Thursday, August 23, 2007

Looking For Perfume Making Classes? Readme

I am not teaching perfumery at the moment. However, here is a guide written by Lisa Camasi, the group moderator for botanical_perfumery (which you might want to check out) which is invaluable for the perfumer seeking guidance

Lisa Camasi is a long time botanical perfumer, artisan tincturist with several fascinating methods for hand-extracting natural essences. She is also a brilliant writer with a degree in linguistics from the University of California.. This has served to make her one of the most valuable communicators in the natural perfume world. She hosts two online perfume groups: which is open to anyone and includes, I believe our own Dorothy Kingsbury among others. She also hosts another, invitation only, interactive perfume making group.

Anyway, to make a long story short, this is her piece on how to find the perfect perfume educator that matches one's needs.

There are more resources than ever for the average person to learn
about perfumery - natural/botanical and otherwise, and are VERY
reasonably priced - in fact most of them are free.

If you want to take a class, any class, do a little homework first and
make sure that the class you take will serve your needs, interests and
budget, and will deliver on its promises.

- What are the instructor's credentials, experience, and reputation,
professionally and otherwise? If s/he has formal credentials, are
they in a relevant field? Are they from a reputable institution? If
the instructor points to experience and a varied selection of "one
off" courses, one on one instruction/mentorship/apprenticeship with
another perfumer or perfumers, who are they, and what are their
credentials, what is their professional lineage? If the instructor is
self taught, how did s/he pursue their studies, and how did s/he
arrive at the conclusion that s/he had acquired sufficient knowledge
that s/he feels qualified to teach a professional course and charge a
professional fee? Is s/he published?

- Can references/recommendations be provided from former students?

- What books/literature is used to support the class, and what is the
additional recommended reading?

- What are the educational objectives of the course - what will you
have learned and be able to do after the class that you could not do
before the class? How will they be achieved? Is there a syllabus
from this or previous similar classes that you can view to evaluate
whether the course will meet your interests, skill level, and needs?

- Think about how you learn best. Some people do very well reading
from books, some prefer lots of graphics and pictures, and still
others absorb information best through auditory input and verbal
exchanges. Will this class be presented in a way that is suitably
accessible to you and your learning style? I have a good friend who
is a university lecturer in New Zealand, and one of the courses she
teaches is a distance course. It is at the graduate level, and
because the focus of the course is in support of the literature survey
the students need to conduct for their MA theses in Linguistics, it
works pretty well, but she said she can't imagine teaching any of her
other courses because so much critical learning happens in the face to
face exchange of weekly seminars and working collaboratively on
research and data.

- Consider all the available courses and resources in the context of
what you want, what you need, and what you can afford. Look for a
class that will teach you skills that allow you to continue learning
when the class is over, and leave you feeling empowered and encouraged
to do so - rather than enslaved to an expert who claims to hold the
key to the vault that safeguards the secrets of the ancient art.

- Le Parfumeur Rebelle has links to a few classes in natural/botanical
perfumery, or ones that cover naturals substantively (scroll down the
page to "classes".)
If you're able to spend $800 for an online course, why not spend a
couple hundred more and get the benefit of learning perfumery "in the
style of the French perfumers" from *actual* French perfumers - ones
with the training, experience, materials, facilities and professional
acumen to make it worth your while and worth your hard earned money!!
(Not to mention the pleasure of spending a week in the heart of
Grasse!) There are other classes - Sunrose Aromatics has hosted
classes with Gail Adrian in the past, and Linda at the Perfumer's
Apprentice is an excellent resource as well.

- Polish your bloody google, yahoo, dogpile skills. Be willing to
dive down a few rabbit holes as you follow the links within links. I
have found some of the most useful and relevant information this way -
as well as some wonderful and wonderfully obscure materials.

- Don't rely entirely on the internet, and remember that it is still
largely unregulated and there is as much unreliable information as
there is factual and useful information.

- Check out a few books at the library, and if your local library
doesn't have what you want, ask if they can get it for you through
interlibrary loan. If you live near a university, especially a public
one, see if they provide library privileges to the local community -
most do! You will be able to gain access to books through the
university that are unlikely to be available any other way -
especially out of print books.

- Safety... Don't rely on IFRA exclusively for this information, it's
not reliable! Read the MSDS for your materials and take a little time
and familiarize yourself with Pub Med
you will get much more reliable information and you will learn a lot
more about your materials!

- There are a bunch of sites that will provide hours and hours of
reading (tons of useful information) about naturals and their chemical
components, as well as synthetics and compounds - here are a few of my

Bookmark these sites and spend some time following the links and
becoming familiar with the information (and additional
links/resources) they provide. Most vendors well known on this list
(Eden Botanicals, Natures Gift, Sunrose Aromatics, White Lotus) also
have copious amounts of information and links on their sites. I am
sure others here could add many more but this is a start.

- Whatever you do, don't believe the assertion that making perfumes
using aroma chemicals is the same as using naturals and that you can
learn everything you need to know in a class that only covers
naturals!! There is a lot of overlap in general technique, but if you
are going to use aromachems, do yourself (and your pocket book) a
favor and, as is good practice with naturals, learn how to use them
effectively and safely. Aromachems can be very unstable and sensitive
to degradation due to light and temperature, they often require
solvents other than alcohol, there are compounds as well as individual
aroma chemicals and the dilutions at which you would use them varies

- Give your chemophobia a rest (and brace yourself for the equally
irrational and perverse chemophelia you will encounter) and bring an
open mind! While I do not personally use aroma chemicals or
synthetics, my time on these lists has definitely honed my skills and
technique, and has made me look at naturals with a renewed interest in
their active chemical components and infused my creative efforts with
much needed precision, analysis and discipline:

Perfume Making is Jenny's group, there's a wealth of informative files
and links, and she has put together a couple of excellent power point
presentations. Discussion is lively, enthusiastic and fairly ad hoc,
though Jenny is great about introducing specific topics and questions,
and generating more focused discussions as well.

Manufacture and Design of Perfumes is Jo's group, and has more of a
collaborative classroom format. Class sessions might focus on a
discussion of a half dozen materials (natural and synthetic), a pop
quiz on some aspect of the history of perfume, or a discussion with
exercises on fixation, tincturing or solvents.

Early perfumes is Sally's group, and focuses on more academic and
early historical creation and use of perfume and scent. She has
written an excellent book and is extremely knowledgeable.

- Regardless of the group(s) you join, once there, spend some time
digging through the archives. This will give you an idea of the range
of topics that have been discussed, answer lots of questions before
you have formed them, and will make the questions you do ask once you
join the discussion more specific and useful Do this with any group
you join but especially one that has been around for a while or has
substantial archives - hell - join NP and mine those archives (if they
have not been deleted or selectively culled for the exclusive
reference of the owner.) The first couple years of posts on that
group are a wealth of information from some VERY talented and
accomplished perfumers (including industry professionals incognito)
who have long since moved on, weary of all the drama and politics that
can hijack the best of groups.

- Be willing to put in the time with your materials - books are
excellent references, and lectures can be tremendously informative,
but nothing, and I mean *NOTHING* takes the place of sitting down and
actively working with the materials: experimenting, formulating,
blending, evaluating, sharing, reformulating... the hours and days and
weeks you spend actively engaged in working with aromatics will be the
real education. Everything else - books, research, discussions,
groups, lectures - they are all optional.

- Work with your materials in dilution - it will save you unimaginable
amounts of money and will give you a better sense of how your perfume
is developing as you create it. I personally recommend using 5-10%
dilutions of most absolutes and 10-50% dilutions of eo's - it depends
on the odor intensity of the material you are working with. Create
your formula using these dilutions first, then add sufficient alcohol
to bring it to the appropriate strength (parfume, EDP, EDC, etc.)

- Invest in a scale sensitive to a hundredth of a gram, and learn to
use it - you will get infinitely more precise and reproducible results
if you do! Jen at lotioncrafter has a decent selection as well as a
useful comparison you can read to help you decide which one you want.

Ebay is also a great resource for equipment, from lab glass to
ultrasonic cleaners/baths to use in tincturing and as an aid in
finishing/melding dilutions and perfumes (in fact I do believe that's
where the instructor of an $800 on line course just recently purchased

- Form a local study group, or find a couple local partners in crime.
Swap perfumes, offer each other feedback, collaborate on a perfume,
or a collection of scented balms, or put together a
tincturing/infusing workshop. It builds community and supports your
habit, and happens to be a lot of fun to boot.

- Try a variety of materials, from a variety of vendors and regions.
All lavenders/vetivers/lemons/roses are not created equal, nor are the
aromatics that are derived from them.

- Don't limit the development of your nose to the perfumer's organ!
Take a wine tasting course. Learn to cook outside your comfort zone -
take an Indian, Mediterranean, Asian cooking class. Plant a fragrant
garden. All of these will propel you along the path of training your
senses inform your work with aromatic materials.

Last, but most certainly not least - don't be afraid to think for
yourself. The more stridently anyone insists that *they* are the
expert and that *you* need the training or information they are
selling, the more you ought to slow down, look around, and consider
all your options first.

If you think this is useful information - please feel free to forward
it to aspiring students, post to other lists, blogs, etc.,

Happy perfuming!