I am off until Sunday, for a “training and learning” session. I am looking forward to talking to you’ll next week again.
In the mean time: Here’s a picture of the dream stuff that reached me yesterday.
January 21st, 2015
January 20th, 2015
Today’s picture shows you what we did the other day in my painting class, we were all invited to cheat: The goal was to learn seeing behind the complexity of things. BY….
1. tracing the motive of a picture with a pencil through transparent paper. The original was a postcard size complex motif, like the Brooklyn bridge.
2. putting the original picture away, and -using the traces on transparent paper- sketching freehand the motif, reducing its complexity further, by looking for simple lines and shapes and forms and contrasts.
3. adding color and looking at the result.
I have my rules when it comes to painting. One top rule is: No tracing, but you always paint free hand, to train my eye hand brain coordination.
The same is, by the way, true for my way of creating perfumes. There are formulas that you can get, IFF, for instance, has demo formulas somewhere on their site. like this one here, for a gourmand accord, with 24% musk and 12 % Timbersilk, aka Iso E. Quote often, I get questions from perfume lovers who want to start composing, asking for formulas to learn. As tempting it is: I don’t think it is a good way of finding your way in and out in perfumery. Not good for your nose-brain coordination, and benumbing your imagination.
In the painting class, we only used the tracing as a trick to get around the complexity and learn to see through all the little cables and windows and complex patterns, learn to identify what matters and how to use it to compose a picture.
A smart trick.
I guess the same trick works in other fields. Like business, when it comes to complex marketing questions. Add a filter that blurs the data, that just lets the important stuff shine through, like “we make 50% of our turnover with one product” and move from there on. Or it might work in private life, or …
Thus, the bottomline of this post: Sometimes we are allowed to cheat. And maybe, maybe even looking at demo formulas in perfumery might be ok, just to see the bigger picture of how things are done. Although I am not sure about that. The danger is imminent that you end up with a copy of a copy of what everybody else does. The same is true for using bases from industry, by the way, like rose bases where industry does the rose composition for you. Easy, but without little learning effect.
Talking about roses and in order to finish this all up: Here’s a link to a great piece of writing on Scenthurdle about Andy’s roses, in comparison and from an interesting perspective, without going into any details: Like my rose perfumes traced through transparent paper. I really liked that piece of writing.
January 19th, 2015
Today’s picture shows you a typical day in my two room factory: Labelling air du désert marocain, happening in the front, with my omnipresent ipad, an old version 2 one, with a newer keyboard from Logitec, allowing me to listen to music and checking my email from time to time. I am trying to answer most mails, some however will never get answered, like free samples wishes.
On the second bench, more in the back, you can see a watercolor picture going to take shape. Watercolor is perfect there, every hour or so I make a break, paint some layers and in between they can dry thoroughly. Thus, during a factory working day, there is time for a picture, sometimes. The result of this working day (Friday) was this picture. It was painted using a picture on my phone that I took a couple of days ago when going home.
I have probably the nicest way home there is. Following the river Limmat that runs from the lake through Zurich and then out of town where I cross it over a barrage. There, from the barrage , the view in the evenings is often spectacular, with the sun going down behind the river, and often with lots of gulls flying in and out.
Another detail that you might realize in the picture of the “factory”: It is pretty crowded. It always feels a bit too tight there, a flood of bottles and boxes falling in from all possible corners, as I am not that good in putting things away. But then: Hey! It’s a factory… no ballroom. Usually, I am pretty much alone there. But a couple of weeks ago, this was the place where I met a journalist and where we talked about the state of works of the Swiss niche perfumery business. The result of this discussion you will find here, in the Tages Anzeiger online (link, in German). Enjoy!
January 16th, 2015
Today’s picture shows you the fever chart of the Swiss Franc versus the Euro, yesterday. After a long period of artificially maintained stable exchange rates, the Swiss Federal Bank decided to let the Franc float again, sort of freely, against the other currencies. The result: Being in the Euro zone, you pay now 20% more for a Swiss Franc. Or a product sold in Swiss Francs. I am not an expert, but I take it as a sign of significant mistrust in the Euro as sound currency and there might be more troubles ahead. Everybody does what we also did: Trying to get rid of Euro as fast as possible.
What does this graph mean for me: It means that my products got 20% more expensive for my clients. It means that prices will go up by 20%. Most of my production costs are in Swiss Francs, and hence the other side of the medal, me buying cheaper from European suppliers, does not help much.
So there we go: Shortterm prices go up, drastically, without me actually getting more money. In the end, sales will probably go down.
Midterm: I will need to change. A lot. What we do, how we do it and where we’ll do it. Exciting times ahead, but, to be honest, with limited fun factor.
January 14th, 2015
Today’s picture: an “idealized” landscape, for once not in watercolor, but in oil. I painted it over the weekend on a medium sized canvas, from memory, following a watercolor sketch.
Here’s the watercolor sketch:
This one is even smaller, a sketch, about A5, allowing to see what the original picture was all about. The original was a horrible picture (that I do not have at hand, sorry) that really got onto my nerves and I sort of failed a couple of times with the water colors, hence I decided to go there in oil.
A couple of observations, all true for perfumery, too:
Sometimes leaving things out helps.
Sometimes adding things helps.
Dramatization sometimes helps.
Idealisation sometimes helps.
But here’s the thing: All the above combined leads to a slippery road towards… KITSCH. Therefore, another observation, true for perfumery, too:
Banalization sometimes results from trying hard to please.
So, here in the house of tauer, we discussed whether we might hang on the oil color that you see to the left on our wall. We are not sure. Would you?
On the other hand, it is fun to play with clichés. Serve the cliché and break it at the same time. In a sense, this is exactly what I did with Gardenia Sotto la luna. With “sotto la luna” I scrape past a couple of clichés, you know: The moon, the night, flowers under the moon. With the scent “gardenia” I broke this spell, adding a twist. If the gardenia in sotto la luna was a perfect nice simple gardenia soliflower like you find it everywhere: First, there would be no reason to try it. There are enough nice little gardenias out there. Second, you would rightfully look at it and probably say: Nice, but not for my wall.
In the oil picture, I was seriously tempted to add an empty Coke can, swimming in the water, all red; breaking the cliché. Here’s the funny thing: I did not because, somehow, I just loved the picture the way it was.
January 12th, 2015
It is about time for a new post here, after the most relaxing weekend imaginable and a ping-pong weekend jumping into spring mood on Saturday and winter’s icy grip on Sunday. Imagine: I was having a coffee on Saturday, sitting outside in the sun, wearing not much more than a light hoodie. And Sunday saw me jogging through snow flakes. The transition: Stormy!
So… the weekend was great as I tried very hard not to work and only answered some emails and did some paper work. The rest was sport, cooking, painting, fiddling with perfume formula and getting comfortable with some xml and phtml files in magento. Magento is the software running behind my website, tauerperfumes.com, the shop basically.
Yes, handling smelly things is not really work. And looking into xml files is neither. And “work like work” often does not feel like work. I don’t know why really, but there is this joy of doing things, down there at tauerville; and be it just the joy that I can pile up boxes, getting them ready for shipments, and then have the shippers coming by, loading them up on the truck, leaving me with free space. It always feels like “Ha! and now I have space to do this, or that. ” Like doing a quick sketch. Or write down a quick perfume idea.
I made it become a routine, trying to have a pencil and a piece of paper next to me, all the time. To write down ideas (and discard them later), or do a quick sketch when there is time, like waiting for the water to cook in the kitchen. Some of my best ideas happened like that.
Like Sotto la Luna. Or Rose flash. Or today’s illustration. By the way: Gardenia sotto la luna was featured in Basenote’s discoveries of 2014 list (thank you!). And I am all flattered because: I think, well… these days, coming up with something new and fresh that stands out is not easy. Anyhow: Today’s illustration shows you actually the second rendering. The first sketch with an ink pen was indeed done while waiting for a minute or two in the kitchen. The second one (the picture today) was done the next day, using water colors, while waiting for the weather to clear up for jogging.
And, yes, this is not me…
January 8th, 2015
Good morning today, right from the factory. I was heading down here early in the morning to be up and ready for the glass fiber guys who want to install glass fibre. Not that I had asked for it: The fibre just comes and then it is up to us to decide whether we want it activated or not. I won’t because I have 4G, air.
So I am sitting here, writing this post, and wait as the cable guys did not appear, yet. Ah well: It will be a busy morning here and later in the afternoon will be another painting class.
It’s going to be a great day. It already started with the perfect sunrise, painting the far away mountains in gold. On the other side, there was the moon sitting in the neighbor’s tree.
Definitely a wow! morning.
When back home in the evening, if all goes well, I will make more Rose flash, diluting prediluted stock. Rose flash turned out to be a troublemaker, when going larger volume. The concentrate, without ethanol, is rich in solid matter and resins and sticky glue is what you could call the concentrate. No chance to get it all dissolved and aliquoted. Therefore, I had to do 50% pre-dilutions of the concentrate. I had this sitting for a while, making sure it all disolves properly and aliquoted part of it. This 50% super perfume concentration will need to go down to 20% (part of it already did). What’s 50% perfume like you might ask: Well, it is dark-red. It is amazing, beyond IFRA really, and a drop of it keeps you going for a LONG time. Not that I want to offer a 50% perfume, really, but I can never resist there: Putting a drop on, just me, privately…. the heck!, superperfume!
January 6th, 2015
when I meet people who do not know me, doing the small talk thing, I usually try not to mention what I do. I always say I am self employed, hoping for no further questions. Why? Well, because the conversation goes usually in a disillusioning direction. No, I do not sit in a perfumery room all day long in dim light, figuring out the magic formulas of flowers blossoming in flacons. No, my days are not filled with letting drops fall into mixing beakers. Yes, you only need a piece of paper to write down a perfume. And I do so rarely.
The few lines on a piece of paper (or excel to be precise) define it. Provided you wrote it down specifically enough, the perfume is there in all its details and can be brought to life for decennials. The rest is “materialization” that depends on the matter, the rose extracts, the vanillin, the amber and musks. The qualities of these might change, but with some knowledge my perfume on a piece of paper can materialize in 200 years from now.
I let my ideas materialize somewhat rarely, as I tend to think a lot first. And as there is no need. The pipeline of things is too big anyhow.
My big fat Excel file sits there, waiting patiently, copied on a hard disk, and copied redundantly in a super safe cloud space, like all my important files. There, I am super super worried about losing bits and bytes.
But sometimes, I do sit there and follow the lines, mixing stuff into flint glass bottles. Like this morning. Because, when I woke up I knew that this one little formula needs to be tried out. Now.
It’s like with my paintings. They start piling up there, and here, and over there, almost none of them hangs on my walls.
Today’s picture: An unfinished rose, painted very wet.
January 5th, 2015
Today, I wish to share with you a citation from a book. Sometimes, when I feel that I am not advancing in my painting explorations, when I feel like nothing works and every failure feels not like the next step towards success, sometimes I buy a book. They don’t really help, as there is only one way to get better: Training, failures and more training. But the books are a motivation.
“A man who works with his hands is a laborer, a man who works with his hands and brain is a craftsman, but a man who works with his hands, his brain, and his heart is an artist”. (Painting Portraits and Figures in watercolor, by Mary Whyte, eISBN: 978-8230-2678-4)
I think this is true. I will keep this in mind for perfumery.
And, if true, this comes with a couple of consequences. One of them being: It makes the artist vulnerable.
Today’s picture: The parking lot next to where my factory rooms are located, seen under a grey sky last Friday, with stormy winds melting the snow away.
January 3rd, 2015
Good morning from Zurich where the snow that we got after X-mas (around 40 cm, hossa!) is melting, under a grey foggy sky, that seems to merge with the grey asphalt of the city.
And, allegory you are surrounded, like the snow my stock of PHI-une rose de Kandahar was melting in the last few weeks before the holidays. I have put aside a pile of the rose de Kandahar for an order that will leave Switzerland for Saudi Arabia. There, I am collaborating with Odore, the first real “niche” (better: low volume -artisanal- high end perfumery) boutique in Saudi Arabia, based in Riyadh, a shop that I have not visited yet, but might, one fine day, searching an excuse for a trip into a different, exotic, warm and sunny, spot. Odore was founded by Sultan Al-Sheaibi a good year ago. We met a good 18 months ago in London, I was visiting to discuss Sultan’s business idea. After the trip, I was convinced that Sultan knew what he wanted and that he was determined to offer the best there is in perfumery in a region where perfume lovers appreciate perfumes beyond the ordinary.
You know: I am the longer the more picky about where my scents are placed. In a time where you find everything everywhere this is important.
As you may imagine, exporting and importing to Saudi Arabia is not that easy and the more I appreciate what Odore accomplished.
Anyhow: Some of what is left of PHI is reserved for Saudia Arabia and will be packed next week. And then there is basically left what is the shelves, in my warehouse in the US, on the shelves in the stores, and a few bottles that are my reserve for whatever might happen. And then, we are back to field zero. I need to make more, but this will take good while. This is what “niche” actually is all about. Precious scents that are hard to get. And if you get them you should expect them in a Swarovski free zone.
So , yes, although it comes without Swarovskis and other blingbling elements, une rose de Kandahar was and is a big success. I am very grateful for this. Basically, this tells me that there is hope, for “niche” outside the dark halls of extravagant luxury.
And, yes, I am sorry that we are soon running out. I can only promise that it will come back towards the second half of 2015, I guess.
I also guess and hope that the gap will be filled by Rose flash. End January. As always, I am a bit behind my plan, but that’s what plans are made for: To be changed.
Today’s picture shows you a rose failure: After having painted it, I decided that it was all wrong, this watercolor rose. I washed it off, dried it with a flannel and loved the effect.