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, October 20, 2014


Anyone who has ever tried to produce a theatre event has probably experienced the modern version of the deus ex machina phenomenon. Up until opening night everything that can go wrong seemingly does go wrong, and it looks as if the show will never come together. Everyone is grumpy and starting to scream at each other, on the verge of calling it all off. Then, magically, on opening night everything works - the actors remember their entrances and exits, their lines and their blocking, the music and lights come on and go off when they should, the audience laughs at the right times for the right reasons, and everyone breathes a huge sigh of relief. By some miracle it all worked. The deus came down in the machina and made it all right. That’s probably how the Greek dramatists got the idea because in theatre the unbelievable really does happen behind the scenes.

Tech people are the bane of my life as a producer. It’s easy to find actors, because they all love their time on stage. Being on stage is its own reward. Playing a role well is like being skillful at a sport that requires a lot of concentration and coordination, all the while being cheered on by a crowd. Designing and running sound and lights is an invisible, thankless job that everyone takes for granted. The lights and sound appear to come from nowhere, seamlessly integrated with the events on stage.

Every time our little playwrights’ group puts on a show, the question arises of who will run tech.  All too often the people who say they want to do tech are completely unreliable and after their initial one or two contacts we never hear from them again. Then somehow, magically, a person drops from the sky offering to run tech and all is well. It happened again with the show that opens this Friday. We theoretically had a tech director, but I hadn’t heard from him in weeks and was waking up at night in a panic, wondering if he’d bailed. Day before yesterday I finally got hold of him, and our lighting setup and sound testing yesterday was the smoothest we’ve ever had. Deus ex machina saved the day again.

Of course, for this blog I had to think how to relate the topic to perfume, but it’s really pretty easy. I’m sure we’ve all been dismayed to put on a perfume that smelled awful, but after some time did an about-face and ended up smelling wonderful. Which perfume(s) have you experienced that were saved in the end by an olfactory deus ex machina? Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for a set of interesting fragrant samples, to be searched out from my infinite store. The drawing will be on Monday, October 27.

[Images from Literature Wiki and a site called TVTropes that Google coughed up.] 


  1. Hi Ellen,
    Bvlgari Black is my candidate for the deus ex machina effect (award). B. Black is such a big machine fitted out with oversized tires. At first spray I find myself smelling like a monster truck rally until some deus or other (incarnate as vanilla, leather and jasmine) saves the day. The pleasant dry down doesn't altogether redeem Black for me but the contrast between the burnt rubber opening and the pleasant dry down is, at least, interesting. That being said, I don't wear it.

  2. Such an interesting question! My nominee might be Byredo 1996 (though with multiple wearings, I have gotten quite used to the earthy-spicy opening and now love it). I think I much prefer the deus ex machina effect (as long as it doesn't last TOO long) to the boring or unpleasant drydown of many other perfumes.

  3. Interesting question I might say. I first head of deus ex machina when playing theater of oppressed, but never related it with perfumes.
    I will go with the Accord Oud by Byredo.

  4. That happens often to me, it smells awful on me and then I give it to my father and the perfume turns into the one I would love to have...(Déclaration de Cartier, le 3eme homme de Caron, Habanita,...)