Gennifer Ciavarra of Sage and Mage makes divine perfumes, skin care, and many other products. Thank you, Gennifer, for your insight on your craft and your journey.
1) Please describe your background. How did you come to make perfumes, facial products, and other bath and beauty products? What do you do when you’re not making these lovely products?
I had problem skin as a child and teenager so I’ve been interested in skin care for a long time – and my sister and aunt are beauty therapists by trade so maybe it’s in the blood! My love for aromatherapy has been with me so long I hardly know where it began. I became serious about making my own products after chronic illness led me to leave my jobs as a writer, editor and jazz singer. I took several years off formal work and during this time I threw myself into researching the healing arts and creating things that made me feel happy in the process of making them. I decided to follow my heart where it took me and Sage and Mage was (eventually!) born.
When I am not making things, I am marketing, mailing, wrapping, emailing, photographing – and all the other things that go on behind the scenes of a small online business. I live and breathe Sage and Mage! I do read a lot of books and I am currently experimenting with my love of the visual arts – painting, felting, collage. I also rest as much as I can because I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue – so if I’m not creating, reading, or working, I am sleeping! I also practice Reiki and meditate twice a day.
2) What is your favorite essential oil, extract, infusion, or absolute and why?
Oh, there are too many! It changes with my mood, my state of health and also what I’m being inspired to make. Today it might be bergamot essential oil, tomorrow jasmine absolute. My first bottle of beeswax absolute was very special to me as bees are one of my sacred totems – and investing in a bottle of tobacco absolute was another joyful experience because I had wanted to smell it for literally years and finally made the plunge to buy some! I always love lavender, mandarin and sandalwood essential oils and Moroccan rose absolute. They can never do wrong by my nose!
I also love scents that are more transient, fleeting ones that we experience as we go about our day. I adore the smell of pink roses and vanilla beans infusing away as a tisane – it’s sweet and comforting and musky. A cup of spicy chai brewing uplifts and energises me, while the smell of a fresh mandarine being peeled has me in heaven! I love the fresh scent of lemon leaves from my sister’s garden crushed between my fingers and the smell of freshly picked basil from my little balcony garden. Recently, a trip to visit my grandparents had me falling in love with the smell of fig skin, warmed by the morning sun.
3) Describe your creative process. How do you usually get ideas for a new product, and what is your process for creating and testing that product?
I get so many ideas, I have pages and pages of my ‘ideas journal’ filled to overflowing! My creative process changes and I go with what feels natural rather than forcing a concept. I often get inspired by the materials themselves – whether I am painting or composing a perfume. Or I might be reading about, for example, a certain goddess and feel guided to create a perfume inspired by her or her sacred plants.
I then start blending oils or putting marks on paper or whatever medium I’m working with, and see what evolves. I try not to overdo it and I am rarely attached to a concept so I am open to different outcomes. A lot of study is behind my creative process so while I do tend to follow my intuition, there are still sound aromatherapeutic principles behind my perfumes, and chemistry underneath the alchemy!
My perfumes are left to synergise for about a week before I do a sniff test and adjust if necessary. My family, friends and clients test my products. I test all my skin care on loved ones with different skin types to get a full range of feedback but I always test on my own skin first and last. Years of trial and error have gone into my skin care products and teas in particular.
4) One of my favorites of my growing collection of your perfumes is your Namaste perfume. It smells so calming and tranquil. When you set out to make a perfume, do you usually have an idea of what you want the end product to be, or do you ever just let creativity take its course and see what you end up with?
Thank you so much, I’m very glad you are enjoying Namaste! When I set out to make a perfume, I usually have in mind the ‘mood’ of the scent I want to create – for example some key notes and the strength of the blend, but apart from that I let myself be guided as to what smells ‘right’. I then follow my nose and my heart until the perfume is finished. With Namaste, I knew it ‘had’ to include saffron strands, and I built upon that one main ingredient.
Rose is a sacred flower for me, so anything with rose in it is particularly dear to me. Truth Serum, a facial hydration gel, is one of my best selling skin-care products and has become something of a signature product. I was so unsure of how it would be received at first, and I am thrilled that people like it and that it is working so well for them. My first full range of facial skin care was based around the healing properties of Moroccan rose absolute and sandalwood essential oil – a divine scent combination that has been a firm favourite for a very long time. Although I always fall in love with my latest scent creations, I do keep coming back to that woody, warm and slightly spicy combination – sandalwood and rose balance each other, masculine and feminine.
6) Can you describe the best feedback you’ve ever received, or describe an interaction that you had that made you feel good about your creations?
I have to admit, I have actually cried at some of the feedback I have received. I feel very lucky. When someone says ‘I can feel how much love you put into your creations’ or ‘your facial oil is the only product that has helped my skin condition,’ I am over the moon and filled with gratitude. I am always touched when someone has taken the time to write about the experience they have had when they receive a package in the mail from my shop. I feel that the feedback I have received has been a huge part of my own healing process and life journey – I was so under-confident when I started Sage and Mage. I receive quite a bit of private feedback of a personal nature and I feel blessed, honoured and extremely humbled to have been an instrument through which someone has been helped or inspired.
Oh, so many I’m not going to have time to make them all! I’d love to have an assistant at some stage this year to do administrative tasks so I can get everything done! I’m currently working on a luxe range of hand and body butters with shimmer and gold flakes; extending my hand cream range to include more scent combinations; a whole shop section dedicated to scents and luxuries for bed and dreams – and of course more perfumes!
I also have plans for two new shops. It was originally three, but I have decided to incorporate the third shop idea into a whole new product range for Sage and Mage: Chakratherapy. The range consists of 100% natural perfumes based on spiritual aromatherapy, for vibrational healing. The range includes perfumes, aura mists, candles, bracelets, creams…and a few more ideas I’m yet to test. One other shop, called Altar and Mantle, will hopefully be launched on Etsy by the end of March, and will feature my visual art. The third shop is still a secret! Two hints: perfume, heroines and books. I hope it will be up and running by the end of the year.
8. Do you have any favorite crafters or artisans that you would like to share with us?
Now, this is the hardest question! Again, there are too many: I can’t possibly choose! I have had beautiful experiences with so many artists, both on and offline. Here are a few I have purchased from recently.
prettytwists.etsy.com makes simply divine art yarn.
conuredcardea.etsy.com transports me to another time and place.
satinandbirch.etsy.com creates soaps too pretty to use.
9) What advice would you give to budding perfumers and other crafters and artisans who are looking to present their wares to the public?
The universe is ever-expanding so there is plenty of room for everyone to shine! Put yourself out there and follow your heart.
My gratitude. And, ‘be kind to yourself’ is my new personal motto.
Gennifer was kind to extend a 20% off sale to Scentual Soundtracks readers until April 15th! The code to enter at checkout is “SCENT20.”