what’s the hurry?


Today’s quote isn’t really a quote per se, it’s more of an observation and a continuing question to myself…what’s the hurry? Where’s the fire? Where’s the race to finish learning perfumery and start selling perfumes to the public?

I have to ask myself this as a way to keep grounded and keep things real whenever I spend too much time online in my favourite perfume DIY forum, on Facebook pages or websites of perfumers that are already out there in the marketplace with 3 or 4 perfumes under their belt and here I am almost 3 years into it and still learning my materials, still working on accords, still no where.

Well that’s the B.S. I tell myself before I slap myself with an imaginary wet towel (followed by a nice hug and a warm kiss, of course) and remind myself that this is not a race…not even with myself. So stop the nonsense.

When did “make-money-doing-what-you-love-as-fast-as-you-can” become the ultimate goal for creatives? Why isn’t it just okay to be doing what you love? Why isn’t it okay to just create? Period. End of story.

I love to watch other artisan perfumers getting recognition and making money doing what they love to do. I love to cheerlead! But more often than not there is also an overwhelming sense that where I am, what I am, is never and will never be enough because I’ll just never catch up.  Hrmph! Shoulders slump, dejection sets in and I begin to wallow.

And so, for the last time, when I came out of this mist I told myself, that’s it. Maxine, the reality is you do not need to make money with perfumery to make ends meet, which is a most fortunate position to be in. Allow money to come into your life from wherever it comes from (currently from teaching) and do what you love to do. This moment is a gift. You have been given the gift of being able to study the things you’ve always wanted to learn with no pressure to earn a living at it.

Yes. Last week I gave myself a good talking to about what I should be doing and I took the words business and sales off the table indefinitely where it comes to perfume making. No. I have nothing against making money, on the contrary, I’m a firm believer in healthy capitalism. But. Pronouncing those words at such an early stage of learning adds a level of complexity and anxiety that is not conducive to learning for me. I recognise we’re all at different stages and that’s okay — there are classmates of mine that are already making money with their perfumery education and they are a great inspiration for me. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where I should be now or should be heading.

I breathed a wonderful sigh of relief as my heart settled down into a new space. Ahhhh! I may never end up seeing my perfumes for sale at LuckyScent, I may spend a lifetime making perfumes only for me, my family, friends and some private clients and, hey, that’s okay. For the moment I love writing this blog, developing it and helping others learn about the art and joy of perfume making!

Have a wonderful Monday and see you Wednesday for a profile on Ho Wood essential oil.



Image credit: Watercolor Texture Frost by Aurora Wienhold



how to become a master perfumer


In contemplating how to become a master perfumer, what makes one a master perfumer, I’ve been turning over the quotable often in my mind since coming on this path: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.” by Stephen McCranie. This quote peeps at me from a post-it that is permanently plastered on my Mac.

Lately I’ve been giving much thought to these words because I’m heading into building and rebuilding accords and mixing them together as I work toward my final perfume project for next year.

Like most people when learning something new, criticism tends to become the breakfast du jour, the judgments abound and they’re rarely positive while my creations get the harsh, eagle-eye as I unconsciously compare them to the life work of perfume masters like Edmond Roudnistka or Germaine Cellier.

Think of a master potter or a master painter, storyteller, weaver or whatever and in our heads we think of perfect creatures, beings not of this world, high above us who never have to learn or fail at anything anymore because they’re masters. But the truth is to become a master and to continue to remain a master of anything means that at one time failure was par for the course. What happens is that as the beginner grows in ability they fail less and less at the same thing, at least that’s the understanding I’m slowly coming to.

Failing means we picked up the clay threw it on the wheel and made something, even if it was crap, we made something. It means having told many a story where more people fell asleep or walked away than were mesmerised, enthralled or motivated. It means writing many a blog post that get forgotten or ignored rather than shared, loved or pondered…at least in the beginning.  But does that mean we stop?

Becoming a master means continuing, unceasingly, to do whatever it is you want to master.

For me, becoming a master perfumer means going into the studio every, single day and evaluating at least one perfume ingredient.  Being a beginner perfumer means becoming really comfortable screwing up a whole composition that has matured for months with one single drop too many. Again. And again. And again. Every. Single. Day. I face that possibility as my pipette hovers uncertainly over the beaker. Being a beginner perfumer means still mistaking Peppermint for Spearmint in a blind test…damnit!…and still wanting to do it again the next day fully aware that I am nowhere near another master perfumer’s ability, but, that I am closing my personal gap between being a beginner and being a master.

And that can only be achieved if I pick up the smelling strip every single day and make the necessary connections in my brain by challenging it to build new olfactive roads between it and my nose.

Today, whatever it is you’re committing yourself to I applaud your courage, dedication and spirit. Every. Single. Day.



Watercolour credit: Deviantart.com I’m not sure who the artist is so if it’s yours, send me an email and I’ll add credit here.


quotable: go deep


This quote got me thinking of something the guys over at The Minimalists said about passion…found it!  Here it is: “‘Follow Your Passion’ is Crappy Advice”.  They talk of cultivating a passion instead of following one and I think this makes so much sense. Here’s how they break it down:

“Follow” implies that you discover the passion in advance then go match it to a job. At which point, you’re done. “Cultivate” implies that you work toward building passion for your job. This is a longer process but it’s way more likely to pay dividends. It requires you to approach your work like a crafstman. Honing your ability, and then leveraging your value, once good, to shape your working life toward the type of lifestyle that resonates with you.”

When I go deeply I discover I am passionate about creating, I want to create — I need to create every day! Whether it’s a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a cool image or a porcini mushroom risotto, it makes no difference, I must create. What makes me a perfumer is not a passion that all of a sudden grabbed me and said “Hark! This is what you were meant to do your whole life!” although there was some aspect of, “please, sit up and take notice, ’cause I think this could really be a beautiful fit for you and your life.” Yeah, it was more like that. What makes me a perfumer is that every day I choose to sit and study my raw materials, I choose to research botanicals and I choose to follow a certification course to give confidence and structure to a growing skill.  And each day those choices build upon each other and nourish me.

As I am learning and I apply myself daily this doesn’t mean I am full of Eureka! moments, there are days I sit in the chair and ask myself what the hell makes me think I can do this?!

But understanding is dawning that passion flows from desire. Each day as a new piece of understanding fits into this enormous puzzle called my life I make wonderful discoveries, like, “oh, so that’s the role I want synthetics molecules to play in my creations!” or some unexpected nuance in Patchouli I had never noticed before — even after the 100th time smelling it — unveils itself to me. Each time this happens my passion for perfume making grows and forms itself more clearly.

As I go deeply I realize my perfumes do indeed flow from my life. My eclectic nature, my silence, my isolated dwelling, my struggles, joys and triumphs. It’s all here in what I do when I go deep.

Wishing you many wonderful discoveries!

quotable: on becoming an artist


M was over a few weeks ago.  She was curious about my perfume making and asked to smell some.  What’s really interesting here is that for as long as I’ve known her she was anosmic — which hasn’t stopped her from having and wearing, faithfully, the same perfume for years.

As I shared with her my growing collection of trial formulas and my first (and so far only) full-fledged perfume compositions, I told her which was my favourite . Then I showed her my favourite perfume — Opus Interlude Man. I only own a sample given to me by the very generous owner of GIO, a niche perfume shop in Livigno, but it’s enough to keep me dreaming for now.

I told her I want to make something like this. “But why do you want to copy someone else’s perfume?” she asked in surprise. “I don’t want to copy it, M, I want to create something that moves Soul the way this perfume moves me — that’s my goal as a perfume artist, that’s what I’m aiming for in skill.  I want to make scents that allow individuals to transcend space and time, perfumes that allow the wearer to perceive more fully their present moment, that amplify the now into the endless possibilities that are already sewn into the fabric of their lives.

In order to do that I know I will have to dig deeply into myself to develop the kind of courage it takes to move beyond my own limitations – real or imagined.

Today’s quote is from page 3 of Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

quotable: making art


My sister-in-law put me on to an absolutely wonderful book that I am simply savouring.  It’s called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland and I would highly recommend it to anyone wading into the creative waters no matter what phase of life they may find themselves.

What I am going to do every so often is pull a quote from this book, or any other, that applies to something I’m dealing with or refers to a place I may be stuck currently or some heroic triumph I may have overcome on the artistic journey of perfumery which hopefully may give you some inspiration to keep on creating.

“Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward.  Making the work you want to make means setting aside these doubts so that you may see clearly what you have done, and thereby see where to go next.  Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself.” – Art & Fear pg.2

Let’s be honest. It’s freaking scary to think that I’m investing a boat-load of time, effort, and savings only to come to terms with one facet of this art which is that no one might care or even want to purchase my creations.  So why the hell continue?

The power of these words for me, especially being in the very early stages of learning perfumery (my second year), lies in the wisdom of learning to make perfumes simply because it feeds my being. Period. It is powerful because it is this nourishment that gets me through the the many moments of doubt, fear, angst and general uncertainty which is such an intimate part of the process of creating.  And I love it all.

Please be happy doing whatever you choose to do today.