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.
There’s a saying, often true, that a picture is worth a
thousand words. However, there are times when a word is worth a thousand blurry
I’ve always been puzzled by the fact that perfume people so
often post a picture of a perfume bottle instead of naming the perfume. This
happens on the forums when people post comments about a perfume. They seem
unable to write out the name and, instead, link to a photo of the bottle.
Sometimes it’s clear what it is and other times it’s not.
On the Facebook groups and other similar venues, people
often post pictures of bottles. Sometimes it’s possible to identify them, but
other times the photos are too dark, too low resolution, or just too poor
quality overall. Maybe posting an unidentifiable photo makes people feel
superior to the ignorant masses who cannot immediately identify every perfume in existence by
the general shape of the bottle. It can’t be laziness because it would be far
easier just to type out the name of the perfume than to search for and download
a little gif file or use their phone to take a poorly lighted photo in their
bedroom or bathroom.
The fact is that many perfume bottles look similar, so it’s
not possible to tell what they are based on their general outline. No one
wants to have to zoom in on a photo to try to see what it is, especially
since the name will probably still be unreadable due to the low resolution of the image.
If anyone out there can provide insight into why people use photos instead of perfume
names, I’d be curious to hear your explanation.
If anyone can identify the bad photo in this post, you will
receive a valuable prize.
[This photo is mine, processed to degrade the quality]
Today is the longest day of the year (or shortest if you’re
in the southern hemisphere), so it represents a turning point in the seasons.
It’s a time for reflection on the spring that just passed and the summer to
come. For me, it’s a time to send out the summer Scents of the Seasons to
subscribers. Happy solstice to all!
This spring was a whirlwind for me, passing by in what
seemed like no time. Summer should be calmer, with July being a month in which
I can focus on formulating a couple of new fragrances, upgrading the websites,
doing some promotion and some writing.
A botanical treat this month has been Bulbophyllum patens,
an orchid that belongs to a genus noted for its stinky flowers that smell like
feces and/or rotten meat. This one, on the other hand smells a lot like
carnations! It has that same clove scent along with some light fruity-floral notes.
The flowers have a mobile lip that jiggles in the breeze, enticing insects to light
on it. Apparently in the wild, it is pollinated by fruit flies, males of which
are attracted by methyl eugenol, the clove note, raspberry ketone, and
zingerone, a ginger-like scent. All of these are perfectly good perfume materials. I discovered that if I press down on the lip as
an insect would, the lip catapults upward, presumably throwing the insect
against the pollinia.
I did a little reading and, according to this account,
what happens is that flies light on the lip to feed on the chemical attractants
that it secretes, and as they progress inward, the lip reaches a see-saw fulcrum
point, flipping the fly into the column cavity, with the lip acting as a closed
door behind it. Trying to escape, the insect backs up, catching the sticky
pollinia on its back. When it visits another flower, the process is repeated,
with the pollen being deposited in the appropriate slot. All I can say is that
these flowers are amazing, both for their co-evolution with fruit flies, and
for the beautiful scent that fills the air around them.
[Summer sunrise at Stonehenge photo from Wikimedia; Bulbophyllum patens photos are mine.]
Yesterday I took the Kingston Ferry to pick up orchid
flasks. Riding the ferry across the sound is always like a mini-vacation, and
yesterday was unusually beautiful. The weather was warm, the sky partly
overcast, the smell of freshly exposed seaweed in the air, and the water
completely calm. It was the lowest tide I’ve seen for a long time. I stood on
the front deck of the ferry and stared down at the hypnotic, moving reflection
patterns in the water. Those water patterns are more fascinating than any
psychedelic show if you focus on appreciating their beauty instead of looking
at the gaggle of summer shorts-clad, selfie-snapping, soda-slurping tourists that infest Seattle
ferries at this time of year.
At one point the sun partially broke through the clouds, and
the shifting water patterns were joined by bright rainbow patches that danced
around and took me completely by surprise.
I noticed a young tourist girl who seemed as
fascinated as I was by the water, ignoring her family’s loud comments about her
clothing, and their suggestions that everyone should go inside, “out of the
wind”. I like to think that she saw the same beauty that I did, and that there
are still children and artists whose minds have not been completely shaped to
only perceive and value manmade things.
Here’s a question for you, dear reader: If you have seen the
kind of water patterns I’m talking about, or the dancing patterns of sun and
shadows on a stream bed, what sort of perfume would represent them?
[Painting by Claude Monet, who seemed as fascinated by
water patterns as I am, other images from Wikimedia.]
If everything had gone according to plan, we would have been
on vacation in Ireland this week – our first real vacation since our honeymoon
15 years ago, and I would probably be hiking somewhere, not writing anything
for the blog. I did a marathon grading and end-of-academic-year cleanup
session, submitted all of my grades early, cleared my calendar of all
commitments, and was set to leave the day after classes ended.
Then husband Michael broke his ankle. The highly
orchestrated whirlwind trip has been postponed until August and I feel like I’m
floating free in a dreamlike state most of the time, living the lifestyle of
our cat, who has no responsibilities, comes and goes as he pleases, and enjoys
the long days of summer to the fullest. Other than driving Michael to medical
appointments, I’m free of commitments, and have not made an effort to
reschedule any of the ones that I canceled for the trip.
I’ve almost caught up on filling and shipping orders, have
been working on replenishing perfume concentrates and stock, and should
actually have time to update my websites and send out newsletters next week. I
might even have time to update my perfume bottle photos, something that’s been
at the back of my mind for years, but never manages to rise to the top of the
The sensation of jumping from a packed, hectic schedule one
day to no schedule the next day has been a fascinating experience. It felt like
going from being constantly knocked around like a soccer ball in full play to
floating freely in a void where time stands still. For the past week I’ve been
able to get enough sleep, go running every day, go grocery shopping and cook,
and just enjoy being outdoors in the perfect warm, sunny, summer weather that
we’ve had all through the month of June.
The experience of floating through a week of summer with
nothing on my calendar and almost no one knowing I wasn’t out of town made me
think about what sort of perfume would epitomize that state. My favorite
experience whenever I’m in LA is walking down the street and smelling jasmine.
It’s everywhere, and to me it epitomizes being in a carefree, sunny place. When
I travel, I usually try to take an extra day just to float free, out of touch
with everyday life, wandering around the city, foraging my way through parks,
museums, eating places, markets, shops, or whatever seems interesting.
Sometimes it’s just sitting quietly in a coffee shop enjoying being alone.
There’s something magical about the anonymity of being in an unknown place,
with no one I know being aware of where I am. This is the free-floating
experience that I’d like to capture in a perfume. Maybe magic can't be captured
in a bottle, but I’m willing to try.
[All photos from Wikimedia except the second one, of the madrone tree on a cliff. That one is mine.]
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