The focus for this month’s Lessons In Perfumery 8 is — plan for inventory BEFORE you start accumulating hundreds of materials. I learned this lesson the hard way.
If you plan to take this hobby at all seriously and develop it into something close to a profession then it’s important to take inventory now. Doing this saves you time and money and creates a process that can also help your creative process because it’s one less thing you have to think about. The organisation becomes automatic and this gives you more time and energy to create.
Some perfumers start out accumulating materials based on a specific formula they have in mind or that they want to follow so they know the aroma chemicals or naturals they need and that formula forms the basis of their purchase. I chose the other way. I dove in with a beginner’s set of naturals and synthetics that I wanted to learn and become familiar with as my core. But one thing that is common to all perfumers is that our arsenal of raw materials can quickly mushroom to gigantic proportions leaving us with limited space in an unplanned work area and no process for finding what we want instantly among hundreds of materials. Not a very good way to start our education. Finding what we want in our own lab should be the least of our worries in the creative process.
I started the process of taking inventory, as you remember, in the beginning of January and only just finished now, so that took me about 3 weeks with everything else I had on my plate. It started out as a simple necessity to just get organised but quickly grew into inventory because I thought, okay, I need x amount of caps for my vials, which led to the question, how many, which led to the answer: I don’t know. Well, if I’m serious about what I’m doing at all, that’s not an acceptable answer. And so the commitment became a quest to know everything I had on hand and ultimately this helps me distinguish between a need and a want.
There are many mini questions that I pondered while doing inventory that were important that I wish I had asked myself from the beginning:
- How do you want to group them in your lab? By family, by genus type, by top, middle or base note?
- What dilution do you want them to be? There are some perfumers that do not dilute to 10% but have all their dilutions at 20% or 30%. Decide on this ahead of time.
- Group all original materials together either in trays if you have the space or with an elastic band if you don’t.
- Label all bottles with dilution percent, supplier, date of dilution. This last, date of dilution, is really important because then you can have a good idea of how long your dilutions have been maturing. Let’s say you start out with 2 or 3 Patchoulis and in a few years you end up with 7 or 8 and can begin to pick up on subtle nuances in olfactory profiles you’ll wonder why one Patchouli smells markedly different than another and realise that the one you had diluted two years earlier is rounder, smoother, with many layers because, hey, it’s more mature and has character. But how will you know that if you don’t know when you diluted it???
At any rate, those are just some of the things that popped into my head as I was doing inventory. Here’s how I actually went about it:
- In an Excel spreadsheet labelled Inventory 2015 I created the following columns: N°, CAS, NAME, GENUS NAME/CHEMICAL NAME, MATERIAL, TYPE, ORGANIC (Y/N), ORIGIN, DATE PURCHASED, EXPIRY DATE, SIZE, SUPPLIER, PERFUME FAMILY, DILUTED, DILUTION, DILUTION DATE, TOTAL NUMBER.
- Click on the row just beneath the one with the column headings and in the Excel menu marked Window select, FREEZE PANES so that when you scroll through all your material the main column headings will always be visible.
- Once entered into Excel the undiluted, original bottle got a red tag on the bottom.
- Everything got inventoried, including lab equipment, perfume bottles, and base oils and alcohol.
- Then I grouped all similar undiluted oils together, eg: all Lavender and Lavandin oils I wrapped together with an elastic band.
- Then I grouped all the diluted materials, my working oils, into similar groups. Therefore, Labdanum, Cistus are all together in a little group, one step above are my Myrrhs: tinctures, absolute and oils. Just above that are my Sandalwoods: tinctures, absolutes and oils and then next to that Frankincense: oils, tinctures, concretes and absolutes. And so on. I began grouping things together on the shelves as they made sense to me in my head naturally. All citrus oils together in one big group. Next to them the Lavenders and next to those the Bergamots, and next to those the Petitgrains, simply because that’s how I group them together in my head.
- During inventory I moved all empty bottles into boxes and then into storage downstairs so now the shelving is: 1st shelf-tinctures, 2nd and 3rd shelf-naturals, 4th shelf-synthetics, 5th shelf-all undiluted materials.
Ahhhh! There is nothing on my desk other than a few loose notes that I plan to get into Evernote in the next few days, my pipettes, smelling strips and one mixing bar with two vials in it that I got an inspiration to try in the spur of the moment. And all because things are organised in my perfumer’s organ, in my immediate workspace and in my head! But that’s just me, I need that kind of order to be able to create. It’ll probably be a mess again in six months but who cares! For now I can find sh*#! And that makes me very happy :).
Have a groovy day!