A Note from Lisa Camasi, Botanical Perfumer
If you want to take a class, any class, do a little homework first and make sure that the class you take will serve your needs, interests and budget, and will deliver on its promises.
ASK A FEW QUESTIONS:- What are the instructor's credentials, experience, and reputation, professionally and otherwise? If s/he has formal credentials, are they in a relevant field? Are they from a reputable institution? If the instructor points to experience and a varied selection of "one off" courses, one on one instruction/ mentorship/ apprenticeship with another perfumer or perfumers, who are they, and what are their credentials, what is their professional lineage? If the instructor is self taught, how did s/he pursue their studies, and how did s/he arrive at the conclusion that s/he had acquired sufficient knowledge that s/he feels qualified to teach a professional course and charge a professional fee? Is s/he published?
- Can references/recommendations be provided from former students?
- What books/literature is used to support the class, and what is the additional recommended reading?
- What are the educational objectives of the course - what will you have learned and be able to do after the class that you could not do before the class? How will they be achieved? Is there a syllabus from this or previous similar classes that you can view to evaluate whether the course will meet your interests, skill level, and needs?
- Think about how you learn best. Some people do very well reading from books, some prefer lots of graphics and pictures, and still others absorb information best through auditory input and verbal exchanges. Will this class be presented in a way that is suitably accessible to you and your learning style? I have a good friend who is a university lecturer in New Zealand, and one of the courses she teaches is a distance course. It is at the graduate level, and because the focus of the course is in support of the literature survey the students need to conduct for their MA theses in Linguistics, it works pretty well, but she said she can't imagine teaching any of her other courses because so much critical learning happens in the face to face exchange of weekly seminars and working collaboratively on research and data.
- Consider all the available courses and resources in the context of what you want, what you need, and what you can afford. Look for a class that will teach you skills that allow you to continue learning when the class is over, and leave you feeling empowered and encouraged to do so - rather than enslaved to an expert who claims to hold the key to the vault that safeguards the secrets of the ancient art.
If you're able to spend many hundreds of dollars for an online course, why not spend a couple hundred more and get the benefit of learning perfumery "in the style of the French perfumers" from *actual* French perfumers - ones with the training, experience, materials, facilities and professional acumen to make it worth your while and worth your hard earned money!! (Not to mention the pleasure of spending a week in the heart of Grasse!) There are other classes - Sunrose Aromatics has hosted classes with Gail Adrian in the past, and Linda at the Perfumer's Apprentice is an excellent resource as well.http://www.perfumer sapprentice.com/perfumersworkshop/
DO A LITTLE RESEARCH:- Polish your bloody google, yahoo, dogpile skills. Be willing to dive down a few rabbit holes as you follow the links within links. have found some of the most useful and relevant information this way - as well as some wonderful and wonderfully obscure materials.
- Don't rely entirely on the internet, and remember that it is still largely unregulated and there is as much unreliable information as there is factual and useful information.
- Check out a few books at the library, and if your local library doesn't have what you want, ask if they can get it for you through inter library loan. If you live near a university, especially a public one, see if they provide library privileges to the local community -most do! You will be able to gain access to books through the university that are unlikely to be available any other way -especially out of print books.
- Safety... Don't rely on IFRA exclusively for this information, it's not reliable! Read the MSDS for your materials and take a little time and familiarize yourself with Pub Med http://www.ncbi. nlm.nih.gov/ sites/entrez/you will get much more reliable information and you will learn a lot more about your materials!- There are a bunch of sites that will provide hours and hours of reading (tons of useful information) about naturals and their chemical components, as well as synthetics and compounds - here are a few of myfavorites:http://www.thegoodscentscompany.com/http://www.leffingwell.com/http://www.bojensen.net/http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/
Bookmark these sites and spend some time following the links and becoming familiar with the information (and additional links/resources) they provide. Most vendors well known on this list (Eden Botanicals, Natures Gift, Sunrose Aromatics, White Lotus) also have copious amounts of information and links on their sites. I am sure others here could add many more but this is a start.
- Whatever you do, don't believe the assertion that making perfumes using aroma chemicals is the same as using naturals and that you can learn everything you need to know in a class that only covers naturals!! There is a lot of overlap in general technique, but if you are going to use aromachems, do yourself (and your pocket book) a favor and, as is good practice with naturals, learn how to use them effectively and safely. Aromachems can be very unstable and sensitive to degradation due to light and temperature, they often require solvents other than alcohol, there are compounds as well as individual aroma chemicals and the dilutions at which you would use them varies wildly.
CHECK OUT SOME OTHER GROUPS:- Give your chemophobia a rest (and brace yourself for the equally irrational and perverse chemophelia you will encounter) and bring an open mind! While I do not personally use aroma chemicals or synthetics, my time on these lists has definitely honed my skills and technique, and has made me look at naturals with a renewed interest in their active chemical components and infused my creative efforts with much needed precision, analysis and discipline: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/perfumemaking/Perfume Making is Jenny's group, there's a wealth of informative files and links, and she has put together a couple of excellent power point presentations. Discussion is lively, enthusiastic and fairly ad hoc, though Jenny is great about introducing specific topics and questions, and generating more focused discussions as well.http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mfd_ of_perfumes/Manufacture and Design of Perfumes is Jo's group, and has more of a collaborative classroom format. Class sessions might focus on a discussion of a half dozen materials (natural and synthetic), a pop quiz on some aspect of the history of perfume, or a discussion with exercises on fixation, tincturing or solvents.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EarlyPerfume/Early perfumes is Sally's group, and focuses on more academic and early historical creation and use of perfume and scent. She has written an excellent book and is extremely knowledgeable.
- Regardless of the group(s) you join, once there, spend some time digging through the archives. This will give you an idea of the range of topics that have been discussed, answer lots of questions before you have formed them, and will make the questions you do ask once you join the discussion more specific and useful. Do this with any group you join but especially one that has been around for a while or has substantial archives - hell - join NP and mine those archives (if they have not been deleted or selectively culled for the exclusive reference of the owner.) The first couple years of posts on that group are a wealth of information from some VERY talented and accomplished perfumers (including industry professionals incognito) who have long since moved on, weary of all the drama and politics that can hijack the best of groups.
- Be willing to put in the time with your materials - books are excellent references, and lectures can be tremendously informative, but nothing, and I mean *NOTHING* takes the place of sitting down and actively working with the materials: experimenting, formulating, blending, evaluating, sharing, reformulating. .. the hours and days and weeks you spend actively engaged in working with aromatics will be the real education. Everything else - books, research, discussions, groups, lectures - they are all optional.
- Work with your materials in dilution - it will save you unimaginable amounts of money and will give you a better sense of how your perfume is developing as you create it. I personally recommend using 5-10% dilutions of most absolutes and 10-50% dilutions of eo's - it depends on the odor intensity of the material you are working with. Create your formula using these dilutions first, then add sufficient alcohol to bring it to the appropriate strength (parfume, EDP, EDC, etc.)
- Invest in a scale sensitive to a hundredth of a gram, and learn to use it - you will get infinitely more precise and reproducible results if you do! Jen at lotioncrafter has a decent selection as well as a useful comparison you can read to help you decide which one you want.http://www.lotioncr after.com/store/Scales-Accessories-c-262.html
Ebay is also a great resource for equipment, from lab glass to ultrasonic cleaners/baths to use in tincturing and as an aid in finishing/melding dilutions and perfumes.
- Form a local study group, or find a couple local partners in crime. Swap perfumes, offer each other feedback, collaborate on a perfume,or a collection of scented balms, or put together a tincturing/infusing workshop. It builds community and supports your habit, and happens to be a lot of fun to boot.
- Try a variety of materials, from a variety of vendors and regions. All lavenders/vetivers/ lemons/roses are not created equal, nor are the aromatics that are derived from them.
- Don't limit the development of your nose to the perfumer's organ! Take a wine tasting course. Learn to cook outside your comfort zone - take an Indian, Mediterranean, Asian cooking class. Plant a fragrant garden. All of these will propel you along the path of training your senses inform your work with aromatic materials. Last, but most certainly not least - don't be afraid to think for yourself. The more stridently anyone insists that *they* are the expert and that *you* need the training or information they are selling, the more you ought to slow down, look around, and consider all your options first. If you think this is useful information - please feel free to forward it to aspiring students, post to other lists, blogs, etc.