Jana Blankenship – On Making Aromatic Beauty In San Francisco


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Jana on the beach in Bolinas

A lovely photo of Jana Blankenship on the beach in Bolinas taken by best friend photographer Rachel Barrett.

Meet Krrb member Jana Blankenship (aka Captain Blankenship), creator of beautiful scents, curator, lover of animals and the beach, and creative soul of the highest order. We were initially drawn to her corner by the array of her line of handmade beauty products (who doesn’t love a good bath salt?) and got in touch with her to learn more. Read on and discover what makes this true ‘nose’ tick.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a busy bee right now, working several jobs and dreaming of scents in my spare time. I have two new perfumes in the works right now and they have been coloring my days. When I am not working, I try to be outside as much as possible, taking my dog on walks up in the hills and on the beach. The natural world is my inspiration for Captain Blankenship so when I am outside I try to empty my mind and follow my nose. I just got back from a week long trip to Scotland, which was wonderful. It was so green and rainy and we stayed with my husband’s family. I came back with so many ideas. Some day I want to have a workshop/ laboratory in an old barn where I can work on my own projects and collaborate with friends.

Where are you from and where do you currently live?

I am originally from Cambridge, MA. I live in a small house with my husband Levi, husky puppy Vuka and cat Siga in San Francisco. My husband and I moved out to the Bay Area from New York 6 years ago. I love it out here, but around this time of year I miss East Coast summer!

What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?

I live in Bernal Heights, which feels like a village. Every day I take my dog up to Bernal Hill to walk or run on dirt footpaths and take in panoramic views of the whole city. While we walk, Vuka chases ground squirrels and I get some time to think.


Jana's husky, Vulka, enjoying some time on the beach.

What are your favorite places to go locally to discover hidden treasures?

Gravel & Gold, General Store and the weekly Alemany Flea Market down the street from my house.

What blogs or websites do you visit regularly?

The New York Times everyday, lots of websites for art reviews like afterall.org and recently perfumepharmer.com to keep on top of everything scented.

As a kid, were any of your toys and clothes hand-me-downs? Stories please!

My mom was a fashion designer when I was growing up so she made a lot of my clothes as a child. She loves color, so I was always sporting yellow dresses, red capes and flowered leg warmers. I wish those clothes still fit me! Now they are hand me downs to my 3 and 6 year old nieces. I do have a treasured flannel bathrobe in shades of blue that was handed down from my brother. I think he probably wore it as a long bathrobe when he was a little kid and I still rock it.

flanel bathrobe

Here's Jana's bathrobe in it's current home, ready to be worn at a moment's notice.

Today, how often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? What is your modus operandi? Any personal tips you’d like to share?

There is a huge weekly flea market right down the hill from me that I try to go to as often as I can on Sundays. I try to restrain myself from buying on the spot as most often I’ll see something else I love right after wards. I try to take a walk around the market to take everything in and then think about which items are still resonating with me. Usually I end up leaving with some vintage dresses and rugs.

Have you ever taken home an object you found in the street or dumpster? If so, what was it? And where is it now?

All the time. People in my neighborhood are always putting treasures out on the street. I do it too. My husband thinks I am nuts because I always put out the most random things, but they are always (usually!) taken. I recently found a overstuffed black and brown striped armchair up the street and a great wood side table. Unfortunately my dog has a taste for furniture and the armchair didn’t last long, but at least it was free.

Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?

I am a minimalist who walks a thin line. I love abundance as well as simplicity. I collect sea glass, pine cones, rocks and oddities I find on the ground. Sometimes they float in our house and sometimes when inspired they turn into mobiles or tableaus. Clutter drives me mad so I try to keep everything in order, but it often disappears behind closet doors.

What is your most cherished thrifted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object you possess? What’s the story behind it?

That is a hard one. I bought a textile in India last year. It is a banner with brightly colored embroidered animals that must have gone above a child’s bed, but for now lives above our bed. The animals are quirky and playful, there is one awkward looking pink deer that I really love. It is so weathered, but when I saw it I knew it was going to go in our future child’s bedroom. It always reminds me that imagination is our most powerful tool.


Siga the cat takes a snooze under Jana's favorite textile from India.

Do you create/make things? What are you working on these days?

I make bath salts, lip balms, hand balms and perfumes. I also love to make makeup and soap but it has been awhile. I am working on two scents right now, one watery floral and one spring garden. I just released my newest bath salt Skydancer, which is made of Pacific sea salt, organic California almond oil and essential oils of lavender, tangerine and palmarosa. It smells very blue hued to me. Even when I am not making, I am composing recipes in my mind.


Oooooh a new bath salt from Captain Blankenship!

By the way, what’s your day job?

I am a curator at the CCA Wattis Institute. I also am the director at the People’s Gallery in San Francisco and assistant curator for the upcoming 12th Istanbul Biennial.

Voila! For more, check out the goods on Jana’s Krrb corner: Krrb.com/Captainblankenship.

  • freebase bath salts

    But she has always worked towards making a merger of her life and her …… The beauty of nature can thrive even in the dead of winter—or the …. growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breezes. …… F: The second album from San Francisco’shaziest, gentlest canyon-folk drifters, Vetiver

  • Van

    Nom, I want to smell those scents through the screen! Lovely interview, it’s always fun to learn more about fellow collectors/thrifters/creatives. :)