December 21, 2013 6:15 PM Subscribe
For some time now I've had an on-off fascination with scent and perfume, particularly the artistic side of scent. How can I further explore this?
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure where this fascination started exactly, but I have often thought that in an alternate timeline I would probably be a perfume artist. I am most interested in how scent and perfume can create whole atmospheres just by a sniff - triggering memories, imaginative leaps, and so on. For example, I once smelled some basic sandalwood soap and immediately got massive flashbacks of spending time in Bangladesh as a kid (my family's from there), I find the smell of wet markets comforting in a way that's hard to explain, and often I'll smell some perfume or incense or other and entire stories pop into my head.
I've been reading up about Luca Turin and bits and pieces of perfume culture, and also looked into learning how to make perfume, but it seems a lot of it hinges on the science - which I don't have a lot of background in and am not quite as interested. Examples of scent-related things that are more interesting to me are an issue of National Geographic from 10+ years ago that had fold-out samples of perfumes used by Cleopatra and Napoleon, and an artistic installation at SOMArts for Day of the Dead where the artist hung packets of herbs from the ceiling, each with a particular medicinal or spiritual purpose relating to death and rebirth, and invited people to crush the herb bags and take in the smell.
Are there other creative and artistic avenues of scent and perfumery I could explore? Where could I learn to make my own if I don't have much knowledge in chemistry? (I'm based in Oakland/Berkeley/San Francisco if that makes a difference.) Which other artists used scent in interesting ways? I liked what I've read by Chandler Burr - anyone else I should investigate?