If you follow me on YouTube or Insta you’ll know that whenever I mention incense I mention LeftoverHippies. I am seriously in love with her incense and it’s defs my all-time fav incense. So I’m beyond excited to share this interview I had with Hazel the amazing creator of LeftoverHippies incense! You can find Hazel at her website – LeftoverHippies, at her Etsy shop, and over on Insta.
So, grab a hot cuppa and settle in to learn more about Hazel’s journey making incense, her advice on exploring the world of natural products, and then find out where she’d most like to travel!
Ps. Don’t forget to Pin this post to read it later
1. What first inspired you to begin making natural incense?
This is always the most difficult story for me to tell because, like many great destinations in life, it was something I just sort of stumbled upon, with no original intention of arriving there.
When I had my first child back in 2008, I really liked the idea of having my own business so I could spend more time with her and have more freedom. I started vending at Farmer’s Markets selling wrap-around hippie pants that I made from high-quality natural fabrics.
Wanting to expand my business, I looked for a complementary product that I could create which would help me hit a lower price point; I figured incense would be a good riff on the whole hippie theme I had going, so off I went on a tangent!
Like a lot of people these days looking to learn something new, I turned to google. I found some basic instructions that involved purchasing pre-made “unscented” sticks and dipping them fragrance oils to create a different scent, so I invested in a bunch of materials and dove in.
It did not take long before I started getting rashes on my skin and becoming overpowered by these bottles of “scent”. After much more research, I realized I had basically been duped by a short-cut and chemical method and, even though I knew I could probably trick others with that same flowery language, my character would never allow me to do that.
Unfortunately for me, I had already signed up for a few shows where I had listed incense as something I would be carrying. In my mind, if I commit to something, no matter how ridiculously insignificant it is to anyone else, I have a really hard time not following through.
I knew I would have to figure out something that I could stand behind before that first show. (I honestly wish I could say that it was a conscious decision that I made, but in reality, I had figuratively painted my own integrity into a corner and making natural incense was the only way out!)
So anyway, I bought a few herbs, some binding gum, the barks I needed and just started experimenting. And man was it hard! To get things to burn at a nice speed, to have the scent smell anything like what I planned, to get the dough to bind together… EVERYTHING was a struggle. By the first show, I had created a whopping 2 scents, in cone form only: cinnamon, and red sandalwood.
Although I wished I could have made more, I proudly stood behind my little table and told anyone who asked exactly what was in my incense cones and how they were made. That feeling of creating something physical from absolutely nothing but a concept was completely magical to me.
While making hippie-pants from an altered pattern had given me the satisfaction of making things, I didn’t feel like I was part of any bigger picture. Alternatively, the realization that the incense industry as a whole was so fraudulent and misleading and that a bigger space needed to exist for honest, ethically-conscious, and truly herbal incense, meant that I could fill that space and bring about some actual change.
As my passion for this new craft grew, my focus shifted steadily, and eventually, I cut all unrelated products from my line. I think for anyone when we find that space that we fit perfectly into the bigger picture of the world, it is a truly awakening experience.
2. How has creating incense shaped your daily life?
Well, these days I’m lucky enough to do it as my “job” so I am pretty much creating, making, packaging, photographing, or shipping incense all day long! I am constantly experimenting with new herbs and blends and I release a few new scents each year which really allows me to keep the creative part of the process alive.
I have created a small workspace upstairs behind our couch, so I can hang out and watch TV with my family while I am making – because that’s pretty much all the time. The research that I did initially when I got onto the natural incense path, has also caused me to really examine what is in every product that I bring into our home and to look beyond the mainstream for natural options.
3. How has your process for creating incense evolved?
Greatly! Like all good things, the process is constantly growing and evolving. Some basic physical things are using a motorized grinder instead of a mortar and pestle, and moving from drying on wax paper to parchment paper and finally to cookie sheets. The actual thought process I go through is now much more open when it comes to mixing scents.
I used to really want to stick to the idea of using a single ingredient and having that ingredient create its own scent with only the help of the ingredients needed to burn and bind it. But as I have learned more about herbs, it is evident they like to work together so I am much more willing to blend or even substitute, if an ingredient doesn’t smell as expected when lit.
4. What are your all-time favourite scents?
I think one of the scents that initially drew me to both incense, and the hippie lifestyle even as a teenager was, of course, patchouli. Other favourites of mine are vanilla, sage, frankincense and dragon’s blood.
5. What is your advice to anyone just starting to explore the world of all-natural products?
Do a lot of research into the materials you are purchasing and the process you are going to use. If something doesn’t sound 100% transparent, research it further. And do not EVER think you are going to get it right on the first try because you will only set yourself up for disappointment.
Don’t look to other people’s recipes to fit you exactly, because you will inevitably want something that is deeper to you than that; don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun while you “fail”!
6. Just for fun – Where would you most like to travel?
Well, roadtrips are pretty much my favourite thing ever, so I would say I’d most likely pick somewhere that I could drive my van to (I’ve already been across Canada so although it was amazing I’d probably pick somewhere different before going again). But if reality was no object and I could get my hippie van anywhere, I think I would pick Ireland first!