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Living and creating perfume in Grasse

Hello again… I haven’t been a faithful blogger lately I must say! But truth be told, the last month has flown by and since I’ve been back in Grasse, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning and researching- waiting for things to crystallize so I can share with you specifics! So here now is a little overview…

My home is a newly renovated apartment in a lovely dilapidated old building in the centre of the old city- three or four hundred years old, according to the Belgian who was doing some repairs here. I have sunshine pouring in the kitchen windows in the morning with a view that looks out toward the Gorge du Loup- and toward the Palais Provencal, formerly known as the Grande Hotel Grasse-  a beautiful big white hotel where Queen Victoria stayed at times during the winter. I’m on the top floor and with my view out over the terra cotta tiled roof tops- there is a feeling of being perched up with the pigeons. On the opposite side of the apartment, facing west,  is the salon sejours- a big bright room with two tall double windows that receive the afternoon sun- and this is my office and atelier. An old (decommissioned) fire-place accents the room (there is one in the kitchen as well) and the walls have several inset cabinets with yellow-glass paned doors to store all my perfumery related books and other small treasures that I squeezed in to my suitcases from Canada. This is

truthfully my favourite home of all the places I have ever lived.  The weather of late has been gorgeous- full summer with blue skies and warm breezes. All the windows are open to the air and at times,  a brisk crosswind from west to east keeps the space fresh and perfect for creativity. I’ve got floor to ceiling white cotton curtains graced with little green embroidered bees to filter the hottest of the afternoon sun and to remind me of the importance of the bee in France  (Napoleon appropriated the bee as one of his symbols although the bee was also one of the favourite symbols of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt )- for flowers (and perfume), and for honey- my favourite thing…as well for what the bee traditionally represents- resurrection and immortality. The bee has been entering my realm a lot lately- it’s rather interesting. Perhaps it’s also because I know they are in trouble and that breaks my heart…

The three highlights since my arrival have been the annual International Aromatherapy Symposium, the Fete du Miel (my favourite!)  and the Expo Rose. At the Aromatherapy event, I spent many hours perusing the rooms that were filled with vendors of amazing essential oils and related products and I was able to establish connections with some very interesting producers of oils that are local as well as from Madagascar. These oils are very unique and of the most incredible quality I have ever seen. For example, wild lavender that is hand-harvested selectively and distilled at the altitude of 1600 metres! This is a product that I will be making available through my company, 1000 Flowers as well as a small collection of other oils that I have found  that are truly amazing. As much as I am dedicated and in love with the art of perfumery, I am also returning more and more to my roots of essential oil therapy. True, fresh and carefully extracted oils from small producers are just too effective and beautiful to ignore. And so many have presented themselves to me during my time in France that I am inspired to share with you.

The Fete du Miel I have written about before- it is a market consisting only of honey producers from the south region of France.  There is every kind of honey you can imagine- lavender, orange flower, rosemary, spruce, mimosa, chestnut etc etc… and what I mean is that the bees have been placed to collect pollen from these flowers in particular to make their honey.  Plus there was honey cake, honey candies, candles and so on.  As well, there was fresh pollen and I came home with a tub of dark orange pollen granules from Cistus flowers- which of course, is the plant that Labdanum is extracted from.  This pollen was fresh, soft and sweet; just having been collected that week by the amazing creatures that bees are. I ate it by the spoonful for several days after!

Expo Rose was the same idea- all the rose breeders of the region displaying their plants for 4 days.  If ever there was a place to study all the different perfumes a rose can produce- this is it!  Every colour, size, perfume- red, purple, yellow, white, orange, pink, striped… I went every day and smelled and shot photos and basically absorbed as much as I could!  This was my third consecutive Rose Expo and hopefully not my last…. the novelty of events like this will never wear off- they are just too wonderful and it has been such a privilege to experience them.


Two days ago- I went to meet with a very renowned perfumer who lives nearby and had a chance to share with him the perfumes I am working on.  It is so personal to do this- perfume creation is subjective, especially if one is doing it from an artistic place and with the purpose of creating something new- not a copy of something that exists already.  So I may like it  alot, but will another person?  And what about a master perfumer?  I felt very vulnerable as I waited for his response.  But in general, it was good!  One was ‘addictive’, (my Black Licorice that is my baby that I created while in perfumery school here in Grasse).  Another was very well balanced and pleasing, (a floral) and third, needs some work to find the form within the structure.  Too complicated and cloudy.  The third one I agreed about fully- it is called Boy, and is a chypre type, very woody, vanillic… masculine although many women I know love and wear it. And it was very interesting to learn from this man, that vanilla can have a ‘suffocating’ effect on a formula.  I have quite a lot of vanilla oleoresin in this perfume and it will be very interesting to see what happens if it is reduced.  I also use a natural vanillin and tend to be a bit heavy on it, since I love it- but I didn’t realize that it could have the effect of reducing the volatility of the perfume. Jean Claude Ellena says that we should never chose certain raw materials just because we like them, but rather by whether they are appropriate for the desired final effect. We must be impartial to our personal preferences.

So there you go… other than all of the above, I have been doing market studies of the natural perfume world, preparing power point presentations and sitting at my balance weighing out trials for the other perfumes I am working on.  There are a total of seven on the drawing board now.. with two being almost ready to introduce.  If you are interested in samples…please let me know.

Ok, back to work…. xo

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