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.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


I never cease to be amazed by the proliferation and apparent popularity of articles on how to be better at something or other. Ten ways to improve your time management. Five ways to get more sleep. Fifteen ways to leave your lover. Six ways to train your cat to fetch your perfume samples. Because I’m always happy to pontificate about things, I thought it might be fun to start a series in parallel to mass-market Mondays: Self-help Saturdays. I’m going to start with something I’ve written about before, but will expand on here – how to be a better e-commerce customer.

There is no better way to learn what not to do as a customer than to be a vendor for a while. Here are my ten tips for ingratiating yourself with the people who sell you merchandise online. Believe me, if a vendor likes you, you will get the best service they can offer. If you screw up royally, you will go on their no-sell list.

1. Do not try to scam the vendor. I assume none of my readers would try to do this, but it does happen. Scamming behavior is what gets you on the no-sell list.

2. Do pay for your order and give me your correct shipping address. Proofread your order before sending it. If you need to specify choices, do so. 

3. Do not start bombarding me with spam or ask me to like your irrelevant Facebook page that I know nothing about.

4. Do like my Facebook page if you honestly like my products, and let your friends know about my business. Leave a review on my website. Every vendor loves feedback.

5. Do not e-mail or phone me the day after you place your order and ask why it has not shipped yet or why it has not arrived already. Small businesses may need a few days lead time on shipping, or more than that if the person running the business and/or doing the shipping is out of town, has an emergency to deal with, or receives an unusually high volume of orders.

6. Do be patient and wait a reasonable amount of time for your order to arrive before asking whether it has shipped and when to expect it. For domestic orders, this would 7-10 days and for international orders 2-3 weeks. There’s nothing wrong with a little delayed gratification.

7. Do not order a large size of a product and then complain that after using it you don’t like it and want your money back.

8. Do try small samples before you buy a large size. For products that can’t be sampled, read consumer reviews carefully and do your homework before ordering merchandise. Be sure it’s what you want. Impulse buys and frivolous returns cost everyone money.

9. Do not communicate with vendors in an abusive way or blame them for problems that occurred in transit.

10. Do send the vendor a polite message if a product malfunctions or a product is damaged in transit. The vendor will almost always work with you to send a replacement, refund your money, or otherwise troubleshoot.

I will end this post by saying that I love 99% of my customers and 99% of the companies from which I order merchandise. None of us wants to be in that other 1%. 

[Shop window painting by Isaac Israels (1894), bookseller print "The Bookman" (1896), children in a shop painting, W.L. Laguy (19th century), retro postman photo from Wikimedia]

Thursday, May 21, 2015


This morning I was surprised to see a short article entitled “How to find your signature scent”. How many of those have you seen over the years? It doesn’t appear to be a zombie article from decades ago because it was published just this week on a website mostly dedicated to business, not perfume. In all fairness it’s probably directed at people who have never used perfume before. Still, I thought that the alliterative concept of the single “signature scent” was a relic of the 20th century. Maybe I lead a sheltered life in the ivory tower of perfumista-hood.

The advice on how to choose a signature scent was basically, “go to a department store, try a few things, decide what you like and buy the perfume and a matching lotion”. OK. That’s one approach. What I wonder is how many people today actually do that? How many people ever did that? I know that even in my pre-perfumista days I liked to smell a variety of scents and would never have worn the same perfume two days in a row, or even two days in the same week. I always checked out every perfume shop I saw, looking for new things, especially mini-bottles. I’ve had a collection of those as far back as I can remember.

Wearing a signature scent makes about as much sense as wearing just one type of clothing all the time. Come to think of it, some people do exactly that, like Steve Jobs and his iconic black turtlenecks, or my colleague from Texas who is never seen without his one cowboy hat and one pair of cowboy boots. I guess it makes life easy if you don’t have to spend any time thinking about what to wear or what to spray. However, to me, life is too short to spend it as a caricature of myself. On the other hand, maybe this strategy is the ultimate form of self-actualization. Is it a metaphysical achievement to find the one thing that epitomizes one’s being and stick with it exclusively and faithfully, setting aside all curiosity about everything else?

I really didn’t intend to make this post philosophical, but the question of severely limiting one’s style is an interesting one to explore, as are the pros and cons of having one perfume that announces your presence like a fanfare leitmotif and prompts people to say, “Oh, it smells like X was/is here in the room”.

One thing I love about living in the 21st century is the amazing variety and lack of rigid societal norms about what we wear, either as clothing or perfume. We are free to play. I would not want to give up that freedom for an iconic “signature scent” or a black turtleneck. What do you think?

[Steve Jobs headshot from Wikipedia; poor Pepe Le Pew, who cannot get away from his/her signature scent, is from a Loony Tunes themed website, the sterile perfume counter is from a commercial website] 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


The past two months have gone by like a tornado, leaving in their wake the usual post-tornado cleanup work to do. This includes sucking up all the twisted mobile home scraps of guilt about not posting here for months and getting back into the routine of blogging, tending my Facebook page, and updating my websites.

Flashing back to March, there was an out-of town orchid show, followed closely by the Artisan Fragrance Salon in San Francisco. Then there was a local orchid show, followed by another out-of town one in early April, followed by the Art and Olfaction Awards in LA the next weekend. The weekend I got back to Seattle started tech week for the theatre show that I was producing, which just finished its 3-week run on Sunday. To make matters worse, the student intern who usually helps me with orchid care and shipping was unable to work during much of this time.

You have to understand that because of my “day job” at the university, the prime time to work on orchids, perfumes and theatre is on the weekends, so being away or otherwise incapacitated on weekends puts a severe strain on my ability to take care of plants, fill orders, and work on production. I’m not complaining, mind you, because I acknowledge that I have a neurotic need to be constantly overbooked, and actually thrive on it. It’s just by way of explanation of why there were no blog posts between then and now.

I have to say that it has been an amazing and surreal couple of months, with some very successful shows of all types, Woodcut winning the Art and Olfaction Award, the business expanding, and just generally having fun.

It’s good to be back on the blog. This post is all about me, but I promise you that future posts will be more interesting!

[Tornado photo from Wikimedia; Golden Pear photo from the Art and Olfaction website; rat on running wheel from the website of a manufacturer of such equipment. ]