Thursday, March 10, 2011

Where Do I Begin?

by Lisa Abdul-Quddus

I started my journey into natural and botanical perfumery after delving into the world of aromatherapy. It all started out with the therapeutic aspect in mind but quickly turned to blending for the scent alone. At the time I had no idea natural and botanical perfumery, as the art form I am familiar with today, even existed. However, I soon learned of the many resources available after reading The Aromatherapy Book by the very knowledgeable Jeanne Rose. I located an essential oil E-tailer and bought about 7 or 8 samples. Each month as I studied aromatherapy further I purchased more samples. Pretty soon I had a nice little stash. I bought scents that I knew I liked. Citrus, citrus and more citrus. Well, it seemed that way since I bought one of each available (and there were lots). I had rose and jasmine, patchouli and vetyver, mints and spices. I still had no idea what to really do with them, though, when it came to perfumery. Then one day a member of a soaping forum I frequent, who happens to be a niche perfumer, shared information on the Jean Carles monographs. It all started to make sense. But to really understand I needed to be hands on and not just read. The one thing I needed to do was to start building my perfumer's palette with raw materials.

Mandy Aftel, in her book Essence & Alchemy, lists what she feels is a good starting point of necessary essences. The list includes top, middle and base notes. The best advice I can offer is to purchase dropper bottles, scent strips and samples of essences along with a good amount of your menstruum of choice: oil or alcohol. For the beginner this can be a bit overwhelming. Just take it slow and start with a handful of essences at a time. The main key to blending a perfume is in knowing your raw materials and how they interact with each other. Have a notebook on hand to keep blend ratios, thoughts and other important information available. Label all your bottles whether it's the raw material or a blend. I can't think of anything more frustrating when it comes to blending than to have a bottle of some substance tucked away and later not remember what it is.Today there is a wealth of information available to the budding natural and botanical perfumer. One thing for sure is that no matter how long you've been a part of NBP you never stop learning. Something new and wonderful can unfold at any time.

*Lisa is a graduate of NNAPA Natural Botanical Perfumers Antiquarian Perfumery Course, and writes the blogs 'Blossoming Tree' and 'Scent, You Say?', and is owner of Blossoming Tree Bodycare at Etsy.

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