Sowing the Seeds of Reality by Jessica Perlstein

Monica Miller, the mastermind behind Perfume Pharmer, has spearheaded a number of perfumery projects involving botanical and mixed media perfumers all over the globe.  Two of the most recent projects are Summer of Patchouli LOVE, which I discussed on this blog last summer, as well as Primordial Scents, which I am in the progress of humbly reviewing (see my first review here).

I felt that we know so much about these perfumes and projects but very little about Monica and what goes into creating and seeing through large-scale perfumery projects such as these.  Monica graciously agreed to talk about herself, her work, and her process.  I hope that you’ll enjoy this interview.

1) What do you do in addition to blogging at Perfume Pharmer?

In addition to Perfume Pharmer my main businesses are Skye Botanicals Natural Skin Care (19 years) and more recently Martha’s Vineyard Honey Company. I am an Herbalist, Bee Keeper, and Perfumer, and Perfume Pharmer! My definition of Perfume Pharmer is someone who uses perfume (scent, aromatherapy oils) in Farming as well as in my final products. A Perfume Pharmer is a farmer who grows plants and herbs for olfactory / aromatherapy purposes.

2) What was your inspiration for developing Primordial Scents, and what is your goal for the project?

My inspiration for Primordial Scents is my mission to bring awareness of the sacredness of the basic ELEMENTS of our environment AIR, WATER, WATER, and EARTH/METAL and AETHER/ SPIRIT. If we hold these elements as sacred and worth “saving” then we save ourselves and the integrity of our planet at the same time. My Stepmother’s ecotopian novel The Fifth Sacred Thing is an inspiration for me. The story is about two very different cultures, that of people who have chosen a sustainable/ green way of life and the other an environmentally destructive socially punitive way of life. As the story unfolds the two cultures clash and the reader gets to see one writer’s vision of what choices we can make in our own lives and the type of culture we want to support. I believe Starhawk’s idea is to have The Fifth Sacred Thing become a movie that inspires generations of people to do what THEY can do to build a green sustainable future for all. Starhawk teaches EARTH ACTIVIST TRAININGS where students get hands on instruction in Permaculture skills like natural building, water saving and grey water systems, building permaculture gardens and social systems that are not punitive and hierarchical but rather co-created with leadership that is more natural and shared. The Empowerment Manual, also by Starhawk outlines the ideas and how to for collaborative groups.

All that being said I believe people can get in touch with the sacredness of nature through the pleasurable activity of sniffing beautiful scents. In Primordial Scents the perfumers used their personal inspirations to create beautiful perfumes that evoke the different elements.

Metal infused scent by Bruce Holmes

3) It seems that it takes a lot of planning and coordination to pull off projects such as these.  Tell us about your process and the process of perfumers who are involved. 

Primordial Scents has a secret group where all of the perfumers and bloggers and I interact and communicate. It has all gone remarkably smoothly, and I think that is a reflection on the wonderful people who are part of this project. I did make a concerted effort to include participants who I know to be kind and considerate as well as talented. I am constantly in awe of the artistic creativity of those involved. The perfumers had 9 months to create perfumes for the project before I started releasing the samples to bloggers.

4) What can people expect from this project?  How is this project different from Summer of Patchouli LOVE, for example?

Summer of Patchouli LOVE (SOPL) was a competition and was immense fun with lots of adrenaline pumping and excitement. Primordial Scents has been a thoughtful inner process for many perfumers and writers, as befits the subject. SOPL was more fun and frivolous, Primordial Scents more a reflection on sacred beauty.

Perfumers would expect written feedback about their creations, with the public able to seek out the scents they find most intriguing. There are plenty of scents that have yet to garner their potential spotlight, there is much more to appreciate within the individual scents. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s blue lotus CHRYSALIS has yet to be written about, this is the perfume born right before her son Xander. The scent is a third eye opening visionary beauty (my experience). MOTHER is another beauty yet to be explored. Imagine a perfume simply called MOTHER. That is what perfumer Kedra Hart of Opus Oils made for Primordial Scents EARTH category. Mother is a juicy ripe fig concoction with boozy undertones and beauteous roses.

Mother by Opus Oils

5) How are perfumers chosen for these projects?  How can newer perfumers become part of your future projects? 

I have asked perfumers I admire to join the projects, and perfumers have also requested to join. The projects include intermediately experienced perfumers and Master Perfumers. Primordial Scents is a two-year project so I cannot consider new projects at this time. 2013 will continue Primordial Scents as well as The Traveling Perfume for PEACE. New perfumers and alchemists will definitely participate with the co-created Traveling Perfume which is a continuation from this year. Primordial Scents has much to unfold and may begin to include more ELEMENT perfumes.

The traveling perfume with Dabney Rose

6) Will it be possible for those who purchase samples to buy full sizes of the ones that they love?

Many of the scents are recently available full size, such as Flor Azteca and Oudh Nawab by Juan Perez, and ELEMETAL Alchemy by Lyn Ayre, and many are available by special request from the perfumers. The perfumers can be contacted on Facebook and through their websites.

7) And lastly, a fun, philosophical question: is perfume purely an indulgence, a downright necessity, or both? 

Scent is part of life, just as sight and sound.  Obviously we can live without sight or hearing, or the ability to detect different odors but ideally we do! I think each individual must define necessity for him/herself! I know for me scent has helped me a great deal in my life emotionally and spiritually. I have always been very connected to scent.

One tidbit is that a Queen Bee actually “controls” her hive by means of her personal scent.  The entire hive has a personal scent dictated by the Queen’s pheromones. All of the worker bees, drones, nurse and guard bees respond and are loyal only to her.

Sample vial of Kirsten Schilling’s botanical perfume, Drann, named for the Old Irish word for a whispered magical charm, murmur or chant… made from trees deemed particularly ‘sacred’ the world over.

Monica, thank you for sharing with us!

If you are interested in purchasing sample sets of Primordial Scents, you can do so here.