Creating a perfume involves tremendous patience and experimentation. When I embarked on this process, I didn't fully know how engrossing it would become. Curiosity is a strong driver; the more you read, smell, experience, the more you want to know what this elusive scent is composed of, or what a certain essential oil that you've only heard about actually smells like. Many nights, I'd left my full time job, got to the studio, and stayed well into the late evening bent over bottles and blotters and pipettes making minute changes to a certain portion of a scent. Before a few months have passed, heaps of bottles have been amassed, notebooks are overrun with formulations, and mathematical calculations were scribbled on the backs on envelopes. It got to the point where I was keeping notes in Evernote and accessing them from my iPhone, iPad, and Android phone from a host of different places, photographing handwritten notes about formulations and then attaching them to written notes, always carrying around small glass vials into which I'd poured small concoctions. Nearly every night I'd bring home a few variations on a theme for me to evaluate in the relatively scent-free realm my house. The short distance from my studio to my home was vital to clear out the mind and the nose and reset everything. Many scents, when smelled in the neutral realm of my house, didn't have the same fascination I thought they did when I first created them; but then, some surprises occurred, too.
The new perfumers of the world are alive in an interesting time - there are so many people in this space, with access to oils and molecules that were only available to a select few for many millennia. Now in the hands of those not officially trained in chemistry, we bring different backgrounds to this combination of art, craft and science. Some of the results can be less than fascinating, but others have expanded our perceptions into new realms. If anything, we've learned that the mixing of essences is a level playing field, available to any of us, and particularly open to the development via collaboration. So many people have contributed to the beginning of January Scent Project through conversation, contemplation and sharing. It's a wonder to bring something alive from the collective good will of individuals bound by the power of scent. At the same time, the learning curve is steep, and rightfully so. People creating artisan scents should be making the best quality products possible.
John Biebel, artist behind the January Scent Project, is also a UX designer for education software, painter, freelance writer for Fragrantica.com, and member of the research and design collaborative Subforum. He's a graduate of The Cooper Union in New York City.