Friday, April 29, 2011

Smiling Country

View from Bald Mountain, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

“The nightmare city was gone (…) In the interval the city had disappeared. The roar of it no longer dinned upon his ears. Before him was smiling country, streaming with sunshine, lazy with quietude”.
(Jack London, White Fang)

So begins White Fang's life in Northern California, which resonates with my state of mind these days. Although I can't really say that Vancouver is all that intimidating of a city (unless you are a wild wolf meeting it for the first time...), nor is it detached from nature to that point that I feel disconnected from it; but somehow, after my 13 consecutive years of urban life, and swearing by it as if my sanity depends on it, I'm coming to a realization that even that phase might pass. I'm not so much fed up with the city itself as much as I'm longing for simplicity, and am a little bit tired by how materialistic city life can be. Of course, even for city-dwellers, there is still some choice in the matter. It's not as if living in the city is by default materialistic; but it certainly is far easier to get there and try to fill any existential void that might present itself with pretty things (or at least window shopping for them).

The other part of my White Fang equation is the longing for a slightly warmer climate. Growing up in Israel, I was always attracted to the North - especially Canada where I was born. Not that Vancouver is really a hard-core Northern city, but the greenery, snowy mountains, forceful rivers and soft cloud-filtered light certainly have their Pacific Northwest magic to them. However, these days I'm trying to break free from these glass towers, where my heart was kept on ice for years of exile... I'm seeking a change of scene and my spirit wants to wander southbound, where the sun is warm and rarely gets interrupted by rain. A place where the country is smiling!

And until I'm there again, all I can do is bottle up my dreams (no pun intended) and work feverishly on my perfume for the Midsummer Night's Dream scent event. Which is the only excuse why this post ever made it to SmellyBlog. But it will all make sense in the end... I promise.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

24hrs Features New Orleans Perfume

Today's style section of 24hrs newspaper (p.20) features New Orleans perfume - which garnered the best review I ever got for anything I've created:
"Best Natural Selection - This all-natural, handcrafted, artisan perfume proves that you don't need chemicals and a mass-media marketing machine to make good scents. With spring-fresh notes of amber and white magnolia, I just put a tiny dab of this long-lasting pure botanical essence on my neck, and I'm already ready for mass seduction" (Sarah Rowland, 24hrs Style section)

Do I need to tell you that this made my day?

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Alberta Home Magazine & WestCoast Families

And while I'm talking publicity, I haven't had a chance to mention that the March issue of WestCoast Families featured my body products (Song of Songs body oil and Guilt sugar scrub); and the spring issue of Alberta Home magazine featured our White Potion candle.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Curry Adventures

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
- Albert Einstein

When inspiration strikes, it meets all kinds of challenges before being fulfilled. Obstacles once met pave a different path and at times a different creation than that which inspired its quest. The aromas of India have been on my mind recently, beginning to develop into a clear olfactory vision with name, ideas for notes and everything. I envisioned this perfume to have leis of marigold in it strewn with spices and woods. But, once starting to work with the actual materials, I always find that things don't really go quite as planned... If it's not the name, it's the notes that are missing; and if there is a name and notes put together in a blueprint "formula" - they are bound to not work... Such is the ironic humour of life. And rather than becoming frustrated with it, I learned to enjoy the journey. And also accept the failures, frustrations and banging the head in the wall so to speak...

And while Albert Einstein's saying (also echoed more humorously by Samantha Jones of Sex and the City), after repeating the same mistake more than once, it's definitely unrealistic to expect any success. Creating perfumes certainly takes more than just a little bit of madness... And sometimes banging the head against the wall is exactly what you need to realize it's time to change direction. And I'm talking about way more than just twice. Or thrice. With this particular adventure, it wasn't till the 4th take that I realized that perhaps, using marigold, cumin and turmetic together is most certain to make my perfume smell sour, instead of richly spicy like a curry.

So 7th take into this adventure I've finally hitting the nail in the head this morning. And I've not only decided to abandon the marigold I was so attached to (visually, metaphorically, spiritually...), and just move on to what the scent is supposed to smell. And what seemed to work here, was using another golden flower instead of marigold: the modest, everlasting aroma of the curry plant (Immortelle absolute). I've likely used too much and will need to adjust the formula greatly to make up for this potent material; but it's definitely smelling like a woody Indian curry!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Free Your Mind!

Free Your Mind Chicago, originally uploaded by TheDarkThing.

Happy Passover, everyone!
This is the holiday of freedom, so I'm contemplating what is it in my life that I need to free myself from. The quick and straight answer is probably - internet and my iPhone. The deeper answer to that is probably - any insecurities that lead me to be so dependent on these technologies, as if I won't be able to survive without them. It's a constant struggle, for someone who is self employed and runs an online business, to balance between work and life (how can one even separate between the two?). My nearly 2 months of traveling (with little bit of home time in between), in which I had my iPhone break for a day, ran out of battery for my laptop for the duration of an entire flight, not to mention had very little internet access while in the many hours I spent on the plane (major modern life crisis, right? ;-) - taught me to get my act together and break my chains to these devices, and try to take a little time off this network. So that I can breathe real air, create real perfumes, and make eye contact with real people that are near and dear to me (especially when we just so happen to be in the same place at the same time - very rare for someone whose majority of the family and close friends live in another country), or even just passers by, including insects and birds (instead of checking if I got any new messages on the phone, which are doubtfully any more important that whatever it is that I'm missing out on when I'm glued to the screen). And no, I don't mean snapping photos of them while I notice them!

One thing I did do when away from the internet on flights etc. was a major spring cleaning in my computer files, and deleting many images I no longer need or serve any purpose. And while sifting through them, I came to the conclusion that there is hardly any need for me to take another single photograph of anything unless I'm taking on some major art project. I probably have enough images in my hardrive to illustrate SmellyBlog to the end of eternity. And as for product shots - I'm thankful to have my brother be in charge of that (delegation, oh, blessed delegation!). There are probably more meaningless images on the entire world's hardrives than anyone is ever going to look at... Which is really sad, considering how much time we spend taking them instead of living the moment.

I'm going to stop right now, before I begin being too preachy (oops... too late!). I'm just really hoping that my real life will be larger than my virtual life this year. I still enjoy writing this blog, and it gives me great satisfaction to interact with my customers (and family, and friends) with the curious channels of communication available to us with all the modern technologies. I'm just seeking a little bit more freedom, to eliminate the misery caused by dependence... Turning my laptop on Saturday prove to be an excellent choice that makes me excited to turn it on again on Sunday morning and begin my work week with new ideas and renewed energy. I'm not sure I am ready yet to do something similar with my iPhone, but I'm certainly getting there... It will free so much more space in my mental hardrive and also free my hands for a larger part of the day to accomplish things in the physical world. And somehow, this sounds almost spiritually compelling...

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Visit to Sonoma Scent Studio

Sonoma Scent Studio

There is hardly anything more exciting than meeting face to face (or should I say - nose to nose?) with a fellow perfumer. And when the perfumer is Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio - a lady whose work and attitude I've admired and been my pen-pal for a couple of years now - it’s a real treat.

Sonoma county is all beautiful, and the spot where Sonoma Scent Studio is located is breathtakingly stunning. The winding driveway in Healdsburg leads to a beautiful wooden cottage that is built like a tree-house among ancient oaks observing beautiful green hills covered in vineyards.

Entering the house, there is no mistaking Laurie’s olfactory style from the aromas that linger in the air. All at once, everything in there smells like a Sonoma Scent Studio perfume, or probably a mixture of all of them… And Laurie is as wonderful, sweet and knowledgeable in person as you'd imagine from reading her blog, Perfume in Progress, and sniffing her beautiful, sophisticated olfactory ensembles. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Laurie is a tea aficionado as wel, and collects tea cup, as well as (not surprisingly) vintage perfume flacons.

We spent the entire afternoon sniffing our way through each other’s latest creations, and the scents that I haven’t smelled from Laurie’s collection yet. And of course – the inevitable discussion and marveling at raw materials. Laurie had treasures that I have never smelled before, such as clover absolute (very similar to hay, but perhaps a little less grassy and more similar to tonka bean – with more coumarin I suppose), and
Oakwood absolute, from French oak barrels, which smelled woody and a little dry-mossy to my nose, with definite broom and honey absolute sweetness underneath. And I also got to smell some synthetics which I’ve never smelled on their own before, including some ionones and jasmine lactones. Raw materials are always so fascinating!

Oak coming back to life
I’ve already fallen in love with Laurie’s Sienna Musk and Champagne de Bois that she sent me a while back in the mail. So I wanted to discover scents I haven’t tried yet – some are probably not that new to many of you, but were new to me, which I’m really thankful I got to take a sample home with me to try (and I will write about in more detail after wearing them a few more times).
Lieu de Reves and To Dream both have oakwood absolute in them, but the latter is a more bold. I found them intriguing and multilayered. And Laurie’s love for rose is very apparent – she has a few quite different rose themed fragrances, and they are all very well made and surprisingly different from one another – Vintage Rose has a lot of depth, Cameo has more of an antique quality to it, and is more complex, and Rose Musc is as simple as the name suggests – but done so much better than others in that very popular genre. I found it to be also true for her Egyptian Musk – which has non of the harshness that so many of the musk oils got.

White Violet
I was particularly smitten with Voile de Violette. Violet fragrances can be easily too old-fashioned or sweet, but this has interesting contrasts - a seemingly shy violet underlined with a rich, incensey base with a lot of myrrh.

I’m looking forward to continue exploring these perfumes on my skin, and can only hope that this meeting was the first in many more to come!

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Fragrant Faces of Vancouver

Rhododendron Meeting

Happy Anniversary to the city of Vancouver, who turns 125 year old today!!!

When I arrived at this city nearly 13 years ago, on a dreadfully rainy October day (a rain that continued tirelessly, day and night, through November), the only smells that caught my nose were the musty, fungi-infested wooden homes. It made for very gloomy apartment-hunting. Besides the homelessness and drug problems, that smell is probably the most depressing, uncozy and unpleasant thing about Vancouver (you'd think it's counter productive to build wooden homes in a city that is 90% water, but that's what they are made of). I was quite convinced that the building I live in now does not have that smell; Alas, coming back from 3 weeks of family visits in Israel and arriving at my current abode got my nose to notice the exact alienating scent as I entered the hallway to my apartment...

Blue Heart @ Sunset Beach
As you can probably gather, my first impression of V town was less than positive. And not only because of the unfortunate circumstances that forced me to part ways with my immediate family and friends I grew up with and become practically an immigrant (even if not legally, because I was born in this country, the experience is just about as cruel to move to a different country if you were not exposed to it during your childhood). And since most of the people in this city are newcomers to the country or emigrated from other parts of Canada, there was a strong sense of alienation in the city, something that remains underlining everything here to this day for me - from business transactions to social interactions. Vancouver is a city where at the community centre they offer a course about "how to build your own community". Because, if you don't - you won't have one. It's just not something that comes naturally in a social structure that is so strongly influenced by immigration (incoming and outgoing...).

Considering the fact that the city have grown out of the lumber industry and the gold rushes of the 1800's - it makes sense why, to this day, even with population of over 2 million (in Greater Vancouver), it still very much has a small-town mentality. The mild weather (comparing to the rest of Canada) attracts internal immigration, partly in search for seasonal work, partly in search for easier life in a province and a city known so well for their beauty. So there is always a sense that people here are only here for a little while... And might be moving away any moment. Which is why making friends here is so difficult: Vancouverites are always a bit suspicious of newcomers, wondering between themselves "how long will this person will last in the endless rain here?". So they wait and see if you stick around for 2, 3 or more likely 4 years, and only than you will finally have made some friends in the city (that based on my own personal experience, as well as all Vancouverites I met that didn't grow up here - and that's a long time to live in a city and not have friends!).

Autumnal Reflections

Vancouverites are also known as nature lovers, workout junkies, health conscious, notorious flakes (showing up 15 minutes late to social engagements is less common than canceling last minute, or simply not showing up), and often refer to themselves as hermits (a cute name for "anti-social"). Even going out for coffee may be too demanding! When I arrived in the city, I was completely unaware that the seemingly friendly "we should go for coffee together sometime" meant "let's not meet ever again". In general, we in Vancouver do not like to partake in any social interaction that requires too much effort - which is why pot luck gatherings are far more popular than dinner parties. And preferably, they'd rather not invite people into their own home at all. Which is probably why there are so many restaurants in the city at the moment. People, in general, don't entertain in their homes much, but go out a lot. At least the restaurants have improved over the years - when I came here 13 years ago, there was not a single Middle Easter eatery that had decent food. At least now there is Nuba (fine Lebanese cuisine - and a must try if you visit the city), and even a couple of decent falafel joints. But that's enough about the strife of moving into this city, because once you have warmed up to it, it will warm up to you as well (and like wine, this city actually does improve with time culturally). But once you've found your true friends here, they will be as loyal and reliable as anywhere else in the world. That is, if you were able to endure the 3-4 years of isolation.

And just as it took quite some time for Vancouver and I to warm up to each other (thanks, in part, to global warming, and the summers finally being warm enough to chase me into the chilly waters of the Pacific ocean), it took about 10 years for me to really enjoy the few subtle and rare scents that permeates the air shyly before being washed out completely by the next rain.

Falling in love with Vancouver at first sight is easy (especially if you are lucky to arrive on a sunny day). But for me, it was a very slow love affair, and took me many years to come to terms with it being my home. The beautiful, yet intimidating mountains, ocean inlets and rainforest surrounding the city make it a huge challenge to create a feeling of coziness. It's more about freedom here. And with freedom comes... great responsibility. It's a great place to explore one's boundaries, both mental and physical, and push your limits.

Fall in Coal Harbour

So what does Vancouver smell like? It is not nearly as evocative or fragrant as New Orleans, but if you listen carefully with your nose, you will notice that each season has its own scent:

The plum blossoms in very early spring (the cherry blossoms have very little scent, at least here...) are certainly the most inspiring both visually and aromatically. Daffodils in April have more of a visual presence than an olfactory one in my opinion, as other cultivated wonders such as tulips. Hyacinths though, popular in both flower shops and gardens, and lily of the valley seem to be planted in gardens more than they have been before, so there is some scent here, though not all that wild... In late spring, the rhododendrons bring a wide spectrum of colours and fragrances, ranging from green and clean, through fruity to full-blown heady lily. And even later in the spring, the poplar trees give off a sweet, balsamic scent.

Summer brings roses, including the wild roses native to the area. And, of course - if it only gets warm enough - the salty scent of the ocean. And another fragrant plant that I love is in bloom - lilacs!

Come autumn, and wetness begins to take over - and there is less scent of plants. Except for one very special smell: that of the cedar needles and chips and other autumn leaves decaying in the forest - a scent that is very much like Chypre or Garrigue. Enter Stanley Park on a warm autumn day and notice when you get a whiff of that!

Winter is even wetter, colder and less scented, except that snow (on the rare occasion when it arrives) has its own strange crisp smell, and the chimneys of the fireplaces (never been to a place that has real fireplace with burning wood, but it must be somewhere because I can smell it every winter). Walks by the ocean bring forth a crabby, slightly salty smell of the sea and ocean dwellers combined with jet fuel form the aqua planes in Coal Harbour.

In very late winter, the whole West End has mysteriously filled with an overpowering flowery scent, with no flowers in sight. It took me years (literally!) to solve the mystery, and realize that it's from the tiny (almost invisible!) white blossoms of privet. They are almost too much, especially in comparison to the lack of smell that generally is what's happening here - as if someone has sprayed the whole neighborhood with a bathroom freshener...
Later yet, a more subtle scent of snowdrops, that is mysteriously in the air but hardly noticeable when you put your nose up close to them. And last but not least - chestnuts in blossom, smelling very much like carob blossoms (FYI: both smell very much like semen).

Snow in Southlands
Wishing Vancouver a very happy birthday and many happy returns, and may it become a better city (as I have seen it grow in the past 13 years that I've lived here).

If you visited Vancouver, or live here, please share with us what scents remind you of Vancouver!

Parallel Horizons and Vanishing Points, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.