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.