Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Make Herb Infused Oils

A big thank you to Cory Trusty of Aquarian Bath for sharing such a well informed article with us.

How to make Herb Infused Oils
by Cory Trusty, Aquarian Bath

A herb infused oil is a base oil such as Extra Virgin Olive oil or Coconut oil that has been steeped with freshly wilted or dried herbs. Herb infused oils are fun to make and can be used for many purposes including culinary, for anointing, as body massage oils, for general skin care, or as a base for natural salve, lotion & balm remedies. Infused herbal oils are similar to essential oils in that they contain volatile oils from the herbs used to make the infusion, however the concentration of the volatile oils within an infused oil is significantly lower compared to essential oils. For this reason herb infused oils have a number of advantages for the average person compared to working with pure essential oils. First herb-infused oils are very safe, whereas working with essential oils is relatively dangerous and requires extreme care in regard to storage and dilution. There are many recipes in books and online for using essential oils, which are not particularly safe. Second, herbal infused oils can be made easily in the home with abundant herbs which can be harvested ethically, respectfully and sustainably in your local bioregion. For example, in Central Florida common plants like Southern Plantain, Elderflower, Pine.  Plants that are harvested lovingly and respectfully will generously share their healing magic. This is not something that is quantifiable, though many successful herbalists will tell you that the harvester's intention and interactive relationship with the plants is paramount in medicine making. While the energy of infused oils may appear subtle, the healing plant spirit shines through in herbal infusions in a way that is not quite comparable with essential oils, though preparations made with organic and wild harvested essential oils do have their purpose in providing stronger medicine for more stubborn conditions.

There are a variety of methods for making herb infused oils, and each has its own advantage. They each have in common that fresh wilted or dried herbs are used to make the oil. Generally leaves, flowers, twigs or resins are used. The first method for preparing infused oils is the 'cold' method in which chopped herbs are added to a clean glass jar, filled with oil and left to steep in for a number of days. This method has it's advantage in that no external energy is required to make the oil, however with this method the chance of spoilage increases when using fresh herbs due to the residual water content in the plant material. Also infused oils cannot be made effectively using resins with this method. A second method is the crock pot method. This method is very convenient in that it is self contained, however much care must be taken to ensure that herbs are not overheated and burned. The third method, which I will present here, is the water bath (Bain Marie) or double boiler method. This is the method gives me the best results. Using a water bath herbs are heated slowly in a glass or ceramic container which sits within a larger container of hot water. This method is fast and convenient, there is little chance to overheat the herbs, and there is low likelihood of having residual water in the finished oil. It is important that the oil remains water free, because water-containing preparations are susceptible to bacterial growth.

Materials for Making Infused Oils by the Water Bath Method
~ Electric or gas burner
~ Freshly wilted wild harvested or home grown herbs OR dried wild harvested or organic herbs
~ Stable base oil (preferably organic) appropriate for either culinary or external use depending on your choice of herbs and your plan for the finished oil: Extra Virgin Olive oil, Coconut oil, Fractionated Coconut oil, Jojoba Wax, Sesame oil, Lard. Fractionated Coconut oil and Jojoba wax have an unlimited shelf life. When making body oils, persons with sensitive skin may wish to avoid coconut oil or use it at not more than 50% of your total oil solution.
~ Double boiler which can be made with a small pot and a Pyrex glass container, a mason jar, or other heat resistant glass or ceramic container. Use a glass container than you don't mind recycling if you are working with a resin.
~ Very clean utensils including: spoon or chopstick, knife, funnel, glass storage jar for finished oil, small plate, and cutting board for working with fresh plants.
~Cheese cloth
~Sharpie pen or sticker label & regular pen
~ Vitamin E
~ Pipette
Clean and clear your workspace. Gather all necessary utensils and containers. Clean containers and utensils thoroughly in a dish washing machine or by hand with hot soapy water and a small amount of borax. You may also chose to sterilize utensils in the same way that one would do for canning. Another option is to wipe down utensils with high proof alcohol. Let containers and utensils air dry. Oil containers and utensils must remain free from water throughout the infusion making process.

Gather your herbs. If you are working with dry herbs, then organic or wild harvested are the best choice. Mountain Rose herbs is a good source for dry herbs. For fresh herbs, gather plant material with consideration to the ecosystem from properly identified specimens that are free from blemish and are at least 8 feet away from any roads. The best time to collect herbs is late morning when there is no dew or rainwater on the plant. Collect not more than 10 percent of a wild population of plants.   Depending on your belief system you may wish to ask permission from the plant, explain your intentions, and leave an offering for the plant such as a stone, tobacco, or one of your hairs. Especially for making oils for medicinal purposes it is believed that your oils and medicine will be more potent if you have a good relationship with spirit of the particular plants that you harvest from.  Chop herbs coarsely and let them wilt in the shade for a few hours. Wilting herbs decreases the water content of the herbs.

Fill your clean jar or glass or ceramic container with herbs, then cover with the base oil of your choice. Coconut oil and Extra Virgin Olive oil are my personal favorites. I also use Sesame oil very often. Place your herb-oil container in your water bath and turn on heat to medium-high. Ideally you can cover your herb & oil container partially but not completely with a lid. Next let the herbs infuse in the oil for approximately 1-2 hours. The oil should get warm, but not so warm to burn the skin. You will need to monitor the oil and adjust the temperature. To check the temperature of the oil use your clean spoon or chopstick to drip oil onto your wrist. The oil should feel warmer than your body temperature but not so warm to burn the skin. After testing the temperature place your oily spoon on your clean plate. Be cautious throughout this step not to let water from your boiler to splash up into your herb and oil container. You will know when your oil is becoming ready when it has taken on the color & scent of the herbs. If you have used fresh herbs then you will want to steam off any excess water remaining in the oil before decanting. There are two good ways to check for lingering water in the infused oil when working with fresh herbs. First check the herbs with your spoon, they should have a crisp feel about them. Second, use your lid to completely cover the oil for a minute or two, then look under the lid for condensation. If there is condensation, then continue to infuse the oils with the lid partially covered so that water can steam out of the container. Check again until you are satisfied that the oil is water-free.

Next turn off the heat and remove the oil container from the water bath. Carefully dry the outside of the container and prepare to decant the oil. Place the clean funnel in your clean dry glass storage jar, and line the funnel with a couple of layers of cheese cloth. Pour the oil and spent herbs into the funnel and let strain. When the oil is strained completely, you can squeeze or press the cheesecloth to maximize your oil yield.

If you would like to make a double or triple infused oil then you can repeat steps 3 and 4 with this freshly infused batch of oil.

Double check your infused oil for water if you used fresh herbs. Let the jar of infused oil stand over night. Check the bottom of the jar for water droplets. If there is any water at the bottom of the jar, then you will want to pour the oil into a fresh jar, or pipette out the water droplets.

Storage and shelf life: Now you should have a fresh batch of infused oil that is clear with no remaining leaf or flower pieces. Oils, including infused oils go bad after a time because of oxidation. Rancid oils are oxidized and will have an off scent. To maximize the shelf life of your oils, put it in a container with a small amount of air overhead, keep it cool and dark. Add a small amount of Vitamin E to extend the shelf life of your infused oil.

Suggestions for Herb Infused Oils
Culinary: Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Mint
General Skin Care: Calendula flowers, Mulberry (Morus alba) leaves, Elderflowers, Plantain leaves
Invigorating Massage oil: Mugwort leaves, Camphor resin, leaves or twigs, Lemongrass, Goldenrod flowers
Congested Chest Massage oil: Camphor resin, leaves or twigs, Lemongrass, Pine twigs & needles, Mint leaves
Anointing oil: Frankincense resin, Myrrh resin, White Sage leaves
Extra strength: double or triple infuse your herbal infused oil
Locally grown: What is growing in your back yard or neighborhood in abundance? Check out a field guide from your local library. There are many medicinal wild weeds, trees, and ornamental plants with culinary or medicinal value that would be great to experiment with.
Natural colorants: Annato seed (below), Alkanet root (see first blog image)

Article by Herbalist and Soap maker Cory Trusty in Daytona Beach.  Visit Cory’s online at twitter, Facebook or Shop at Aquarian Bath.

Copyright 2011 Cory Trusty, Aquarian Bath.  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Kelly Tankersley

I discovered Kelly Tankersley's stunning artwork one day, quite by accident, while I was scrolling through Etsy looking at artists.  The fact that she is a printmaker AND makes handmade paper (two of my all-time favorite mediums) made me want to find out a little bit more her and the varied processes she uses to create her beautiful prints.  As it turned out, Kelly is also an ex-art consultant.  So this turned out to be a very interesting interview, with a twist, as she reflected quite realistically on wearing both hats.
                                                                                                            ~ diane fergurson

Night Voyage Guided by the Moon
MBS: Can you tell us a little about your background?  How you got started in art?

Kelly:  Ha Ha!  I don’t know why I find that question funny but I do. I’ve loved making art since I can remember. My mother dabbled and was a great art appreciator—she hung a Georges Braque still life (poster) in our kitchen nook as well as some others from that period. Also, I was lucky enough to live in Japan as a little girl and that definitely raised the bar and expanded my aesthetic antenna. In addition to winning a few art contest as a school girl I was also a math whiz. I started college as a math major, but became board and switched to art somewhere in the middle. My father (chemical engineer) was floored. My BFA is in photography and printmaking—go figure! After college, I managed to work in art related fields as a dark room technician, art consultant, gallery manager, grant writer for non-profits art orgs, and so on. It wasn’t really until I joined the regular corporate world that I began making my own art again instead of promoting others’ work. The timing also coincided with the kids growing up—so young mothers and fathers don’t give up on your dream! That’s how I got started but a shout out to a beloved colleague from my past life, creative writer Brad Parks, for coming over one weekend and showing me how to make paper. That was a catalyst moment for me—it all just came together, the marriage of photography and printmaking on handmade paper. Pure bliss . . .

MBS:  Ah, the love of making handmade paper... I can relate to that!  What did you find magical about it?

Kelly:  Making paper is magical, as is printmaking, because so much of the result is, in a way, beyond my control--or "out of my hands." I love the happy accident and the magical transformation that takes place when you cook and beat plant materials. Each type of plant renders its own unique signature. Inner tree bark, such as Polynesian gampi, it super strong and translucent! Rain lily paper is a gorgeous green and the fibers seem to run in parallel pairs—quite unexpected! Banana skins are tough and can make great paper for embossing etc … It is simply fascinating!

MBS:  Tell us a little bit about your printmaking process. What kind of prints do you make?  What materials do you use?

Kelly:  My art really came together for me when I married my love of photography with making my own paper. I match up images with types of paper from white cotton with grass seeds in it to give it an Asian feeling to an oriental paper created as thin and translucent as I can get it to use as a chine colle substrate. The photographs are exposed on a solar plate and printed as intaglio etchings. A typical photo for me is the sky, trees, seed pods, whatever, me and my German Shepherd come across on our walks. I often manipulate the images slightly in Photoshop to increase the contrast and reduce them to their most calligraphic state while still being recognizable.

Moonrise in Charmed Meadow
After I've made a very planned and choreographed suite of prints, such as February Visit, I go into the studio and just play--I call it "free falling."  This is how the series "Moonrise in Charmed Meadow" came to be. I printed a photo image over folded paper that had been monotyped on the back. The results were quite surprising and I loved the happy accident that most printmakers enjoy.

Alas, I don't always have access to an etching press. Thank goodness for gelatin printing. Anybody can create gelatin prints at home. You simply create a concentrated "jello" slab, ink it up, walla, perfect printing substrate--very suitable for botanical studies using pressed plants, etc . . .

MBS:  That's interesting because I've often noticed that the way people make their art, and also the mediums they choose to work in, reflect a lot about their approach to life and often their spiritual belief systems too.  Even for a printmaker...some printing processes are very measured and precise. Very ordered.  Other methods allow for more "free falling", as you called it.  What are your thoughts about that, and how does the way you work reflect your nature and spirituality?

Kelly:  First and foremost, I view my work as a collaboration with nature. Not an equal one, more like I'm an apprentice, learning, observing, soaking it all in. I'm happiest when I have less control--thus the print making versus painting, thus the mad-scientist making paper versus purchasing already made paper.  I never tire of just looking and waiting to "glean" the secrets the universe unfolds to me. The understanding is not literal or neat, it's all just a feeling, a feeling of connection—a happiness to be invited to the party.

MBS:  What's a typical work day like for you?  Do you work on your artwork every day?

Kelly:  Unfortunately, I am not a working artist. I have to have a day job. So, alas, I am mostly a weekend artist with plans and preparations happening during the week.

I have been known to take art vacations where I take a week off and go to the studio at 8am just like my day job. Those are a blast and, of course, very productive.

When I make paper, I take over the entire house for three to five days. I dry the paper on our windows so the house looks quite odd to the passerby. For printing, I tend to also do marathon printing sessions. I guess my obsessive nature shows, when I get started, nothing else gets done. no laundry, no housework, oh and yeah? Do I really need a shower today?

My dream work day would be up and out hiking with my dog by dawn. Back to make art all day. Early to bed and do it all again the next day.  What bliss that would be.

Double Moon
MBS: I know many artists who are very hesitant about selling their work online. I've noticed that you actively sell quite a bit of of your work that way.  How has selling online and social networking worked out for you as an artist? Any advice you can give to other artists who are thinking about selling their work this way?

Kelly:  I have been selling my work online for almost a year now.
The amount of sales is low, which as an ex-art consultant, I kind of expected.
The real value to me in selling online is the feedback and encouragement from other artist. Sure, we can't all buy art, but you bet kindred spirits just find each other online--they just do!

What that does for me as an artist is I turn off that negative voice in my head while in the studio, because sales or no sales, I have received enormous positive feedback from the online community so I know I am reaching people through my art. That's all we really need, along with love, food and shelter. The sense of community and bonding is worth every minute spent online.

February Visit, Doves Dip
MBS:  I think that's an interesting area you touched on, that someone viewing sales through the eyes of an art consultant is much different then the same person viewing it through the eyes of an artist.
It can be a real issue between artists and their art representatives/galleries, and people wrestle with it constantly. As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, how do you view the issue and how to you balance two things yourself?  What advice would you give to people - besides turning off the voice in your head or following your own drummer etc...

Kelly:  Honestly, we all know how essential art is to the human experience, and yet it remains a luxury.
The only solution is to make art because you love to make it. Put in some serious marketing time and then don't expect to make a living at it. Another solution, which I am considering, is to merge your art with something functional like wearable art or home decor on an affordable basis.  Fine art is like acting, only the top 1% make it--that's just the facts.

Me and several of my friends discuss this quite often. At the end of the day, we would never stop making art. I'm also a normal middle-class "worker-bee" who never mustered the nerve to be the hippie I feel I am inside. And there is something to be said about the value of a work environment--the community can be very positive, I've found. I am rambling at this point, but I guess I'm saying be careful what you wish for. Most artists are alone in their studios, and I actually like the regular daily camaraderie of the work place. I wouldn't want to face just me everyday.

MBS:  So it sounds like you are advising people who want to pursue  their passion of "being an artist", that they they may need a healthy dose of being "realistic" too? 

Kelly:  YES 
be practical in your expectations of sales
shoot for the moon in your imagination!

Moonrise Charmed Meadow solarplate etching
MBS:  What are you currently working on and what would you like to explore next?

Kelly:  I am going to treat myself to a printmaking workshop and learn pronto-plate.
I hear it is very easy, but I prefer to learn from an expert!
I have a series of cloud images that I hope to realize into prints soon.
It's just a matter of time and money . . .

MBS:  Good luck, and thank you for the interview Kelly!

Kelly's gorgeous artwork can be found in her Etsy Shop, 88editions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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If you would like to read more artist interviews from our on-going series, click on
The Mind Body Spirit Artist Series.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Song

                     "A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song."
                                                                                                ~  Chinese Proverb

* Robin Watercolor Print , courtesy of Welsh Artist Alison Fennell, is available in her shop on Etsy.
Also make sure to read the Mind Body Spirit Artist Interview we conducted with Alison earlier this year.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: Children's Spirit Animal Cards

Children's Spirit Animal Cards by Dr. Steven D. Farmer, Published by Satiama
When I read that the Children's Spirit Animal card deck had won so many awards - Creative Child Magazine 2011 Seal of Excellence, the Mom's Choice Gold Medal Award 2011 and the Parent-Tested Parent-Approved Seal of Excellence award - I knew I had to order the deck not only for my own work and card collection, but to also review for the Mind Body Spirit Odyssey.

First of all, the illustrations on the 24 card deck by Pamela Anzalotti are not only stunning, but perfect for their visual appeal to children (as well as adults).  The lush, rich colors and clear illustrations are ideal for helping the viewer understand and sense the spiritual essence and purpose of the animals portrayed.

In the introduction to the deck, the author explains that animals are unique expressions of Spirit/God, and that where they appear as a symbol, dream, statue - or even through the cards - there is an important message that is trying to be communicated through that particular animal.  The cards can act as a catalyst for guidance and support.  They can also be used as a tool to open up a discussion between the parent and child using the animal, it's qualities and purpose as a focal point.

For example, an excerpt from the Eagle card says:

Do the right thing
Eagle says:  "As you are growing up you will be faced with a lot of choices.  Some of these will be fairly easy, such as what you want for breakfast or what game you want to play with a friend.  Other choices will be more difficult, such as whether to take that piece of candy from a friend..."

The open ended message at the end of the Eagle card then goes on to ask questions that are designed to stimulate a young child to think, while still conveying that they need to be vigilant and brave, like an Eagle, in their vision and choices that they make.
At the end of the message, for each card, there is a short list of suggested activities designed to prompt the adult (if needed) into expanding the discussion or engaging in an actual project with the child.
As someone who use to be an Art Therapist, Counselor and art teacher for young children (as well as being a parent), I can definitely see where this set of cards would be extremely valuable working with children on all kinds of levels, in all kinds of situations.  In addition to being an excellent facilitator for  opening up discussions about spiritually and religious teachings (without advocating any particular spiritual viewpoint or belief system), the potential therapeutic value these cards hold for a child counselor is amazing.  From an art/teaching standpoint, I could easily envision myself back with my 5 year old clay class... pulling a card, taking about the animal and it's qualities with the class and then having them create "their" version of the animal.  I know my own kids, when they were young, would have enjoyed these cards too.  Visually, as well as to stimulate their imagination and creative play.

This deck is wonderful. I highly recommend it and can definitely understand why it has won so many awards.  Well done Dr. Farmer and company!

This card deck is recommended for ages 6 and above.  It can be ordered directly from Satiama or through Amazon.

~ diane fergurson

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hindu Temple: A Pilgrimage to the Sacred

Thank you for sharing this wonderfully informative post with us Indira.  What a beautiful temple!
Ornamented Exterior, Big Temple

Main Entrance, Big Temple
The Hindu temple is a condensed image of the cosmos constructed as a mandala  known as the vastu purusa mandala. The Purusa refers to the Universal essence which is without form or substance; Vastu refers to the site or the bodily existence or substance of Purusa. At the center of the mandala is the sanctum where the divine image is placed; this divine image, made in stone or wood or brick is the material consecrated representation of the Universal essence.

The building of the Hindu temple is not left to the imagination or the creativity of the shilpi (architect) or the artisans; it is strictly guided by the sacred texts called the shilpa shastras. The construction of a temple, from start to finish, is considered a ritual activity. Architecturally, the Hindu temple resembles a mountain and represents the link between heaven and earth. The triangular tower like structure is called  the shikara or gopuram and is located directly over the inner sanctumLike a mountain, the exterior of the temple is lush with intricate carved representation of various plant, animal, human and divine forms, while the inner sanctum, where the main deity is placed, with enclosed walls is dark. The interior of the temple directs our attention to the center, the garbha or the womb, that which is the source of the Universe. The inner sanctum is called the garbagraha or the womb chamber.

The journey of the worshipper to the temple is considered a pilgrimage in itself. The pilgrim starts the journey by circumambulating the temple first, the exterior form of the Universe, then walks to the interior sanctum, the center of the Universe. Approaching the sanctum, the worshipper performs another circumambulatory passage around the sanctum before "seeing" the deity at the center. The deity in the inner sanctum is the primary consecrated image of the temple, though a temple may have several secondary gods housed in various shrines placed in appropriate quadrants of the mandala.

A Hindu goes to the temple to receive 'darshana', a Sanskrit word meaning "seeing". It is a dialectical act, seeing the divine and being seen by the divine. According to Hindu theology, God is present in the image and is real.  By standing in front of the image and looking into its eyes, the worshipper seeks the divine blessings.

The images shown here are of the Brihadeeshwara Temple, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site that turned 1000 years old last year. It is located on the banks of river Cauvery in the town of Tanjore, Tamilnadu, India. It was built by one of the emperors of the Chola dynasty, Rajaraja Chola. As befitting the richest empire of its time, it was built on a large scale and came to be called the Big Temple. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, its most striking features are the 200 ft tall tower (gopuram) that rises from the base sanctum, the massive granite cupola (vimana) at the top of the tower and majestic stone image of Nandi, the sacred bull.  It is one of the best examples of the south Indian style temple architecture.

I have not been the temple myself but my husband got the chance to see it just as it was being renovated. I think these photos have captured its majesty and magnificence.Hindu god Shiva,

Nandi, the sacred bull

Thanks for visiting.

  ~ Indira Govindan
Indira's beautiful journals, artwork and jewelry can be found in her shop on Etsy.

(Photos courtesy: S.V. Govindan)

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Paradox Of Our Age

                                                   We have bigger houses but smaller families;
                                                         more conveniences, but less time;
                                                      We have more degrees, but less sense;
                                                        more knowledge but less judgment;
                                                         more experts, but more problems;
                                                      more medicines, but less healthiness;
                                                 We've been all the way to the moon and back,
                                                   but have trouble crossing the street to meet
                                                                      the new neighbor.
                                                       We built more computers to hold more
                                                information to produce more copies than ever,
                                                             but have less communication;
                                                          We have become long on quantity,
                                                                    but shot on quality.
                                                            These are times of fast foods
                                                                    but slow digestion;
                                                            Tall man but short character;
                                                     Steep profits but shallow relationships.
                                               It's a time when there is much in the window,
                                                                but nothing in the room.

                                             ...take from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

                                 Colorado Prairie Windmill by photographer Julie Magers Soulen

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