Yesterday I made my first full production batch of Tropic of Capricorn, the all-natural tropical floral perfume that I’ll be launching a week from today at the Seattle Artisan Fragrance Salon. With more-than-sample-size bottles of frangipani, osmanthus, and tuberose absolute lined up on my work table along with New Caledonian sandalwood absolute and three different kinds of jasmine, I realized how my perception of the cost of materials has changed over the years.
When I first started out dabbling in essential oils, I avoided anything over $30 an ounce, but have gradually pushed this boundary ever-higher as I’ve added more materials to my palette. Now I don’t bat an eye when the cost of a tiny bottle of an absolute or other rare material is in the triple-digit range, or when an order that comes in a relatively small box pushes toward the 4-digit boundary. What has happened? Have I become a materials snob?
I think the answer to these questions is complex. When I first started out, before I was selling my perfumes and before I was selling many plants, the materials I bought were all coming from my paycheck, and I was understandably cautious. Now that I have a reasonably steady cash flow from both the orchid business and the perfume business, I have been putting everything I make from sales back into buying more and better materials. As I sell more perfumes, I need to make larger batches, so the amount I buy at any given time has been steadily creeping up. I’m now the proud owner of a good many 1 kg bottles of various things. Space in my nice new studio is once again getting crowded, illustrating the principle that everything expands and multiplies to fill all of the available space.
As I’ve experimented with both natural and synthetic materials, my tastes have changed, and my confidence in using expensive materials without the risk of “wasting” them has increased exponentially. Making a high-end all-natural perfume may have been a turning point in the process, pushing some of my fragrances into a different category where I feel justified in charging a little more for the product. However, by selling in small quantities (5 ml or 15 ml) those perfumes that are expensive to make, I can still keep them affordable by people like myself and my academic and artist friends, who have more skills and education than disposable income.
After the Seattle show, I plan to work intensively on the perfume business, reorganizing categories, doing a pricing analysis, upgrading my packaging, labeling, branding, and website and, most importantly, sending samples out to those people who should be getting samples. I love making perfume, but tend to be lazy about promoting it.
Here’s a question for you, dear reader. How has your perception of perfume purchasing changed over the years that you’ve been doing it? Has there been a change in your perception of how much you spend? Have your tastes changed? Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing to win 1 ml carded samples of Tropic of Capricorn and California Chocolate, a 3-ml spray sample of the newest gourmand scent, Seattle Chocolate, and a small box of handmade edible confections in an unusual flavor (not coffee!) that matches that of Seattle Chocolate. The drawing will be held on May 5, the day of the salon.
[photos of frangipani, osmanthus, and tuberose adapted from Wikimedia]