focusing on the top notes . I can still learn a lot from my duds.

These mistakes are what have taught me the nature of the botanicals.  Things like cepes and oakmoss tend to grow stronger as they age.  Something you learn as you age your blends and some not so wonderful creations over the years.  Experiment and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.  It’s a learning process.

Name three things that keep your business running day in and day out.
Coffee, my creative passion, and the internet.

How do you get inspired to create a fragrance?
It is a collection of ideas that are bouncing around in my head for awhile.   I can be inspired by a season or nature. Lately (because fall is here) I’ve been wanting to work on something traditional with an apple-oak note that has chamomile in it. I get inspired by objects, like a wooden box or a warm fuzzy blanket on the couch. I’m also inspired by other perfumes.
I’m one of those people who can’t imaging wearing the same perfume in the dead of winter that I would when it was 100 degrees out, so something lighter in summer, something bolder in the winter.

I created a perfume called Gypsy after reading the children’s book “Madeline and the Gypsies” to my kids one night. There’s this great quote in the book:

“The gypsy mama didn’t like at all
What she saw in her crystal ball . . .
For Gypsies do not like to stay
They only come to go away”

 I found the illustrations from the book incredible- Madeline in the dark night in Paris with a crescent moon above and a bonfire - that was my creative image for Gypsy.   I knew I wanted to create a exotic scent inspired by the book.  This is what I love being the most about a perfumer – the creative freedom and the ability to be inspired.

That’s a great story about Gypsy. Speaking of your kids, what do they think of your perfumes?
Poppy has no interest yet, but Graham likes to smell the perfumes I’m blending. He very thoughtfully sniffs my blends and very slowly says, “Hmmm, smells like . . . cinnamon.”  He tells me that everything smells like cinnamon, despite the fact that there is no cinnamon.   Each time he asks to smell something, I expect his review to be different, but apparently everything I make smells like cinnamon to my six year old!

What are the “telling signs” for when you’ve hit a homerun with a blend?
There’s no way to tell, because everyone’s scent preferences are so different. I can tell technically if it’s well-balanced or blended, but I think you have to learn to trust your gut. Take other people’s opinions into account, but never weigh them more heavily into what you think about your blend. You have to go by what speaks to you.

I wish I could say that everyone loved a particular scent and followed me down the street to ask me what I’m wearing. But the truth is what one person may love is what another person hates. If I get a rousing “no” from my testing panel or friends and family, then I may rethink the blend.

 What are the primary fragrances we’d smell if we walked into your home?
I wish I could say that it smells like jasmine blooming, but it smells like old house. It’s Providence, everything is old [she laughs]. But when you get close to my studio, it starts to smell like a blend of flowers, spices and a lot of vanilla, because I have a lot of vanilla beans in there.

What’s a typical day for Charna Ethier from the time you get up to when your head hits the pillow (assuming you sleep with one)?
Wake up. Get kids ready for preschool . If I’m feeling peppy, walk them to school and return home feeling overly smug for having walked two miles before 8:15 a.m. Drink copious amounts of coffee. Read and reply to emails. Check/receive orders. Pack shipments. Note stock levels on products while packing orders. Make mental note to reorder jasmine and bergamot. Forget to order jasmine and bergamot. Call photographer to schedule follow-up on product shots needed for website. Sit down at the blending table to flesh out a few concepts for a private label boutique scent. Shop owner fluctuates between wanting a spicy unisex blend or a soft feminine floral. Hmm . . . challenging. Decide to create multiple versions of each for our next meeting. Start blending and realize that I’m five minutes late to pick up the kids. Go get kids. Ship packages.  The rest of evening is a blur of cooking, cleaning, baths and stories. Drift off to sleep watching bad reality television or the cooking channel. Remind myself sleepily to order more jasmine and bergamot. Promptly forget.

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