Image via: Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery - Stern's own backyard!
This week I had a chance to sit down with Laurie Stern, owner of Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery. Over an organic brunch of cheese, strawberries, crackers and tea made only from herbs growing in her backyard in San Francisco and her own, homemade honey, we talked all things natural, scentual and even about beaver's balls. Come along for a luxurious afternoon in the hills.The afternoon started with a tour of her "laboratory" - the area of her house designated for mixing concoctions and trying out new scents. But before I begin, let me say, as you walk up to her home, you are filled with lots of warm, inviting scents from all the plants she has exploding around her front yard. You figure that you're either in the presence of a master gardener, or someone who definitely likes a plethora of scents. Inside her perfumery, Stein has a room full of tiny tincture, glass bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors and the entire room is full of color and decorations. The feel is very cozy, quaint and antique. What little girl wouldn't love to spend the afternoon here being dazzled by perfumes and having high tea?
While sampling all of the smells, I asked Stein all about her process and how she got started. As a lover of trees, and actual hugger of trees, Stern studied art in school, and just wanted to work with flowers so opened up a flower stand. This led to her working as a wedding florist for over 15 years. While she loved (and still does) flowers, the floral industry chapter closed and Stern was looking for where to go next. It was during this time that she happened to take a natural perfume class, and, as they say, the rest is history.
Stern spent the next 3 years reading, learning and smelling. She found scents, herbs, botanicals and oils from literally all over the world - some very rare and others very expensive. She also began to experiment with all of the herbs and plants in her backyard. Her office is full of hundreds of tiny vials labeled for their specific type of rose smell, for example and for different blends in progress. During this time Stern kept a journal noting how the different scents made her feel and which scents blended best. In another twist of fate, she discovered she lived across the street from a very well-known essential oil dealer and was able to spend many afternoons learning about all the intricacies of the natural perfume world. Let's just say her nose knows - she is something of a master in love with her craft.