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.

Notes:
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.