The sense of scent
I have had the privilege to work with essential oils for most of my adult life and as a result have tried to understand every nuance of these extraordinary olfactory delights.
My earliest memory of scenting is that of my mother, she was a chanteuse in my fathers band in the 50’s, somehow their destinies were entwined. My father, Scot’s band leader and my mother an Anglo-indian beauty. I remember so clearly her nightly ritual of anointing herself with Shocking by Schiaparelli, it was her signature aroma, a heady oriental floral launched in 1937-it complemented her fabulous gowns, handmade shoes, luxuriant black tresses and Sophia Lauren looks, dynamite! I can still imagine that heady aroma.
Growing up in India exposed me to so much, life was both visceral and devotional, an enchanting world of contradictions. As a child I remember my Indian nanny taking me to the Ganges to make an offering, me eating sugar cane perched on its banks whilst she devotedly threw fragrant rose petals that mingled with the wafts of smoky incense. A heady, chaotic blend of aromas, sweet, spicy, fragrant and acrid, all part of the great adventure!
My life in England was ordinary, but culturally vastly different a incomparable shift from the more bohemian, privileged and protected life lived in India. I guess I have always been the dreamer, as the eldest child a companion didn’t arrive till four years later (my brother), I was very use to my on company and my fertile imagination helped keep me occupied. My parents performing schedule meant we moved around a lot and constantly made me the new kid on the block, this was daunting for a shy 5 year old, I relied heavily on my inner world .
At school I always felt different, not part of the whole, my interest lay in the arts, I loved to paint, sing and dance. I loved to explore mystical other worldly ideas. I had been pretty spiritual from a young child only in those days I was convinced that I was going to be a Nun perhaps it was the peace of the chapel in the convent school that drew me, this came to an end around 14 when I found catholicism to limiting much to the repair of my darling Nana who was a truly spiritual and kind person. I guess it was this enquiry and reflective nature that made me search for things outside the norm.
I first became aware of aromatherapy in the late 70’s. I worked for Joan Price as a make up artist, her Face Place was a template similar to Space NK. My training included massage which I found I was pretty good at, a gift I never knew I possessed. In the course of working there I met a lovely model who recommended that I try to meet Micheline Arcier, she felt that I would enjoy her new style of massage called “aromatherapy ”…… I didn’t pursue this till later when wrote to Mme Arcier asking her for an apprenticeship.I met with my formidable mentor in a glamorous apartment in Knightsbridge, six months later she employed me. I think she made it her mission to draw out of me the potential she suspected was there, it was definitely a pivotal point in my life.
The world of scent had always enraptured me, I dabbled with herbal infusions and oils throughout my teens, but my imagination captured romatically through David Bowie’s version ”Wild is the wind” the lyrics to this day gives me goose bumps. Kensington market was also a cornucopis of delights and the musky aroma of patchouli pervaded everything.
Arcier’s, was a mysterious world of new aromas that had captivated me. I was already sneaking into the head therapists room (she had access to pure oils) where I liberally scented myself with dabs of Clary sage, Ylang ylang and rosewood, each day would bring a new favourite. God knows what it was like for the unsuspecting commuters, but I was oblivious to them carried in a cloud of fragrance.
20 years on I decided to embark on a new olfactory adventure, that of a natural perfumery. It cast its spell over me one leisurely afternoon at Cowley Manor, I was reading Mandy Aftels book “Perfume and Alchemy”. I just could not put it down. It was some much needed inspiration and nourishment, I had felt jaded and stifled and just what I needed to ignite my creative fire.
It was wonderful, stimulating and inspiring to work with Mandy she was so generous and encouraging. I slowly began to realise how much knowledge I had amassed, it gave me the courage to draw on the reservoir of diverse threads I had explored and begin to weave them together. It was without doubt a catalyst heralding one of the most creative times of my life. For me the process of just making time to contemplate and play with a vast palette of fragrance to be utterly caught in the moment. A dream I had never thought possible, to merge these two views of the same materials.
I’ve been fascinated by the body,mind and spirit connection and it’s informed my approach to everything I work on. it’s led me to work with some amazing people, to embrace bodywork, healing, aromatherapy, alchemy and now perfumery. I feel there is so much to bring to this ancient art form and I do believe that natural perfumes have the power to transform profoundly both psychology and spiritually.