Smell-X installation explores future of smell

What does the future hold for scent? This was the question posed at a sensory installation called Smell-X, recently held at the Figment NYC festival at Governor’s Island in New York City. We used to rely on our sense of smell to stay alive, but as Helen Keller commented, this once-vital ability became something of ‘the fallen angel of the senses’ when we no longer needed to smell a sabre-toothed tiger or forage for food with our noses as the guide.

We teach people techniques proven to enhance our olfactory abilities in our regular How To Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops (keep an eye on our events pages and newsletter) attempting to re-connect those neural pathways and genuinely get more pleasure from smelling things in a different way each day. But what if we lived in a future where smell had become so dismissed, we forgot the emotional connections and time-travelling memories that scent can tap in to…?

Olivia Jezler is a designer and scent strategist, who invited guests’ to save the future of humanity’ in the multisen­sorial installation. Having worked for fragrance houses including IFF, Symrise and Robertet, working with brands and participating in academic research in Human Computer Interaction at the SCHI LAB at University of Sussex, Olivia wanted to see how members of the public interact with scent in a series of  hands-on (or rather ‘noses-on’) experiments.

Participants were asked to imagine a future where, ‘…there is no need for the sense of smell and thus our smelling abilities have been genetically engineered to not exist. However, it has become noticeable that people have become joy-less, feelings of enjoyment, connection, beauty and emotion have disappeared and most worrisome, rates of suicide have increased…

Yet, there is hope. There are a few people who through a genetic mutation have retained their ability to smell, those in possession of the gene family Smell-X. Special agents search the world to identify these rare individuals who can perceive through their noses to be a “smell translator”. They are invited to a competition to translate basic smells into shapes. This is the first step to bringing humanity back into balance – giving them the ability to experience the elusive and emotive sense of smell through one of their other senses.’

We so wish we could have been in New York to see the exhibition in person, but for the rest of you who also couldn’t be there, luckily the Smell-X experiments are written about in great deatail on their website.

We’re completely fascinated by these ‘cross-modal’ explorations of smell – finding out the myriad ways our senses overlap. Indeed, we dedicated an entire issue of our magazine to the subject, including our award-winning feature on Synaesthesia. If you’re interested in discovering more, buy your magazine here!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

 

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz & the renaissance of natural perfumers

Finding her way to fragrance through the art of painting, natural perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is a leading light in the niche fragrance world with a devoted following of fragrance fans. From working at Boston’s renowned ESSENSE Perfumery, Dawn developed a particular talent for creating perfumes based on her fine art principles, and took the plunge to launch her own label, DSH Perfumes.

Anyone who has smelled Dawn’s scents can attest to the fact that they’re taking natural perfumery to another level – a subject we explore in-depth in the latest edition of The Scented Letter Magazine: Flower Power – now available online for International Subscriptions and in glorious print for those of you who prefer to be hands-on…

From the first time we got to smell DSH Perfumes for ourselves – and to meet the very engaging Dawn – during the Art & Olfaction gathering earlier this year, we have been haunted by their other-worldliness, the way that Dawn somehow transforms notoriously tricky (and often ‘muddy’ smelling) materials into something truly artful. But we wanted to catch up with Dawn to find out exactly how she crafts her fragrances so beautifully, and the challenges she faces when working with all-natural ingredients…

– Why do you love natural fragrance materials so much, and when did this love really begin?

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz: ‘I have loved natural materials from the very first; from the moment that I began working with perfumery materials (both natural and synthetic) I was immediately attracted to the incredible beauty/strangeness, depth, complexity, and intrinsic ‘quality’ of the naturals.  You can feel the energy of the place that the materials were grown in and with each distillation method, some new facets come out from the plant itself.  It’s almost like they speak to you if you want to listen.  Of course, I love the beautiful things like Bulgarian rose, or jasmine sambac, neroli, santalum album, and so many others but I really love the strange, hard to use, and exotic naturals like choya nahk, cumin, seaweed absolute, or hyraceum, too.’

– Do you have a favourite natural fragrance material, or something you’re particularly enjoying using at the moment?

DSH: ‘That is a very, very difficult question to answer… kind of like choosing a favorite child.  Oakmoss absolute was one of my absolute favorites from the very beginning and I’ve become a connoisseur of various oakmoss absolute materials over the years.  There’s a surprising amount of variation with oakmoss.  Natural sandalwood is also a long time favorite material but you know there are so many WONDERFUL naturals coming out on the market these days that it’s hard to choose a current favorite. The fact that natural ambergris tincture is now widely available is like a miracle to my younger self just starting out in perfumery, and it’s a truly lovely material to work with. OK, perhaps if I had to chose, in this very moment, I would have to say that tomato leaf absolute is rocking my world.  I get a buzz each and every time I get a whiff of the stuff.’

– Do you think the public perception of natural fragrances is changing… have preconceptions and snobbery disappeared?

DSH: ‘I think that interest in natural perfumery is growing; for many reasons.  Some people are more concerned with the materials used in their fragrances than the overall aesthetic or design of the perfume.  Others actually find natural perfumes much more appealing, in a general way, than commercial perfume designs, which they find overwhelming.  For the perfume lovers or aficionados, who are well versed in traditional perfume styles, many natural perfumes seem too dense, opaque, or muddy in comparison to the transparency that synthetics can provide in a design.  The design challenges that working in an all natural palette presents is either in making very streamlined perfumes with perfect transitions from one note to another that is done using unusual materials choices or by interweaving a very intricate structure to make perfumes that feel complete and complex, but not opaque.  Either way, the challenges are great and (fascinatingly) difficult, which is part of why I love the all natural palette.

Pictured above is the divine Mata Hari fragrance – one whiff of which and we were transported to a shimmering golden world of seduction by Chypre. The list of ingredients is huge, but it still retains the lightness of touch and a certain luminesence rarely seen without the use of synthetics, and which will surely turn natural naysayers into true believers at first sniff… Continues Dawn, ‘Having said all of that, there are many natural perfumes and perfumers who are creating clever, interesting, and unique fragrances that have the structural integrity and completeness to change many minds.  I don’t think that preconceptions have disappeared but I do think that the plethora of new materials available to the natural perfumer should open many doors to encourage the ‘naysayers’ to come and try the genre again.  They might be pleasantly surprised..’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Givaudan’s Eden Project scent sculpture

Have you ever wanted to smell history? Well, now you can, for deep within the Biomes of Cornwall’s Eden Project, the fragrance development house of Givaudan have collaborated with Studio Swine (‘Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers’), aka: Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves, to create a monumental new scented artwork.

Standing at nearly nine metres and firing out rings of fragranced vapour, the structure is thought to be the world’s largest ceramic sculpture.

The sculpture has been named ∞ Blue (Infinity Blue) and it’s an immersive, 20-tonne installation created as the centrepiece of the newly opened Invisible Worlds, a major new (and permanent) exhibition homage to cyanobacteria, one of the world’s smallest living beings.

32 cannons fire out scented vapour rings into the exhibition space, which the Eden Project say ‘…reveals the untold and unseen stories of our planet beyond our senses: too big, too small, too fast, too slow and too far away in space and time.’

Watch a short video of the sculpture in action – it’s completely mesmerising!

And the scent of the vapour? Apparently it ‘tells a layered, 4.5 billion-year history of the atmosphere… using the aromas of primordial worlds as a starting point for new sensual experiences.’

So we’re imagining it might be… green, earthy, with heart notes of mineralic haze and a base of swamp?

Studio Swine explain: ‘Around three billion years ago, cyanobacteria first developed oxygenic photosynthesis. In doing so, they changed the nature of our planet. In the same way that artists of the past would depict the sacred, our sculpture ∞ Blue gives physicality to the invisible elements our existence depends on; our breathable atmosphere, microbial life and deep time.’

Accompanying the sculpture, a film directed by Studio Swine – who like to use this medium to enhance their artworks – in collaboration with Petr Krejčí, fascinatingly charts the sculpture’s very beginnings in the sea off the Cornish coast, using ‘otherworldly, sci-fi-inspired cinematography.’

We can’t wait to visit and sniff the ‘primordial scent’ for ourselves, and definitely something to consider for the summer holidays! Pretty much nothing is going to be more impressive for kids (and adults, alike) to write in their What I Did On Holiday journal than, ‘Dear Diary, today we smelled the scent of microbial life, and deep time itself…’

Visit the Eden Project’s website for more information.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Recreating ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’

Occasionally, you’re scrolling through Instagram and something particularly catches your eye. Today it was, firstly, a still from the magnificent film adaptation of Patrick Süsskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. And secondly, the rather intriguing text beneath…

‘Sexy gingers wanted!’ Redheads all around the world, we are looking for you! Mediamatic is looking for sexy gingers who let us extract their scent during Playhouse: Sex S(m)ells! Inspired by Patrick Süsskind’s ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’ we will recreate the perfume from the book. Interested and not afraid of people inhaling your smell? E-mail to: workshop@mediamatic.nl

Well now. In the novel (and resulting film adaptation) of Perfume, the protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, is born with an extraordinary sense of smell. Those of you who have read the book or seen the film will be aware that his methods of capturing people’s scents are rather, um, murder-y, as the title may suggest. Lest potential volunteers are put off by this, the Institute for Art and Olfaction add a helpful footnote:

‘The redheads don’t actually need to be sexy, but exhibitionism is a must. We’re going to attempt Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s experiments, minus the murder!’

So that’s reassuring!

Earlier this year, the Art and Olfaction team arrived in London for their annual Award ceremony, celebrating independent and artisanal perfumers and artists who work with the sense of smell. Prior to the awards, there were many workshops, talks and performances taking place in Los Angeles, where the IAO are based, culminating in an Experimental Scent Summit in London, which we were delighted to take part in. The next award ceremony (2019) will be in Amsterdam, and ahead of this the IAO team will be taking up residence for the next month. As they explain…

Mediamatic and the institute for Art and Olfaction Team up for a summer program exploring innovative topics around olfaction. Over the course of a month, the IAO Los Angeles team will be in residence at Mediamatic in the first part of an ongoing research and programme on open scent culture and olfactory art.

Join us in our Aroma Lab for perfume blending workshops, follow our live on-site podcast production, learn about sex smells and join our aromatic game show, or a range of other activities presented by the IAO’s Los Angeles-based team.’

We can’t wait to see what they produce. Would you be brave enough to volunteer to have your scent ‘extracted’? We’re thinking it would certainly make for a unique ‘What I Did On My Summer Holiday’ diary entry, if nothing else!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

Fragrance – a conversation through design

We often liken a fragrance to texture – ‘velvety’, ‘smooth’, ‘suede’ – or colours, temperatures and emotions. With so few words in our language dedicated to smell alone, we must reach out with our other senses and make a connection between them and what we are smelling.

Arun Sispal is an artist and designer who sought to explore these connections in a tangible way, translating them into fragrant form with the help of British indie perfume house 4160 Tuesdays. You can now experience the results at his exhibition within the Royal College of Art – which is FREE but ends 1st July 2018, so we urge you to make haste before you miss it!

Scroll down for full details of how to get there, but for now we caught up with Arun, and asked him to explain the concept in his own words…

Arun Sispal: ‘The sentence I use to summarise what the work is about is -“If you were unable to experience the qualities of fragrance through the olfactory system, how could you experience its qualities through senses of touch and sight?”

Essentially, this project is to be viewed as a ‘conversation’ and ‘enquiry’, as opposed to a design piece with a final end outcome. The work discusses notions of ‘Interpretation’ and ‘blended senses’, and how the senses can influence one another. The conversation is made up of 3 stages:

Stage 1– I created a bespoke scent
Stage 2– I responded to the scent created through design and material creation
Stage 3– The design work was taken to 4160 Tuesdays, where Sarah McCartney created a fragrance response to the design work.

Stage 1– I created a scent at 4160 Tuesdays with a perfumer named Harry. We had several attempts and I described the type of scent I wanted. I needed the scent to have body and definition, as opposed to being something that was very silent and undefined – this was to allow for a successful material interpretation of the scent; because if it was quiet and did not have many facets, I don’t feel the design response would have been engaging or understandable.

In the end, we created a super heavy, dark and dusty scent, with a veil of Dorinia rose that glistens on tops, eventually drying down to something quite powdery. It is a scent than keeps changing, and shows new sides, and that is what I wanted- for it to fleet between these quite dramatic moments.

Stage 2– I then spent time responding to the scent. Thinking about the colours it evokes, the journey of the scent and how it develops over time, its weight, texture etc. (all of these elements that are both tangible and intangible, but once sprayed and in liquid form, this sense of physicality is no longer present). I also got those around me to tell me what the scent evoked for them and any memories, and the responses were so varied and unexpected- depending on their age, location etc.

In terms of the colours… Initially these super dark charcoals and blacks, quite scratched on surface, as the scent isn’t forgiving or a wallflower, but it shouts, and these tones reflected the intensity of the smoke. Also, a refined selection of bitten pink and metallic blush, reflecting the Rose when it is both shrouded in smoke and at its most brightest, clean stage. An abundance of mid tones that do not necessarily sit under the ‘pink’ or ‘grey’ heading, but instead are quite unsure of their identity, and shift between the 2, reflecting the transiency and ephemerality of the scent, and how it develops so much.

And in terms of the materials, using heavy wool felts in super flat, monotone charcoal and gunmetal coloured metal aspects, to reinforce the weight of notes like the agarwood, karmawood and white birch, and then contrasting this with delicate degrades of embroidery in metallic pink that shimmer on the surface, like the softness of the rose.

Stage 3– The design work was then taken to Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays, who spent time understanding and looking and touching the materials, and trying to create a connection between their physicality, and the array of ‘ingredients’ at the facility. One of the most prominent and interesting elements that Sarah picked up on was the use of gunmetal coloured wire that lay on top of the wool felt in a regimented, slightly aggressive way, and how its edges ‘poked’ out of the surface.

She wanted to use a note that had the same ‘pokey’ feeling – eventually opting for pink and black peppercorn- due to their instant ‘hit’ that knocks your head back when you smell it. This was such an exciting part of the project, as it was great to see the way that a professional perfumer is able to interpret the visual and aesthetic, which is the job of a designer.

The work was an experiment that had materials at the heart, how to tell a story in a multisensory way. It is about sensitivity, and it is also quite romantic…’

Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, Kensington, London, SW7 2EU
12-6pm, 28th June- 1st July (closed 29th June)
Located in ‘Textiles’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Daniel Sonabend’s 5 musical fragrances

London-based composer Daniel Sonabend today releases Scent Constellation – an album of ‘five musical fragrance creations’ based on Jason Bruges’ award-winning permanent installation at Le Grand Musèe du Parfum in Paris.

Music and fragrance have long been linked – we use the same language to describe and shape their creations, after all: we talk of ‘notes’, ‘accords’, and of course a perfumer may use an ‘organ’ to ‘compose’ their piece – this ‘instrument’ the very inspiration behind Daniel’s creative interpretation.

Daniel Sonabend. Photo by Michal Sulima

There’s a deeper connection, too, when we experience fragrance and music – no other art can move us in quite the same way as smelling a scent that suddenly whisks us, unbidden, to an overwhelmingly distinct emotion or memory; similarly, we cannot control our reaction to hearing a piece of music for the first time. Both of these cause instantaneous emotions we feel before we can logically process, as the hautingly beautiful, ethereal soundscapes Daniel has created for Scent Constellation, most certainly attest to.

Daniel was a guest speaker at the Art & Olfaction Scent Summit, which was held in London this year, describing the multi-sensory art piece, created by Jason Bruges Studio, in which he intriguingly portrays the very creation – and visceral perception – of perfume through sound.

Jason Bruges’ Scent Constellation at Le Grand Musèe du Parfums, Paris, where Daniel Sonabend’s music is played. Photo by James Medcraft

Experiencing Jason Bruges’ installation at Le Grand Musèe du Parfum, spectators see a ‘perfumer’s organ’ depicted by 200 optical prisms directly linking to 200 sounds, representing a fragrant palette of raw ingredients, from bergamot oil to synthetic musk and violet leaf. These musical notes react in the way a traditional perfume pyramid does: top notes fleetingly present, heart notes lingering longer and base notes providing a lasting emotion.

The ingredient sounds are then ingeniously ‘mixed’ together, creating 5 different perfume music compositions: Eau de Cologne, Oriental, Fougère, Floral and Chypre (see feature image at the top of the page). ‘In the museum, these olfactory mini-symphonies are harmoniously played out with light as each ingredient from the fragrance formula is triggered by a laser beam hitting the prism, then bouncing into and illuminating a glass flacon centre piece, bottling the final creation. A poetic audio-visual metaphor for the process of imagining new perfumes.’

Scent Constellation album artwork

During our How to Improve Your Sense of Smell workshops, we often ask people to imagine which instrument or piece of music they would liken to the scent they’re (blind) smelling, and you know what? They’re never lost for an answer. Our senses blur all the time, and it’s fascinating to really give in to the synaesthesia, sometimes.

Experience Daniel’s Scent Constellation album for yourself, below. You can also listen via Spotify, if you prefer. Whichever you choose, can you hear the fragrances, smell the music…?

Written by Suzy Nightingale

The Perfume Bottles Auction 2018

Every year, some of the world’s most rare and beautiful perfume bottles are gathered together in one room, at the Perfume Bottles Auction (and going for eye-watering prices, as you’ll see, below!) ‘The longest-running specialty auction of it’s type worldwide, returning clients have come to expect unique, undocumented, and seldom seen bottles to be offered by the Perfume Bottles Auction.’

Bidding on these precious lots are flacon collectors and a good number of museum directors, all desperate to get their hands on these utterly stunning pieces. This year’s auction took place in conjunction with the International Perfume Bottle Association‘s 30th annual convention in Tyson’s, VA, matching the previous year’s already staggering result of $400,000 within a few dollars. Oh my goodness, how we would have loved to be there! Which of these would you have bid on, given a chance…?

1922 Lucien Galliard for Violet ‘Pourpre d’Automne’

Now we have the incredible results (and heart-flutteringly fabulous pictures of the bottles) of what they realised, as told to us by the Perfume Bottles Auction representative… ‘A large and enthusiastic crowd compeated with online bidders, multiple phone lines, and a number of absentee bids over 250 lots chosen to suit every pocketbook – resulting in a wide spread of wins from a 1925 Terre de Ritz figural powder box formed as a 17th century court lady ($120) to the 1940 Helena Rubenstein “Gala Performance” ($24,000, seen below) formed as an actress with outstretched arms standing in an elaborate stage-set box of ostrich plume and velvet.

Bottle designs of 1925 proved to generate special interest and some of the highest results, including the Julien Viard bottle for Myrugia “Besame” with it’s rare love-birds images on label and box ($19,200); the French comic-strip inspired black and white auk character for Coryse “Alfred” ($9,600); Rene Lalique‘s dancer and butterflies motif for Erasmic “de Lui” ($13,200); and the alluring fan-themed label, box, and scent name of Oriza L. Legrand “Eventail” (fan) topping the sale ($39,000) at triple it’s pre-sale estimate.

A fine grouping of R. Lalique items featured perfume bottles, powder boxes, hand mirrors, and a rare 1930 three-chamber perfume tester bed with miniature stoppers as nude maidens for Maison Lalique ($8,400). The auction drew particular interest from a number of museum curators over three historically significant Guerlain bottles including “The Moorish Bottle” a rare 1910 hand decorated bottle by Pochet & du Courval ($9,600, seen above). All three went to museum collections.

1830 Guerlain white opaline glass, with hand-written note and label.

Other highlights in the commercial bottle category include the surrealist female bust of 1941 Lilly Dache “Drifting” ($19,200); the 1938 Baccarat white crystal fan for Elizabeth Arden “Cyclamen” (9,600); and the 1927 Marblehead Art Pottery Egyptian pharoah bottle for Leigh “Amber Nile” ($10,200, see feature image at top of page).

The sale included several lots of perennially popular 19th century scent bottles featuring a Thomas Webb peachblow bottle with applied gold cherry blossoms ($960); an 1850s miniature gourd with hand carved Napoleonic images ($660); an 1887 silver-capped British porcelain monkey ($480); and an 1870s crystal chatelaine bottle with ruby, sapphire and pearl set silver mounts ($1,320).

Dominating the evenings offerings was a beautiful private collection of 1920s-1930s Czechoslovakian crystal bottles, which became a buyer’s paradise due to the large selection and variety, scattering winning bids to between $500 and $2,500, and sending an exceedingly rare Ingrid bottle simulating carved lapis birds soaring ($7,200, seen above)!’

Full results for this and past auctions can be found online at perfumebottlesauction.com

And for those of you hoarding stashed of fabulous flacons, consignments are now being considered for the 2019 auction in Chicago. For further information contact Auction Director: Ken Leach at ken@perfumebottlesauction.com

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

Experimental Scent Summit & Awards 2018

The heart of artistic perfumery throbs strongly in Los Angeles, home to the Institute for Art and Olfaction since 2012, and as founder Saskia Wilson-Brown explains, the pulse for perfumery is changing, too.

‘New, self-educated perfumers are thriving, the scents themselves are becoming progressively more audacious, and the art of perfumery as a whole is going through a deep re-examination.’ With this in mind, she launched the IAO as a means of support for perfumers and artists working in and exploring this medium, with the aim ‘…to highlight the innovation and artistry in perfumery, to instigate greater engagement with the art and science around scent, to juxtapose it with other creative practices, and to bring it into the big bad world.’

With an on-going diary bursting with creative, interactive projects, talks and workshops, each year the IAO celebrate independent perfumery with an awards ceremony – the fragrances blind-sniffed by an array of knowledgable judges – and the awards themselves (known as ‘The Golden Pears’) handed out at a differing city each year.

The Art and Olfaction Experimental Scent Summit: London 2018 [Photo by Marina Chichi]
This time, celebrating their fifth year, it was London’s turn to host the awards, and you can see the list of the winners, below; but we were especially thrilled to attend this year’s twist – an ‘Experimental Scent Summit‘, which saw guest speakers from all over the world coming together to talk about their artworks dedicated to exploring our sense of smell. A full two days of talks, performances and discussions, you can read about what went on in greater detail here, but suffice to say we left truly inspired, and buzzing with ideas!

Do take time to have a look at the winners’ websites, and see what your nose might have missed…

Artisan Category Winners:

Chienoir by BedeauX     
CD/Perfumer: Amanda Beadle

[P.S: We must admit to cheering extra loudly for this one – Amanda’s a Perfume Society V.I.P Member! She’s visited us at two of our How To Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops – one in London, and one in Hastings – and we shall be interviewing her shortly to find out the full story of this incredible win, so watch this space…]

Christophe Laudamiel holding his ‘Golden Pear’ Award [photo by Marina Chichi]
Club Design by The Zoo     
CD/Perfumer: Christophe Laudamiel

Independent Category Winners:

Eau de Virginie by Au Pays de la Fleur d’Oranger  
Perfumer: Jean-Claude Gigodot
CD: Virginie Roux

Nuit de Bakélite by Naomi Goodsir
Perfumer: Isabelle Doyen
CD: Naomi Goodsir, Renaud Coutaudier

Sadakichi Award Winner: Under the Horizon by Oswaldo Macia
Perfume: Ricardo Moya (IFF)

Aftel Award for Handmade Perfume: Pays Dogon by Monsillage (Canada)
Perfumer: Isabelle Michaud

Contribution to Scent Culture: Peter de Cupere (Belgium)

Winners, judges and organisers of the 5th annual Art and Olfaction Awards [photo by Marina Chichi]

IFRA's Fragrance Forum put our sense of smell on the map…

Every year, IFRA – the trade association promoting the safe creation, development and enjoyment of fragrance) organise a Fragrance Forum – an utterly fascinating coming together of highly engaging speakers with experts from just about every sector you can imagine – all of whom are linked by their expertise and interest in the sense of smell. We were thrilled to be invited along for their seventh Forum as part of the fragrance press, and so found ourselves learning the power of Medical Detection Dogs, how to make a Mosquito Invisibility Cape, how to smell-map a city, how the Pre-Raphaelites responded to the stench of the river Thames (by linking it to paintings of fallen women, it turns out), the difference between Synaesthesia (one of my favourite subjects ever) and cross-modal correspondences, and font-sniffing (as in: can you smell/taste/hear typefaces? Short story: yes.)
To give you a taste of the breadth and diversity of the subjects covered, here’s a little more about the speakers and the topics they spoke about so passionately. In a Fragrance Forum for which the theme was Scents & Sensibility (a nod to this year marking the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death), we left with a renewed excitement of the sense that some neglect, but which many of us have built our careers and, indeed, our lives around…
Dr Claire Guest – Sniffing it out
CEO Medical Detection Dogs
Claire has been involved in the training of dogs for tasks involving scent for over twenty years. Since 2002 she has been professionally involved in training dogs in the detection of human disease through scent. She is now the CEO of Medical Detection Dogs (MDD) the leading charity training dogs, pioneering both medical assistance and disease detection, and is not only a pioneer of the training but committed to carrying out empirical research to improve operations and to inform future medical technologies.

Professor James Logan How to make a mosquito invisibility cloak
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
James has more than 10 years of experience in the laboratory and field – in the UK and overseas – of controlling insects of medical and veterinary importance. He has an award-winning PhD investigating why some people are bitten more than others by mosquitoes and midges. Mosquito-borne diseases affect more than half the world’s population, diseases transmitted by insects account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases, causing more than one million deaths. By understanding more about mosquitoes and their incredible sense of smell, we can develop better ways to control one of the world’s most formidable forces. One day, we may even be able to make ourselves completely invisible.

Key theme: Scent and our surroundings
Kate McLean – Programme Director for Graphic Design at Canterbury Christ Church University
Dr Daniele Quercia – Bell Labs, Cambridge
On the Impossibility of Mapping the Smellscape
Kate McLean is a British artist and designer and mapper of urban smellscapes – the term used to describe the odour landscape around us. She runs smellscape mapping workshops, leads smellwalks around the world and has co-edited a book, Designing with Smell: Practices, Techniques and Challenges (2017). Her talk looked at how interative design research can be used to investigate how the general public perceives and reacts to smells in public spaces.
Daniele Quercia leads the Social Dynamics group at Bell Labs in Cambridge. He has been named one of Fortune magazine’s 2014 Data All-Stars, and spoke about “happy maps” at TED. His research has been focusing in the area of urban informatics, focussing on the fact that, although humans are able to potentially discriminate thousands of different odours, smell is simply hard to measure. SmellyMaps have recently proposed a new way of capturing the entire urban smellscape from social media data (i.e., tags on Flickr pictures or tweets). The SmellyMaps project aims at disrupting the mainly negative view of city odours and being able to celebrate the complex smells of our cities.

Dr Christina Bradstreet – Art, Smell and Sanitation
The National Gallery
Christina is Courses and Events Programmer at the National Gallery and she has taught 19th-century painting at Birkbeck College as well as guest lectures at Sotheby’s Institute, Royal Holloway College and the Courtauld Institute. So, how did the Pre-Raphaelites respond to the stench of the River Thames, in the summer of 1858? This talk explored how the urban stink influenced artists in Britain and beyond in the nineteenth-century.

Key theme: Scent and psychology
Dr Clare Jonas – Synaesthesia – a blending of the senses
University of East London
Synaesthesia is a fascinating condition in which the senses become entangled so that music might appear to have shapes, or smells have colours. In this talk Clare explored what synaesthesia is and how it relates to mechanisms of multisensory perception in the general population. She also explored visual aspects of art, advertising and packaging and how psychological research links them to taste and smell.

Sarah Hyndman – Wake up and smell the fonts!
Founder and Director, Type Tasting
Type Tasting founder Sarah Hyndman is a graphic designer, author and public speaker, known for her interest in the psychology of type. Her main area of expertise is multi sensory typography, she works on collaborative research studies with the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford. In her talk Sarah explored how visual language influences all of our senses as it tells the story of a product. The visual translation of luxury, gender or smell creates anticipation, informs our choices and enhances our experiences.
Innovative new research into crossmodal perception is now mapping the typography of smell – understanding this enables us to use visual language to accentuate nuances and nudge behaviour… just one of the many subjects we left wanting to explore in more depth, so stay tuned for our further investigations!
Written by Suzy Nightingale

How artist Paul Schütze began his journey from paper to perfume

Before photographer, artist and musician Paul Schütze even dreamed of designing fragrances and launching his own line, his obsession with the oft-overlooked sense of smell was already apparent the moment you stepped in to the gallery…
In 2014 Schütze exhibited Silent Surface – a collection of photographs comprising books on fire and with missing words – within the fitting surroundings of an antiquarian bookshop. A central piece of a blackened book resting atop a plinth wafted an other-worldly aroma he’d sprayed the pages with and, under the lights the fragrance diffused to fill the space. The piece was called IN LIBRO DE TENERIS, and the majority of visitors asked if they could buy this inky, woody, book-ish scent (they couldn’t, it hadn’t been created to wear on skin, just as a one-off aroma to enhance the experience of the show) but from that moment, his fragrant fate was sealed.
From then, Paul went on to immerse himself in the world of perfume, working to design his very own trio of fragrances, all borne from olfactory memories of his extensive travels and the inherent artistic sense he has of interpreting the world around him.
Cirebon is a glowing citrus swathed in Tunisian orange blossom, inspired by Paul’s memory of a ‘… Night on the island of Java: by the edge of a lake; the perfumed sounds of a court gamelan orchestra drift across the water, hovering in the air like a constellation of shimmering insects,’ while Tears of Eros is an incense like no other, weaving a scent trail that takes you to ‘…The artist’s studio: Winter; incense from Kyoto’s Sanju Sangendo, a bowl of discarded clementine peel and a night blooming hyacinth; moonlit air from the open windows: these fragrances coalesce into a narcotic, heady, living incense.’ The last of the three so far – Behind the Rain – expands the beauty of mineralic petrichor (the smell that follows a downpour) with a trip to  ‘…An island in the Aegean: a sudden violent rainstorm: as the storm ends, the warmth of the emerging sun on bruised foliage coaxes waves of resinous fragrance that wash down onto our place of shelter under a stand of conifer trees.’

Fascinated to learn more of Paul’s fragrant travels, we asked him to guide us through the most evocative, his personal favourites, and the scents that always inspire him…
What is your first ‘scent memory’?
Chlorine: I have loved swimming in pools since I can remember. I do my best thinking while plowing up and down the lanes letting the world slip away. The huge pleasure of it is inextricably bound to the smell of chlorine. The faintest whiff and I’m transported
When did you decide you wanted to design your own perfume?
I’d always wanted to but it was only four years ago that I realised it might be possible.
What are your five favourite smells in the world?
Well, chlorine – obviously, the interior of the Sanju Sangendo in Kyoto, the flesh of a perfect white peach, our dog Gilbert’s head smells delicious and finally the epicenter of Queen Mary’s Rose Garden (Regent’s Park) in the middle of Summer: the most dizzying, hallucinatory storm of perfumes imaginable.
What’s the worst thing you ever smelled. (Honestly!)
Red Bull: utterly nauseating! I have moved decks on the bus to avoid it.
What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
Sycomore from Chanel’s Les Exclusives series
Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers? Why do you think that is?
I think we are in a time of intense activity both in commercial perfumery and in the outer edges of experiment (Sisal Tolas and Peter De Cupere). Also because people are realizing that the classical way is not the only way. I think there are parallels with the birth of contemporary music and with visual abstraction.
If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?
If I might be allowed a fictional historical figure then Des Esseintes the protagonist in Huysmans À rebours.
What’s the first fragrance you bought. And the first bought for you…?
The very first fragrance I bought was Grey Flannel. The first bought for me was Tabac Blonde.
Do you have a favourite bottle design?

I recently made a unique, triple strength version of Cirebon for my partner Chris’s 50th Birthday. I gave it to him in a very beautiful antique, stoppered bottle with a hinged gold cap. It sits in a leather sarcophagus-like case (see photo, below.)


How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
Depends, I prefer to work on only one but if I have commissions then it can be three or four at a time.
Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
It does. Then I know to turn my attentions elsewhere. You can’t force things.
How long, roughly, does it take to create one of your fragrances?
The fastest was a single day the longest so far has been a little over a year.
Is designing a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain of the perfumer? If so, in what way…? Is a mood-board helpful?
No, barely visual at all. Very musical though. I often find myself confusing sounds and smells. I listen to music while I work and it is chosen with infinite care. I find time spent in certain architectural spaces hugely helpful in getting a bead on the “right” feel for a fragrance.
What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
Smell everything. Stop deciding how things smell by merely looking at them. Grab things and burry your face in them. That goes for people too!
What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
Again, just smell things: never buy food without taking the time to smell it extravagantly. Never begin to eat until you have savored the aromas of your food. If you find yourself in a lift, close your eyes and imagine the other people from the aromas surrounding you. Open windows and inhale. Never walk past plants, flowering or otherwise without taking the time to sniff them. Never, never worry about how nuts all this makes you seem!
If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
Vetiver.
We couldn’t leave it there, because we particularly wanted to know about two unusual notes used in the fragrances, and so Paul explained why they are used.

  • Green Incense: I’m obsessed with incense both as a ritual item and as a family of smells. I love the idea of an incense which is living, green, not-yet-burnt.
  • Tamarind: Wonderful aroma which hits you in the taste buds as much as the nose. I can’t smell it without my mouth watering. It has a phenomenological impact on the body which I find really seductive.

With such instantly evocative and unique fragrances to launch the range, we can’t wait to see (and sniff) where Paul Schütze will take us next…
Paul Schütze parfums £135 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy them at Liberty
Written by Suzy Nightingale