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Aye Calypso!
By Tonie Minsal and Debbie Steele

Our editor Debbie came up with a fun assignment for me: she suggested I visit a local shop where the owner makes her own products. So, notebook in hand, I recently visited Marietta’s Chattel House in West Los Angeles, a little boutique owned by Marietta Carter-Narcisse.

My first impression of the shop was that it had a very relaxing vibe. Marietta’s line, Calypso Cosmetics, is strewn artfully about the shop in an interesting array of soaps, butters, candles, and scrubs.

A Renaissance Woman

Marietta is a true Renaissance woman. Originally from Barbados, her list of accomplishments includes wife, mother, Hollywood makeup artist, chemist, beauty columnist, hairdresser, lecturer, and seamstress. Whew!

She’s also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for makeup. I askedphoto of Marietta Marietta how she segued her background into proprietorship of the Chattel House and Calypso. She said after giving birth to her son seven years ago, it was a natural evolution.

Being a Hollywood makeup artist, she found that her time was not her own. Marietta said that the best part of being in business for herself is that she can get lost in her own little world.

Having her own shop affords her the luxury of a tranquil atmosphere, as opposed to the hectic, frenetic atmosphere of the movie industry.

Being the force behind the Chattel House and Calypso also gives Marietta a sense of accomplishment, and besides that- it’s fun! Marietta loves the beauty industry, but she wanted to be involved in it on her terms.

Calypso Cosmetics are entirely handmade by Marietta herself. When I asked her where she gets her energy from, her answer was simple: doing what she loves.

The most interesting part of my visit to the Chattel House was getting to go behind the scenes. I’ve always liked to make my own herbal bath and body creations, and to be in the tiny kitchen of the Chattel House and see all of the raw ingredients was very exciting.

There were five-gallon buckets of shea and mango butter under the sink, shelves lined with bottles of essential and fragrance oils, and cupboards stocked with milk powders, herbs, and vegetable oils. I even recognized several of Marietta’s suppliers.

Dreaming Up Products

I was interested as to why Marietta decided to create her line. She told me that as a longtime allergy sufferer and asthmatic, she was tired of the lack of available products.

Making her own products allows her to have control over what she does; an example of this is her baby line, which was inspired by her son Gregoire. Marietta Marietta's shopstarted out in her kitchen, making products for herself and her family, and when she outgrew that, she moved into the shop.

Marietta said she often dreams of a product at night, then wakes up and creates it! Fun!

Marietta had a lot of strong female role models in her life, the most outstanding one being her mother, which I thought was really nice. She gets a lot of input from her mom, such as the native names for most of her products.

I was concerned with Marietta’s decision to use fragrance oils and emu oil in some of her products. She explained to me that although she is a creative person, she is a business woman first, and that variety and cost are two factors which influenced this decision.

Marietta has some new products in the works, such as some shea and mango butter lotions. You can check out her products online at, or, if you’re in the L.A. area, you can visit the shop at 1438˝ South Robertson Boulevard, Suite #1 (888)330-5552.

Because I’m busy trying out pregnancy products, I’m handing the honor of testing and reviewing Marietta’s Calypso products over to our esteemed editor Debbie (when she gave me this assignment she confessed to me that she was envious anyway, so I’m sure she’ll have fun!).

Out of the Box

If the name "Calypso" has you thinking sweet florals and tropical fruit, think again.  That's not what this line is about. You will find some florals and other sweet scents; you'll also find many unusual blends, all with a decidedly earthy feel.

Calypso includes some very effective products for hands. Paradise Cuticle Oil (.5oz for $7.50) is a nice treat. It comes in a small blue glass bottle with a glass dropper. As I dabbed it on my cuticles, I definitely felt like I was getting theParadise hand salve professional treatment.

I put it on before bed, slept in cotton gloves, and woke up with delightfully soft, smooth cuticles and nails. I also enjoyed the Paradise Hand Salve (Gully Root), "a combination of everything that is good for...chapped, overworked hands" (I wish she were a little more specific!). The salve is $12.50 for a 2oz tin.

It goes on pretty greasy and takes a few minutes to sink in, but it does have lasting moisturizing effects. Both these products have fairly mild, herbal scents.

Feet are also not forgotten by the Calypso line. I first soaked in the Paradise Foot Soak ($10 for 4oz), a fragrant combination of flowers, herbs and mineral salts. 

After my feet were softened up a bit, I scrubbed with the Paradise Foot Scrub ($12.50 for 4oz), a mixture of ground loofah, pumice and various emollients, with a strong herbal fragrance.

Finally, I massaged in the Paradise Foot Massage Oil (4oz for $15). Because this is an oil, it takes awhile to sink in (I put on some socks and headed to bed). It has an invigorating combination of rosemary, peppermint, lavender and juniper berry essential oils.

Calypso also offers a fairly wide selection of handmade soaps. Some of the offerings are very mild, like the unscented Just Soap and Pomche Creme. Others, such as Vivah and Island Spices, are quite assertive.

One of the soaps, Old Iron, is designed "to help cut mechanic grease"; with its lemon essential oil and pumice it is pretty potent. At almost $10 per 5oz bar, these are among the most expensive handmade soaps I've seen. Although they are pleasant enough, I think that's a bit pricey.

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