Sunday, January 10, 2016

#AromaBox: How to Make an Analog Aroma Device

If you've been sniffing around for a way to make a simple, yet effective, aroma device you've arrived at a solution that will surprise you. The #AromaBox was designed for Agents of Change, an art exhibit at the University of Michigan focused on improving diversity and inclusion which opened this month. I designed the #AromaBox with the intention of sharing it with other makers and instructors so they would be inspired to include olfaction as a sensory modality in classroom, art gallery and maker settings.

Shades of Green is a project that fits into the interdisciplinary rubric of the Agents of Change exhibit, but it also answers a need that many students and members of the Ann Arbor community who've attended Smell and Tell lectures have expressed since 2012; how to make an effective analog scent device for the purpose of evoking memory and emotion.

This challenge was solved with the #AromaBox, which is not only easy and relatively inexpensive to make, it is ripe for hacking with Arduino and other technologies. Groundworks supervising consultant Carlos Garcia and student Kurt Ronneburg have already entered into a conversation with regard to hacking the #AromaBox (which is the result of their experience with the #AromaBox prototype prior to the Agents of Change exhibition at the University of Michigan). The #AromaBox can benefit from sensors and other design add-ons that allow the end-user to enter into a multisensory experience with the scent device. These experiences can be shared or enjoyed in solitude.

The motivation for sharing instructions on how to make an #AromaBox is simple; to increase exposure to the power of the sense of smell (olfaction) as a sensory modality that can be applied across disciplines as a form of creative expression and narrative building. More rigor is required in K-12 and higher education with regard to designing curriculum that enjoins art and science. Because scent triggers conversations rooted in memory and emotion, creatively applied olfaction is a wonderful vehicle for building community and developing communication skills. When we learn how to decode the invisible (scent) we learn how to connect and respect each other as human beings. We also learn how to evaluate stimulus versus judging it, which is a challenge with something as emotionally charged as scent.

Right click on the image and open
 in a new tab to print as a handout.

The #AromaBox is made using a re-purposed Hand Made Modern Embroidery Box from Target, an aroma diffuser refill pad (a thick paper that is aromatized with essential oil, Aura Cacia or Amrita brand, available on Amazon and other vendors), a natural essential oil (Aura Cacia brand is highly recommended and is available in many health food stores and on their online store), a single Sistema brand salad dressing container (comes in a four-pack with the item number 21470, available at Amazon, Ace Hardware, and TJ Maxx), and Velcro squares (available online and at office supply stores).

Instructions for Making an #AromaBox:
A. Place the comb-textured Velcro square inside the center of the box and press down to adhere.
B. Remove the lid from the Sistema Dressing Container and turn it upside down. Center the fuzzy-textured Velcro square on the bottom of the Sistema container and press down to adhere.
C. Turn the Sistema container right side up and place it inside the box. Attach it to the inside of the box by matching up the Velcro squares.
D. Place an aroma diffuser pad inside the Sistema container and add a few drops of essential oil (enough to saturate the pad). Seal the container with the lid and close the box. Allow it to rest for 24 hours.
E. Open the box and remove the lid from the Sistema container. Your #AromaBox is now ready to use. Refresh the aroma diffuser pad as needed (usually every 3-5 days). The box will absorb the aroma over time and you will need less essential oil to refresh it.

If you decide to construct an #AromaBox and hack it / use it as a teaching aid / include it in an art gallery setting, please share it online and include the hashtag #AromaBox with a link to this post. This will allow other makers / instructors / creators to see how others have worked with the analog design of the #AromaBox. Glass Petal Smoke will curate a list of these shared experiences for a future blog post.

Some might find the use of Scotch brand Removable Poster Tape handy for securing the wooden embroidery box from the inside (at the exposed wood frames that are separate from the hinges and magnetic closure). The removable poster tape can be found at office and art supply stores nationwide.

Enfleurage in New York City is wonderful resource for natural essential oils. Glass Petal Smoke recommends visiting their store and experiencing their offerings in-person. If you enjoy the aroma of Frankincense you will find some of the finest product in the country (owner Trygve Harris travels to Oman regularly as she runs a Frankincense and Myrrh distillery in Salalah, Dhofar).

Images of students/staff/gallery attendees interacting with the #AromaBox by Michelle Krell Kydd. The project which includes the #AromaBox is titled "Shades of Green."

#AromaBox graphics by Michelle Krell Kydd.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Igniting Smell and Tell in 2016

Glass Petal Smoke began as a flavor and fragrance blog in 2007 and has blossomed into so much more. Evangelizing the art+science connection in perfumery and gastronomy is what the blog does best, but a twist has evolved that transforms the virtual work of Glass Petal Smoke into real life experiences where multisensory learning, led by olfaction, can flourish.

The Smell and Tell series of lectures began in 2012 with the support of the Ann Arbor District Library. A loyal following has ensued and six lectures will be offered in 2016. Attendees have requested encore presentations of favorite events, so Baking with Flavor is scheduled for January 20, 2016. A newsletter, which was also requested by Smell and Tell fans, has been created, and the first round of these newsletters (which will arrive via MailChimp) will go out next week. Newsletter registration opportunities will be available at all Smell and Tell event in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Smell and Tell events are deeply enriching due to the support of those who believe in the mission of Glass Petal Smoke as it relates to these multisensory events. DreamAir has supplied aromatic materials since Smell and Tell's inception in 2012. In October 2015 International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) supplied aroma materials for Norell: The First American Designer Perfume (the event was so successful it will be repeated at the University of Michigan in 2016).

The generosity of Serge Lutens also deserves acknowledgement as the brand supplied several perfumes for Serge Lutens: Collaboration in Luxury Fragrance Design last spring. Last, but not least, an anonymous donor provided funds for the purchase of vintage fragrances for three Smell and Tell events which added dimension to Enflowering the Carnal: The Scent of Fracas and other lectures in 2015.

Having historic olfactory reference points is invaluable to those who want to understand the art of perfumery as it relates to memory and emotion. This is something those of us with industry experience are fortunate enough to have exposure to, but it is unarticulated and assumptive when we are simply talking about the things we know to those who are curious about the art+science connection in perfumery.

What is it about Smell and Tell that ignites so much interest? The city of Ann Arbor is situated in a university community that is deeply curious across all ages and stages of life. Rigor is expected at lectures, but so is relational narrative, which is not easy to deliver across disciplines. My training in perfumery, as well as professional experience in marketing and communications, allow me to transcend challenges of this kind, but I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the value of having access to some of the finest libraries in the country (AADL is a five-star library and the University of Michigan library system is a unbeatable when it comes to research).

I'd like to close this New Year's Day post with a comment from Victoria Neff, a Smell and Tell attendee who has written about many of her experiences at Smell and Tell lectures on I Need Orange. Neff felt like she was on "a mini vacation to an exotic place" she never knew existed after experiencing Exotic Woods and Ethereal Exudates on May 20, 2015. What she had to say about Enflowering the Carnal: The Scent of Fracas illustrates the direction that Smell and Tell is taking:
There was more history and culture in this presentation than there has been in previous Smell and Tell [lectures] I've attended. As you might predict, if you thought about it, life was very difficult for women in science (Cellier was a chemist), in the first half of the 20th century, and even worse for women perfumers.  
It was interesting to hear how Germaine Cellier persisted in the face of obstacles, and made large marks on the face of perfumery. Michelle is determined to learn everything she can about the women who have made significant contributions to the art and science of perfume, and to make sure they become better known rather than being forgotten.  
We got to smell Fracas, which is based largely on tuberose, and a lot of its components, including tuberose and orange blossom. A very interesting presentation, as always. Michelle is enthusiastic and interesting. Her knowledge and skill set are unique in my experience. I always enjoy the Smell and Tells.

Ignition, the video that accompanies this post, was directed by Tetsuka Nilyama. Sound design by Yoshiteru Yamada. Rights remain with the owner.

Image of Smell and Tell regulars at the Ann Arbor District Library by Michelle Krell Kydd.

Image of students at the August 2015 MSTEM Academies Smell and Tell at the University of Michigan courtesy of MSTEM Academies.

Image of chalk flower mural taken at Astro Coffee by Michelle Krell Kydd. The cafe is located in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan.

Decants of vintage fragrances from reputable sellers can be found on the internet. The quality of vintage decants varies based on age and storage conditions (heat, light, exposure to mold in basements, etc.). ebay and Etsy are also a terrific resources. One of the hallmarks of a quality vintage fragrance offering is a statement on where the product comes from and how it was stored. Ratings on product quality and customer service on ebay and Etsy are also helpful.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Norell: The First American Designer Perfume

On Wednesday, October 28th “Norell: The First American Designer Perfume” will be presented as part of the Smell and Tell series hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Some of you may know who Norman Norell was (today happens to be the anniversary of the fashion designer’s death) and how Norell’s designs continue to influence fashion. What isn’t typically elaborated in the accounting of Norell’s legacy is his entrepreneurial spirit, which serves as inspiration to anyone who has ever dreamed big and never quit.

Norell perfume and Norell New York perfume will be smelled at next week’s Smell and Tell, along with key ingredients and classic green floral fragrances that shaped their creation. A sense of reverence and inspiration are inevitable when learning about this entrepreneurial designer as who Norell was in life and fashion will never be repeated again. 

There is no biography, autobiography, or film about Norman Norell's life that can be told in his voice as the designer was a private person after hours. As a result, this Smell and Tell required vigorous academic inquiry. Research about Norell for this event was conducted at the University of Michigan Library and the Kellen Design Archives online. The inclusion of scent at this Smell and Tell lecture will allow participants to arrive at a more meaningful understanding of Norell’s life and legacy through their senses.

I have had the good fortune of receiving an anonymous donation from someone in the Ann Arbor education community that allowed me to purchase vintage fragrances created by Josephine Catapano that will be experienced at next week's Norell Smell and Tell. International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) has supplied raw materials used in Norell New York for olfactory demonstration. Karyn Khoury, Senior Vice President, Corporate Fragrance Development at The Estée Lauder Companies provided a bottle of Aliage (a Galbanum-inspired fragrance exemplar which illustrates how this ingredient, which is present in both Norell perfume formulas, can be applied to timeless classic effect). Lastly, Parlux Fragrances Limited is providing samples of Norell New York so there is much to be grateful for as the support will enrich the learning experience for all.

A reader of Glass Petal Smoke who is also a Smell and Tell fan once asked me how I get ideas for the Smell and Tell series of lectures. Some of the concepts are developed over time based on academic inquiry and presentations I've given at the University of Michigan (where I work). Other ideas come directly from attendees (the Serge Lutens Smell and Tell idea came from Vanessa Sly Thoburn, a talented pastry chef and mother of two, who is currently experimenting with some beautiful salves made with natural essential oils and absolutes). I would be remiss to exclude the element of serendipity. This summer I found a vintage bottle of Norell perfume at a local Salvation Army in Ann Arbor, Michigan when I wasn't even looking for it, which begs the question: did I find the bottle of Norell or did Norell find me?

Thank you, Norman Norell. For everything... 

Image of Norman Norell is an Associated Press photo circa 1948. Rights revert to back to the Associated Press. This image is used for educational purposes only.

Michael Edwards, creator of the Fragrance Wheel, describes the green family of fragrances thusly: "Green fragrances capture the sharp scent of fresh-cut grass and violet leaves. Despite the outdoors imagery, the impact of the classic resinous Galbanum accord is so potent that many green fragrances have a formal rather than sporty personality. In recent years, a palette of softer, lighter green notes has given this fragrance family a fresh appeal."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Creative Process of Firmenich Perfumer Nathalie Lorson

The particulars related to creative process in perfumery continue to infuse media produced by flavor and fragrance houses. These vignettes are purposefully choreographed to instill a sense of authenticity in the viewer, and respect for the art of perfumery. An edgy Gallic soulfulness infuses Firmenich's video portrait of perfumer Nathalie Lorson. The video was posted on Vimeo last week and appears to be the first of future video portraits from the private Swiss firm.

The story begins with Lorson lighting a strip of Papier de Armenie. A thoughtful monologue ensues:

Everything is rounded, gentle. Everything is done with delicacy. There's no vulgarity–ever. Because it must be things I like, all things considered, whatever the brand you are working for, you put something of yourself into it. 

When I have an idea, I don't let it go. I work, work, work until I succeed. I never give up. My inspiration comes from life, traveling, a color, a shape, a's all linked. I do the job of someone searching for gold nuggets, a gold digger! I think I'm...persistent, passionate, but on the other hand I can be quite tough. I can be very harsh. 

It's not easy for me to place my trust in someone, but when I do, I'm very loyal. In fact, I'm not hard. I'm actually quite sensitive, but I don't show it necessarily. It's a form of protection...a shell. It's so reductive to call someone a "nose." I'm not a "nose," I'm a brain. 

It's hard not to be struck by Lorson's displeasure at being called "a nose." A perfumer's creation speaks to the sense of smell, but the perfumer integrates several sensory modalities to actualize their creation. (This type of sensory interplay is well articulated by sommelier Jaime Smith who happens to be a synesthete.)

Would one call a visual expert "an eye?" Too Cyclopean. It's a matter of language and "a nose", even when referred to as le nez in French, doesn't do a good job of defining what it means to be a perfumer. Such are the limits of language and culture. Good thing there's video...

Brands were getting comfortable with the idea of sharing the spotlight with fragrance creators when "Exposing the Perfumer" was published (Perfumer and Flavorist, May 2007). This has allowed flavor and fragrance companies, who formulate perfumes for international brands, the opportunity to highlight the métier of perfumers. It will be interesting to see how this evolves in the coming years.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Smell and Tell Lectures: Three Years and Counting

The history of "Smell and Tell" presentations in Ann Arbor, Michigan began on June 6, 2012. Three years and 27 presentations later, the unique multisensory lectures continue to delight and intrigue a wide audience. From elementary school children at 826Michigan, to students at The University of Michigan, and patrons of the Ann Arbor District Library, the demand for Smell and Tell lectures continues to grow.

Evangelizing the perfume arts with an art-science twist has led to an interesting side effect; a sense of community through the sense of smell. The experience of attending a Smell and Tell is not only educational; it is profoundly self-authenticating. Smell is memory's sense and memory is identity, so there's no getting around connecting with others in the same room when a Smell and Tell takes place.

Seeing someone who is shy open up like a flower when they smell a raw material or perfume is powerful. Everyone deserves to be respected, understood and listened to which isn't easy in our hurry-hurry world. Smell and Tell supports this as it creates a safe, non-judgmental space that is conducive to learning. This is key to positive outcomes in an educational setting that is multisensory by design. It's also what motivates me to take Smell and Tell to higher ground at The University of Michigan and beyond.

Comparing complementary and contrasting responses to aroma materials weaves a rich tapestry of conversation and affirms a sense of community. Smell Mapping, a technique I developed from my perfumery training at Givaudan and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), teaches Smell and Tell attendees how to get comfortable with evaluating scents versus judging them based on likes and dislikes. They learn how to do this by immersing themselves in the science of olfaction and the art of perfumery.

Another benefit of Smell and Tell is that it teaches attendees how to develop an olfactory lexicon; something that is painfully lacking in occularcentric culture. Learning how to describe what can be sensed, but not seen supports communication skills, some of which are compromised because of reliance on digital devices. When you can't see something and have to describe the invisible, you need to get comfortable with the absence of visual proof. Turning inward isn't comfortable for some, but we do this every time we think silently to ourselves. The more you exercise the sense of smell the better you get at decoding the invisible. It's a superpower. All you have to do is follow your nose.

This is an extraordinarily powerful exercise in a culture attached to binaries. Sometimes an object isn't black, white or grey; it simply is. Smell and Tell is about cultivating presence and objectivity so you can decode the invisible and engage curiosity. When curiosity is allowed to thrive it can be harnessed to solve problems and innovate. This benefit of Smell and Tell catches on quickly in academia as it bridges art and science while fueling communication skills that support creative confidence and interdisciplinarity.

This week marks the debut of Glass Petal Smoke's YouTube channel. Programming from a Smell and Tell at the Ann Arbor District Library is now live. "Chanel No. 5: The Art and Science Behind a Timeless Perfume" was produced by the Ann Arbor District Library and can be shared via a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives 4.0 International License. The video has been edited to fit a specific time frame so the smelling of Spanish Leather (created by perfumer Christophe Laudamiel for the lecture), Aldehyde C11, Dihydromyrcenol, Cashmeran, Aldehyde C10, Grasse Jasmine and Rose de Mai has been omitted. These materials were attached to specific contexts that are best suited to a live lecture.

If you want to experience the real thing you can attend the next Smell and Tell at the Ann Arbor District Library in August (date and topic to be announced shortly). Keep an eye on the right hand page of Glass Petal Smoke for information on future Smell and Tell programming. If you have any questions you can direct them to glasspetalsmoke [at] gmail dot com.

Smell and Tell Lectures Given Between June 2012 and June 2015

“Exotic Woods and Ethereal Exudates in Perfumery.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, May 20, 2015.

“Serge Lutens: Collaboration in Luxury Fragrance Design.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, April 8, 2015.

“Secrets from a Trained Nose.” TEDxUofM at the Power Center for the Performing Arts, March 20, 2015.

“The Scent of Disappearing Trees.” The North Campus Sustainability Hour at The University of Michigan, February 25, 2015.

“Smell: The Ultimate Provocateur.” University of Michigan Interdisciplinary Course: “A Dialogue of the Senses,” February 18, 2015.

“Chanel No. 5: The Art and Science Behind a Timeless Perfume.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, February 10, 2015.

“The Aromatic Allure of Patchouli.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, December 3, 2014.

“Olfaction and the Art of Perfumery.” University of Michigan Biology and Arts Course: “Mandorla of Life Sciences and the Arts,” October 10, 2014.

“Chanel No. 5: The Art and Science Behind a Timeless Perfume.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, August 27, 2014.

“Smell and Tell: Follow Your Nose.” The MSTEM Academy, Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach, University of Michigan, July 29, 2014.

“Cooking with Flavor.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, June 11, 2014.

“Smell and Tell: Lavender.” Relax and Rejuvenate event at The University of Michigan College of Engineering, May 20, 2014.

“Smell: The Ultimate Provocateur.” University of Michigan Interdisciplinary Course: “A Dialogue of the Senses,” February 25, 2014.

“Baking with Flavor.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, February 19, 2014.

“Reconstructing Meaning in the Face of Loss.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, November 10, 2013.

“The Aroma of Terroir.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, September 18, 2013.

“Stories of Anosmia.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, June 8, 2013.

“Eau Whisky: The Essence of Peat and Perfume.” Nerd Nite, Ann Arbor, April 17, 2013.

“Aroma Spies.” Smell and Tell Workshop Series at 826 Michigan, March 7, 2013.

“Smell and Tell: Vanilla.” Autism Play Connection at the Ann Arbor District Library, February 17, 2013.

“Smell: The Ultimate Provocateur.” University of Michigan Interdisciplinary Course: “A Dialogue of the Senses,” February 25, 2013.

“The Alchemy of Scent.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, January 12, 2013.

“Sacred Scents.” University of Michigan Art Course: “Rethinking the Power of Art,” November 14, 2012.

“Sacred Scents and Aphrodisiacs.” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, October 30, 2012.

“Flavorology: A Bubblegum Smell and Tell.” Smell and Tell Workshop Series at 826 Michigan October 17, 2012

“Using Your Sense of Smell for Creative Inspiration” Smell and Tell Lecture Series at the Ann Arbor District Library, June 13, 2012.

“Smell and Tell: An Olfactory Writing Class.” Smell and Tell Workshop Series at 826 Michigan, June 6, 2012.

A special thanks goes out to AADL librarian Erin Helmrich who didn't wrinkle her nose when I first proposed the Smell and Tell series in the winter of 2012; even after she smelled an indolic jasmine that smelled more like a horse stable than a bouquet of flowers.

Another thank you goes out to Glass Petal Smoke fans. Your enthusiasm, tweets and emails continue to inspire me.

The Glass Petal Smoke YouTube channel is not taking comments at this time, but you can reach me on Twitter if you'd like to connect on social media.

Images included in this post are: Fumée d’Ambre Gris by John Singer Sargent, a portrait of Mumtaz Mahal, and a photo of two Canadian women sporting accoutrement designed to protect their noses from the perils of snow circa 1939.