Welcome to our feature on For Strange Women, a collection of 100% natural artisan perfumes and other concoctions fragranced with all plant extractions. With inspiration drawn from the Victorian era and a deep respect of nature, this perfumery evokes the serenity found in a pristine forest while visually creates a hauntingly beautiful sense of the past. Quirky concepts and delightfully odd original recipes combine with an eco-friendly approach and the artful romantic design of her products make For Strange Women a true, one of a kind, unique experience.
A little about Jill:
Jill began making her own concoctions about 10 years ago because she was sensitive to the harsh chemicals used in commercial cosmetics, fragrances, and soaps, and could not find truly natural products anywhere. Jill fell in love with herbalism, aromatherapy, and eventually the coveted realm of natural perfumery. Although she makes everything from soap to lipstick for herself, she decided to focus her offerings here to the emotionally rich realm of natural scent. Jill is naturally tactile-oriented person and loves exploring the texture within the perfume, all the way through to the design of her packaging. She finds an amazing comfort in natural ingredients and wants to share this through each of your senses.
She has a professional background in video, graphic design, screen-printing, and photography, but as her FSW business grew, one day she simply refused to work for "the man" anymore.
In her own words:
“Inspired by music, yesteryear, and my animal friends, I work every day to bring myself and my customers a closer connection to nature, a sense of peace through aromatherapy, and the idea that doing things as we did them a century ago is just as progressive today.
As an artist, my first language was dance, then music, and now perfumery, and although they seem as if they would be very different, these disciplines are truly interconnected. Balance, harmony, acute sensory perception, and creative alchemy will always draw me into their magic.“
Jill, her boyfriend, Kev, his son, Simon, and cat, Jaqk, all live upstairs in an old duplex, her studio is the downstairs apartment. She lives in a widely diverse neighborhood full of great energy, funky shops and restaurants that she can walk to and get her much needed fixes of rice pudding, seaweed soup, wine, or coffee (all the things necessary for survival during hibernation, which she does a lot of.)
Our Interview with Jill McKeever
R&J: Hello, Jill, thank you so much for taking the time to share some of your story with us. It sure inspires me. I think we all face challenges in life. Obstacles appear on our path all the time especially when chasing down our dreams. In your journey, was there a time you almost gave up? What kept you going when those uncertainties reared their not-so-pretty heads?
JM: I have discontinued a lot of things in the past because I had never formed a clear idea of why I was doing them. I would pursue something because I was good at it, or because I was passionate about it, or because it was profitable. But in order to be able to go further with something, it had to be all three of those, not just one.
Uncertainties do not exist when you are truly listening to yourself and you are able to recognize your own potential. A lot of people have great ideas that they want to pursue, but they never follow through with them because they have no support. Inside your head you fear that maybe it’s a dumb idea. I loved the way my cat's fur smelled when he came inside from a winter walk in the snow, and wanted to make a perfume that emulated it. I spent a year developing it and everyone I told about it thought I was crazy. Which I am J
But as it turns out, there are plenty of crazy people like me in the world and many have found my Etsy shop. It does pay off to follow through with your original ideas, even if the people around you do not respond well to the idea in its abstract form. Once your idea has been translated into physical form it is much more likely to be appreciated, because most people cannot see your vision the way you see it otherwise, and because most people never actually follow through with ideas anyway.
So if you are looking outward for support and approval before doing something, you are not going to get much of it. You have to have enough of your own energy and curiosity to fuel the creation of the things inside your head, and the ability to see obstacles the way you would if you were playing a game.
R&J: They say when the student is ready a teacher will appear. Was that the case for you? A role model, a friend or mentor whose advice or faith in you made a difference?
JM: I think my boyfriend was my support and my mentor. He has been working freelance for film/video crews for over 15 years, and when I met him I remember being very happy that his schedule was unconventional and that he had been his own boss for so long. (I had a background and education in film/video as well but realized the long hours away from home, the constant networking, and the ever-changing technology were not for me.)
When I decided I was also not built for a corporate office and that I absolutely must quit my job in order to go back to being an artist, Kev was the only person that was like "ok, so do it." He is pretty fearless, and taught me how to be that way. Most of my family and friends projected their own fears onto me, and it held me frozen in a place I didn't want to be. I stopped listening to them (even stopped talking to a lot of them) and only told Kevin what I wanted to do for a long time, because he gave me the "permission" and confidence to do whatever I want. I think everyone needs a partner like that.
R&J: I often wondered how people are “discovered.” Could you share with us the story of how your feature in Oprah’s O Magazine came to be?
JM: I really have not actively tried to pursue any kind of press. I just concentrate on expressing myself through my own avenues and luckily others enjoy it enough to write about it. Oprah's magazine said they found me by doing web research. It was several months between the interview/shoot and when it was finally published, so I had plenty of time to prepare for several busy months afterwards. I liked how professional their staff was. They really took the time needed to make sure the story was an accurate representation of who I was, and for only having one page, they did a great job.
R&J: Etsy is such a wonderful fertile place for creativity and support and what you have accomplished on Etsy is amazing. You have shared a lot of fine points on the best business practices on your blog that really helped you on your way. I just wanted to share this with our readers. It’s one of the best reads on the subject I have found.
The thing that struck me most was your observation on intertwining… immersing yourself in your art or craft until the lines are blurred and life is just life. What is an average day for you? Do you have any secrets on how to do all the things you need to do balanced with the things you want to do? Or any relationship tips for the “magnificently obsessed?”
JM: You really have to enjoy every aspect of what you do, and if not, I outsource to someone I trust with the job (example: website development).
If I begin to feel unbalanced or overworked, I make a point to go on an adventure. I always come back from a long walk in the woods or a vacation feeling refreshed, free, energized, and inspired. To me, taking a vacation is sometimes the best thing I can do to help my business. This is another example of immersing yourself into your craft. If you feel drained, your work will be this way, so you might as well soak up all the good energy of the world before you go back to working on a project. The energy you collected from your adventure will find its way into your handiwork, and most people pick up on this subconsciously when they look at and experience your work.
I am very sensitive to time, and I think it is important to work with time instead of against it. Designing a routine structure for the days, weeks, and moon cycles has definitely helped me to feel grounded and moving forward.
An average Tuesday-Friday for me is waking up at 8:30, going downstairs to the studio and working from about 9am until 5 or 6pm. I have met several amazing friends since I started my business, all girls who are artists and freelance designers, and they come in throughout the week whenever they are not busy with other projects to help with my production. (Yes, they all qualify as strange women!)
Often there are as many as 3 or 4 of us working around the table at once; listening to music, talking nonstop, and cracking each other up while cutting and applying labels, filling vials, tying bows, and packing orders. They leave around 5 and I spend another couple hours on my computer just doing customer service, designing new packaging, and ordering supplies. Dinner is usually eaten out these days because I have no creative energy left for the kitchen at this point. Luckily, Kansas City is a great city for food! Sometimes I skip the computer work and go out for happy hour with the strange women crew or other friends. If I don't stay out late, I come home and try to convince my boyfriend to stop working on his documentary and watch a Netflix movie with me. We usually get documentaries but I like to intersperse those with something that will make me laugh- lately it has been the Mighty Boosh DVD's. Weekends are normal- filled with farmer's markets, long walks, house projects, house parties, gardening, photo shoots, road trips, etc. Mondays are my day to myself. I meditate, journal/sketch new ideas, search for new materials, read books, and clean.
As far as finding balance and relationship tips, Kevin and I both try to take weekends off as much as we can. If you work for yourself and don't designate time off it is pretty hard to come across it. Kevin is as much as a crazed artist as I am. So although we are both are home a lot, we are absorbed in different projects in our designated work areas. We live in a duplex and he works in the upstairs apartment (or is out on set), and I work in the downstairs apartment. Giving each other space is pretty important, I have realized.
R&J: Well, we must say farewell to Jill now. We thank her for sharing her time, wisdom and insight with us. Thank you, Jill, very much, and to you, Kevin for your awesome photography and to Jaqk, of course, for his superb modeling skills.
To read more about Jill and her work, check out her feature on Etsy
Or check out her blog to see what she’s been up to.
Add For Strange Women on Facebook for special promotions, fancy giveaways, and strange outbursts.
A Glimpse of some of her Perfumed Creations:
Botanical perfumery (the old French method) has been replaced with synthetics over the last century, which lack the depth, complexity, emotional benefits, and balance that real plant life possess. Jill’s perfume revives the nearly forgotten essences of carefully selected essential oils, plant absolutes, and other plant extractions sourced from around the world. She seeks out the best ingredients, often from wild-harvested and organic crops, and whole-heartedly supports ethically produced and harvested materials.
Natural perfumes are much different to wear than what you will find at a headache-inducing commercial perfume counter. These essences meld with your body chemistry and stay close to the skin. Only you and those you embrace will be aware that you are wearing it. The botanical distillations are more satisfying to the senses and have subtle healing properties (aromatherapy) that your mind and body will love.
These Dead Sea and Epsom salts are infused with botanical essences to transform your bath into the deep ocean. This artisan perfume blend of thirteen essential oils and plant absolutes include top notes of salty citrus and rosemary, which are quickly released when added to warm water. Within a couple minutes these wear off and the scent goes deeper under the ocean's surface into the heart notes of jasmine, ocean pine, and seaweed, supported with a tiny bit of a fish-like accord.
This is a luxurious way to experience natural perfume without wearing it, and to remember the ocean for those of us landlocked. If you enjoy bathing in sea salt, you will love the added sensual experience of this interpretive seawater aroma accompanying it.
Victorian Perfumed Lockets (Set of 3)
These vintage-style brass lockets each contain an artisan blend of 100% natural solid perfume, handmade in fresh batches from carefully sourced ingredients. This gift set includes all three of my Victorian-inspired collection:
Satin Corset: A floral bouquet in a bed of vanilla bourbon and tonka interprets the scent of a line-dried satin corset. This scent is very similar to oriental lilies, the sweetness grounded with a rounded floral musk.
Violin in the Attic: A blended wood base is enhanced with frankincense and myrrh to emulate the instrument’s carved body, sealed with linseed oil and resins. A warm layer of antique amber fills the heart of this blend, evoking years of rosin dust baked to the wood while left in the attic for generations.
Antique Settee: This blend reveals the past with hints of roses, violets, and everlastings lingering on velvet upholstery. Freshly polished wood trim is woven throughout, finished with a deep base of Earl Grey tea to lend a comforting character.
Each fragrance is highly concentrated in a base of beeswax and jojoba wax. To wear, rub a small amount onto pulse points such as wrists and sides of neck. Your body heat will warm and release the fragrance inside the wax.
Winter Kitty is a 100% natural fragrance inspired by felines, fireplaces, and snowflakes. This blend is an artisan rendition of the sweet, slightly musky smell of a kitty that went for a winter walk around the neighborhood and came back with firewood smoke and brisk air lingering in his fur. Vetiver, Labdanum, and Frankincense add an exotic, mellow base to this unique composition. Rose and benzoin lend an animal-like sweetness and touches of Douglas fir and mint recreate the way the winter air seems to stick to kitty's fur.
If you haven't smelled your cat's coat when he comes in from the cold, I highly recommend it. It's strangely comforting and wonderfully exquisite. And if you are enough of a crazy cat lady, you might want to smell this way yourself. Meow.
Combined with nourishing jojoba oil and coconut oil, you will feel your skin is noticeably softer where this oil is applied.
Don't let the name scare you! Poison Ivy Lip Embellishment is a richly nourishing and restorative balm for your lips. A blend of essential oils from herbs and leaves creates this soothing, deep green flavor in a base I designed from scratch. This balm is full of thick, creamy butters, plant oils, vitamin E, and fragrant beeswax to create a long lasting, protective coat with the perfect consistency.
*Does not actually contain poison ivy!
Antique Settee is a 100% natural solid perfume created with essential oils and plant absolutes in a base of jojoba and beeswax.
This blend reveals the past with hints of roses, violets, and everlastings lingering on velvet upholstery from perfumed guests that have come and gone. Freshly polished wood trim is woven throughout, finished with a deep base of Earl Grey tea (spilled on the cushions over the years). The essence of black tea leaves soaked in bergamot improves with age while lending a comforting character. This aromatic interpretation offers you the opportunity to embody this classic heirloom’s history.
This sample size arrives in a 23mm round aluminum tray, which contains at least 1.8g of solid perfume. These are the same trays that fit into the lockets in my shop and can be used as a refill. A small card with the perfume's description is included.
To wear, rub a small amount onto pulse points such as wrists and sides of neck. Your body heat will warm and release the fragrance inside the wax. The wax base is also a great balm that softens and nourishes your skin.
These detoxifying salts are collected from the Dead Sea and infused with essential oils wild-harvested from black spruce, cypress, and Douglas fir needles.
The camphorous aroma of evergreen creates an incredibly refreshing and uplifting bath that connects you to the winter forest.
Dead sea salts are rich in minerals and add a high nutrient content to the water. Epsom salts detoxifies and soothes aching muscles while healing skin.
Add these salts to water for a luxurious woodland bath.
The Lunar Amulet for ceremonies of intention features a series of twelve* artisan perfumes to welcome each new moon.
This brass locket, adorned with a faceted black onyx to emulate the new moon, includes a removable tray of botanical perfume inside. Each new 1.8g solid perfume will be a unique composition from one to the next, with just enough to last through the moon cycle. Every 29 days you will receive a new perfume to celebrate the new moon approaching.
Each new moon provides a strong energy that can be harnessed for inspiration, manifestation, and renewal. It is at this time that the moon is aligned on the same side of the Earth as the sun, and the gravitational force of the moon and sun together has a significant effect on the Earth.
The dark moon followed by the slight edge of the waxing crescent symbolizes a new beginning, and developing an awareness of this time allows you to synchronize with this energy. At the time of each new moon, allow time to focus on your intentions and new ideas. Apply each new perfume for the duration of the cycle as an aromatic reminder of your objectives.
R&J: I just want to thank everyone who read this far J I hope you enjoyed meeting Jill and would love to hear any related thoughts?
R&J: I just want to thank everyone who read this far J I hope you enjoyed meeting Jill and would love to hear any related thoughts?