Studio Wafts

Hey there. You likely just received or will soon receive Studio Series 1 and were provided a link via email to check out this page. Glad to see you! (For visitors who have randomly landed here, I suggest reading the Series page instead.)

Here I answer a few questions and talk a little bit about what you just received. Feel free to skip ahead — images of my new vial design and bottles, and links to purchase new work, are in the final section.

Why perfume?
Why create a Studio Series?
Lilies? Incense?
Can I buy full bottles? What’s next?

Why perfume?

I feel scent is the most primal sense. It makes us hungry, it makes us horny, it makes us gag. Although we have developed behavioral strategies to deny the visual and zone out the audible, scent is largely inescapable when in our proximity. We must breathe, but we don’t have to look or listen. There is a heightened connection between scent and real space that does not always occur with visual or audible stimuli.

Because reaction to scent is so primal, its role in the world must be significant. Then why is its explicit use so rare to come by in art? Olfactive art is almost nonexistent in most major museums. Furthermore, since perfume is often thought of as a beauty product, and thus a commercial consumer item, that certainly speaks to the fact of its dearth in the sometimes uptight canons of aesthetics and art theory. This just seems silly.

So, maybe it’s time for olfactive media to become more recognized and discussed. The perfume industry is currently experiencing a renaissance. Heavily researched and carefully crafted writing concerning perfume and olfactive awareness is making waves. Spaces like The Institute for Art and Olfaction are gaining prominence. Clearly an underlying sensual shift is already in motion. For me, it was evident that, after a brush with academia, the time to make some big shifts in my art-making practice had come. The strange and difficult world of perfume soon came into view, smelled appealing, and quickly roped me in.

Why create a Studio Series?

As I’ve detailed elsewhere, I think anyone interested in perfumery rarely gets to experience perfume-in-progress unless they start experimenting on their own. But perfumery requires a large investment of capital and time. Because artists and independent perfumers work at a small scale and the risks of creating this type of unique project are minimized, we can provide this experience and use it to shape how others think about art and the world.

However, this practice is not entirely new. In the perfumer’s studio, numerous experiments and adjustments to formulae occur before a scent is completed, often over the course of years. During that prolonged process, a lot of working material must be used. Early perfumers frequently kept containers nearby to collect those volumes of incomplete perfumes and create aggregates of what would otherwise be waste. Pleasant ones were often called millefleurs, or thousands of flowers, and sold or given away or just enjoyed.

Practically, as a small-scale artist working with expensive perfume materials, thinking of failed experimentation as waste is defeating; this mindset literally inhibits most beginning perfumers to the point where it is discussed amongst peers as a rite of passage in formulating will itself. If one obsessively catalogs and meticulously tracks progress toward an intentional creation, one can also simultaneously compose derivative millefleurs. The Studio Series then helps record many different types of sketches, iterations, and outcomes in a perfumer’s studio, reshaping the perfumery process into a millefleurs of time. Patrons and perfume nerds thus importantly help artists and independent perfumers sustain this challenging practice in a developing field when they consider and purchase these types of sets, just as they would samples or explorer packs, and similarly studio sketches or print editions.

Lilies? Incense?

Incense and lilies, yes. My impetus to start the lily project was quite simple: At the grocery store, I regularly buy those banal fuschia-and-white Stargazer lilies for my apartment. I am a bit obsessed with their effusive fragrance, and that mint-green core seems to glow like an isotope. Too, they give and give: for six bucks I get three stems with about twelve flowers, which with some loving care can provide two weeks of perfumed blooms.

Symbolically, lilies represent many things. In historic artwork, they often emanate light and represent virginity. Their appearance can denote rebirth and, as such, inescapable death. While researching the flower and its chemical makeup, I was a bit astonished to discover that its pollen is actually quite fragrant, we just don’t really smell it because in a flower there is proportionately little of it to standout. And because the pollen is incredibly staining to fabric, it’s customary to remove and discard the anthers (pollen pods). But in keeping with the millefleurs spirit, I began to collect and tincture the pollen, both for its pigment and to assess its fragrance.

What is there to be said about incense? Should anything be said about incense? Much perhaps, but for such a powerful human tradition shared by so many cultures, why speak over the cackles of a fire’s smoke? I think every perfume nerd also loves incense and the genre of incense perfume gets much attention. Predisposed to igniting things, I started burning lily pollen beside traditional incense. This meditation has led to several ideas about the convergence of flowers and incense, two highly ritual and religious objects.

Accordingly, I see the lily and incense projects better converging at some point. In fact, your vial of the Incense Project is an iteration utilizing the lily pollen tincture. I also plan to expand the lily project and adjoin visual components. But for now, birthing a lily from scratch is laborious, and the present iteration you possess still seems to fall far from the beautiful grocery store banality I hope to cull.

Can I buy full bottles? What’s next?

If you enjoy Studio Series 1, please subscribe to future sets! These will contain 5-10 iterations of new studio developments, presented in both larger 1ml glass sample vials as well as forthcoming 2ml glass mini-sprayers:

New Sprayer
Diagram by Tim Gatto

Purchase Studio Series Subscription.

A very limited quantity of Variations/Meditations 1 is available in full-sized 50ml bottles, shipping in early March (this current batch is still macerating). From a collection standpoint, because of the large percentages of true civet and myrrh in this perfume, this first studio release will age and develop beautifully like wine for decades, which many similarly constructed vintage perfumes demonstrate today.

Pre-order Variations/Meditations 1.

All 50ml purchases will come in these beautiful French glass spray bottles with chrome aluminum cap, hand-signed in gloss enamel.

50ml Bottle