The Scent of Permanence

Vintage Habanita poster.  Source:  Raiders of the Lost Scent

Vintage Habanita poster.
Source: Raiders of the Lost Scent

My journey began like that of anyone else: catching whiffs of my mother’s perfume as a child. Growing up in Eugene, my teenage experimentation with fragrance was mostly confined to essential oils. It wasn’t until I smelled Molinard’s sumptuous Habanita for the first time that I understood the power that fragrances can have. After years of having the opportunity to explore a vast range of fragrances, I have noticed that there are a handful of specific notes that truly resonate with me. These components go beyond merely smelling nice or pleasant and can truly bring me to my knees.

Once it became clear which materials spoke to me, I actively sought out fragrances that were either focused around these notes or fragrances that created an overall tone that reflected these effects. I find it interesting to note that although I’m thrilled to have these scents in my fragrance arsenal and I am able to partake in them whenever I please, I still choose to use a wide variety of fragrances. As the owner of Fumerie, each day I’m surrounded by a vast array of beautiful perfumes. I consciously choose to make the most of this selection by enjoying everything available to me. I have a particular soft spot for vintage scents and partake of those on a regular basis, regardless of composition. Why limit my joy of scent to only one area of perfumery? Besides, I’m not sure that I could handle being brought to my knees on a daily basis. 

Tracy's Tattoo

Tracy's Tattoo

Patchouli growing at the Seychelles patchouli revival project.  Source:  Indiegogo

Patchouli growing at the Seychelles patchouli revival project.
Source: Indiegogo

Three years ago, I began to seriously contemplate the idea of taking my love of fragrance to another level entirely. What could be a more intentional show of devotion to my passion for fragrance than a tattoo! I’ve always loved botanical illustrations and so I decided on a tattoo designed to represent my favorite notes in perfumery. The first step was identifying my favorite notes. I eventually decided to focus on patchouli, hay, tobacco, cacao and leather. The next step was a bit more challenging: finding the perfect tattoo artist. Luckily, Portland has no shortage of incredibly talented tattoo artists. A bit of research led me to Alice Carrier of Wonderland Tattoo. She was an obvious choice for the particular style I had in mind. She creates the most beautiful botanical tattoos that I’ve ever seen. Over the course of a few weeks, Alice deftly created a sketch that perfectly captured my vision. I’ve had my tattoo just over a year now, and still have not tired of admiring its beauty. One unexpected benefit that has come in handy on more than one occasion, is the fact that the tattoo itself serves as a visual guide for specific notes. What exactly is patchouli? Let me show you!

As I wrote this piece, it occurred to me that there are some interesting parallels between fragrance and tattooing. Just as fragrance hasn’t always been taken seriously as an art form, the art of tattooing exists on the fringes of established artistic expression andstill does not receive the attention it deserves as an incredibly specialized art form. Whether it be art on skin or olfactive art, it is a personal expression that I have always found endlessly fascinating.

We have been conditioned to think about things in certain ways. For many of us, art is rather narrowly-defined. We accept that there are a handful of established art forms and have a difficult time either accepting developing forms of artistic expression or looking at existing means of creative expression in new ways. In this way, tattoos and fragrance are quite similar. Both art forms have been under-appreciated in the mainstream art community despite both having long, rich histories. In our quest to help redefine the way fragrance is perceived by the public, we must also recognize that the olfactory arts are not alone in being generally disregarded as high art. It is my hope that by starting a dialogue I might lend my voice to the larger discussion and that we might begin to accept these less-established forms of artistic expression as equally important and valuable contributions to art as a whole.