Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Adventures by the Bay

One of many basement finds
I don't usually go into a whole lot of detail about what I do, who I hang out with, and what we talk about when I go to the Bay Area to play with friends. Suffice it to say, I hang out with natural perfumers, or folks who are in one way or another involved with the natural perfumery world; very knowledgeable, very open, wise, and noncompetitive people. That last bit's pretty important when making friends in this business. Too much wariness and not enough trust has divided this community, and not enough credit is given where it's due. It's an exciting endeavor when I trip up to the Bay Area to hang around with Laurie Stern, Lisa Camasi, and Yuko Fukami. I never know what's going to happen, except that it's going to be a good, good time. I learn so much from them, and I hope they learn something from me as well, whenever we gather together and chit-chat about, well, life. We're friends, so it isn't always about perfume -- but we do eventually get around to that. We talk about the struggles of a natural perfumer, how difficult it is to stay motivated during the rough times, how we often wonder if it's all been worth it. The conclusion is always that it's worth it. Totally worth it. And what makes it worth all the stress of running a business, concocting new perfumes, new products, and keeping our heads above water? The raw materials. It always comes down to the raw materials and how much we all love them and want to share them.

Aged (fermented) oakmoss ~ sweet and nearly floral

Oil of Petit Grain Maroc (trust me, that's what it is)

Creating natural perfume is about transcendence. It's about taking the perfumer from their work bench and sending them to a place of spiritual peacefulness. I know it sounds silly, but it's what all artists do. The creative spark, the essence of the divine within them (us) struggles to get out, through paint or clay or glass or garbage . . . or essence. Our hope as artists is to take those who appreciate our art to that place of transcendence as well.
Oil of Nagar Motha (d'you like leather?)

Late into the night, Laurie and I sat down in the basement, cackling like hens, over bins of aromatics. It was more fun than I've had in a long, long time, digging through those bins, our fingers sticky with spilled oils, finding bottles of the extraordinary amongst the bottles of the mundane -- and a few bottles of hysteria. By night's end, both of us were punch drunk on the scent of these raw materials, and confessed to one another the next day that it took a while for us to both fall asleep, our minds reeling with the possibilities of those discoveries. Our thoughts were fermenting upon the events of the night, so by morning we arose with a new sense of clarity and hopefulness. There is a big, bold future here in natural perfumery, and plenty of room for everyone who wants to go along for the ride.

Decant of red champa


  1. What a great way to rejuvenate and have fun : )
    thanks for sharing,

    1. Yes, it really was. Great fun, great people, great aromatics, great atmosphere -- I mean, Laurie's home is like something out of Sunset Magazine, it's so gorgeous. I usually keep things pretty hush-hush about who I see and what goes down when I visit, but we (mostly me and Laurie) decided we were going to talk about these things. I think it's important that peers gather together in a noncompetitive way to help one another out. There's much to be learned this way, and much to teach.

  2. I love that I'm a part of this through your blog and feel privileged that I actually know you, Laurie and Lisa.

    1. It's good sometimes to hang out with perfumers for no other reason than to hang out with perfumers. We should plan a perfumer's retreat.



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