Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Smell of Vintage Pantene Shampoo

The smell of vintage Pantene shampoo is as dear to me as the smell of old books. Although they smell nothing alike, the two stand side by side in my olfactory mind and are linked by a teenage memory.

It's a sunny day in the late 1970's and I'm walking down Fordham Road past the Thom McCann shoe store in my neighborhood. I'm about to cross the street to get to the Bronx Central Library on Bainbridge Avenue. I see my ex-best friend from childhood with her new best friend as they are leaving Nardi Hair Salon. They've just gotten their hair done and the light from the sun makes their long hair (brown and red, respectively) look like rivers of color undulating in the sun.

I would always tell the redhead that her hair was orange and wasn't truly red. (Anyone who ever owned a box of crayons would know that.) I avoided both girls on my way to the library because seeing their carefree post-coif stroll reminded me that my family had less money. (As an adult I was informed that the fathers of both girls dabbled in graft and cronyism so who knows who really "paid" for those haircuts.)

Nardi used salon versions of Pantene shampoo and conditioner that they advertised in their second floor window which included generic headshots of tony models donning the latest hairstyles. I remember seeing giant gallon containers of Pantene shampoo and conditioner sitting next to the hair washing stations at Nardi when I met a friend who worked there on weekends (she and I took on summer jobs as soon as we turned 13).

The smell of Pantene that was sold in gold-topped bottles at the drugstore in the 1970's was out of this world. A blend of heliotrope, creamy sandalwood and musk perfumed every strand of hair in a hedonic afterglow diffused by body heat.

The salon versions of shampoo and conditioner had the same prestige scent, but they were more aldehydic which was in step with smelling like an expensive French perfume. (Prestige hairsprays also benefitted from this type of well-executed functional perfumery, which mimicked classic perfumes.)* I don't know why I remember this, but when I think about the shampoos of my youth I can remember all of their smells.
*Functional perfumery can be more challenging than traditional perfumery as functional perfumers, who are chemists, have to manage naturally occurring odors in personal and household products. They are the unsung heroes of the art of perfumery.

In the late 1990's, after jumping on the all-in-one shampoo and conditioner bandwagon, the scent of Pantene took a fruity turn and smelled like a collection of headdresses worn by Carmen Miranda that had been curated for an exhibition in an overripe fruit museum. I hated Pantene for doing this and started buying shampoo sold in salons.

I enjoyed reflecting on those two undulating rivers of brown and red hair that were etched into memory. I wanted to resurrect that remembrance with my sense of smell. Last year I bought a bottle of Pantene Pro-V Overnight Miracle Repair Serum that is formulated to condition hair as you sleep. The hair remedy is packaged in a pump dispenser that cannot be sniffed like other items in the hair care aisle. (The most public smelling you'll ever see happens in the hair care aisle because hair care aisles are veritable smell museums.) This serum had an interesting side effect after I put it on my hair that evening. Once the product was absorbed it began to react with the heat generated by my head, which was resting on a pillow.

An olfactory bouquet of vintage Pantene bloomed and resurrected memories in the dark. It was a powerful sensation that felt like dreaming with my eyes open. The smell of vintage Pantene allowed me to witness the past in the present, and was perfumed by the fact that how I felt about what I was sensing belonged to me and no one else. Not even a Faded Glory and Frye boot-wearing mirage that chose to be friends with an orange-haired girl instead of me.

Many people crave the scent of vintage Pantene shampoo. A post titled "That Old Pantene Smell" and others like it echo this nostalgic sentiment. Rumor has it that Infusium 23 elicits a Pantene flashback that goes back to the Hoffman-LaRoche formula. Pantene was purchased by Proctor and Gamble in 1985.

Shampoos of note from my childhood include: Body on Tap, Castile shampoo, Breck, Earthborn, Egg Shampoo, Flex, Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific, Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Lemon Up, Pantene and Prell. It's not uncommon for popular scents to reappear in the formulas of other brands decades later. If you are bent on the smell of nostalgic shampoos visit the Vermont Country Store. They are currently offering versions of Lemon Up and Egg Shampoo.

Human hair retains scent longer than skin retains the smell of perfume. This is due to the layers of overlapping cells that form the cuticle, and heat generated by the scalp.

Faded Glory was a brand of designer jeans that were popular in the 1970's.

The Bronx Central Library was located in a building designed by McKim, Mead and White (they designed Columbia University and Pennsylvania Station in New York City). The Georgian revival style of the two-story structure and the inclusion of a wing along the rear facade provided a haven for inquiring minds and book lovers of all ages. You could feel history as soon as you walked inside and smell knowledge wafting out of the pages of books. The building, which was known as the Bronx Central Library when I was growing up, is no longer open to the public as the library has been relocated and is now the Bronx Library Center. The historic structure has been unoccupied since 2005.

Image of Hair Collage by Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Smell and Taste of Music: Lemon by Bachar Mar-Khalifé

Can you smell and taste music?  You can if you listen to the video for Bachar Mar-Khalifé's "Lemon" which is based on a romantic poem by Egyptian poet Samir Saady. Saady clearly knew that anyone with the good fortune of encountering a citrus tree dripping with fragrant blossoms couldn't deny that nature is the ultimate perfumer. This is evident in the poet's words, which are translated from Arabic to English:

by Samir Saady

The lemons are ripe on the tree
And whoever shakes the tree
after it has been watered by rain,
will fill his lap with lemons.

How beautiful you are, night of the moon
when my love appeared.
And whoever shakes the moon
his eyes are the moonlight.

The lemon tree blossoms
shock the rocky hearts.
When its flowers appeared
I smelled its perfume's love.

Actor Charif Ghattas directed the music video for "Lemon". He is also one half of the comedic duo that salts Saady's "Lemon" with puckering insights regarding the way tastemakers in the arts have a habit of getting tied up in themselves at the expense of others. When devoid of ego this metaphor extends to those who are lost in love, but are too shy or scared to pursue it. The chemistry between Ghattas and Khalifé is as powerful as are the video's synesthesia-inducing effects.

"Lemon" begins with Ghattas swinging a lemon on a string in an effort to hypnotize his subject who is a musician. Bachar Mar-Khalifé's character is cooperative, but unaffected, and proceeds to play harpsichord notes on a computer keyboard as he sings using a mop-headed duster for a microphone (the duster is later flipped and the prop is used as a flute). He is yellow and so is his lei-wearing sidekick. Calisthenic dabbling in tennis, paddleball, ball bouncing, hula hooping and soccer ball juggling ensue. This is followed by the musician allowing himself to be tied up in lemon-colored tape, which takes the lemon metaphor in an interesting direction.

The incarnation of lime from the video "Lemon"
and her fabulous eyelashes

The scene shifts and the musician appears standing upright as an attractive woman in a short lime-colored dress walks towards him to the beat of a heart monitor. Lime enters his lemon world batting large green eyelashes. The woman in the green dress is the embodiment of lime and uses her fruit as a sensual prop. The musician is entranced which is something his hypnotist/coach could not accomplish at the beginning of the video. C'est l'amour, no?

You can taste the lime juice as the woman consumes her own essence by ravaging the tart green fruit with her teeth. The synesthetic effect of the video kicks in as lime is transformed into a palatable sense object when lemon and lime hold court in the same space. A can of 7 Up® and a spritz of Eau de Cologne would do well here as memories of lemon and lime rise to the surface and generate cravings.

The lime woman disappears as quickly as she arrived leaving the aftertaste of a mirage in her absence. The musician's comedic counterpart reappears and after getting tipsy and ties up the musician in lemon tape once again. This time is different than the first as there is no option of escape; the musician is transformed into a living piece of lemon art and he didn't get the girl. This is why you press replay on the video more than once and think of lemon and lime for days after watching the music video for Bachar Mar-Khalifé's "Lemon".


Bachar Mar-Khalifé is a French Lebanese singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist. He is a graduate of the Conservatory of Paris and is the son of the legendary Eastern-Lute player Marcel Khalifé and singer Yolla Khalifé. His brother, Rami Khalifé, is also a musician.  

"Lemon" is composed by Bachar Mar-Khalifé and appears on the album Ya Balad (translation: O Homelandwhich is available for download on iTunes. There are two remixes of Khalifé's "Lemon" song. One remix is a collaboration with Deena Abdelwahed. The other is a version featuring Yolla Khalifé (this version of "Lemon" is ripe for a movie or television soundtrack and is hauntingly beautiful).

Image of the lemon tree replete with blossom and fruit by Elena Chochkova.

Image of a lemon in hand and the actress who portrayed the incarnation of lime is from the video of "Lemon" are the property of Bachar Mar-Khalifé.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Scent in Film: Master of Perfume


When was the last time you saw a video for a perfume brand that felt like poetry? Mi7 Cairo created Master of Perfume for Abdul Samad Al Qurashi (specialists in Oud fragrances) and did a brilliant job of speaking to the mystery of scent and scent creation; literally. The video manages to do this in only two minutes, which is a minute under the online standard for attention grabbing.

Glass Petal Smoke has transcribed the narrator's monologue in Master of Perfume as it embodies the kind of questions inspired by wearing a fragrance that doesn't feel separate from one's "self." You can also listen to the video for Master of Perfume in Arabic as an unfamiliar language can be experienced as emotion through intonation.

Master of Perfume

How did you become the master of scent?
That passing rebellious shape-shifting ether.
How did it surrender its freedom?
The keys to its chains?

Who taught you the language of air?
Words of the wind
What breeze whispers,
The meaning of the silence of dewdrops.

From where that knowledge of ancient secrets?
Of the darkness within the darkness,
The source of all light.
What authority do you hold over Oud,
Amber, Musk?

To what power does the blossom surrender its essence?
What does the heart choose to present which words cannot express?
How did you capture that uncontested mastery of perfume?

Abdul Samad Al Qurashi.
The masters of royal scent. 

Another example of the poetic approach to branding is Prada's Thunder Perfect Mind starring Daria Werbowy. It's longer than the three minute standard for capturing attention online (it clocks in at 4:47 minutes), but it's worth a look. The video is inspired by Gnostic Nag Hammadi text and is a modern riff on female archetypal essence. American mythologist Joseph Campbell would have loved it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Food Memories: Red Shoes and the Art of Cookie Face

I was five years old when I received a pair of red shoes the color of candy apples. The undyed leather soles were perfectly stitched and smelled like singed salt on a hot pretzel from a food cart vendor on Fordham Road. Inside each shoe was a rubber arch called a cookie that the salesman at Foot Adductor glued beneath the insole. The cookie was the same color as a pencil eraser, but it wasn't as soft. I didn't know what flat feet were and remember feeling somewhat perplexed because ducks had flat feet and I wasn't a duck. I also wondered why someone would put something called a "cookie" inside your shoe that you couldn't eat.

I must have looked at a lot of sidewalks when I was five because whenever I recall this time in my life, all I can see are those new red shoes. One foot in front of the other, moving slowly at first, then picking up the pace while holding hands with a grown up. I remember the asphalt blurring beneath my feet when Dad and I had to run under the elevated train tracks to cross the street in order to make the light or avoid pigeon dropings on our weekly trips to Weber's Bakery.

There were times the sidewalk seemed to move like a conveyor belt. When you're little you can't look over the crowds and figure out how you're going to get where you're going. That's a grownup's job. I'd look left and right when something caught my eye, but most of the time I marveled at my feet and the magic of walking. From 191st Street to Jerome Avenue, under the IRT past Tru-Form Shoes and the florist. I skipped over sidewalk cracks and random black patches of old gum until the smell of Weber's Bakery stopped me in my tracks.

Once inside the bakery, a distinct mix of anise, cinnamon, lemon, orange and vanilla left me in a condition that is best described as "smellmatized." Loaves of fresh bread with light and dark caramel colored crusts were stacked behind the counter by the cash register. You could smell an occasional burst of caraway when a seeded loaf of rye bread was being sliced, but the aroma never asserted itself into the perfume of the bakery. It hovered over the bread slicer and quickly disappeared.

Each loaf of bread sold at Weber's was had a white piece of paper the size of a postage stamp affixed at the heel. It was marked with the symbol of the New York City bakers union. If you were ravenous when you arrived home and were quick to make a sandwich there was a good chance you'd eat the thin paper stamp without a care in the world (they were impossible to remove completely). One day archeologists will discover these stamps inside the stomachs of some of the biggest bread eaters in New York City.

There were four triple shelved cases of pastry that contained desserts inspired by France, Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe, including a few cognates that made sense to bakers whose families had been in America long enough to assimilate new traditions. If you were a little kid you were surrounded by delicious at eye level. The experience was torture or resulted in a treat. The outcome depended on your parents.

It was Dad, me, my new red shoes and a scam I ran every time the two of us went to Weber's Bakery. I called it cookie face. It was a fun-loving game of food mischief with eleven distinct steps.

Step One:
Inhale at arrival.

Step Two:
Let Dad take a number so he can get a loaf of rye bread.

Step Three:
Smile at the mean looking lady with the hairnet who is wresting red and white striped bakery string to secure a box of pastry for a customer.

Step Four:
Look at shoes.

Step Five:
Walk up to cookie case.

Step Six:
Take a long deep breath.

Step Seven:
Look at cookies and then look at Dad (who always winks on cue at step seven).

Step Eight:
Look at mean lady with the hairnet and smile a little even though she scares you because her stone-faced demeanor makes it look like she doesn't have any lips.

Step Nine:
Look at cookie case and be sad.

Step Ten:
Look at the mean lady with the hairnet and smile a little longer even if she scares you more than the horror movies you watch on television despite being told not to do so.

Step Eleven:
There's no step eleven unless you goofed somewhere between one and ten. You receive a handful of colorful cookies wrapped in bakery tissue as a reward for being cute.

If the mean lady with the hairnet was extra careful when handing over the cookies it meant a rainbow bar or petit four was tucked inside. You'd smile, show the loot to your Dad, and say thank you to the scary lady who wasn't so scary when she smiled and gave you cookies.

We left the bakery with our respective edibles in tow. I skipped and stepped on cracks as I ate my reward, sharing some with my co-conspirator. When we were done Dad opened up the white wax paper bag with the sliced rye bread and we'd each take an end piece and gobble it up gleefully. Sometimes we didn't stop at the end piece and had a lot of explaining to do when we got home. It was funny for us, but not so funny for anyone who thought they were going to get a whole loaf of rye bread when we got home from Weber's.

This story is dedicated to the memory of my father, Paul Krell, who taught me everything I know about how to enjoy life and food. He was born on May 1, 1927 in Brzeziny, Poland and died on May 30, 2009, in Bronx, New York. He was a Holocaust survivor and U.S. Army veteran.

Norm Berg was the head baker at Weber's Bakery in the Bronx when I was growing up. He and Stanley Ginsberg co-wrote Inside the Jewish Bakery just before Norm passed away. The book and errata are highly recommended as this is an historic account of bakery culture in New York. Stanley Ginsberg, a passionate baker, has authored a new book titled The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America. It will be released in September 2016.

Norm Berg's son, Nathan Berg, was the baker at Vandaag in NYC. I tasted breads he baked before the combination bakery and cafe closed in 2012. Some of the best bread I have ever tasted was made with Nathan's hands.

If you want to understand the role that bakeries played in Bronx culture (and NYC for that matter) pick up a copy of Inside My Father's Bakery by Marvin Korman. It should be a movie (note to Steven Spielberg and Dustin Hoffman).

Sidewalk Flowers is a wordless picture book for children by poet JohnArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith. One of the most charming things about Sidewalk Flowers is how it illustrates father and daughter relationships. The image of the book cover accompanies this post. You don't have to be a kid to read this book. It's timeless and highly recommended, as is this promotional video for the book.

Image of needle tatted flower garland made from bakery twine by Jenny Doh. Used with permission.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Message from Michelle Krell Kydd: Editor of Glass Petal Smoke

I was inspired to launch Glass Petal Smoke in 2007 after receiving training and education in perfumery at Givaudan and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).  I'd been working as a marketing and communications consultant in the fragrance industry and fell in love with the art+science connection in perfumery. The world of scent, with its strong connection to memory and emotion, opened my eyes to a world of possibilities beyond sight.

Most of what I learned about the perfume arts was derived from the vantage point of an insider positioned in a highly secretive industry. Access serves as a starting point when one is intensely driven by curiosity. Where one arrives depends on how deeply one wants to explore the terrain, which itself depends upon the willingness to ask questions. The more I learned about aromatic materials and the people who shaped them as perfumes and flavors, the more questions I had.

I taught myself how to read science papers and developed a passion for inquiry. With this came a strong desire to share what I learned. Blogging has allowed me to do this, but getting out in the world and teaching others how to describe smells using the method I was taught in perfumery school has allowed me to transform knowledge into multisensory experiences. This is what Smell and Tell lectures are all about.

Describing a smell requires that you decode the invisible. What I find most striking about this process is how it brings people together by generating respect and understanding in the face of different points of view. A side effect of olfactory training in perfumery is that it is powerfully self-authenticating. Because perception is filtered through autobiographical memory, differences of opinion are not about right or wrong; they are about experience and one's personal story. This allows diverse observations regarding what something smells like to be contained in the same space; just like complementary and contrasting ingredients used in combination to create a perfume or a delicious dish.

Education is just as important to me now as it was nine years ago, if not more so. The sense of smell is least explored in classroom settings and this has always puzzled me in spite of everything I've experienced as a public speaker who creates multisensory experiences for the purpose of exploring the sense of smell and building community. Education as we know it simply doesn't offer enough opportunities to learn in non-judgmental settings. Students are educated to make the grade, which is rooted in whether or not they have assimilated material to the point of being right or wrong. This kills curiosity. 

The need for inclusion of olfaction as a legitimate sensory modality in K-12 and higher education is both a scientific and cultural imperative. I've worked to affect this at Smell and Tell lectures; at the University of Michigan; at TEDxUofM, and by creating the #AromaBox, an analog scent device that can be used in classroom settings and beyond. I believe that what I've learned via The Jean Carles Method of olfactory training, as well as conversations with scientists and perfumers, inspires curiosity of the highest order and is worthy of inquiry at all levels.

Without curiosity we cannot cultivate the kind of creativity that leads to understanding and problem solving. At best we engage with trends, entrepreneurial jingoism and what others decide is important to us as a culture. Remove curiosity and our internal compass falls into a heap of shards. Who we are and who we are meant to be suffers dearly because we not only lose direction; we lose time. Being human is inclusive of integrated sensory experiences and if we are going to develop technology that incorporates sensors, especially those that address assistive and safety needs, we must get better at including all of the senses; hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell.

To stay curious we need to pay attention. Digital life can remove us from face-to-face interaction with others outside of routines like shopping, commuting and work. It also removes us from nature as we more commonly inhabit indoor and mental spaces daily. This was recently illustrated in "That Strange Country Smell," an article that appeared in the New York Times' Metropolitan Diary on March 26, 2016, and was inspired by a four-year-old child who was offended by the smell of cut grass. Materials in perfumery are a gift from nature whose design lives in all of us at a cellular level. Nature feeds us, clothes us and provides us with shelter. We need to know her. Intimately.

This is not to say that we are in dire straights because connecting with nature is a choice. We know who we are and who we are becoming through our memories, dreams and reflections. Smell is memory's sense and memory is identity. In a world fraught with misunderstanding and clashes of culture we need to connect with others who may or may not be like us. Nothing does this better than interacting with the sense of smell, and the intersection of smell plus taste, which is flavor. We need to face each other, break bread with each other, and delight in the garden that is life as we share stories of our common humanity.

Think of this when you indulge in Ma'amoul Tea Cake and the accompanying stories that inspired last week’s nine-year anniversary post. The recipe was enkindled by everything you've read thus far and its spirit will ignite future stories on Glass Petal Smoke.

P.S. If you live in or near Ann Arbor I encourage you to get inside your olfactory mind at a Smell and Tell event. These talks take place at the Ann Arbor District Library in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. I created the Smell and Tell series in 2012 and demand for programming continues to grow.

Research is catching up with the sense of smell and its importance in the human organism. The driving force in all of this is the rise of incurable neurodegenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Dementia, which dissolve patients' memories (smell loss is the first symptom). More research is being conducted on the absence of smell at birth (congenital anosmia) and future findings will allow researchers to dig more deeply into the genetics of olfaction so they can solve problems beyond anosmia. In addition, olfaction is not limited to the human nose; it takes place on a cellular level in other parts of the body that are dependent on chemical communication.

Better ways of managing neurodegenerative brain disease will arrive in the coming years, benefiting everyone on the planet. It's an exciting time to get to know your sense of smell, and what it means in your life and the lives of those you love. Glass Petal Smoke  looks forward to serving curious minds and serendipitous guests so each of you may discover that getting in touch with the sense of smell is the best way to discover who you really are.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Glass Petal Smoke Celebrates Its Ninth Anniversary with Ma'amoul Tea Cake

The recipe for Ma'amoul Tea Cake is offered to aficionados of Glass Petal Smoke as a token of appreciation in honor of the blog's ninth anniversary. Ma'amoul Tea Cake is fashioned after a Middle Eastern cookie of the same name, which inspired a story published in 2007; the same year Glass Petal Smoke was launched.

"In Search of a Cookie (Part One): Ma'amoul" is the first of two posts that tell the story of a pair of friends on a cookie quest inspired by remembrance. "In Search of a Cookie (Part Two): Cuccidati Revealed" follows the quest to conclusion, illustrating the need to commune with lost loved ones via sweet morsels from childhood that erase the bitterness of their absence. 

Ma'amoul Tea Cake
(Yield: 10-12 Servings)

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup golden flaxseed meal
  • ½ cup natural cane sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (non-aluminum)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (non-iodized)
  • 5-6 ounces chopped medjool dates
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 large eggs (slightly beaten, room temperature)
  • ⅓ cup sweet unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • 1 cup low-fat, low-sodium buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of grated organic orange zest
  • 6-8 saffron threads (infused by soaking in 2 tbsp warm water for 10 minutes)
  • 4 drops food grade essential oil of Neroli (can substitute 1½ tbsp orange blossom water)
  • 1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease one 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan (or three 5.75 x 3 inch loaf pans) with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add infused sugar and flaxseed meal, blending well.
  • In a medium-size bowl, mix eggs, melted butter, saffron infusion, vanilla extract, food grade Neroli (or orange blossom water) and orange zest. Add buttermilk and incorporate. Add chopped medjool dates and walnuts to the wet mixture.
  • Make a well in the center of the bowl with the dry ingredients and add wet ones. Combine wet and dry ingredients together, folding gently with a silicone spatula. Be careful not to overmix.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes (30 to 35 minutes for smaller loads), or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and place on a wire rack to continue cooling.
  • Refrigerate or freeze for future use. The large loaf yields 10 to 12 slices; the smaller loaf yields 5 to 6 slices.
Glass Petal Smoke is an award-winning blog designed to inform those who are led by inspiration, joy and wonder when it comes to the world of flavor and fragrance. Its mission, vision and values haven't changed over the years. Glass Petal Smoke remains a vibrant educational vehicle maintaining the integrity upon which its reputation rests.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Nose: An Interdisciplinary Art+Science Collaboration

"The Nose" is an art and science collaboration featuring animation by Seán Vicary. "Nose Song," the soundtrack that accompanies the video, was written by Sam Lee and Llywelyn ap Myrddin. Vicary used the experience of coping with his mother's dementia to explore the sense of smell in a surreal olfactory landscape inspired by science. Smell is memory's sense and one of the first senses to dissolve when neurodegenerative diseases of the brain like dementia take hold. It's not hard to imagine the role catharsis played in Vicary's creative process, which has the visual sillage of a neuroscientist asleep on a surrealistic pillow.

Art and science are equally elevated in the video for "The Nose" and multiple arts at that. This is a natural extension of artist-animators, musicians and scientists combining disciplines in order to solve a problem. How does one communicate the sense of smell when smells are invisible along with the wiring for olfactory perception, which cannot be seen?  An interdisciplinary approach answers this as multiple ways of seeing and being in the world create an integrated point of view that speaks to more than one audience.

There is a genuine need to know more about who we are and how we're made when it comes to the reality of being a human organism. Stories that feed the desire to understand one's physiology and chemosensory system cannot be found in the pages of academic journals and textbooks alone; we need artists of all kinds to bring the unseen and seemingly inexplicable to life in meaningful ways that can be understood by everyone.

Songwriter Sam Lee drew on the expertise of pathologist Dr. Laura Casey and Dr. Simon Gane (both of University College London Hospital), Dr. Darren Logan (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge) and fragrance expert Nick Gilbert in order to write "Nose Song" with Llywelyn ap Myrddin.  Seán Vicary added the medium of animation to bridge sight with sound. The only thing missing in the video experience is scent, which must be imagined.

Labdanum and Ambergris are mentioned in the soundtrack for "The Nose" which uses footage from 8mm film taken when the videographer's mother spent time in India as a child, surrounded by aromas of Balsam and Jasmine. Imagine what it would be like if one could smell the scents inferred and declared in "The Nose" while the video was being played. The experience isn't currently available, but research will ensure that it lives in the not-too-distant future. Glass Petal Smoke predicts that digital scent delivery will first be implemented in virtual environments and migrate to other platforms afterward. Until then we can depend on a method used in the perfume arts; smelling essence-dipped fragrance blotters.

The world needs to experience more art and science collaborations like "The Nose" in order to transform the sense of smell from its status as the bastard stepchild of the senses into a legitimate sensory modality that is valued and understood. Art and science collaborations will flourish as research into neurodegenerative diseases of the brain reveals findings that allow us to inhibit and potentially eradicate memory-destroying diseases for good.

The video of "The Nose" is one of several songs inspired by body organs that can be found on Body of Songs. The Body of Songs project is supported by Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England.

Sam Lee talks about the sense of smell and songwriting as it relates to "The Nose" on Soundcloud. You can listen to it here

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Perfume Notes: The Admixture of Study and Memory

Castoreum absolute, castoreum resinoid, galbanum oil, galbanum CO2, Muscenone®, Exaltolide®, Velvione®, ambrette CO2, ambrette essential oil, and ambergris mother tincture. Pieces of olfactory poetry I've been smelling all evening.

Thinking about a formula for musk, ambergris and benzoin that goes back to the days of the Silk Road. Wishing that musk deer weren't hunted to near extinction and wondering if I could replicate that ancient formula with other things. I am time traveling as I smell the raw materials that arrived by post today. A journey colored by sensory impressions makes the "wish" perfume everything.

I need that imaginary Victorian house with a study and a lab to manifest. In the meantime neighbors across the way watch me through their windows with puzzled looks (even the perpetual gamers who sit transfixed on their living room floor with their corneas burning as they work their Xbox to death).

Droppers go into amber bottles, things get mixed, I smell long strips of paper that have been dipped in odorants and take copious notes in an oversized black laboratory notebook. If I had a black cat the scenario would be complete; the neighbors would think I was a witch.

Fresh from today's experiment rack; a large piece of fresh Copal tinctured and shaken. In 30 days it will be fully macerated for perfumery work. A friend brought the Copal back from Mexico (an acquaintance whose anthropologist husband delivered aromatic mysteries* from eastern Paraguay a few days earlier and asked me to burn them and share my olfactory impressions). The fresh Copal resembles the smell of the cleanest Frankincense I know; fresh Luban from Oman.

As soon as I remember this I am no longer at my desk. I am at Enfleurage and Trygve Harris is holding a large bowl of fresh Luban under my nose and encouraging me to take a deep breath. I snap out of the reverie and feel homesick for New York.

A knapsack sits by my desk and smells like the Copal which was wrapped in wax paper and placed inside for safekeeping during the day. Whenever I get a whiff of it I hear the sound of crushed pine needles under my feet and smell the sun. Then I remember a line from a Chanel ad in the 80's and become this; I am made of blue sky and golden light, and I will feel this way forever."

It is no longer night...

The items given to me by the anthropologist are used by the Aché tribe of eastern Paraguay. They include: a vulture feather, a mixture of ash and beeswax called Gachĩ, and bark of the Myrocarpus frondosus tree (also known as Cabreuva in perfumery). The vulture feather is for healing venomous snakebites and is used with Gachĩ to promote healing. Gachĩ forces the spirits of the dead to leave humans (they are believed to cause fevers) and also weakens thunder. Each of these ingredients are used in "smoke" rituals by the Aché.

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.