Friday, 8 October 2010

The Friday Interview: Diana from Magickal Realism

Today’s interview is with Diana Rajchel of Magickal Realism.
Diana from Magickal Realism
I first came across Magickal Realism through etsy, and I’ve bought (and I love) a few of Diana’s scents. I’ve always been really in to perfume, and, like a lot of people, I can divide the periods in my life up according to the perfume I was wearing at the time (and I shan’t be revisiting Opium. But a sniff of CK1 takes me right, right back. Don’t judge me ;-) ). I was lucky enough to discover Magickal Realism at a time when I was starting to become a bit bored with mass - market fragrance offerings, and wondering if there was an alternative: well, there certainly is, and I’d encourage anyone who’s balking at the thought of buying the latest Jordan fragrance or whatever nonsense Boots are pushing this week to have a look round at some indie perfumers, who aren’t all hung up on the conviction that we all want to smell like pretty flowers or fabric conditioner. Diana’s scents are genuinely different, and have a complexity about them that is very seductive. Also, the names are fab. Who doesn’t want to smell like a vampire groupie? I certainly do. Diana does lots of other stuff too, and I can recommend her writing first hand as I’m a proud owner of the Spellcasting Picture Book, which is great. Anyway! On with the interview!
I think we'd all rather smell like Vampire Groupies than like Corporate Clean Vanilla Fragrance no. 126
1/ Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what you make?
If you asked me my vocation a year ago, I'd likely style myself a writer who makes perfume. Nowadays, I just identify as an artist. I'm at an odd convergence in my career: a plus size blog I started in 2007, mainly to help other plus size women find more clothing sources than the usual suspects, took off in strange and unexpected ways manifesting this year. ( Arguably, the plus size blog is what I'm best known for, despite writing occult nonfiction for more than a decade, and running a magical oils business that became a perfumery over the course of that time.

In terms of crafting, I design perfumes. Once in awhile, I also make body products - usually melt and pour soaps, scrubs and bath salts. Although I planned to get away from it when I started Etsy, I've found myself drifting back toward creating unique occult supplies such as the incinerate incense papers in my trashion line.
Samhain ritual fragrance. It's coming up, you know! Plan ahead!
2/ Which of the things you’re working on at the moment are you most excited about?
Aside from the book I'm writing I'm having a great time making the origami incense bats. I plan to add penguins and other shapes as my skills increase. I'm even looking into Polish paper cutting arts, although at this time I find the approach intimidating.

I'm expanding my trashion line to include trashion accessories. Right now I have bottle cap/wine cork incense burners waiting for listing.

I have in development "uncrossing bombs." These little skulls fizz when they hit water, and are intended for use in uncrossing spells where someone finds water preferable to fire. Once I sort out how to ship them in one piece, I'll have some fun with them.

3/ You use only natural products in your main (non-Trashion) line, which is is very unusual for a perfumer. Why did you make the decision to go all natural, and do you find it restricts you or frees you up?
Going all-natural was not, initially, a conscious decision. I just wanted to work with chemicals that I had the best chance of understanding - and that meant working with natural/botanic origin materials. I've found since then that despite claims by IFRA, natural materials do have a lower rate of allergic response than do synthetics. As a person with chronic idiopathic urticaria, (hives, all the time, with no fully identifiable cause) I've become invested in understanding allergies and allergens. There's no way to serve everyone when it comes to chemical choices and allergic concerns. Why? Because you can be allergic to anything if your body decides to be at any time, water included. Using natural materials I do seem to enjoy better success at avoiding someone's histamine minefield.

Also, popular synthetic scents annoy me; I consider them the olfactory equivalent of Celine Dione and modern country western music. Yes, a lot of people love them, but for me... nails on a chalkboard. The result of the current approach to fragrance is a lot of the same stuff over and over, and since fragrance takes a very different kind of imagination from other materials, it ends up with a lot of people asking only for what they know. Synthetic musks, grapefruit and certain florals are now essentially like elevator music - 4 chords and seven years ago, as Huey Lewis and the News might say. [just a note from me to say I agree totally! ;-) ].
Take thy beak from out my heart and take thy form from off my door!
4/ Does being a Wiccan influence the way you create, or the kinds of scents you make?
Yes, and I've found it's a looping influence. Whenever I drift, someone asks me to come back. I began in the business making magical oils on custom requests under the name Medea's Chariot. I quit for a few years, and decided to revive the perfumery with heavy rebranding in an attempt to move to a slightly more mainstream market, but found that my steadiest customers buy my fragrances most for magical purposes even now. So even though I started to move away from it, I was brought back to it by popular demand, and this happened before I wrote the spellbook. I'm considering starting a separate store for aesthetic perfume shoppers now and giving Magickal Realism over to fellow neopagans completely because of this.

When it comes to new scent designs, they happen either because someone requests it to suit a purpose or need, or because I see something I want to capture in scent. Often the requests reflect a magical nature, enough so that I design all my fragrances according to an astrological model I designed to determine formulas.

5/ Has running your own perfume business changed the way you feel about mass market perfumes? Are there any mass market perfumes you enjoy?
I found myself looking at mass market perfumes much more seriously after I began designing myself. I began to realize, ironically, how over-fragranced the western world has become and how we limit our vocabulary of scent. Even laundry detergent gets perfume added to it. Despite the aesthetic limitations of mass market perfumes, I came to acknowledge some real artwork out there amidst the chemical flow. While I strongly - STRONGLY -disagree in the trade practice of nondisclosure of materials in perfume, I acknowledge that some perfumers using synthetics demonstrate real talent in what they create. I'll let the Environmental Working Group ( take on the issues of what's hiding in those synthetics. The way I see it, I might not find the process for pigmenting paint thrilling but I can still admire a Da Vinci. I just have to take responsibility for what I paint myself.

My mainstream favorites are admittedly few, but I do have them. The two standouts that I love (and can't afford) are Tom Ford's Black Orchid and Coco Mademoiselle. I will sometimes wear Preferred Stock instead of one of my own fragrances. It's hilariously popular with men, who all comment on my yummy smell and then stare at me in horror when I tell them I'm wearing a men's cologne. The way the world has been brainwashed into olfactory gender roles affords me endless amusement.

For nostalgia's sake, I also keep around a bottle of Love's Babysoft Jasmine and I'm hunting down Muguet. I may try to track down Charlie Express! and Le Fleur since I wore those perfumes in high school, and it's fun to look at my autobiography in perfume.

6/ I loved your Spellcasting book, and I understand you’re writing a new book at the moment about Handparting, the Wiccan divorce ritual. I think divorce, and the end of a committed relationship generally, is something that cries out for a ritual to mark the change: do the people you’re talking to generally seem to find Handparting rituals a positive experience?
Yes, I am currently writing a book about handparting, a Wiccan ritual for releasing people from marriage vows upon their divorce. I'm hoping to go the traditional publishing route with this one, which these days may mean a physical book or at least something you can pull up on an ebook reader. I'm currently seeking an agent, and I'm also asking neopagans who have experienced at least one divorce that happened more than a year ago participate in the survey:
It's long and intense, but it also allows participants to bookmark pages and come back as they can.

Of the respondents on my survey so far, the few that have had handparting ceremonies find them positive. I was unable to conduct one during my own divorce, and I would like to think that a formal ceremony followed by "here's some codes of conduct you might want to try" would have been infinitely helpful. As it was, I stumbled through and made more of a mess of what was already a mess. While there's no way to make any divorce, even an amicable one, easy, I felt like younger Wiccans in particular might appreciate the book or perhaps use it as a flotation device.
What I like about grounding is, you can also do it by having a cup of tea and a nice piece of cake. True fact, this is recommended in one of my books
7/ Are there any other perfumers you particularly admire who you’d like to tell us about?
Anyone involved in Rebel Perfumers rocks, really and truly. They're all passionate about forging their own aesthetics in scent, and somewhere I'm stashing a piggybank so I can find a way to try them all.

8/ David Tennant, Matt Smith, or someone else?
Oooh, best question EVER! [note from me. Yay!]. I actually started my Whovian travels with Peter Davison, but I identify Christopher Eccleston as MY Doctor. He brought a gravitas and alien human-ness to the role that brought the series back to life while acknowledging the loss in the first place. I really do love all the actors who played the Doctor; the character is so much more than the actor that plays him, and they've all captured that essence of a hyper-intelligent alien with ADD and low sense of self-preservation beautifully.

Thanks Diana for this – I really, really enjoyed your answers (indeed, I’m going off now to click my own interesting button! That isn't a euphemism!) and I’m going to check out your recommendations, because I’m completely fascinated by perfume (and if anyone else is into perfume as well, can I also recommend this book, which is one of my favourites). I hope the Handparting books goes well too, because it sounds great. Thanks again. (Check out Diana on her website, etsy shop, or plus size style blog).

Have a nice weekend, everyone ;-).


Anonymous said...

Diana sounds really interesting :) I don't much perfume but when I do it's a man's cologne :P should probably get some nice scents :D

Marushka C. said...

Fascinating interview. Thanks!