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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sometimes Perfumery Isn't As Glamorous As You May Think

We've seen all the glossy perfume ads in magazines and television.  A scantily clad 14 year old girl grasping a bottle of perfume declares lustily she wears "Insert perfume X, Y or X."  Never mind the perfume seems to be targeted toward a much older demographic.  Or that most 14 year old girls cannot afford such an expensive perfume.

While it's usually the marketing concept and the models that are glamorous perfumers are becoming recognized, dare I say even famous now, and rightfully so.  I devour articles and interviews with perfumers, noting the snapshots of their stark white laboratories or immense perfume organs.  I enjoy reading about their inspirations, the elaborate stories of connections to royalty or the rich and famous, the exotic premise behind the creation of million dollar perfumes.  I control my eye rolling as these articles often include the requisite quote from a starlet describing how "involved" she was with the creation of their new signature fragrance.  Ha!

There's obviously a large difference between creating commercial perfumes for say Chanel, and creating perfumes for your own small niche perfumery--no doubt.  But I have a sneaking suspicion, if we were to lift the curtain behind all the marketing madness and money some basic things remain the same.  The actual art of blending and creating a perfume.  Yes, commercial perfumes use synthetic chemicals and I do not, however the very basic art of creating a scent, blending, noting nuance, creating modifications remains somewhat the same.  What does not remain the same, is the number of hats worn.  The roles one must play.  Commercial large scale perfumers are the nose.  Small scale perfumers and business owners have a few more balls to juggle.

I am a perfumer, director of marketing, IT advisor, web designer, PR agent, publisher, shipping and packing coordinator, creative director, industrial designer, social media expert and occasional blogger.  Whew.  The only things I don't do are photography and graphic design.  I know where my weaknesses lie.  I leave that to my extraordinarily talented friend Daniel Gagnon.  I cannot recommend him highly enough.  He has designed my labels, and photographed my perfume which is no small job.  He even photographed me--which I hate more than anything in the world--and through his careful positioning made me look much better than I really do.  Here is a photographer that is used to working with the aforementioned 14 year old fashion models, that patiently took photo after photo while I wailed, "I'm so uncomfortable!  You're not putting my body in the pictures are you?" etc. ad naseum.  He also took beautiful photos of my perfumes and listened to me carefully when designing my logo and labels.  Muchas Gracias Dan!  If interested in Daniel's services, here is his website with contact info

These other hats we wear as small business owners are decidedly less glamorous.  Personally I find nothing glamorous about blending perfume, at best it could be science nerd chic, but others seem to disagree.  Publications coo over a photo of me in a low cut sweater and pearls (!) mock casually sniffing perfume strips.  Farcical!  In no way is the photo of me a realistic representation of how I work.  It is a (hopefully) glamorized version of my chosen profession.  No hippie oils here folks!  We have pearls.  Normally you'd find me in jeans, a scowl and bedhead.

Uncomfortable Me

Now my days are spent packing and shipping orders, negotiating with printers, patiently explaining it's simply not feasible for me to order 5,000 labels at a time, unjamming the fax machine, filling perfume bottles, corresponding with bloggers and editors, tracking orders, fielding emails, contacting my bottle supplier to inquire why every perfume bottle I use appears to be out of stock, filing sales tax forms and other assorted tasks.  Lately I've been so busy with the mundane day to day tasks I've had little time to actually blend perfume.  This bothers me greatly.  Make no mistake, I'm happy that my business is growing and I'm incredibly grateful to have orders to fill.  I've been working very hard.  BUT, creating perfumes is my passion and an art that needs to be practiced.  In my case, a lot.  Over and over.  Repeatedly.  Am I spending so much time trying to source bubble mailers at the best price that I have forgotten what rose smells like?  

And so it's back to the studio for me.  I need to make friends with sandalwood again.  Network with my tinctures.  Rub shoulders with the creme de la creme of the perfume set . . . the botanicals.  The glorious natural ingredients.  It's not glamorous.  It's work, and I love it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mint in Perfumes. Like it or Loathe it?

It is a long cold winter here in New England.  The air is still, gray and cold.  When looking out the window all I see is white.  Frozen snow and ice.  Did I mention cold?  Ice?  The outdoor light is harsh and unforgiving bouncing off the reflective ice.  When I catch my reflection in the rearview mirror I note a myriad of wrinkles around my eyes that seem to have popped up overnight.  This displeases me and causes me to scowl, causing even more pronounced crows feet.  I try to relax and concentrate on the precarious driving conditions. 

The snow is close to four feet high where left untouched and covered with a thick layer of smooth clear ice.  On the rare occasion that the pale sun shines, the smooth frozen snow appears glasslike.  The large winter storm that delivered snow, then sleet, then hail followed by rain has finally moved out to sea.  As an ode to Mother Nature, I found it fitting to watch one of my favorite movies The Ice Storm yesterday.  This omnipresent coldness is numbing in every way.  The shocking feeling of opening the front door and taking a deep breath of chilling winter air makes me think of icy blasts of peppermint.  Insert York Peppermint Patty commercial here:  "When I bite into a York Peppermint Patty, I get the sensation of . . . "

I've been blending various perfumes mods with mints: peppermint, spearmint, and mint absolute.  Mint is tricky.  A light hand is needed.  Mint tends to overpower all others and I believe it's an acquired taste in perfumes.  I find mint absolute the most friendly, followed by spearmint.  Peppermint is difficult and not my favorite.  Mint also seems to have a sort of "sneak attack" on perfumes.  I smell the perfume as I'm blending and I find I cannot detect the mint.  I try a tiny drop more, still no mint.  Apply to skin, inhale and still not a trace of the "cold" note I'm seeking. One drop more . . . oh no!  It's suddenly mouthwash. 

I recently created a solid perfume with notes of spearmint, violet leaf, rose, and orris to name a few.  I'm not sure I like it, despite numerous revisions.  I feel cranky and petulant and am sure I'm suffering from cabin fever or seasonal affective disorder.  The mint is stronger than I'd like, drowning the bergamot and lime which are swallowed by the solid perfume.  The rose seems non-existent despite the exorbitant amount of otto and absolute used.  The costly and beautiful orris is faint and appears much later on the skin as a powder cool sigh.  Perhaps I've created an unsuccessful and expensive mistake.  Irritation abounds.  I ask my partner what he thinks of the scent, rubbing the balm on his hand with a challenging look in my eye.  "Mmmm, it's ahh . . . minty?  He asks this nervously, eyes darting hoping his comment is what I'm looking for.  Have I mentioned I'm a tad bit cranky? 

My predicamint (sorry people--bad humor abounds when it's 1 degree outside--that's right, I said 1 degree.) The solid perfume is pretty and green.  Interesting and original, but do people really want to smell minty?

Send warmth and sunshine.