Everyone perceives things differently, for example, have six people smell fresh ginger essential oil on an unlabeled scent strip and ask them what they smell.
Most of us realize this as young children in school, for me it came as bitter medicine when the teacher would ask a question and I would be the only one who saw things in an alternate light. I was considered weird, and to add salt to the wound being from another country no one had ever heard of and having unusual items in my lunch just made it worse.
I remember a vivid experience in kindergarden when I decided to paint the entire paper yellow, without any imagery what-so-ever. The teacher didn’t know what to think of my act of artistic expression and after grilling me in front of my parents chalked me up to being a strange child.
This continued to happen even in art school, a professional illustrator and a bit as a perfumer, since I was very outspoken about people in the industry calling a fragrance natural when it had synthetics or animal ingredients.
When setting up to teach botanical perfume I decided to empower the student and their intuition, what I term as circular thinking, instead of a more rigid “this is the way things are” approach. Sure learning the basics is important, but if you remove a persons essence from the equation, you are left with very little creativity. Creativity requires a bit of chaos, in fact it is usually birthed from dis-order or falling down rabbit holes.
Yesterday afternoon, while spending time in my friend Liza’s garden with her black cat, I came across a thick pile of the most exquisite leaves with bright magenta veins. I went about taking a few photos and then this morning the thought of the Acanthus leaf pattern by William Morris wafted into my mind out of no where. Here are the two images side by side, there’s a similarity, but they are also quite different.
On the left is the photo of the maple leaves with the acanthus leaf pattern on the right, although they are different there is an essence about the two that makes them similar because of the pattern, texture and color…its a resonance.
The word resonance is defined as evoking a string association. In terms of fragrance, associations can be quite varied due to culture and ones personal olfactory terrain. For example one person will love lavender and find it calming, while another will associate the word with a bad experience and thus find the scent emotionally troubling. Now, if you ask a person to put the scent into a fragrance family, they will tend to look at you blankly unless you give them some prompts like, “Does it smell like flowers, green, earthy, fruity or like wood?” Asking an individual questions, instead of telling them, is empowering and leads to creativity.
Creative perception often comes from courageously following an inner muse, even when others disagree. It’s not an easy path, its full of crazy twists and turns, not knowing what is up from down, being called names, shot at and even killed. What is certain is a wild adventure with plenty of stories, even after you’ve left this realm.
Ink Blot Test by Inudragon
Scent strip photo by Rebecca Fishman in my California studio
Maple leaf photo by me (Roxana Villa) with Acanthus leaf pattern by William Morris
Text © Roxana Villa