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, September 27, 2013


Finally the constant stream of early morning classes and meetings has come to an end and the familiar routine of fall quarter has begun. I’ve survived the rear-end collision of the 4-week “early fall start” class into the beginning of my fall classes, with grading and general clean-up from the first class overlapping with prep for the three classes that I’ll be teaching in the fall. The problems created by colliding courses aren’t completely solved yet, but at least they’re managed.

Wednesday was the first day I haven’t had to wake up to an alarm clock in the dark and commute for an hour or more to get to class or a meeting on time. What a difference an hour or two the morning makes! Instead of 60-90 minutes, it takes me about 15 minutes to get to work. Even though Jasper the cat insists that I get up a soon as it’s light, he wakes me gently, and I’m able to enjoy my morning coffee as I read the news, check my various e-mail accounts, respond to whatever needs an immediate response, and prepare materials for that day’s teaching. I have time to take a long hot shower, put on a little make-up, and actually think about what I want to wear that day instead of groping in the dark so as not to wake Michael up and throwing on a random combination of whatever all-black items first come to hand.

There are times when I complain about my job(s) and my lifestyle, but being forced to keep standard working hours for a month makes me appreciate my usual disorganized schedule more than I could even begin to express. I’m thankful that I’m able to schedule my regular classes at times that are compatible with my natural night-owl tendencies.  I’m thankful that I have amazing people working in my university lab who keep things running and provide a buffer between me and the early-rising bureaucrats.  I’m thankful that I can do the work generated by my businesses on my own terms, on my own schedule. I’m thankful that I have my theatre group to take my mind off it all on a few nights and weekends. I can’t begin to imagine how most of the world works from 8 AM to 5PM every day of the week. In Seattle, it’s even worse because a lot of people start work at 6 or 7AM. I have no idea why, but that’s a fact.

The real paradox is that I work just as many, or more, hours if I start later, and I always accomplish more, but it feels orders of magnitude easier. My hat’s off to those hardy souls who go to work in the early morning every day of their lives.

Last night I dreamed that I’d been running a long, hard race, and was so tired that I flopped face-down on a patch of cool, damp, bright green grass. It felt wonderful to rest. However, I started to worry that people passing by would think I was dead, so I lifted up my head, smiled, and waved at them. That’s what this blog post is – just a heads-up to let you know that I’m still alive and well, just recovering from the trauma of a month of the alarm clock screeching in the dark telling me to get up and go out there to sit in clogged traffic for an hour.

[The painting of people escaping from the mouth of limbo (the black fish-monster) is by Jaume Serra, 13th century. All photos are adapted from Wikimedia.]

Monday, September 16, 2013


I’ve been away from this blog for far too long. I think it’s just been a little over a week, but it seems like a year. Teaching a class that starts early in the morning takes its toll, as does trying to make all of the changes that are happening with Olympic Orchids, plus the fact that we’ve transitioned from summer into winter while I’ve been silent.

Right now I feel like the caterpillar lying immobile in the pupa stage, everything on hold, waiting for things to happen as its body melts down and re-forms into something completely different. With new branding, new labels, new bottles, new boxes, and a new website coming soon, things are going to look very different, at least on the “retail” side.

There’s some evidence that butterflies can remember things they learned as caterpillars, so there’s carryover from one state to another, one body to another. The intention is that the old Olympic Orchids memory and way of doing things will carry over into the new, prettier Olympic Orchids embodiment. The single, awkward caterpillar body will grow two wings, the upscale retail website on one side and Perfume for the People on the other. With luck it will be able to fly.

The butterfly carries out its transformation in the privacy of its chrysalis, but mine is a little more exposed to public view. If, like the caterpillar, I had nothing else to do and could just lean back and enjoy the ride, it could all happen fairly systematically and efficiently. However, because I do it piecemeal, as I have time, new designs pop up and are mixed with old ones. Pages on the current website change, sometimes introducing mistakes. Some things are added and others are eliminated during the process of metamorphosis.

I’ve been going over sales figures to see if there are any fragrances that have been consistently poor sellers. The only one that obviously falls in that category is Fleurs de Glace, which I’ve decided to discontinue. I’ve put the current stock on sale, and once it’s gone, it will be relegated to the limbo of discontinued perfumes. If you want some, now is the time to get it. At a good price, too.

I also decided to change the name of A Midsummer Day’s Dream to a shorter one that will fit neatly on a bottle. After its makeover, it will be called Elektra. We brainstormed long and hard on names associated with figs, Shakespeare, and the summer solstice, but the best idea we came up with was the association of amber (the fragrance base) with the property of amber (the fossil/gemstone) as a generator of static electricity. Putting that together with the story of Electra, which originated in a Mediterranean country where figs grow, we came up with a short, catchy name that looks nice on a label. The juice will be the same as before, just under a new name. The old Midsummer Day’s Dream stock is also on sale until it’s gone.

[Swallowtail butterfly life cycle photos from Wikimedia.]

Saturday, September 7, 2013


First things first. The winners of the random drawing are:


Because Nadja wins all of my drawings (I swear the drawings are totally random!) I picked a third winner:


If you are international, you will need to e-mail me with your full shipping address. You will receive a selection of samples, mine and others. If you are in the US, you will receive samples plus some larger items. Congratulations to all winners!

This past week I’ve been pretty much buried under teaching, trying to keep up with shipping, and planning for our fall theatre production. The fall rains have swept in with a vengeance, a month or two early, making my early morning commutes miserable. The only bright side of the unusual weather is that plants I thought were dead and mummified have suddenly revived and are growing at a ridiculous rate. The fall crocuses appeared overnight, and are gorgeous. The peppers and tomatoes are getting a second wind, and the second fig crop is well on the way to ripeness. This weekend gives me a short breather before class continues next week. 

The days are getting shorter, and the sun is lower in the sky. It’s sad to see summer end, but exciting to have a new year begin, with all the changes I have planned. 

[Lottery machine photo from Wikimedia. The big leaf maple is mine.]