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.

*Target no longer sells the embroidery box featured in this post. The Stitchable Trinket Box by Dimensions Needlecraft works just as well. The box doesn't have a magnetic closure, but double sided scotch tape cut to fit the frame will work just as well. The holes in the face of this craft box are smaller, but that doesn't affect distribution of scent when used as an #AromaBox. Amazon, Joann, Walmart and other stores carry the needlecraft box.

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 10 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.