Archive for June, 2011

The results of the judges are still trickling in so we’ll soon, VERY SOON, get the reveal: which perfumers are behind each of the, up to this point, numbered designs as well as where the ranking is.  Of course, we all have our fingers crossed for our labors of love.  One thing I do know at this point is that with such a diverse group of ‘patch test bunnies’ (aka judges) every perfume will find a lover; no one will be left behind.  And I am happy to report that just after listing my three designs on the site one kind sampler of the three has emailed to say that she has not only found the patchouli project scent she desires but perhaps her ‘holy grail’ patchouli perfume.  Of course, this makes me immensely happy.   Her choice?  Bodhisattva: my number 3 patchouli project perfume.

Bodhisattva was actually the very first concept that came after being asked to take part in the PLAP project.  As I mentioned in an earlier post about ‘PLAP’, I was having Indian food and drinking a lassi and thinking about patchouli when the first hit came: the home of patchouli is India.  And this lassi I’m drinking is sending me over the edge in swirls of creamy delicious glowing, orange-colored clouds.  It’s sublime.  I want to make a patchouli perfume that sails on clouds of divinity.  It’s spiritual and yet earthly.  Something or someone who has a foot in both worlds.  Then the Thangka image popped into my head.  Yes, like this: a patchouli perfume that smells like this *feels* to look at…exactly like what this image invokes.  That was where it started… the lassi, the Thangka (Tibetan) and India.  I chose nearly all the notes from traditional Ayurvedic / Indian perfumery and set out to create heavenly orange / red clouds swirling and billowing up with flowers that float down to rest on the soft earth of patchouli, sandalwood, incense and subtle spices.  Oh yes, and a little sparkle in the very top note like a gleam from a knowing eye.

The resultant perfume is a subtlely fruity floriental patchouli.  The fruity nuance is ‘plum-like’ and one of my favorite fruit notes to pair with patchouli.  (Did I mention that there are many perfume ‘precedents’ for the use of patchouli with plum?  and also peach?  Many great perfumes contain this ‘dialogue’ between these two notes. It was especially popular in the late ’70’s through the ’90’s.  Magie Noir by Lancome, Poison by Dior,  Nahema by Guerlain, and Feminite du Bois by Shiseido / Lutens all contain this juxtaposition to great effect).  The heart is redolent of champaca, orange blossom and centifolia with the base of the spiced wood and incense.   It has a creamy luminousness and a deep spiritual quality in the drydown while maintaining the theme of patchouli very well.  I also like to think it’s a graceful patchouli walking softly.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I personally love all three of my very different patchouli progeny.

image credit:   graceful wooden bodhisattva here ; bodhisattva thangka here  ; bodhisattva eyes here

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The judges have been steadily sending in their votes and soon, all will be revealed as to who is the nose behind which numbered bottles and we’ll all be able to talk more freely about our entries to this, for now, still secret project.  In the meantime, I have my two ‘alternate’ designs to talk about.  No surprise that I followed a winding creative path that produced three designs; there are just so many ideas that I *want* to do.  So, I just go.  (I’m currently brainstorming another project for this fall and I have 12  ideas  / 6 pages worth, so far,  in my notes.  No, I won’t do all of them, but I might end up with two or three again.  But that is for another time).  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Back to the project at hand: the patchouli project.  I mentioned in my last post about “PLAP”  that from the beginning I made the decision to go for the ‘soliflore’ concept (ie: make patchouli the focus and not to attempt to hide 25% patchouli in a design that accents some other family).   The coherent aspects to all three designs for me were: 1) the focus is on the patchouli and 2) these are summer patchoulis, so all have a lightness to them that make them wearable all year, even in summer.  That sense of  lightness is not exactly easy, as anyone who has worn patchouli oil can attest.  It’s got a strong character and its got weight.  Sadly, there are a number of people who do not wear straight patchouli oil very successfully and this gives patchouli a very bad name with perfume connoisseurs and passers-by alike.  When patchouli is not right, it’s REALLY not right.  This phenomenon goes like this: you smell sort of mildew-y.  The earthiness, kind of like dirt, can smell like a moldy basement  on certain skin types and this is, well, not pleasant.  Mix that with, how shall I put it?, overindulgence and potentially poor hygiene and you’ve got a BIG STINK going on.  This is what many people think ALL patchouli smells like.  Au contraire.  Patchouli, even worn straight/no mixer,  can be beautiful.  When it works ‘correctly’ on a person’s skin, it smells like mystery.  Like rich dark tea leaves mixed with soft, sexy smoke, and warm ambery wood.  Yes, you heard that right.  Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?  And it is; when it works.  Most people could smell good in patchouli if they wore it in a well designed fragrance.  It usually has to be tempered with other notes to consistently work on most people.  Sadly, many people are scared straight by straight patchouli.  Or they have ‘flashbacks’ of a sort, not good ones, from back in the day.  This brings me, to the concept anyway, of Aquarius (my no.2 design for PLAP).

I *didn’t* want to make a perfume that would be like a flashback to 1967, but I did get it into my head that a patchouli, kind of ‘human dirty / sweaty’ and sexy animalic might be fun to make.  This idea came after I had already started working on no.1 and no.3 but I thought, why not just go for it?  Go all the way…do a patchouli that pushes.  I’ll use all of the notes that many folks say are too sweaty, too far, that definitely steps beyond the pale. In other words: FUNK-AY. ( I won’t say the “s” word that so many people use to describe animalic / potentially fecal tonalities since I personally dislike that word…but that’s just me). Yeah, I’m talking in the genre of  patchouli meets Musc Kublai Khan (while using all botanicals, mind you, so synthetic musks and civet are out).

This is Aquarius.  And you know what?  What came from this “pushing the limits” process was something surprising: it’s soft.  Really.  It’s the heaviest of my summer patchouli designs, true, but it has a real warmth and richness that is inherent in patchouli and was coaxed out when I added the animalics.  Even the cumin (yeah, that’s right, I said cumin) works beautifully and I have yet to try it on anyone for whom the cumin sticks out or is reminiscent of curry.  I thought that with the use of so many strong notes: true ambergris,  tonquin musk tincture, cumin and other animalic botanicals, that this patchouli would be BOLD, but no.  To my nose and to everyone I’ve shown it to, it’s soft, warm and inviting.  The warm and inviting part, I was planning on but the softness…not really.  Go figure.  I love it just the same.


NOTE: Aquarius is dedicated to two of the best people in my life (there are many, I am thankful to say; I am very fortunate and grateful for so many dear ones…): Marlena Yannetti, who was a member of the original cast of HAIR and my husband, E, who is not only a double aquarius* but a patchouli wearer from way back.  His skin does that wonderful warm, woody/ ambery / tea leaf thing I was talking about.  He is delicious.  I will have to send some Aquarius to Marlena and see what she thinks but I already know that Aquarius smells incredible on E.  Life is Good.

ANOTHER NOTE: All of my patchouli project explorations (no.1-no.3) are now up at my site,  but if you want to get in on the fun for the whole project, Skye has “PLAP sample boxes” on sale at her site.   Get ’em while supplies last, my friends.

JUST FOR FUN: for the *Aquarius in you… here’s some info about the astrological sign.

image credits:  patchouli drawing , hair record cover , magic forest image

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Happy solstice, everybody. 🙂  I love this day.  There are  many days in the year that I truly love, over and over,  and this is one that never fails to delight me.  For me, the summer solstice is filled with the magic of bees and faeries and a particularly miraculous ‘glow’.  Not the least of the miracles in my memory are the linden trees that would always start to bloom their glorious aroma on the summer solstice in Boston (and the ones in my neighborhood will do so as well right about now).  There is a quality to the light, the air and the mood that makes this day special.  Today I celebrate the light with you and the rest of the northern hemisphere.  It is a delight that never fades.

Well, as I write this I am officially missing the moment to post on ‘the solstice’ but I think you understand.  There’s just so much to do all in one day.  The big news today is the winner of the bespoke perfume design to celebrate the blog anniversary.  First, I’d like to thank every one who commented and entered.  I absolutely LOVED hearing about so many incredible dream perfume concepts.  I am very grateful for so much support and love. (THANK YOU).   Now, without further ado, the winning slip (chosen at random out of a hat with my eyes closed) says : Carrie Meredith.  Please email me at dsh@dshperfumes.com and we can get started on your design.  I hope that you will be ok with sharing parts of this process as we go since interest has been expressed about hearing how the bespoke design unfolds as well as another draw for a bottle of your design.  Congratulations, Carrie Meredith!

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"june bouquet", egg tempera on paper, 1997, DSH

Well, when it rains it pours…again.  Two posts in two days??  WOW!  Am I on a roll?  I wish.  It’ll probably take another week or two before I get a chance to do another blog post.  But I am here now and I’m here to celebrate: It’s my anniversary.  My Blogging Anniversary.  🙂 It was exactly one year ago today that I started my little blog project and while I had every intention to dedicate more time to writing, I think I have found a happy medium in terms of expressing what I am doing and while I’m at it, gaining more practice writing.

Before I started the blog I had been in contact with a number of other bloggers and artists with blogs and was given such encouragement… I can’t tell you how much it still means to me.  (Thank you for so much inspiration and good thoughts.  I am eternally grateful).  Looking back, it’s been an incredible year filled with projects and more projects and so much artistic growth.  It’s been my pleasure to share it with you and I look forward to what comes next.

As a big thank you to all of my subscribers, regular and sometimes readers and dear friends, I want to do a draw for a big prize: ** a Bespoke perfume creation.   This prize was mentioned on a thread of a facebook perfumista group not too long ago and I am happy to oblige.  So, to enter, please leave a comment about what your dream perfume would be.  I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts.  The draw is open for a week, so it will end on June 20 at 11:59 pm.  Good Luck everyone!   And while you’re here, maybe you’d like to subscribe as well.  Those  growing numbers sure do make me smile.

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It’s begun! The Summer of Peace, Love and Patchouli is on and I have to say that I have had a great time playing with this concept; contemplating ideas, moving with the flow and narrowing the designs down to one.
It took a bit of deliberating, but I finally made my choice. It was quite the journey. I brainstormed a number of concepts before one showed up as a strong feeling but wait… that path sent me in two more directions before I settled on a winner. It seemed that the big question was: are we, with this project, hiding the patchouli or making true patchouli perfumes, in the same way that one would think about a soliflore (which is to create a unique setting upon which the ‘gem’ note is placed to SHINE)?  Or are we attempting to create perfumes with patchouli that ‘hide’ it in a way to try and get non-patchouli lovers to say: “Oh, there’s patchouli in that?”  Patchouli is such a versatile perfumery material and depending on the origin, whether it’s light , dark or aged (my favorite! I age all of my patchouli) the patchouli feels and acts differently in a composition.   I knew that I had to first answer this essential question and the answer was: let’s go for a PATCHOULI  perfume, first and foremost.  Another thing I also knew from the beginning was that this was a Summer patchouli project. So, I decided that I would attempt a bit of a trick, which is to make a LIGHT, soliflore patchouli perfume. (Patchouli is not exactly known for its “lightness”, you know.  But you also know how I love a challenge).

I contemplated a woody / chypre style all elegance; chic and smooth. I also thought about a fruity / wood melange (oh yes: delish!) but while having a mango lassi at one of my favorite Indian restaurants I had this idea of something supremely spiritual and euphoric (but in a new concept… so many times euphoric patchouli designs in the naturals / aromatherpay world are ylang / patch based, as so many Aveda pure-fumes will attest to). While floating in this creamy orange-colored bliss I thought of it as a warm, rich, luscious orange…burnt orange-red orange floating clouds billowing over deep earth all brown, rust, and chocolate-y (not a chocolate aroma, just the color and texture). As well, a Thangka painting came immediately to mind for added inspiration. I thought: Yes! this is where I want to go. To the Himalayas to trek above the clouds and traverse to Shangri-La.

Over the coming weeks I spent time exploring this feeling and ‘color palette’ (you know, more and more I seem to be designing solely in this kind of abstracted short hand of color tonalities and texture to get to the feel of the perfume I want.  No more describing in terms of the materials themselves….anyway, I digress) then something happened.   A new influence started to come to the studio from everywhere at once it seemed and this influence was a note that EVERYONE seemed to want to explore with me.  This ‘note’  got me thinking about another design concept.

But things usually come to me in threes, at least… yes really they do. And this project was no different. Concept 3 came about 3 weeks before the deadline and I have to tell you that it’s given the first two a run for their money in terms of fierceness : a grungy, truly earthy, no hiding the fact that it’s PATCHOULI and maybe it’s the scent of that no washin’ hippie you knew back in 1967.   And yes, this one smells like the summer of LOVE, if you know what I mean. I’m talking inspired by the original HAIR play. (A very dear friend of mine was in that original Broadway cast so it’s kinds close to my heart).  YEAH! I have to say I love this one.  But I really love them all. 🙂

Here’s the facebook page for PLAP so  you can follow the excitement.  Plus, my patchouli project designs will be up on my site tomorrow (June 13).  You should know that I have changed the series numbers so, my choice for the project is now No.1: BodhiSativa.  And the other two are: No.2: Aquarius (our animalic patchouli scent) and No.3: Bodhisattva (a smooth floral patchouli).  I’ve had a blast creating my Summer Patchoulis and I hope that everyone will have some fun following the project and maybe becoming your very own patch test bunnies.

*image credits:  PLAP image is copyright perfume pharmer.com
Thangka Painting image here
Shangri-La image here (and if you haven’t seen the classic movie “Lost Horizon”, do! It’s terrific.
HAIR original cast image found here (plus you could take a listen while you’re there 🙂 )

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This story, “my love of naturals” is sort of what’s on tap today. I could say that it started in pre-school camp (yes: it was the ’70’s and we had pre-school summer camp in the woods in August) when I was four years old. Growing up in the country means that from an early age you find all kinds of flowers, from dandelions to violets to wildflowers and roses to pick and experience. So, by the the time I went “to camp”, I was a flower picker from way back. I was so engrossed in touching trees and picking flowers that I was awarded the “Mother Nature’s Little Helper” award. ( I say again: it was the ’70’s…). Nothing has really changed since I was 4 years old! I’m still out there climbing on things to smell trees, shoving my face into flowers and picking them to put in my hair where ever I go.

mother nature's little helper

It’s this same spirit that attracts me to Natural Perfumery; the attraction to the lusciousness and intrinsic preciousness that natural essences impart in perfume. Plus, designing with an all botanical / all natural palate brings me close to the nature of historical perfume-making on one hand and deeper into my imagination and intellect when creating new ways to formulate with them on the other. When I first began designing perfume in the early nineties I came into a studio with a mixed palate (naturals and synthetics) and one of my first questions when learning the materials was : ” Is this the natural oil ?” I guess there was always an intuitive hit for me that the naturals bring something special but at that time I wanted to learn the base line and be able to refer to synthetic notes based on the naturals. That only seemed logical for my internal dialogue and memorization. During the two years that I was learning and working at the Essense in Boston, I am happy to say that I helped bring more naturals (pure essential oils and absolutes) into the inventory than had ever been there before. I got to help the studio grow as I got to learn more of the baselines. ( Of course, I also frequented flower shops, nurseries, botanical gardens and the like to smell the still growing plants I wanted ‘baselines’ for). It was a magical time in my life when my creative world was expanding exponentially and with it a kind of technicolor blossoming in smell.

Now, so many years later, I find that with the continued interest in green products and all botanical perfumes, I am developing more and more designs within the realm of naturals. To add to the excitement is the growth in the past decade of new botanical materials, the springing up of micro-distillers for regional materials and technologies for yielding previously impossible notes to be utilized by the perfumer. It’s a thrilling time to be a natural perfumer and I am very happy to be a part of this movement.

*image credits:
“mother nature’s little helper” can be found here
*sky & tree image found here

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