What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Yesterday I took the Kingston Ferry to pick up orchid flasks. Riding the ferry across the sound is always like a mini-vacation, and yesterday was unusually beautiful. The weather was warm, the sky partly overcast, the smell of freshly exposed seaweed in the air, and the water completely calm. It was the lowest tide I’ve seen for a long time. I stood on the front deck of the ferry and stared down at the hypnotic, moving reflection patterns in the water. Those water patterns are more fascinating than any psychedelic show if you focus on appreciating their beauty instead of looking at the gaggle of summer shorts-clad, selfie-snapping, soda-slurping tourists that infest Seattle ferries at this time of year.

At one point the sun partially broke through the clouds, and the shifting water patterns were joined by bright rainbow patches that danced around and took me completely by surprise.

I noticed a young tourist girl who seemed as fascinated as I was by the water, ignoring her family’s loud comments about her clothing, and their suggestions that everyone should go inside, “out of the wind”. I like to think that she saw the same beauty that I did, and that there are still children and artists whose minds have not been completely shaped to only perceive and value manmade things.  

Here’s a question for you, dear reader: If you have seen the kind of water patterns I’m talking about, or the dancing patterns of sun and shadows on a stream bed, what sort of perfume would represent them?

[Painting by Claude Monet, who seemed as fascinated by water patterns as I am, other images from Wikimedia.] 


  1. Hi Ellen,
    I am fascinated by these water patterns too. They are so hypnotic, not unlike the moire patterns on silk fabric. For me "moire" patterned perfume would have very bright, reflective, metallic (mercurial) top notes. The heart would be lush and wet, the base dark, rich and shadowy. The overall aspect would be fluid without hard or sharp edges but with plenty of contrast. I really don't know which raw perfume materials would be needed to create this impression and texture. I love your idea for a new fragrance.

  2. Gail, I thought of moire patterns on silk, too, but the mathematical concept of moire patterns is potentially very important in understanding how the brain makes sense of things, including odors. This was a theoretical interest of mine a long time ago, and I'm getting interested in it again.

    And of course the moire perfume is something I will be working on!

  3. Those are beautiful pictures! I was reminded of this blog post when I read a review of Estee Lauder Estee on NST yesterday. Apparently the perfume was inspired, at least in part, by an image of two crystal chandalier's reflected in a glass of champagne. It also reminded me of impressionist art, and how hard and abstract capturing the idea of light can be.

    1. Yuki, You are absolutely right that capturing the idea of light in art is nearly impossible because it's constantly changing. The time dimension can't be caught in paintings or photos, although it can be to some extent in video. Even so, it's lacking the 3rd dimension of depth. I think the abstract idea of light can probably best be caught in music, followed by perfume.

  4. One that smells like golden sunshine, the end of the world, and magic. Summer in a bottle: the scotch broom and the dust kicked up by feet under maple trees on a trip to the river. A little sweet, a little hot, the ghosting snap of a freshly laundered sheet hung out to dry, the scent purling out when the bed is made months later. Sun-kissed with sand and a tiny whiff of the sea mist - not iodine, not seaweed, just the mist off of the ocean on the beach - and a hint of hot stone - more the heat scent wafting off of the stone, than the stone itself.

  5. Larkin, what an evocative description! I would like to make a perfume just like this!