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.

Monday, June 25, 2012


I haven’t posted much this spring due to what seems like an unusually heavy work overload. Finally, now that another academic year has come to an end, I’m trying to catch up on some abandoned posts that were started but never finished. This one was started during tech week of our last theatre show, back in May. That show took place in our usual performance space in the Center House at the Seattle Center, under the shadow of the iconic space needle. I hadn’t been there since last November, so was shocked to see that in the intervening months the last vestiges of the colorful kiddie rides at the Fun Forest amusement park had been removed. In its place was a closed-in, corporate-looking, over-designed space surrounding the new Chihuly glass museum. The museum itself looks like a standard-issue greenhouse, with formal, vaguely Asian-style gardens. The big building that used to house bumper cars and other forms of entertainment has been transformed into something that looks like an office park in an industrial strip mall where you would find shipping offices and wholesalers. The path I used to take to get from the street to the Center House is now blocked by a walled compound that reportedly charges $19 admission to see Dale Chihuly’s personal collections of non-glass tchotchkes. In the courtyard are a few large glass installations, just waiting for some teenagers to throw rocks over the fence at them.

Oh well, I suppose the whole concept fits right in with the tradition of building a fancy building to house the collections of “stuff” amassed by the very rich. After all, the Experience Music Project (EMP for short) is just a big space to house Paul Allen’s collection of music memorabilia. The EMP is a Ghery-ish, brightly colored, metallic-tiled, twisted structure that one of my school colleagues described as “looking like the Space Needle vomited”. At least it doesn’t look like it’s wearing a corporate suit, and the metallic finish shines beautifully when there’s a late afternoon sun break. Like it or not, the building is more unique and interesting than the "stuff" that's inside. 

Apparently as part of the Chihuly renovations, the food court on the ground floor of the Center House was also remodeled, removing all of the colorful food stands that used to brighten it up a bit. Now it’s a bare, gray dismal-looking, corporate-feeling space that could easily be a warehouse without the boxes and forklifts. Most of the food vendors are gone, replaced by a trendy window area that would be right at home in an office building, and a lot of boarded-up booths with “for rent” signs. The only vendors left are what appears to be an upscale burger chain, a Starbucks, a Subway, and a kebab stand that seems to be family-owned and operated, the last vestige of the old guard. The prices at the kebab stand have almost doubled. According to the woman who works there, the rent went up significantly after the remodel. I hope they can make it. At least they don’t have much competition, and not much prospect of any in the near future unless the economy suddenly jumps up from its deathbed and walks.

Now I hear that Seattle wants to sell its iconic old waterfront trolley cars to Saint Louis. The trolley was banished a couple of years ago to build a rather soul-less sculpture park. The argument for removing it was that it would clash with the suburban-mall appearance of the “do-not touch” sculptures and their grassy suburban-lawn surroundings. The more things change, the more stereotyped and sterile they seem to become. The most ironic thing of all is that “art” installations have been in some way responsible for this de-humanization of the city. 


  1. This seems so ironic on so many levels. Wasn't Chihuly, back in the day (80s), more of a "people's artist"-accessible, his works were affordable for middle class folk, they were beautiful, you didn't need a degree in Art Criticism to "get" them. He didn't sculpt his self-portrait out of his own frozen blood or perform other elitist shenanigans. And now he's the Glass Artist of the One Percenters?? Yuck! I hope that family business makes it, but it sounds like a tough situation....

    1. Marla, I'm not sure that Chihuly's style has changed that much over the years, his sculptures have just gotten bigger and more expensive, and are now made by a crew of anonymous hired employees. I think the characterization "glass artist of the one-percenters" pretty much sums it up, although I suppose he's more of a "glass installation designer" than an artist these days. I'm sure there are parallels in the perfume world.

  2. When the "Experience Music Project" (EMP) was being built my daughter and her friends, then in their early twenties, referred to the building as the EUP ("Experience Ugliness Project"). She has since moved to the east coast and so has missed the construction of the Chihuly pile. I wonder what she would think of that thing.

    Regarding the contents of the EMP, the SSD (Seattle School District) at one time considered a visit to the EMP a culturally significant experience for students and teachers alike! Scary?

    The Seattle Center used to be a warm, colorful and fun place for families to visit and the waterfront a funky and very real place. The city art commission seems to missing the whole point of public art and public space. A real example of both is the spontaneous enjoyment of the fountain at the Seattle Center whenever the sun comes out!

    1. The "Experience Ugliness Project" - I love it! Actually, the Chihuly pile has no character at all compared to the EUP building. It's not even ugly, just corporate-bland.

      Maybe the SSD considers it educational for kids to be able to experience how out of tune a guitar can get when hundreds of people a day pick at it and/or what you can buy if you're a multi-billionaire.

      You're right that the fountain at the Seattle Center is a wonderful example of a public space that people spontaneously enjoy. We were at the Folklife Fest earlier this year, and I loved seeing how many people, both kids and adults, were playing in the fountain. I suppose it's only a matter of time before the city administration decides that it's way too much fun and replaces it with another museum of some sort or fences it off and charges admission or declares it off limits for fear of a lawsuit if someone should slip and fall while playing.

    2. The next time my daughter visits Seattle I'm sure she will come up with more alternative names for Seattle's most recent public buildings, parks and "artwork". She has a very low tolerance for pretense and a real talent for "telling it like it is". Gail