Monday, October 31, 2011

Conscious Smelling Activity 1

When have you ever, as a rule, awoken with the intent to smell everything? On purpose, with objective, and to store that information in your olfactory memory bank? Well, why not? The students I teach begin their lessons with conscious smelling exercises, and across the board, each and every one has related sensational stories of what they have discovered about the scents they smelled, and about themselves as beginning perfumery students. It ignites a fire, a passion, for scent detection; for learning to better describe, categorize and verbalize to others what they are smelling.

For example, one of the exercises is to smell different types of paper ~ magazine print, newspapers, old books, clean sheets of computer paper, bills, old hand-written letters ~ and the aromas the students are able to ferret out of these papers is boundlessly interesting. For instance, one recent student smelled gasoline, marijuana, and "old woman" scents from a magazine, while another student found a fashion magazine to be overpoweringly feminine and perfumey on the initial sniff, but upon further examination discovered specific scents of citrus, floral, spice, rock, wood, moss, wet moss, and the "feeling" of being in a swamp! After those types of illustrations in scent, who would ever feel the same way about a magazine again? I mean, it's not just a magazine anymore, it's a cornucopia of scent and color; it's clarity.

Seeing something clearly, even if what you're "seeing" is scent, is so very important to the study and advancement of perfumery. I also find it interesting that many of my students see scent in color, as I've mentioned here before. When a student says he smells the color blue in the scent of black pepper, I cannot help but think that in that observation lies a deeper level of clarity.

So my challenge to you is this: Smell something ordinary today and pick apart its scent into distinct, nameable aromas. Smell your work desk (just make sure no one is watching or you might get a few odd looks thrown your way -- or you can just explain what you're doing); if it's wood, smell for the wax that may have once polished it, the hands that may have once transferred some scent, the smell of perfume or food or something else . . . ? If it is metal, do the same; smell the metal, experience the cool tang of steel, the icy impersonal feel of it. Again, smell for the hands that have brushed against it, the paper that may have been stacked upon it, the smell of conduits or electrical wiring or warmth from some machinery which sits upon it -- find some scent on it that is distinct and unexpected. Really dig in. Then tell me about it.

Oh, and Happy All Hallow Even!

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