01 June 2011

UNCORKED ~ Celebrating The Voices of the Natural Perfumers Guild Members

~How I came to love natural aromatics~

When this blogging event was announced I knew I wanted to join in even though I had no idea what it was going to be about. Then the subject was revealed. I thought 'Uh-oh! This is going to be the shortest blog post.

Not long ago I blogged about how I felt like the new kid in school when it came to natural perfumery, or rather perfumery in general. Growing up my mother and maternal grandmother didn't grow fragrant flowers. And while my paternal grandmother grew roses I vaguely remember them, even though I was at her house almost every day of the week. I recall areas in her backyard where these roses grew but that's about all. The scent of roses, lilacs and others don't transport me back to my childhood. Neither of them owned any of the more talked about classic perfumes (Chanel No. 5, Joy, Mitsouko, etc). I never received pretty bottles of perfume as gifts. My maternal grandmother was an Avon lady and I remember trying different Avon colognes here and there. My mother had many bottles on her dresser that she hardly ever wore. Red Door, Paloma Picasso and Youth Dew (newer version) are a few I recall.  And while I remember them nothing really stands out that would remind me of her. My experience with scent was purchasing the cheap stuff from drug & convenience stores. Remember Jean Nate and Love's Baby Soft? And I really loved Sand & Sable. Up until 2006 my only exposure to essential oils was keeping a bottle of tea tree on hand in my first aid kit. Even as popular as lavender is I was only familiar with the synthetic fragrance. I never liked the smell of vanilla until I smelled a real vanilla bean.  That was about 12 years ago and I didn't know vanilla absolute even existed. 

In December of 2005 my mother passed away after a battle with cancer. Two weeks later a very close cousin (my mom's niece) passed away suddenly. My family was shocked and saddened. As a result I began to suffer from insomnia. I'm not much of a pill taker. I'd rather try alternative methods first. So I turned to aromatherapy. I searched for websites and articles on the internet that would give me some ideas that would help me to fall asleep. I came across a website that had an offline study introductory aromatherapy course developed by Jeanne Rose. (side note: I didn't know who Jeanne was and remember thinking 'I wonder if she's reputable.' You live & learn.) I read all the material I received and ordered samples of essential oils. Being a book lover I sometimes detour from my planned errands and stop by book stores. One day I came across a used book store and decided to go in just to look around and found a little book on aromatherapy formulas. There was a formulation in it for insomnia. I ordered more samples and blended the oils. I don't really recall if it helped me sleep or not but it smelled really pretty. I started to blend it and add it to an oil burner to scent my home. At that point I stopped blending for any therapeutic affects of aromatherapy and started blending for scent alone. They were really simple blends. Not being very knowledgeable about perfumery in general I had no idea that there was a segment of perfumery dedicated to naturals.  Oddly enough I was introduced to it by a perfumer who blended with synthetics. We both posted on the same soaping forum and he became sort of the forum's perfumery tutor. He posted about the Jean Carles method and explained what it all meant. He pointed me to perfumery groups on Yahoo which is how I found out about the Natural Perfumery group and then the Natural Perfumers Guild. 

It seems as if the path to naturals chose me instead of me choosing it. Looking back so many opportunities came my way for me to latch on but for whatever reason I did not. Maybe I just moved too slow.  But once I was immersed in it there was no looking back. 

Random tidbit:
I've come across the question many times as to what aromatic(s) I dislike. I can find a place for and appreciate many scents, even those that some find foul. But I have a very hard time smelling fresh cut grass. I simply can't stand it. 

Participating NPG members

Adam Gottschalk Lord's Jester Inc
Alec Lawless Being Led by the Nose
Anu Prestonia Anu Essentials Blog
Charna Ethier Providence Perfume
Christine Ziegler A Little Ol'Factory
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz DSH Notebook
Denise Smith Perfume Journal
Elise Pearlstine Bellyflowers
Ida Meister Ça Fleure Bon
Isabelle Gelle Les Parfums d'Isabelle
JoAnne Bassett Natural Perfumes
Julie Longyear From The Bathtub
Karen Williams Aromatics International
Laura Natusch Olive and Oud
Noelle Smith Ellenoire
Robert Tisserand I'm Just Saying
Trygve Harris Absolute Trygve


Anya said...

Lisa, what an amazing story. I never would have guessed your (lack of) background if not for this project, and I mean that in the nicest way, of course. 2006?! Wow, oh wow. You've come such a long way in such a short time. And you're in the Guild, and so is Jeanne Rose, LOL!

I'm so happy you decided to post for this project, and it certainly isn't the shortest post, but every sentence is perfect. Just perfect. Now I know you! ;-)

chayaruchama said...

No fresh cut grass ?

I really enjoy hearing how you came to where you are now ; it never ceases to interest me.
Thank you !

Lisa BTB said...

Thank you Anya! I'm glad I posted for the project too. I'm learning so much about other members. This was really fun.

Lisa BTB said...

I know Ida! I don't know where it came from. I'm such an outdoors person but I crinkle my nose whenever I smell fresh cut grass. LOL

Charna said...

Hi Lisa,
Great to get to know you. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, I thought the Avon lady had the most. glamorous. job. ever. Despite the differences in our childhood (you in the city, me in the country), I also grew up with Jean Nate, Charlie, Coty Wild Musk, Avon's Sweet Honesty (ugh) and Love's Baby Soft. Remember the lemon version of Love's? I loved it! :) It was great to read your path to working with naturals!

JoAnne Bassett said...

Thank you for sharing your story..the early days of Avon, and advancing to drug store fragrances..to finally natural perfumes..

It has been a long journey...
and I am glad I arrived. I so relate.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

One of my first preferred perfumes was a solid perfume from Avon which they used to sell on the African markets... It did have a gorgeous smell of cocoa butter and violet... I never found it again.

We also used Skin So Soft which today is still the efficient insect repellant around (particularly for sand fleas!) if one can put up with the strong synthetic smell.

All this to say that those synthetic oldies are often the jumping board for perfumers' journey and discovery of naturals somehow. Your personal journey is very inspiring.

Lisa BTB said...

Hi Charna,
Yes I remember the leon version of Love's Baby Soft lol. They were all my allowance budget 'luxuries'.

Lisa BTB said...

Hi JoAnne,

Yes, when I think about it it does seem like a long journey. I'm having much more fun with it now. :)

I enjoyed your post also (I didn't see where to comment).

Lisa BTB said...

Hi Scented voyage,

One thing about having a grandmother who was an Avon lady was getting free products lol. She made sure I had my supply of Skin So Soft because it was my favorite. That and Dew Kiss lip balm. Imari was the cologne I used to buy from her. Another cologne I used to where often was Sand & Sable. To this day I'm still a fan of woody oriental scents.

Thanks for your comment. :)

Elise Pearlstine said...

Hi Lisa - I am just getting around to all the blogs. Loved reading your history. Yes, there is no looking back.

Lisa BTB said...

Thank you Elise! I'm just finishing up the reading myself. :)

HJ said...

Great post Lisa! Its always great to reflect back on how far you've come and your early and current influences.

My earliest perfume memory was that my Mum's favourite scent (Georgio? something like that) made me feel car sick - lol

Thanks for sharing! =)

Lisa BTB said...

Thanks H! There was a Georgio overload when I was in high school. So many of my classmates wore it. It was strong stuff lol.