Olfactory Art: “On Forgetting”

If you had bottles in your medicine cabinet that you could sniff to help you forget something, what would they smell like? Take a minute to describe it for yourself.

This is Catherine Haley Epstein’s On Forgetting, which I had the great pleasure to smell last night at Fumerie! It was interesting to talk with the artist about scent outside the bounds of perfume-wearing: from scented spaces to scent as creative practice to conceptual olfactory art, like this piece. I loved the smoky choya nakh in Forgetting 20 Years Ago and the unexpected sweetness of the clove in Forgetting 10 Years Ago. A poetic and generative way to think about the process of forgetting—especially since scent is so often touted as a way to evoke long-forgotten memories.

Primary image and cabinet image courtesy of the artist.

Nose Dive

Catherine Haley Epstein‘s new book Nose Dive: A Book for the Curious Seeking Potential Through their Noses is a compelling jumping-off point for anyone curious about how to use their nose in creative work—whether you’re trying to create scent art (not the same thing as perfume) or simply adding something new to your creative practice.

It was especially interesting to read a survey of scent art projects, which Epstein breaks down into 4 general categories: conceptual (scent is suggested but not literally present), material (scent is present as an enhancer or counterpoint to the primary medium/piece), actual juice (love this phrase; it means that the actual scent is the primary medium), and observation (collecting and cataloging smells).

Purchase the book here: catherinehaleyepstein.com/shop

Perfume Material: Lavender

lavender

Lavender is a polarizing scent, surprisingly to me! It’s one of my first scent loves, but when I ask people about the smells they like or dislike, a lot of people declare that they hate lavender. In perfumery, lavender comes in two distinctive forms: essential oil (steam distilled), which is a top note that has a more medicinal, herby aroma. This is what most people think of when they think of lavender. Then there’s lavender absolute (long story short: dissolved), which is a middle note with a softer floral aroma. It smells more like the actual flower—which is all over the place here in the PNW. 💜