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, March 18, 2013

Travel Report Part 1: A Perfume Retreat

I’m back in Seattle after a trip that was a pleasurable experience whenever we weren’t flying, and a mostly horrible experience whenever we were in airports or on planes. One of the things I love about flying west is that for a few days I’m able to wake up with the birds, no alarm clock needed. As the “jet lag” wears off, I lapse back into my old habits of staying up late and sleeping late, but while my “morning person” is in charge, it’s wonderful.  This time, the other thing I loved about coming home was the weather. It was amazing to step outside and not experience sub-freezing temperatures. I often complain about the fact that temperatures in Seattle seem to be stuck between 40-70 F (about 5-20 C) degrees all year round, but after spending time in much colder places, 55 degrees (15 C) in mid-March seemed downright tropical.

I’ve spent the weekend catching up on orders and packing for the San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon. Today I shipped off two big FedEx boxes of stuff for the display, and more than 2 weeks worth of packages. It feels good to know that the basics are on their way to San Francisco and will be waiting for me at the hotel.

I kept notes during the last trip, and will reproduce some of them verbatim, but will try to build a coherent perfume-related theme around each segment. Today’s has to do with the challenge of packing for a 2-week trip using only a small carry-on bag, deciding which selection of perfumes to take, and the surprising consequence of living with “just” four fragrances for two weeks. 

Tuesday, March 5: The house-sitter arrived last night and is installed in my studio, which is easily convertible to a fragrant guest room by rolling out a futon. I’m mostly packed. However, I woke up at dawn anyway just to take care of last-minute e-mails from students, make sure I have everything ready for the trip, and do some last-minute reading and preparation of talks I’m scheduled to give. Clothes are easy. I just throw a few changes of low-volume, semi-professional looking black items in my beat-up little carry-on bag and am good to go. The most important item is a nice black blazer that doesn’t wrinkle. With that, almost any outfit looks professional enough for my purposes, and it provides an extra layer of warmth if needed. I wear it under my leather jacket when flying, so it doesn’t even need to be packed.

The burning question is, “which perfumes shall I take with me?” The answer turned out to be four 1-ml sample vials, one almost empty, the others at least half full. I chose them because they were sitting in the box on my bathroom counter, within easy reach, and they’re ones that I like wearing, but different enough from each other to provide contrast. They are: Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose, Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur, Tommi Sooni II, and Olympic Orchids Siam Proun. Because I don’t use large amounts of perfume, tiny dabs from sample vials are more than enough for an extended trip.

Siam Proun turned out to be my primary “meeting scent”. I usually use TDC Sel de Vetiver for that purpose, but decided to change it up a bit. In small amounts, Tommi Sooni II also worked well as a meeting scent. Both were a little more noticeable than what I usually choose, but were still within the range of fragrances that don’t slap people in the face with excessive sillage and/or oddly distracting notes. Musc Ravageur and Paestum Rose served as social occasion and leisure-time perfumes. Limited to these four perfumes, I developed a new appreciation for each of them, and a new relationship with them. Sometimes when I’m testing many different scents in rapid succession, interleaved with my own formulation activities, I tend to move too quickly from one to another, skipping over the details and failing to appreciate how long they actually last. The last two weeks were sort of like a retreat where people go to have intense interactions or meditate alone without any outside distractions. I bonded with my perfumes.

I really like the idea of a perfume retreat with just four favorites, including one of my own! In fact, I think I should engage in a perfume retreat periodically even if I’m not traveling. I know San Francisco is going to be perfume overload, but I'm excited to see what the second annual salon brings. 

[Airport photo from Wikimedia, three perfume bottle pictures from various internet sources] 

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