Attempting to learn the art of perfumery is not for the faint of heart.
With hundreds of natural substances and synthetic molecules available, simply learning one’s materials can takes years. There is then the art of combining and dosing them to achieve the desired effect, which can truly be an exercise in trial and error.
Perfumery, historically and still today, is largely a “closed” industry, open to a select few who mainly study and have mentors within the domain of the large fragrance houses.
It can be challenging to find teachers and mentors as an “outsider.” My case was particularly challenging since, as a dairy farmer needing to care for my cows, the ability to travel for classes and meetings was restricted.
I am extremely thankful for these generous and open-hearted teachers and mentors.
I took an initial class with Eliza in New York City and then asked her if we could continue through long distance learning. Years of emails, skype calls, and perfume packages in the mail ensued.
Eliza has been all that a good teacher should be—filled with information, accessible, critical and, above all, always encouraging. She has helped me from the bottom up—from learning about materials, making accords, formula construction, and critiquing work, to starting a perfume brand and getting it off the ground. Her knowledge and friendship have been invaluable, as has her advice to be genuine to who you are as you create fragrance and a brand.
Eliza Douglas teaches independent perfumery classes and has given workshops at the Metropolitan Museum, New York Open Center, Brooklyn Brainery and on the U.S.S. Intrepid. She has taught visually impaired students with Art Beyond Sight for the New York Institute for Special Education and Visions Services for the Blind. She is particularly interested in creating scents to help viewers, visually impaired and otherwise, experience paintings and other artworks.
Dividing her time between England and New York, she works for DreamAir, the innovative fragrance company founded by perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. She is the Treasurer for the Academy of Perfumery and Aromatics, the American branch of the Osmothèque in Versailles. She is also the Fragrance Evaluator for Gallivant, a new niche perfume brand. She studied at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in France.
Eliza can be contacted at www.elizadouglas.com
Christophe Laudamiel is a master perfumer, scent composer, and advocate for the cultural importance of scent and perfumery in all aspects of human life. He is the creator of blockbuster fragrances such as Polo Blue (Ralph Lauren), Happy Heart (Clinique) and Fierce (Abercrombie & Fitch), among many others.
His company, DreamAir, based in New York and Berlin, works on many aspects of scent development, from creative fragrance composition to innovative technologies for scent delivery.
Among other things, Christophe is committed to lifting the veil of secrecy on perfume education and creation. By teaching people about scent composition and how to use their noses, Christophe hopes that more people will learn to appreciate and enjoy our sense of smell and will explore ways to communicate with others through scent.
When I approached him, Christophe generously agreed to smell my work in progress and offer his critiques. His criticism often sent me back to the drawing board, but his most valuable piece of advice to me was to ask if I thought I had found “the nerve” of the story I was trying to create in my finished scent. If not, I should remove the clutter of notes that were getting in the way of capturing the heart of my scent. This gave me a very important tool to use as I continue to assess my future work.
Luca Turin is a Renaissance man-- a biophysicist, researcher and writer with an ongoing interest in the physiology of smell (about which he has published research and given TED talks), perfumery and the fragrance industry. He is the subject of Chandler Burr’s book, “The Emperor of Scent”, and is considered a preeminent perfume critic. He is the author, with Tania Sanchez, of the best selling “Perfumes--The A-Z Guide” , a compilation of astute and entertaining perfume critiques.
I approached Luca when he was writing his blog “perfumesilove” and reviewing niche and artisan perfumes. Although he usually only critiques perfumes that are for sale, he graciously agreed to smell my work and offer counsel.
At a time when I was fairly new at the game, he kindly urged me to move forward in my pursuit of perfumery. His advice gave me a credo by which I often judge my work as it evolves.
“To advise you on an artistic direction, I would say to think about your perfumes as characters in a novel. You need to give them flaws--a scar down the cheek, a sudden flare of temper, an odd, quavery voice. Then they can become truly beautiful.”
Inspirational, bold advice from the critic of all critics!