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Perfume creation 101

Hello everyone! It’s been awhile since my last entry. Time has been flying by with the commencement of school and the settling back in to a groove here in Provence. Summer is still lingering on, with the days hot and sunny and the last few tourists wandering the streets taking photos and annoying the French by not speaking French. I am still madly in love with this place and almost every day experience a wave of sentimental nostalgia about leaving it. As much as the French are temperamental and arrogant, they are funny and fantastic and actually earn the right, in my opinion, most of the time, of being the ‘best at everything’ that they think they are. They are a special breed and as long as you try to speak their language, you will have a fabulous time. The language is the heart of being French, and they cling to this as a means of pride and identity. Many of them want to learn English, because they know they must in this changing world, but they have been scared so much of failure and sounding bad by their school system, that they are incredibly shy to try. Only when they see me struggle do they break out their limited English. Then we flounder together and cheer each other on and teach each other. At this point I understand beaucoup, but can speak only a little. My goal this Fall is to really wrap my tongue around the French vocabulary. After all, this is the land of Perfume, and I must be able to speak the language that goes along with it.

my street in Grasse

As for school, we have been given a formal perfume brief, by Mane et Fils; ( -the 8th biggest company in the world in the fragrance creation and raw material production sectors), and our class has been divided into two teams, to compete and create 3 fragrances for the main stream market as well a product extension of a corresponding personal care and household product. The target market is loosely Generation Y, aged 15-30-ish, and must be high-tech, energetic, relate to the world of cyber-communication, include love, environmental; awareness, and appeal to the idea of a modern tribe. We are to create the marketing concept, and connect the raw materials we choose to this concept. Then we must, of course, formulate the perfume itself and it must be good! My team has had some amazing brainstorming sessions and I am feeling inspired with many ideas of some basic accords that I want to try. I spent last evening with Ana, looking at websites to really understand the trends, and working ourselves into a whirl-wind of inspiration. We work incredibly well together with super-cohesive ideas. I dreamed all night about formulating, even waking up at one point smelling a particular combination I had tried so vividly as if it was real. (Ana dreamed the name of the perfume, but unfortunately couldn’t quite remember it this morning…) The process of creating a perfume must be based on a muse- a story, something that inspires and can be told olfactively. Perfumers are the witnesses of the times. We look at the world around us and interpret what we see into a portrait of scent symbols. It’s poetry really except the words are the raw materials woven together to parallel emotion and even particular events. Perfume as a medium has endless possibilities and is ultimately challenging and personal. I’m learning to tap deeply into my own imagination (and others’) to experience and access the energy I need to create; as in any art form. The psychology of creation is so interesting….and a great feeling. A large part of it means focusing on  smelling. Walking down the little narrow streets here in the old city, scents of all kinds are trapped and held is a virtual world of symbols and emotion. I practice all the time now, smelling, analyzing, dissecting, and testing myself- what is that perfume? What are the notes? Who is wearing it? What are they trying to say about themselves? How would I recreate that? Also, I practice smelling the notes I don’t like; trying to be impartial, but analytical of the smells like cat and dog urine and faeces that cloud the corners of the inner city. After all, not all perfumery materials smell good on their own. (the chemical indol occurs in faeces and jasmine both…) Fascinating stuff…

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