Perfume as Practice began as a hunch; can the craft of perfumery, if approached from a contemporary art standpoint, accommodate portraiture? If so, how? What would the process be?
Chiefly, Perfume as Practice seeks to create portraits of other artists. This is achieved through an established process that poses the question ‘why do you make art?’ Then, through interpretation, intuition and investigation, relevant oils are combined in order to achieve a fragrance that captures the artists’ persona, based on the response received.
This process raises questions of identity, gives artists a cathartic means of enforcing their creative processes and highlights the capacity scent has for communicating beyond its preconceptions. This last point is important as subverting and challenging preconceived notions and providing alternatives is vital to my creative output: I believe it can drive change, provide agency and provide a positive and constructive means of forming relationships.
This blog provides a means to highlight the possibilities of scent; describes past, present and future olfactive endeavours and provides a useful and cathartic platform to externalise some thoughts.
This rather innocuous image represents the initial development of something I have thus far unexplored; selling perfume commercially.
This perfume sample – outsourced to fragrance suppliers Carvansons to my specifications – will be sold at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery from May 2020, to coincide with their upcoming Pre-Raphaelite exhibition.
While this unisex fragrance is designed with an element of mass appeal, it still contains a certain conceptual weight, as it acts as an olfactory depiction of the Pre-Raphaelites and their nostalgic interpretation of medieval life. The fragrance is filled will abundant fruits and florals, representing a bountiful and quintessentially English existence. The perfume finishes with exotic spices and musks, which reference human endeavour and conquest.
Look out for my perfume if you’re in Bristol this summer!
I spent the last few days embarking upon that most arduous of tasks – sorting out my studio space.
It was a curiously cathartic process which saw me tidy away my array of pencils, pens and paintbrushes; making way instead for a vat of perfumers alcohol, carrier oils and perfumers scales.
And yet it’s not as if I’ve just embarked on my perfume making journey; I’ve been doing it for 5 years. I think this last month has seen me drift further away from my other practiced art forms because of the nature of the opportunities I am presented with, which include devising scented experiences at Leeds International Festival and Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
Previous perfume exhibitions have incorporated painting. This was done in part to ‘keep my hand in’ as I still enjoy the process. However, the above two opportunities, by design, will not involve any other art form; only perfumery. This actually takes me out of my comfort zone a little, and makes me want to refine, develop and improve my perfume making process in order to engage, inspire and delight an audience purely through scent design. That, and my Bristol opportunity also includes a commercial element which will see a perfume I have designed being sold in their shop. The perfume making process is certainly going to take priority over the next few months.
At least my studio is ready for it.
January always feels like a rather difficult month to instigate and artistic action. The excesses of Christmas last longer than they should; the cold winter air quells any motivation and then there’s the small matter of completing a tax return…
Luckily then, I have been able to take part in a group exhibition without hardly having to lift a finger, all thanks to no less an institution that the University of Chester – the university I graduated at in 2007.
Nice to See You to See You Nice is a group exhibition featuring work from staff, students and alumni from the University of Chester, and is housed at CASC – a fantastic contemporary space in the heart of Chester set up by the University.
My work – Seven Keys – is nestled between over 70 other artists, makers and designers each connected to Chester University. It’s great how the exhibition acts as such a social platform; the opening evening on Friday 24th January was a hive of conversations between Chester University affiliates, each brought together through artistic practice. Perhaps the exhibition will reaffirm some friendships, encourage collaborations or instigate further creative endeavour.
Seven Keys is a series of perfumes about love and lust. Presented are 7 perfumes; only one is a concoction of natural ingredients which represent the virtues of love. The rest comprise of synthetic oils and represent lust.
Seven Keys is a great introduction to the possibilities of perfumery – highlighting that with careful scent design perfume can house narrative and symbolism. The theme also lends itself to valentine’s Day, which is useful as Nice to See You to See You Nice runs until 12th March. The opening hours are Mondays – Tuesdays 10-4; Fridays 12 – 6; Saturdays 10 – 4.
Over the last 7 days I have staged no less than 3 workshops in 3 different towns and cities across the UK. I began at General Office in Stourbridge, continued to Cass Art in Liverpool and ended in Cass Art, Manchester.
The week saw a total of 10 separate train journeys across 450 miles (though granted I did combine the General Office gig with a trip to my parents, who live close by) and I delivered my workshop to a total of 33 participants. As ever, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
I have been delivering perfume making workshops for years now, but what continues to strike me about them is how much I, myself, learn from each one. Each participant arrives at my workshop with an array of thoughts, opinions and experiences of perfume, and as such, each participant contributes to my overall perception of perfumery and it’s affecting qualities on audiences.
Staging workshops away from my base in Sheffield also allows me to enjoy the somewhat personal adventure of travelling and what travelling provides. At General Office I was able to catch up with my friend – and fellow a.n blogger – Elena Thomas. In Liverpool I was able to do a spot of Christmas Shopping and in Manchester I enjoyed looking around Afflecks for the first time in years. It might not sound like much, but it all contributes to the overall experience and overall pleasure.
In 2015 I somewhat naively expected my workshops to be somewhat auxiliary; and regarded my exhibitions to be the prominent part of my Perfume as Practice project. After 4 years I can conclude that this isn’t really the case – if anything they compliment each other, and the experience I gain from each informs the project as a whole. And long may it continue!
Over the last week I have been uncovering the commercial potential of Perfume as Practice. For while the essence of the project is artistic, that doesn’t mean I can’t dip my toe in the more consumer driven elements of the fragrance industry from time to time.
That’s why the beginning of this month sees me showcasing a range of reed diffusers based on house plants. They are called Botanical Blends and are currently on display (and for sale) at the Art in the Home event at Kommune, Sheffield.
I’m actually rather happy with them, as the concept of taking inspiration from house plants allows the diffusers to have a little conceptual grounding, while offering customers an opportunity to by something unique and bespoke.
They also act as something as a precursor to a project I am undertaking in 2020, which will see me design a perfume for Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. And by perfume, I mean an actual perfume. That people will be able to buy. In a shop. With a box and a livery and warning labels and everything.
It all feels rather exciting as making a perfume to industry standards is something that will greatly inform and benefit Perfume as Practice, which has always sought to be disciplined in it’s perfume design, and has always respected the perfume making process. The opportunity to make, sell and market a perfume for customers to buy will essentially make me a better perfumer, and that can only be a good thing going forward.
Art in the Home is open at Kommune until 10th November.