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, 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.]


  1. Hi Ellen,
    It does seem longer than a week! I miss your posts. They almost always have some great piece of information that gets me started on something new to think about or do. The butterfly's memory is intriguing. I'm looking forward to all the changes.

  2. I'm with Gail. change is good, even though it feels rough. Can't wait for you to feel the cleansing of new.
    Portia xx

  3. Gail and Portia, the most frustrating thing is not making the changes themselves, but trying to find the time to do so. For the past month I've been going around like a sleep-deprived zombie, getting up ridiculously early to commute at rush hour and teach my class, grading papers at night, packing orders on weekends, and generally trying to stay on the speeding treadmill. It hasn't left much time to work on the changes I want to make, but those are slowly moving ahead, mostly under the momentum created back in August.

    1. Hi Ellen,
      The 26th is fast approaching and I wanted to make sure I wished you a Happy Birthday! Try to take some time for yourself and have a great day.
      Best Wishes,