This past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I spent my days taking classes at Mandy Aftel's studio in Berkeley along with seven other students. This was my third time attending this class, and it was amazing as always. If you're interested in studying natural perfumery, this is the place to be. Mandy has so many essences, one's that you'll never be able to smell any where else, and with the exception of the antique ones, you can use any of them in the blends you make.
Each day you make a blend, and then remake it based on Mandy's critique. The critiques are very helpful, and they're not at all mean or scary, for anyone reading this that might think of attending some day. You then remake your blend based on that. The first day we had to work with six essences voted on by the class, and needed to add a few more to complete the blend, working out how much of each to add. The second day was similar, but with three instead of six. The third day we got to choose three essences we wanted to work with, and then make our blends around that.
The first day was a bit of a disaster for me, since I became anosmic to a very strong scent that isn't so pleasant in high doses, and I put a whole lot in my blend. For my remake I added only a small amount, and tried to do my best knowing that I couldn't smell two of the things I needed to use. The other two days were easier, since I was able to smell everything I was putting in. Though I must admit adding black tea absolute to my blend on the third day was difficult, not due to the odor, but due to the fact that it took forever to dissolve in the alcohol. I left it out of my remake just because I didn't want to have to spend an hour shaking my bottle to get it thoroughly dissolved.
For me, one of the best parts of the class is spending three days with people who feel the same way I do about scent and perfume. For me, working on a blend is a form of art, with the various scents replacing paint and the alcohol or oil replacing the canvas. It might not seem like art to most people, and a lot of perfumes out there aren't really art. But for me, each drop is carefully thought out, and the final fragrance often started with an idea or feeling. I spent all of my life searching for an art form to express myself. But I can't act, I'm not musical, and I'm pretty bad with painting/drawing. Some crafts kind of help with that, but I could never take any of them to the level of art. I did want to be a writer, and I probably graduated high school with more English credits than anyone else, but even if I could learn to write well, the words would feel false. This doesn't apply to non-fiction and journalism, of course, but the only satisfaction I could get out of those was editing. I really did love my red pen.
I stumbled on natural perfumery a few years ago, and while I enjoyed it, the materials are expensive, and with a limited collection of essential oils, it was more frustrating than fun. After volunteering as a teacher's assistant for the same natural perfumes class at The Nova Studio a year later, something just clicked, and I knew that I wanted to study perfumery. I started collecting more essential oils and absolutes, worked my way through Mandy's Level 1 work book, and have now taken three of her in studio classes. I am working my way through the advanced work book, but have only done a little of it so far. I hope to continue studying, and I also hope to bring the beauty of natural fragrance to everyone, whether it be through a perfume or a lip balm.