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.
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,
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 asked
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.
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.
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
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
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
MariettasChattelHouse.com, 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!).
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
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
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
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
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