Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cool Perfumes

'Cool' as in cooling for hot weather - I'm loving today's mini heatwave!

I posted a feature last summer on perfumes for hot weather, you can read it Here

I don't have too many to add to those choices, they're still some of my favourites, and today I'm wearing Prada's Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger - an uplifting soapy, not too sweet orange blossom.

Other perfumes I'd add to those on last year's list are Kelly Caleche in edt by Hermes - a refreshing grapefruit/floral with underlying leather notes. I'm also finding some of the Middle East-inspired Oud perfumes appealing. That dry, smoky woodiness is also most refreshing in hot weather - not disimilar in effect to vetiver perfumes. One of my favourites is MFK's Silk Mood, which opens on a beautiful light, sweet rose and develops its more Oud-yness into drydown.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Aroma M ~ Interview with founder/perfumer Maria McElroy

At last! I have time to post the email interview with Maria McElroy, director and perfumer of Aroma M perfumes.

It's taken a wee while as I've been busy painting for an exhibition about to launch next month.

It's so nice to finally sit down, with a glass of wine (wearing a dab of Aroma M Geisha Noire)  to indulge in some perfume exploration and musings. 

This year, Aroma M celebrate 20 years in the business. So warm congratulations to Maria, her success is well deserved,  because as a niche perfumer she brings an individual creativity, love and dedication to her work that's apparent when you experience the rich diversity, depth and quality of the perfumes, which I wrote about in an earlier post Here

Without further ado, let's meet Maria McElroy..

Rose: Maria, firstly thanks so much for taking time to answer some questions. I’m very curious about the perfumer’s process and inspiration behind the perfumes. 

When I first encountered Aroma M online, I loved the visual aesthetic and the influence of Japanese culture, as I’ve always liked traditional and contemporary Japanese prints and drawings.  

I know you lived there for some years, so can you tell me a little about why you moved there, and how you found living in Japan?

Maria: Rose, thank you for the opportunity and I have really enjoyed our collaboration and learning more about your art.

I went to Japan after graduating from art school. It originally was intended as a kind of world trip with no time line, first to Asia and then to Europe, ending in Berlin. 

It was love at first sight for me and Japan, and I ended up staying and living there for seven years. I adored my time living in Japan; every day was an inspiration and adventure. Even though the culture is so very different from mine growing up in the states, I felt almost immediately at home. The way of living and aesthetic was all encompassing for me, and left a deep impression.
R: I’ve heard about the intriguing Japanese incense ceremony where people respond to the scent of incense with a spontaneous poem or haiku. (This sounds mildly stressful, unless you have a talent for poetry!) Can you tell us anything about the ceremony and were you ever a participant or observer? 

M: Incense ceremony, “kodo” the way of scent was my first foray into perfume. 
It is very rarefied, a kind of game that was originally played in the “Haien” era court, over a 1000 years ago. 

It is much like the tea ceremony in many ways, you must wear kimono and it takes place in a traditional Japanese “tatami” mate room.  

There are set rules and very specific ways to follow the ceremony. 

Once you are in that atmosphere, for me I was transported into this other place, it was not stressful. “Kodo” has a bit of the Zen mind, where you are perfectly present and in the moment, so everything just flows. That said it is difficult, they say it takes 10 years to start to really understand and be proficient. I still have a long way to go!

R: Can you tell me more about why you wanted to focus on creating perfume? 

M:When I returned to the states after living in Japan, I really wasn’t sure how I would use all my experiences. 

At that time there were almost no small perfume lines, so it took a leap of faith to step into the perfume world. I honestly didn't give it too much thought. I started to bottle some fragrances in my house, and a friend who had a store saw them one day and wanted to stock them. 

The next thing I knew I had orders and boxes everywhere and had to find a separate space for aroma That is how it all started without a lot of thought and here I am 20 years later!
R: Learning any art form is a challenge; I find there are usually a few tears and frustrations along the way! Not to mention launching your work, raising interest and making an actual living from it. 

How did you train as a perfumer and what were the challenges? Were there people who were helpful mentors, or supportive to the process?

M: My background is in Aromatherapy. I received a degree in Australia, so all my perfumes have the distinct use of essential oils. 

M: For the most part, the creative process of the perfumes and packaging is very fun for me. I love searching for new raw materials. 

I went to Morocco a few years ago, and was so entranced with the oils there. Many of the ones I found are in my new Camellia Perfume. 

I go to Japan once a year to get the Yuzen papers that we wrap our perfume with, which I love. They have become an aroma M signature.

When I first started there weren’t any blogs, so the magazines were very important. I have been incredibly lucky and have a very thick press book. 

Now with the bloggers it is a different world. I love making new relationships and finding such talented writers and artists such as yourself! I have recently created a separate perfume line, House of Cherry Bomb, with fellow perfumer and scent sister, Alexis Karl. It has been so fun to collaborate with another perfumer and has brought new light into my own creations.

R: I find that your perfumes conjure up vivid colours, images and textures. I liked your description of each perfume being like a beautiful kimono that you slip on to enhance your mood, the season, or occasion.  Can you tell me about inspiration – what usually inspires you, such as art, seasons, music and so on?

M: Thank you so much! The Geishas, and the namesake of my perfume line, are a huge inspiration for me.  Their mystery, glamour and resplendent beauty are always part of each aroma M perfume. From rustling Kimono’s, to the feel of silk on your skin and the mesmerizing way the Geisha dance and walk; I try to translate all that poetry into my perfumes. 

I often think of the fleeting beauty of the Cherry Blossoms and how they have so much in common with perfume, and try to capture that essence in each fragrance. 

Also, I often imagine colors when creating a new perfume. Much like when imagining a painting and putting colors together. 

Aroma M perfumes are named after colors, so this plays a big part in my creative inspiration.

R: When I’ve created a painting, there are a few friends or family members I know will be honest yet kind, who I ask to ‘lend their eyes’ and give an opinion. Who do you ask to ‘lend their nose’?!

Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl
M: Yes, I am very lucky to have my partner in crime and House of Cherry Bomb collaborator Alexis Karl. She is always the first one I share my new perfumes with. I respect and trust her insight implicitly.

R: On that subject, would you like to collaborate with artists, poets, musicians, dancers etc - maybe a development of the Japanese incense and poetry idea?

M: I love the idea of a perfume project using Japanese incense and poetry. You are onto something! I have recently collaborated with very talented collage artist, India Evans, on an art installation that is part of a show that will be traveling from Rome to Naples and Berlin. 

The installation is a room filled with butterflies, all hand cut, floating and spiraling throughout the room, with the sound of fluttering wings and light breathing. It is a joint show of India’s work and her father’s John Evans, who recently passed away and was also a collage artist. The fragrance I created is an ambient scent, but I also created it to be worn as a personal fragrance. 

It was inspired by the love of father and daughter, Rome, and the essence of otherworldly butterflies. ‘Voluptuous Nostalgia’ perfume notes include amber, tonka bean, gardenia, muguet and violet. 
It will be available in limited edition in June. I will announce the details on the aroma M Perfumes Face Book page and website.

R: Some of the best perfumes seem to be inspired by a person or fictional character. Which person/character would you love to create a perfume for? It can be anyone you know, or famous - real, fictional, living or dead! And what would the perfume be like?
The first time I saw Max Ophuls masterpiece “The Earrings of Madam De”, I fell in love with the main character Louisa and felt a strange affinity with her. I have been known to have a streak of the dramatic in me, and Louisa most definitely is dramatic.  

The fainting spells aside, Madam De embodies beauty and elegance effortlessly. She is my dream alter ego. 

The film glitters and dazzles, and beneath the artifice, creates a heartbreaking love story that takes place in Vienna a century ago. The film is famous for its elaborate camera moves. 

It follows the lovers adorned with gowns, uniforms and of course jewelry. Dancing and dancing in grand ballrooms, the camera circles the couple until they are left all alone, their courtship told in a dance. 

What romance. We watch Louisa writing her Baron day after day, with no letter back. 

When they finally meet the Baron tells her “I always answered your letters my love, but I lacked the courage to mail them.” 
Then we see the un-mailed letters torn into bits and flung into the air to become snow- such is bold romance. The movie ends in tragedy as all great love stories do, deep in the misty mountains... a duel. We hear far off gunfire and see Louisa, and she watches from a far, then falls and faints in horror for possibly the last time.
The Perfume:

Top Notes: Tuberose, Gardenia, White Lotus and Labdanum.
Middle Notes: Violet, Orris Butter, Champaca, White Cognac. 
Base Notes: Choya Loban, Genet Absolute and Labdanum.R: 

Lastly, where can people buy your perfumes or perfume samples, whether in shops or online?

M: Aroma M perfumes are available on our website www.aromam.com and www.luckyscent.comhttp://www.luckyscent.com/, the Scent Bar in Los Angeles, Tiger Lily in San Francisco and Twisted Lily in New York.
And so concludes my emailed interview with Maria McElroy. I wish it could have been in person! I'm definitely going to watch Madame De; wonderful descriptions there. And that perfume! I'm swooning at the thought of it...voluptuous tuberose, tender violets, nostalgic orris. I confess I don't actually know what Genet is, or Choya Loban! But it's these details that make Maria a true creative soul of perfumery.

It's been an absolute pleasure to write up this interview, and who knows, one day we might get the opportunity for more creative collaborations, I just know they'd be full of inspiration and fun!