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My upcoming residency at Orchard Square provides me with the opportunity to purchase new equipment, props and materials by virtue of a £500 materials budget.

It’s an offer seldom presented to me, but provides me with a perfect excuse to improve the quality of the materials I use, purchase props that authenticate my exhibition spaces and even purchase furniture that allows me to present my perfumes in subversive or unexpected ways, potentially extending our knowledge of how fragrance can be perceived.

My first purchases have been essential oils. Good quality ones that will enhance and improve the quality of my perfumes. It’s amazing the difference a well sourced and good quality oil makes. The new Frankincense I have purchased has a depth and delicacy that alludes any Frankincense purchased previous – which smell somewhat burned by comparison.

The process of shopping itself is rather cathartic and revealing as it provides a means to order my thoughts and decide definitively what I require. Which hopefully will amount to a well considered and focused residency; only 1 month now until it begins!


Through an established process of asking artists ‘Why do you make art?’ then using the response received to inform the use of fragrances, I have been making ‘perfume portraits’ of other artists for over 2 years, amassing 40 perfumes so far – and counting.

Naturally, the question that emerges as an audience becomes more familiar with my work is ‘Have you made a self portrait in this way?’ The answer, up until now, has been no.

However, upon devising a group exhibition (along with fellow artist Sharon Mossbeck) entitled Alternative Portraits, an opportunity emerged to subject myself to my own processes, thus achieving a perfume that captures my essence.

It’s also an opportunity to get firm with myself – directly externalising and ordering the processes that drive my creative output. It could result a cathartic and affirming statement that reinforces my creative integrity. Or it could result in a muddle of contradictions that throws up more questions than answers. Either way, it’s something of a challenge.

So, I presented to myself the question: ‘Why do I make art?’ Ultimately I concluded that it’s because I strive to find alternatives. Alternatives to pre-established conventions and alternative ways of experiencing, relating and responding to the world around us. To provide an alternative is to provide new means of communication that can potentially instigate social, moral and political change, provide agency, bolster and unify communities, and bring together otherwise fractious sets of people. An alternative can be important, necessary and powerful.

From my answer, the notion of the trailblazer emerged, and it’s dual meaning –  as one who discovers something new and makes it accessible and one who prepares a trial through a forest – have informed the fragrant and aesthetic designs of my ‘perfume self portrait’.

My perfume’s visual designs are based on the Czech Hiking Markers System. It’s a system that’s universal in it’s method of communication and can be used in a literal sense to illustrate new directions. It’s also a system that’s adopted in the Ukraine, and as such provides a neat, if abstract, nod to a certain part of my heritage.

The fragrance itself takes cues from the outdoors – woody fragrances allude to the very notion of the trailblazer; from the physical act of forging new grounds to the emotional tenacity and presence of mind to persist with innovation for the greater good.

Floral tones are also present, describing a certain vulnerability within my creative processes: A ‘fine art perfumer’ is a somewhat untested and undeveloped space to occupy, and is something I am moulding myself without any real precedence. As such, there exists a delicacy and nuance that emerges when the steps I take to assert my creative integrity are more unsure and tentative.

I do feel my perfume as though my self portrait is well rounded. It describes the spirit of innovation and trailblazing, yet has the humility to understand the untested task in hand . But don’t take my word for it, come and have a sniff for yourself at ‘Alternative Portraits’ – which opens at Access Space, Sheffield, with an Opening Evening on the 8th September, 5.30pm – 8pm.


This October sees me take up an artists’ residence in orchard Square – a retail unit in Sheffield.

The residency will be open to the public, and as such it provides a means to develop my body of work and add a somewhat preformative element to proceedings as I assume the role of a psychiatrist-of-sorts; directly examining the thoughts, desires and processes of my visitors in order to create a perfume in situ that captures the essence of who they are.

A sense of authenticity will be key here; I have no formal training in either psychiatry or perfumery yet my perceived legitimacy within the space will validate the whole process, allowing it to appear believable and coherent. An open yet clinical environment should also be considered as, while I want to put visitors at ease, they’re also part of the process and an openness and honesty from them will allow for a richer, meaningful perfume to be created.

That’s not to say a sense of fun should not also enter the equation. I like the idea of incorporating the historical connections between scent and medicine into the space. This could also be something that reveals itself slowly to visitors by taking cues from cabinets of curiosities, pseudoscience and crypt-zoology. Perhaps this would act as a wry comment on my own vulnerable position as an artist assuming various vocational roles that are not my own.

Lots to think about then! For now, the process chiefly involves finding stuff in my studio that might be useful and putting it in a box. But it won’t be long now before the show begins.



The exploration of scent in art is seldom practised by artists and, as a result, isn’t particularly acknowledged by arts venues, organisations or funding bodies. As such it comes with a unique problem – how do you make scent in art seem viable and meaningful when applying for applications and funding?

I don’t particularly have an answer to this as it’s something I’m trying to figure out myself. Recent failures to acquire funding from Arts Council England have centred on not providing evidence of artistic quality. From this, should I deduce that I haven’t described the relevance and viability of scent coherently enough? Or should I attempt to structure the assessment of my work around its visual aesthetics? Arts Council England are not nominally about visual art, but olfactory art is such an underdeveloped and under-evaluated discipline that perhaps leaning a little more on the visual merits of what I do would be advantageous? After all, each perfume is bottled, and each exhibition is visually embellished and themed in order to ape the conventions of the fragrance industry, this in turn allows them to possess a degree of social engagement. Perhaps this describes the degree of artistic quality needed?

Saying that, I have recently been successful in securing a paid residency opportunity in Sheffield, so perhaps persistence and discovering the right opportunity at the right time is what’s required? I do feel somewhat buoyed by the opportunity as it feels like confirmation of the relevance of what I do, and it gives me a degree of confidence going forward.

Given all this, perhaps my attempts at securing funding are essentially no different from the battles many other artists encounter. After all, we’re all navigating our way through our own artistic careers; it’s just that some careers are more fragrant than others.