The story of how Janna Sheehan got her start as a master of scents is undeniably unconventional. After a serendipitous meeting with Tricia Petersen, an Ojai local and renowned perfumer, Janna worked with her for two years, creating hundreds of fragrances and learning first-hand about how to blend and compose.
Working as a painter and printmaker prior to that, Janna’s passions culminated in one life-changing opportunity when a request for her to create a fragrance of her home city for an art exhibit led to the launch of her own brand, Ojai Wild some three years later.
The brand offers four scents centred around sage, redwood, pink peppercorn and juniper berry — all of which are sourced from Janna’s home state then freshly extracted from their raw botanicals, as opposed to distilled by heat or chemicals. To be sure, this is a signature Ojai Wild practice, and a conscious one at that. Each cologne is then blended with essential oils and absolutes.
From taking us by the hand and encouraging us to think of nature’s authentic smells as the base of all the concoctions that she creates, to acknowledging the exposure and extraction of a plant’s essence both literally and figuratively, we find ourselves appreciating scents all the more because of Janna; and because of the beauty of botanicals.
“Fragrance must be worn or experienced on the skin for an individual to fall in love. Innate choosing is best.”
Ojai Wild offers four scents made from California botanicals, resins, woods and roots
Can you tell us about your love for scents, and the story behind the brand specifically?
My love lies with the artistic expression of inspiration and transformation. My relationship with scent and background as a painter and printmaker evolved into a deeper exploration of fragrance. Fragrance became my art medium. I’m particularly drawn to the alchemical process of creation as expression.
Not surprisingly, Ojai Wild evolved out of an invitation to create a scent to embody the Ojai Valley for an art exhibit at a Porch Gallery in Ojai.
What are your top five skin loving flowers, plants or roots, and why?
Yarrow, marshmallow root, chamomile, helichrysum and holy basil.
These are skin-loving, yes, but the presence and fragrance of each are quite distinctive and interesting to work with.
I’m infatuated with yarrow. As an ancient remedy, it’s one of the most useful medicinal plants known. Its quality has the presence of a drum; a heartbeat, used in healing ceremonies, rites of passage, ancestral worship, warrior rituals, as well as social dances and celebrations.
Marshmallow root is an amazing emollient that smells earthy and grungy — mushroomy. Working with it as a scent is an intriguing challenge, like trying to find qualities to build a relationship with someone you don’t admire.
Chamomile is my love affair. It’s the most delicate simple flower whose beauty is not so incredible that it couldn’t be compared with others — until the essence is extracted. That’s when you’re in the presence of the tiny daisy’s bewitching allure. Its honey-like, soothing, calming characteristics and scent symbolise the depth of emotion that intensifies her magnetism.
Helichrysum is sexy. It’s full of mystery and power. It resonates an unexpected fragrance that’s toasty, buttery, fruity and multi-layered. It’s well known in the skincare industry for its anti-ageing properties.
Holy basil is intoxicating and full of spiritual meaning and healing properties. In Hinduism, it’s considered sacred and is grown near almost every Hindu house. It has a strong odour profile and is considered an accessory note that requires discernment to work with. I love it because of the restraint required in using it. It’s fascinating to construct a balanced fragrance with such a distinctive mainstream scent as the featured note.
Tell us about the brand’s four perfumes, and what makes each of them so unique.
The complexity in simplicity is the most unique aspect. Nature gives us a perfect, balanced, complete fragrance in each individual botanical: sage, redwood, pink peppercorn and a juniper berry. They cannot be recreated with aroma molecules or any combination of natural ingredients, so eliciting this totally authentic smell –– as if you had crushed the plant in your hand and can smell the oils on your skin — is what makes it so unique.
Ojai Wild captures this essence by fresh extraction (no heat) which derives the most authentic likeness to the botanical. Other methods of distillation require heat or chemicals: steam, hydro distillation, absolute and carbon dioxide. Consequently, the plant takes on a different character profile and odour.
There’s also a beautiful, metaphorical magic that happens in this tincture method of extraction. As we open the plant up by breaking it down, crushing it, pressing it, soaking it — it becomes a decomposition that allows itself to give all that it has left to give: the essence of itself.
Thus, we are metaphorically being asked to strip ourselves of our ego and open ourselves up to our essence.
Tell us about the ‘Godseye’ images emblazoned on the perfume boxes.
This was the concept of our package designer, Dustin Byerley. He had a dream, broke from the direction I gave him and presented this design from his intuition. As we worked together to refine it, it started to take on a life of its own. We embraced it as an image to depict the language of each fragrance. The colours radiate from the centre to the edge, depicting the base, middle and top notes and accords of each cologne.
How do you personally use scents to calm, de-stress and relax?
I spray the colognes all day, using them as a kind of “chi-changer,” a term coined by my friend, Debra Buckley. A bath is always, always, always a stress-reliever with our fragrant salted bath elixirs (coming soon!).
What is your advice for someone who wants to shop for, and switch to using such scents?
Marketers have taken liberty with the use of the word ‘natural’ in the beauty industry. Claiming ‘natural’ is just a descriptive word that doesn’t require substantiation. My recommendation is read the ingredient list. If the word ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume’ appears, there are aroma chemicals present. If the product says 100 per cent natural, that means there are no chemicals. And always, try it on…
How should one go about pairing colognes with our individual scents?
Love. Follow your emotions. Fragrance must be worn or experienced on the skin for an individual to fall in love. Innate choosing is best.
“Ojai Wild captures this essence by fresh extraction (no heat) which derives the most authentic likeness to the botanical. Other methods of distillation require heat or chemicals: steam, hydro distillation, absolute and carbon dioxide.”
What is one thing you’d like for people to know about the power of scents and how it impacts the body and mind?
Speaking to botanical fragrances, trust the fragrance to lead you to your awakened state. Let the fragrance be your intuitive guide.
What is the typical shelf life of organic perfumes, and is it necessary for them to be stored in violet glass bottles?
I’m not sure about specifically organic, but any botanical fragrance in alcohol, if stored properly, will last for years since alcohol is a natural preservative. Heat is an enemy. Cool, but not too cool. Direct sun will neutralise a natural fragrance.
What does conscious living mean to you?
Oh, that’s a good one. I love to contemplate evolving topics like this. A few things come to mind:
To honour the importance of curiosity and humility. To seek to be in harmony with other living things. To embrace dualism and imperfection as the natural poetry of life.
The Cologne Travel Collection
Images courtesy of Ojai Wild