Austin

J.Hannah Co. visits The Blanco, TX Lavender Festival

Yes, it was as good as I had anticipated. We set off from Austin early in the day to avoid the heat and rush. We went into town and explored many local vendors, but Hill Country Lavender farm was our main destination on the outskirts of Blanco, TX. 

Stepping out of the car, the cool breeze was filled with the herbaceous fresh aroma. I wanted to run through the naturally perfumed fields, though I kept my composure. There was a cute little store with lavender essential oil, cookies, and soap, but I wanted to get in the fields for the fresh stuff. This farm grows varies types, but we were cutting the Lavandula Intermedia, or Provence Lavender. We grabbed some sheers and began harvesting!

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Nothing is sweeter than relaxing with a nice glass of lavender lemonade.

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If you are in Central Texas you are in luck because Hill Country Lavender farm will be open till July 13th.  (closed on July 4th) Fri & Sat 10 - 4 / Sun 12 -4. 

J.Hannah Co. Local Low Down: Zoe Comings, Jewelry Designer

Austin, Texas is a hot spot for cool makers and this Local Low Down highlights the outstanding work of jewelry designer & artist Zoe Comings. I really connected with her artistic sensibilities and thoughtful organic approach to creating without compromise. She manages to make bold statements with her delicate designs. I asked Zoe to share more about her influences and inspirations.

What do you create? 

I create a porcelain jewelry line which blends my love of both clay and metal.  (that bridges the gap between art and fashion.)
Zoe Comings in her studio (Photos by Nicole Mlakar Photography)

Zoe Comings in her studio (Photos by Nicole Mlakar Photography)

Large petal necklace, Zoe Comings

Large petal necklace, Zoe Comings

What is your background? 

artistic family, formal education, working for women run creative businesses

I was raised by artists and would have to acknowledge that coming from a creative family, I was always encouraged to express myself.   Aside from my creative upbringing and formal education in the arts, I was greatly influenced and inspired by working for creative, women-run businesses.  I worked for a jeweler, production potter, and a glass artist, as well as years of retail for small family run businesses in jewelry and crafts.  Seeing the various aspects of this over the years has given me a great deal of inspiration and knowledge about what is important to me in my creative path and the elements of my own business.

Zoe Comings in her studio (Photos by Nicole Mlakar Photography)

Zoe Comings in her studio (Photos by Nicole Mlakar Photography)

Who/what has influenced your vision? 

I considered myself a dancer from a very early age and had no interest in visual arts whatsoever.  In college I realized that I didn't want to follow that path and started seeking other creative outlets.  When I discovered sculpture and jewelry I found that I loved making tangible objects, primarily working on a small scale, often to create a larger piece.  I also find that my experience with dance has tied into how I design jewelry, paying attention to how a piece will wear on a person and move with them. 

Coming from a small town I always had a bit of wanderlust to see more of this country.  I did quite a bit of traveling around the US, hiking and exploring the natural beauty of various mountain formations, rivers, sedimentary rock, and mainly being wowed! by the magnitude of time and space that one can experience in the southwest.  I settled for a few years in New Mexico where I discovered my love for clay.  I can't think of a better place to study this material.  From this point on I have considered myself a ceramic artist.  

When I moved to Austin in 2006, I immediately found a studio space and great network of artists at Pump Project Art Complex in East Austin.  In that space I was working on custom ceramic tile and housewares and began working again in jewelry.  I would ask myself in the morning, 'Which do I feel like today, clay or metal?', keeping that separation distinct. I often felt when working with just clay or just metal, that something was missing.  About three years ago I combined materials, and now absolutely love what I do.  I love the process as much as the finished jewelry line. 

Zoe Comings detail jewelry work (Photos by Nicole Mlakar Photography)

Zoe Comings detail jewelry work (Photos by Nicole Mlakar Photography)

Where do you find inspiration? 

flipping through fashion magazines and walking in nature, in no particular order....
I find a great deal of inspiration from the occasional walk in nature, often evoking a memory of a natural element I have seen before or an emotion, for which I like to think brings a peaceful and timeless quality to the line rather than direct interpretation.  I also find equally inspiring to flip through a fashion magazine/blog and try to picture what jewelry I would pair with a particular model's outfit.  This is 'research' after all and super fun!
Zoe Comings (Photos by Nicole Mlakar Photography)

Zoe Comings (Photos by Nicole Mlakar Photography)

Do you have any favorite scents that you encounter in your daily life?  jasmine & clay.

When I bought my house four years ago, one of the first things I did was to plant jasmine along both sides of my house so that I could smell it all around the house when in bloom.  The jasmine by my studio is quite healthy and makes working outside in the spring so lovely.  Also, every time I enter the studio I encounter the strong musty smell of clay which is both earthy and fresh, and thankfully a welcome scent.

Want a Zoe Comings piece in your collection? You are in luck because she has stockists throughout the country.

J.Hannah Co. Botanical Friday: Bulgarian Rose

It's Bulgarian Rose harvesting season! What better time to highlight the flower considered one of the most important essences in perfumery. As a new perfumer, I wasn't always a fan. The oil smelled too stuffy and "old lady" like, but I have grown to adore rose oils and traveling in Bulgaria made me greatly appreciate it's history and origins. Wherever we traveled, everything was coming up roses!

Bulgarian Rose Festival. (image from bulgariatravel.org)

Bulgarian Rose Festival. (image from bulgariatravel.org)

Roses have many various species grown all over the world and in Bulgaria they grow the Rosa Damascena. The Bulgarian Rose Valley near the town Kazanlak is the heart of the oil production. Most of the harvesters are women who work with a delicate and painstaking patience as to not damage the flower. When the flower is distilled it produces essential oils and hydrosols, commonly known as rose water used in personal care and cooking. The harvest happens May to June, and also includes local rose festivals celebrating Bulgarian culture and the treasured national symbol. 

Damascena Rose

Damascena Rose

In perfumery, rose can make a formula find cohesion. It can soften rough edges. It can bring together dissonant oils in the bottle as if they are meant to be together. Seriously, you can't go wrong by adding a few drops of rose. This video at the Bulgarian tourism portal highlights the rose harvest, rose museum, and the local rose festival. 

Want to create a perfume with rose? Join us for an upcoming workshop!

J.Hannah Co., The Experience IS the product

I sometimes get asked why J.Hannah Co. focuses on workshops and private blending sessions. Why not make a perfume product line? Sometimes people just want to buy something, right?

Here's the thing, I could absolutely make a perfume product line. It would be gorgeous and I would sell the hell out of it. That might happen someday, but right now, I am following a very particular passion to teach and learn. I am most excited about talking to people, hearing their stories, and sharing aromas together. There is something magical about natural materials and I have seen how these essences can awaken people. There are stories just under the surface, about pleasure, joy, and sorrow. Beautiful stories. 

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While in grad school I often found myself in discussions about "process vs. product". I earned my MFA in Interdisciplinary Art and Media at Columbia College Chicago and while studying I was fortunate to be surrounded by some outstanding makers. These people are now teaching, publishing, making, and continuing their art careers in profound ways. We could dive into long and winding debates of value, aesthetics, artistic reasonings, craft, skill, and artistry. No matter how these discussions ended, I always came to one conclusion, that the process of making is just as important as the final product.

So, for me the process of sniffing oils, slowing down, talking about what they evoke, and building the perfume is just as valuable as the final perfume. People come to my natural perfume workshops brave and curious and I love leading the charge into these unchartered aromatic explorations. We are building beautiful things together and I feel called to guide the way. The experience IS the product.

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