Karen Gilbert's Masterclass

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wp_000597Make your own bespoke scents, why don't you?

"Why are you here?"

One of our coursemates had seen me speaking at perfume events, and wondered why I'd come along to Karen's five day workshop. She wasn't being rude, just curious. If I'm already making perfume, why would I need a five day masterclass?

The same thing happens when I'm teaching yoga. I qualified in 2003, but still study with senior teachers because there's always more to learn. Some of my students furrow their brows when I tell them I'm going to be away at a weekend workshop. Surely after 16 years I've learned yoga by now?


It's like everything worth studying, the more you learn, the more you realise there's a lot you don't know.

I know quite a bit about natural fragrance materials: how they smell and what they do, how they work together, which ones are light, which are heavy, powerful, gentle, fleeting or enduring. But for indie perfumers, it's very tricky to get familiar with all the man made aroma molecules out there. I can't afford to buy them all and I wanted to learn more about their purpose and use, so I could decide which ones would help me to make lovely quirky scents, and which ones just make perfumes smell nice enough to be commercial.

My scents tend to tell stories. It's not important whether one of mine is a floral or a chypre or an oriental type. It's essential that they evoke a time, place and feeling. So in the way that I like to learn new words to express myself better in writing, I went along to Karen's course to broaden my olfactory vocabulary, so that I could explain my feelings in perfume. I am aware that this sounds as if I'm disappearing up a dark place, never to return. I'll get back to earth in a second. But you see what I mean, I hope. I wanted to learn what the synthetics can do, so I can use them in a way that helps the natural materials say the right things.

Day one at Mary Ward House - citrus and floral

To be continued...

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