In order to afford living on my own in Los Angeles I juggled several jobs. Besides working at frame shops and dabbling in the art world (I became a potter, but still tried to sell my own paintings, photography and drawings on the side), I started cooking in restaurants. I moved my way up from dishwasher to prep cook, dabbled in baking fresh bread, (even bartended) and eventually ended as a Saucier. I loved being a Saucier and I was good at it. I had a history of making soups and sauces since I was a child so it was a natural transition for me in restaurant kitchens.
When we were little, my sisters and I would pick fresh herbs, peppers and tomatoes from the garden and make marinara for our pasta dinner. My Mom was a single, on-the-go woman, so much of our childhood was spent with my sisters and I self-parenting and parenting each other. My sisters and I ate a lot of pasta, therefore we needed variety in our toppings so we experimented and got quite adept at creating delicious sauces. All of my sisters and I grew up to be great cooks, each of us specializing in something a little different than the next. I believe, with the right ingredients, the proper mindset and inspiration, we can make anything!
This brings me to perfume.
It is my belief that if you can cook, you can make perfume. That is not to say making perfume is easy. It is not. Like cooking, I had to make a lot of terrible perfumes to get where I am today and it took years to figure out what works. It feels awful to waste precious raw materials through trial and error. But think about it: How many times have you made a terrible drink while you learned to mix alcohol? How may times have you made a less than stellar meal while you were learning to cook? I cannot tell you how many times I have accidentally burned something (usually bread) in the my kitchen (and on the job)! I have lived in so many apartments (switching from gas to electric stoves) and therefore have had to adjust to every sort of cooking appliance and suffering environmental variables. My point is: there is just a lot to consider (most of it unexpected) when cooking or creating… well, anything! The same applies for perfumery!
When I first started in the fragrance industry, I got my “feet wet” mixing pre-made fragrances into body products. I worked for a popular bath and body boutique in Burbank. The set up of my workplace was much like a kitchen so I felt right in my element. The company specialized in handmade body care products like sugar scrubs, lotions, body butters, washes and treatment oils. The boutique also sold roll-on oil based perfumes. When I first started working there I got product stipends. Basically, I got to take home a certain amount of any product I wanted. From there, I began to mix pre-made fragrances like, Vanilla Coconut, California Grapefruit, Coco-Mango, Sandalwood, Patchouli and Black Amber Musk. I loved how I could just create all new recipes and make new fragrances no one else had! I suggested to the owner that I wanted to start making custom perfumes. To make a long story short, I got good at that too! I fell in love with the connection scent awakened within people and it opened a door for me that I never knew was there. I had never connected to anyone so intimately than I did through the language of scent. I always thought I was crazy just smelling myself after my long workdays in the wood shop, or smelling the sharp sweetness of herbs and vine picked tomatoes before making sauce or the fragrant smells of garlic and onion searing in a pan when I worked in kitchens. I could tell you fragrant stories ad infinitum; and likely will if you enjoy my blogs.
Fast forward to now.
I work for myself now. I run a small business out of the perfume studio I built with my partner. It has not been easy and it is nothing like making “perfume” at the place I used to work for. For starters, the boutique I worked at uses already made fragrances to create their scented bases for their products. Although they smell incredible, very little (if any) of the scented product line offered at the company is based on natural raw materials. I nearly fell over when I saw the cost of real Rose Absolute (at $60 per gram)! We used to get pounds of pure “rose oil” for the same price! “What happened!?” I thought to myself…
I learned the hard way that perfume isn’t as simple as mixing already made (inexpensive) fragrances together and having an amazing perfume in less than five minutes. I can’t just mix a “Sweet Tobacco” fragrance with a “Vanilla Coconut” fragrance and call it, Sweet Smoke, like I did when I created the favorited tobacco signature scent (Sweet Smoke) for the boutique. Gypsy Rose was also a creation made by me, and that too, is offered as part of the signature line at the boutique. I learned through a fragrance house (by talking to the owners at Delbia Do in New York) that there are literally, hundreds of raw materials in a single pre-made fragrance. What I was making at the boutique was not authentic perfumery. I would mix two pre-made fragrance accords and wham- A fragrance in minutes!
Making a great smelling perfume takes a lot more effort when you start from scratch. The entire process of making one perfume takes me roughly between 5-18 months. It sounds crazy, but because I tincture my own bases, each signature scent I make is completely unique. There is nothing like it in the world and because of that, it cannot be copied.
Since the days of working in the boutique, I have learned how to build perfumes from scratch by sourcing reputable, sustainable, and precious raw materials. I tincture all my own bases (which take anywhere from 3-12 months each) and I have learned how to build my own fragrance accords. I also have incredible sources to tell me the maximum safe dermal usage levels of perfume ingredients so I can help keep my customers safe and healthy. Because of that, I can navigate through the (never ending) fragrance industry regulatory compliance statutes. I am currently experimenting with scaleability and I even do a little custom work here and there.
I cannot express enough how wonderful it is to have made friends and connections through The Institute for Art & Olfaction in Downtown Los Angeles. I have grown as an artist and have become a life long learner in the ever-changing fragrance industry. I am honored and humbled beyond belief to now do what I thought was, “so easy” when I began my perfume adventures. Ever heard the expression, “If it were easy everyone would do it”? For me, I have found that to be very true. I have discovered that it’s one thing to be a perfume hobbyist, but making perfume in a business sense is another animal entirely.
I can finally say I am beginning to claw my way into one of the most competitive (and secretive!) industries on the planet. But here’s the best part about it: I am not doing it alone. With the help of so many teachers, suppliers, explorers, fellow perfumers and fragrance enthusiasts, I am continually evolving in the process. As a result of this knowledge and growth, I can now tell you I am one of many Independent Perfumers in Los Angeles who are part of this new Renaissance in the fragrance industry. It feels pretty amazing to be part of such a wonderful, artistic community. Expressing myself, my art, in the medium of scent, is bigger and better than anything I could have ever imagined. Who knew that working with wood and being a cook could bring me to the ineffable world of scent and olfactive magic!
I specialize in woodsy perfumes (naturally- haha!) and enjoy gourmand blends- surprise, surprise! In the fragrance world, the essence inside a bottle perfume is commonly referred to as the, “juice.” I lovingly refer to mine as the, “sauce.” There’s just some verbiage I will not abandon from my love of the culinary world. I hope you enjoy my creations and the fragrance related posts of my blog. I will do the best I can to pass on the knowledge I have learned from others. I am very passionate about the world of olfaction and perfume and am excited to share my journey with you. Thanks for reading!