Today I met a friend, he’s elderly and has a very warm vibe, we shook hands chatted a bit and parted. 3 hours later I could still smell him when I went to touch my nose. I say “him” because his scent brought up an incredibly crisp image of him in HD but it was also accompanied by my impression of him at the same time, what’s more, at the same time it took me right back to my father. That in an instant, with the intake of a breath, is the power of scent.
Silently weaving the tangible and the intangible to create a tapestry of emotion, imagination and recollection are the threads of scent that take us places real or imagined, the emotions know not the difference.
This brings to mind a most fantastical book that haunts me still, Weaveworld by Clive Barker (think I’ll give it another read). I read it ages ago but the impression it left on me remains. It is about a secret world hidden in a place one would never think to look. Perfumes, especially niche perfumes, with their greater percentage of essential oils, I believe, is a world captured in a bottle. Your world of memories, wishes, emotions and dreams unfulfilled.
Think of the various countries of origin from which these essential oils arrive: Rose Otto from Morocco and Bulgaria, Jasmine from Turkey, Agar Wood from Indonesia, and on and on. Each essential oil used in a composition comes with it’s own history – wars fought, blood shed centuries ago on the soil where they now grow, love lost and found under an Olive tree in Cypress. They all come and mingle with our own personal stories to form this magical carpet, taking us to distant places.
That’s what good perfume can do, why it’s so personal and part of the reason why I choose to approach the design or composition as a craft and art, believing inherently that each one of us is a work of art with the power to move.
Before I began I knew I needed to have some raw materials and spendt untold hours deciding which ones to get first. I found some great starter lists, such as Chris Bartlett’s list of important synthetics and naturals that he believes is a good starting place. Most of what he suggested I did add to my own starter list. Then of course there are so many suggestions offered by the members of Basenotes DIY forum like this one. The answer is first decide on what approach you want to take… slow and steady or full immersion? I, true to my nature, opted for the full immersion approach and after much hand-wringing about whether to invest in naturals or synthetics finally settled on a list (I’ll post it as a link to a PDF tomorrow). There are many places online that sell beginner kits like Perfumer’s Apprentice in the States or Olfactik here in Europe; these are great starting places.
How much to budget for in the beginning? This was answered for me when my husband, who I will refer to henceforth as LV, offered to get me a new iMac for my birthday last year and seeing as we already had a (dying) PC I chose to forego on the new computer and use the funds for a start up kit instead. So opportunities are everywhere to follow our dreams.
I can’t remember where I read this anymore but it strikes me as a fundamental part of making great perfume, start with the best: no matter what the budget, whether we have $100 or $1,000 to invest, start with the very best raw materials money can buy. If that means we end up starting off with 10 essential oils instead of 50 then so be it. I’ve kind of adopted it as my purchasing mantra and whenever I have to drop something from my list because of budget constraints I console myself knowing that the ones I did choose to buy are the best quality I could source at the time.
In the end what ended up in my organ, before I started training my nose, was a mix of months of research and personal preference, what I feel really drawn to, what speaks to me. And as I grow in this craft others call me to them for exploration – and of course I will answer.