Aromatherapy artist pushes the scent boundaries

Perfumer Persephenie Lea doesn't stop at scented oils and candles. She's an aromatherapy artist who handcrafts fragrant jewelry, ceramic vessels and uncommon objects that transport the mind and soul to exotic lands.

"I'm experimenting with scented paint," she says, gesturing toward a painting on a wall of her studio. "You have to stand really close to smell it; it's a work in progress.... I call myself a perfumer, but I can't do just perfume."

Located inside a nondescript high-rise office building on Washington Boulevard between Fairfax Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard, her studio is a cross between an Old World apothecary and an art gallery.

Persephenie Lea: An article in the Image magazine elsewhere in this edition gives an incorrect location and phone number for perfumer Persephenie Lea's studio. The studio is on Washington Boulevard between Hill Street and Broadway, not Fairfax Avenue and Crescent Heights Boulevard. The shop phone number was changed after the magazine went to print, and the new number is (213) 746-4430.

Glass bottles contain rare roots, spices, flowers, herbs and botanical oils. Among them are rose petals from Iran, South Africa, Bulgaria and India; ambergris wax produced by whales and aged in grain spirits for use in her limited-edition Ocean Siren perfume ($160); and oud oil that she says "is more costly in weight than gold."

Also displayed is her eclectic treasure trove of products — handmade jewelry, ceramics and rose and frankincense pastille candies ($14) that took her a year to perfect.

Lea uses her own kiln to fire white porcelain incense bowls rimmed with real gold ($40) and glazed ceramic canisters ($140) that come with vetiver, tobacco and tuberose bath salts.

"The [bath salt] vessel is inspired by a piece that I got in Sweden a few years ago," she says. "My version is influenced by Moorish design and fairy tales like 'Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.'"

Each of the 108 beads on her one-of-a-kind Rose Prayer Bead necklaces ($1,500) is made from a putty of organic rose petals, rose oil, Indian sandalwood and aged orris root that has been cooked in an iron skillet, hand-rolled, dried for three weeks and strung on a 14-karat gold chain.

Lea has also recently introduced rare Vetiver Attar perfumes ($64), made in Kannauj, India, using a process that hydro-distills flowers and herbs into sustainable vetiver oil. The oils take up to a month to make and are then aged in camel-skin bottles for up to five months.

Her olfactory journey started with an interest in incense-making that led her to Mysore, India, and sparked an interest in the medicinal and spiritual properties of herbs. Lea subsequently studied aromatherapy and herbalism with San Francisco-based Jeanne Rose, who has written 16 books on the subject.

In addition to her new product line and ready-to-wear fragrances (, she also offers individual perfumery sessions ($375 for three hours) that include creation of a bespoke scent.

Persephenie; 155 W. Washington Blvd., Suite 907, in Los Angeles; (323) 658-7507 and

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad