Posts Tagged ‘Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’


Once again it’s been a pretty cool and rainy Spring.  Last year we had a similar vibe with days at a time of mountain in fog and mist; and real rainy days (which don’t happen like they do in New York or Boston, my two locales before making Boulder my home).  It produces a wildly vivid greenness in the grass and the new leaves just starting to come in full as we get ready to move to Summer.

I absolutely love the moist earth smells, the freshness of the lawn with its sweet apple-y watermelon rind mixed with hay, the cool mineral-y vaporous atmosphere that resides around the irises as they open to the world.  Since creating last year’s “big project”, Giverny in Bloom for Denver Art Museum, I seem to re-connect with the green perfumes that I have created over the years all the more.  Maybe it’s because the real garden I was using to model the gardens at Giverny was my own.  I am so familiar with that violet / violet leaf / misty cool greenness meets powdery sweetness mixing in the air with the slightly fruity anisic nectar of the iris all mingling with the fuzzy spicy woody glue-like lilacs around and in my yard.  I don’t have nearly the explosive volume or variety of Giverny but the pieces are there for me to puzzle together again and again.





Recently at the AIX fair in LA I got to do a soft re-launch of my “CHROMA” collection and in preparation I was filling lots of sample vials and mini flasks of Celadon: A Velvet Green and Viridian.  Again, the experience was filled with remembrance of Springs past.  The deep, almost dark forest-y quality of Viridian juxtapose the soft, almost frosted stillness of Celadon seemed completely in step with this current spring, a rather misty and dark mood.  It occurs to me just how much I love the green fragrance in all of its forms.  Even the muguet in my neighbor’s garden returns me to the roots, as it were, of my love affair with green.  This Spring, once again, I’m feeling inspired by the bounty and intensely joyful rebirth, even with its dark, rather cool, and drizzly days, to explore the “green”.  Two new designs are tapping on the shoulder of my creative psyche asking to be put down to paper in the notebooks and maybe sketched sometime soon.  I’ll leave you to wonder what they are and what will come up next. 😉

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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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"le muguet" mixed media on rice paper, 2011, DSH

"le muguet" mixed media on rice paper, 2011, DSH

Now that’s a seriously long title! But it says everything that I wanted to say. I *have* been dreaming in muguet for months. Ever since Trish from Scent Hive conceived of this wonderful event to celebrate May Day and its beloved symbol of Spring, the Muguet (aka lily of the valley).
Out in Boulder we’ve had a long, cool Spring, so the lilies of the valley that my neighbor shares with me have popped up their perfectly vertical leaves but no buds or blossoms have shown themselves yet. You can imagine that I have been spying on them for weeks to no avail, hoping to catch a glimpse of their ascent and minuscule bursting forth. nope. no dice. (Their close friends in the yard, my violets, are the only early flowers I’d heard from so far until just before I left for Sniffa. It wasn’t the muguet yet but the purple and blue grape hyacinths are out now in full force sparkling at every turn in brilliant vibrancy!) I guess these friendly harbingers won’t really “see” each other this year. Oh well. Even if the violets can’t wait around, I can.

"dreaming lilies" acrylic on canvas, 2011, DSH

"dreaming lilies" acrylic on canvas, 2011, DSH

For this May Day extravaganza, Trish wanted to know if I would create an all natural (botanical) muguet perfume to be reviewed & discussed? and otherwise commemorate the day when this most loved flower of the season reigns supreme. I, of course, said yes but not without some trepidation and contemplation, as anyone who knows about lilies of the valley would, since they 1) don’t yield an essential oil so synthetics are pretty much the standard for this note and 2) even with the use of synthetics, to produce a beautiful and original take on muguet is a tall order indeed. But I like a challenge and so once again, jumped off the cliff. (I also like this metaphor a lot, as I’m sure everyone has noticed, because it’s truly like that: You don’t know if you’ll land at all, and if you do, how you’ll land or what you’ll land ON). Plus as an artist, I believe you’ve got to be game to try anything to ‘go further’. So I go all in.

"muguet cologne" mixed media on rice paper, 2011, DSH

"muguet cologne" mixed media on rice paper, 2011, DSH

As per usual, I set out to create just one botanical muguet but two differing concepts came equally strong, so I ended up with two perfumes: Muguet de Mai (perfume) and Muguet Cologne – for men (technically an eau de toilette). And as I began working and “dreaming in muguet” in earnest, other muses showed up which inspired me further, to the point of creating these mixed media and acrylic paintings that you see throughout this blog post. (These days “the juice”, as it were, all flows together and I just follow).
So, here is the presentation of my “Muguet May Day project” (aka 2011 special project no.4). In lieu of a review (hey, that rhymes :)) I’m going to include all of images and the ‘brief’ I sent to the other bloggers for the event explaining my thoughts and inspirations while creating the fragrance designs. I hope that you will enjoy the series and have a very Happy May Day!
oxo~ DSH

"Muguet de Mai" acrylic on canvas, 2011, DSH

"Muguet de Mai" acrylic on canvas, 2011, DSH

April, 2011
Muguet project : brief
When I was approached about creating an all botanical muguet (lily of the valley) composition I was simultaneously excited by the challenge and intimidated. For not only is muguet notoriously elusive to begin with, even utilizing synthetics, I don’t know of any botanical that is used to simulate all of the delicacy and complexity that muguet exudes. I hope that I have done this most beloved of all Spring flowers justice and managed to capture some of its true essence while remaining true to the mission to work with an all botanical palette.
What came from this exploration were two different impressions, as I felt that an “impressionist style” (as in the Impressionist painting style) would be most suited to a spring floral and one that is difficult to pigeon-hole into any kind of clear ‘portrait’. What I wished to capture was some essential nature of the flower. These are my impressions:

Muguet de Mai Perfume is a floral bouquet centered around lily of the valley; not a mere soliflore taken from the ground and placed, sequestered, in a bottle but perfume that brings the atmosphere of May, warm and sunny with blooming flowers everywhere, green grass and warm, wet earth. Muguet de Mai is also very feminine and sweet; slightly girlish and womanly, too. She is a maiden of the fields covered in lily of the valley.
I also found inspiration for Muguet de Mai from some early 20th century soliflore designs in my perfume museum, most notably: Muguet Composé (c.1930’s) and Muguet des Bois (c.1940’s) by Francois Coty, Illusion oil, Lily of the Valley (c.1940’s) by Draille and of course Diorissimo by Edmond Roudnitska for Dior (c.1970’s). (note: The dates are for the versions I looked to, not the launch dates). I wanted this design especially to have a slight vintage feel and homage to the great muguet perfume designs that have come before.

Composition notes of:
bergamot, lemon, galbanum, violet leaf, freesia accord *botanical, hyacinth accord *botanical, Tunisian neroli, linden blossom, cyclamen accord * botanical, broom, boronia, sambac jasmine, rose otto, ylang ylang, jonquil, lilac accord * botanical , orris co2, cassis bud, honey beeswax, aged East Indian sandalwood, Virginia cedarwood, tolu balsam, olibanum and styrax resin.


Muguet Cologne (for men) came about while considering which way to go with a botanical muguet : is it “green and white” and stark, as so many synthetics lilies are, or flowery and wet? or even animalic as anyone who has bent down to smell those lilliputian bells can attest, it’s got a bit of honeyed-civet in there… And as I worked this all out in my head I thought about how delightful it would be to make something bright and green to start and dry down woody and in the earth the green stalks grow in along with those fragrant bells? This idea led me to a more streamlined approach which seemed a little reminiscent of a classical ‘eau de cologne’ structure and then it hit: why not make a kind of ‘eau de cologne floral fougere’ with muguet as the dominant feature? Has it ever been done, exactly? A muguet for men? I couldn’t think of a direct reference, although the violet / chamomile of Fahrenheit by Dior came to mind as did Grey Flannel (with all that galbanum and violet) but those perfumes are not essentially looking to muguet.

So, here is my Muguet Cologne, stated for men but really it is for anyone. The concentration is lighter and the overall feel is woodier and greener but for me there is something about it that rings very true to an element of muguet… kind of stylized like an art deco figure. It’s fresh and refreshing and I feel very approachable and easy to wear.

Composition notes of :
lemon, bergamot, white grapefruit, galbanum, coriander, chamomile, hyacinth accord *botanical, Tunisian neroli,
geranium, jasmine sambac, orris co2, linden blossom, rose otto, violet leaf, Australian sandalwood, Virginia cedarwood, olibanum, tolu balsam, vetiver, patchouli, and oakmoss.

As I am a multi-sensory, aroma and visual artist, I have been working on visual art pieces along with the fragrant compositions. I will have images completed for this project and will get jpgs of the drawings and paintings for you soon. It’s been wonderful to express this project in multiple forms. I hope that you will love the work as I have enjoyed creating it. Thank you for your time and talent and interest in writing about this series.

All my best, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

** To check out more about the May Day Muguet blogging event, click on these links:

Scent Hive
The Non Blonde 
Perfume Shrine

ps: if you are interested in experiencing Muguet de Mai or Muguet Cologne, a very limited edition was produced and are available at the DSH Perfumes website. 9 / 5 ml Antique Presentation bottles of Muguet de Mai PERFUME as well as 9 / 30ml, 9/ 10 ml bottles of Muguet Cologne were created along with some 1 ml sample vials.

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Today, DSH officially launched at indescents.com; the fabulous new online space that has opened its doors to house some of the most creative new works of perfumery out there!  I knew that 1.11.11 would be magical somehow but this is the best news I could wish for. (I don’t think I could be happier!)
Franco Wright, of luckyscent.com and scent bar fame, chose some of our best and most popular perfumes like: Cuir et Champignon, Cimabue, Mahjoun, Formula X, Tubereuse, Winter White, Pamplemousse, Nourouz, and our new December ; in oil essence and EdP spray for perfect travel and layering options.

DSH Cimabue

I predict it’s the start of a beautiful friendship!

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This is just a little quickie post.  (It’s already been a jam-packed week so far and it’s only Monday!)  For now, I’d like to show you the lovely Mata Hari presentation bottle (in case you haven’t seen it at the site yet).  I LOVE this fabulous bottle … it so perfectly fits the fragrance.

Yeah…I’m in love.

Also, here’s the winners of the Holiday Sampler set  drawing:

* Anita

* Lucy

* Martina

Winners, please email me with your address so I can send the sets to you.  (dsh@dshperfumes.com)   Get ready to be in the Holiday mood and everyone, have a great Thanksgiving week!

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I don’t know about anyone else but for me last week was one crazy week…  Was there something in the stars? Or is it the pre-Holiday ramping up we’re all doing right now  (whether we realize it or not) ?   It might have also been the big excitement around the studio for the launch of the newest joint project with the Natural Perfumers Guild and eight bloggers, which starts TODAY!  Tah Dah: The OUTLAW Project.

The OUTLAW Project was presented to us, as perfumer members of the Guild, to create a perfume utilizing botanical perfume materials that are on the IFRA / EU restricted and / or banned list.  You might ask why we would want to do that?  Well, in the past few years more and more naturals have been singled out as ‘hazardous’ ( ie: might cause a rash or you might be allergic to it) and what we are left with is an increasing selection of synthetics to replace the naturals with.  I, personally, am not one to dis synthetics altogether as gross or whatever… I see their beauty and their value.  However, I do find that most perfumes that are composed of nearly all synthetics are poor quality, feel soul-less and flat-out don’t smell good to me.  This whole thing has sadly become a political hot button issue in many places and what seems to be the result so far is the killing off of some of our best historical classics (YSL Opium, whether you like this fragrance or not, is a masterpiece and has recently been re-formulated to exclude all of those pesky naturals on the IFRA /EU list and while some find the new fragrance pleasant, it’s not Opium…more like “Ghost of Opium”).

As a Perfumer I am horrified to consider life without rose absolute / rose otto, or jasmine, bergamot or styrax for that matter… These classic perfumery materials are fundamental to classic perfumery styles and without them, we can not practice our art.  As an artist, I will always work with materials that I have, but to be relegated to an entirely synthetic world changes everything.  And I don’t think it is for the better.  Not by a long shot.  So, the OUTLAW perfume project was born out of protest and a call to common sense and sanity when it comes to the potential risks of interacting with perfume.  A simple label should suffice (* if cigarettes can just have a warning label, why not perfume?) Plus, on the political side, seriously, we have more exposure to chemicals in food, which we completely ingest by eating, than we do from applying scent to the skin.  Oh and the chemicals I am speaking of are naturally occurring, like eugenol in cloves or terpenes in orange oil.  You could get more exposure by eating pesto (basil is on the list as well).

So, we will be outlaws: we will continue to produce perfumes outside of the confines of IFRA and the EU standards because we know that the materials we are using are not HARMFUL (to most everyone) and that a simple label suggesting caution and forethought when using the product is enough.  Also, speaking as someone with asthma and who has been tested to find that I am allergic to just about everything in nature (grasses, mold, pollen…) I know that I have to be careful in the world; people with allergies, etc know this.  So they will read the label, take it to heart and do the recommended patch test.  They will also go slow in terms of spreading something all over them before they know how it will react.  This is common sense and we will stand for that by going rogue…by being OUTLAWS.

By now, you might have read a bit about my OUTLAW perfume submission, Mata Hari, who was quite the outlaw herself.  I really liked that she was European so that I could take some influences from classic European perfume from the early 1900’s and show how integral the naturals are to the richness, quality and overall design elements of classic perfumes.  I also like that she was pretending to be Indonesian, of Hindu royalty and trained in the Temple rituals of her culture.  This inspired traditional Oriental aromatics that were also on the forbidden list.  All in all, I must have used over 20 essences on the list (*which is huge and you can see it at indieperfumes blog and also WAFT…blog), maybe more.  When creating an all botanical perfume, how can you not end up using notes that are on that list… EVERYTHING is on that list.

In this post I was going to talk more about the perfume but I ended up talking politics and the destruction of our art form.  Good.  We need to talk about this.  We are losing so much more than our history… we’re losing the opportunity to create more wonderful works on the continuum of that heritage.  Our future is at stake.   We must make a stand and become OUTLAWS.

ps: I almost forgot to list the bloggers who are partnering with the Guild to review the perfumes and talk about our project:

It’s going to be an exciting week!

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It’s November already, people!  I can hardly believe how fast this year has flown by and it’s getting to be time for the Holidays.  One thing that I look forward to now, though, is 7th of November; the ESSENSE STUDIO’s anniversary date and something to celebrate.  And so we are: Tomorrow (aka Friday, November 5).  (AD): So please come down to the studio to take a sneak peek at our latest art show, new jewelry pieces, NEWEST fragrance launches, Cuir et Champignon, Sampsuchinon and Holiday Solid perfumes, plus have a little treat, some wine from Augustina’s (after 5pm) and enter to win a prize, too!

There’s even more happening at the studio these days as well.  I just got back (well almost two weeks ago now – see: re-read title…) from Sniffapalooza Fall Ball in NYC (which was an absolute blast) and the first unveiling of Cuir et Champignon and I am thrilled to say that so far, the response has been incredible for Cuir et Champignon!  Yeah – let’s here it for that mushroom thang, right?  🙂  It did get me thinking though.  So, I’m heading back in to see what other tricks I can coax out of that crazy Cepes absolute.  Will it do any other thing than earthy, brown, mushroom?  I’m going to see.  After this weekend’s festivities and the launch of the next Natural Perfumers Guild project on the 15th (you’re going to LOVE this one, but that’s for another post), I’m going to sit down and get busy sketching some concepts for exploration. This is going to be fun, too.  I’ve gotten my hands on some wonderful new materials in the past few months and haven’t had a single free moment to explore and get my ‘hands wet’ (well, “feet” doesn’t work…).   The time has almost come and I’m really excited.

Sampsuchinon 'stone' perfume solid and mini perfume

For now, I’ll leave you with this little picture of the new Sampsuchinon perfumes that are the latest release in the Secrets of Egypt Collection.  (Boy oh boy, do I have a lot to write about…)

I am wishing you a lovely Thursday~

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