Tauer Perfumes
20150130s

traps and facebook $$$

January 30th, 2015

You know….when running a business, trying to cook, or being creative: There are traps, pitfalls, deceptions, and usually it is us deceiving us.

When painting, there is this trap that a new color/paper/a new motif or new technique will change the name of the game. But the truth usually is: Just because you got this nice shiny new red, your rose won’t get better. Yesterday, in my painting class, we were doing flowers in watercolor. Using wet in wet. This is soooo difficult. Today’s picture gives you an idea. The difficulties are on various levels; the paper, the proper wetness, the color, the brush, the motif. You name it. How to master it? By doing it again, and again and again.

In perfumery, there is a similar trap. Sometimes, when formulas do not work, when envisioned effects aren’t there, when a scent does not last or falls apart, you search for the easy way out. New molecules (or new naturals). The magic ingredient that will solve all the troubles that you face. Wrong! New ingredients that you did not use before (as perfumer) won’t help, but rather add another level of complexity. You don’t know how they’ll behave. What’s the solution? Do it again and again and again. Although, sometimes, a new ingredient can do the trick (after having done it again and again), like

The longer the more I am convinced that actually, using a palette of ingredients that is limited but of high quality and diversity, that you know by heart and nose, might be the best you can do. I think it was Jean-Claude Ellena who mentioned once that there is no need for dozens of salicylates, for instance, but that two three different salicylates (molecules that render perfumes BIG and powdery and classy) are enough, that you /he can create whatever he wants to create with these few. I could not agree more.

When it comes to running a business, selling things, there are comparable traps. Adding more products, more and more, or discounts,  more and more, just to stay up there and out there. Especially the discounting , me thinks, is a dangerous path to follow. Do it once and you’ll do it forever. More’s not always better, like: More newsletters won’t get read better and more facebook posts won’t get more readers, except you pay for exposure in facebook. But even there, more exposure and impressions won’t do the trick. A sidenote: Facebook is very, very selective about who is going to see your posts and updates. If you run a company and want to go beyond facebook’s few hundred views: You have to pay for it. $$$. Just to make sure that a page update is seen by your friends or people who liked your page or others. It is quite interesting to think about it: What we see in facebook, and I am not talking about paid ads, but about page updates and posts on business pages,  is not really entirely based on relevance and our interests and our preferences, but based on how much an entity running a facebook page is willing to pay.

So… maybe adding more money into my facebook ad accoun (that runs on zero right now) might indeed do the trick, who knows? I do not pay for page impressions, getting the tauer perfumes facebook page out there more promiently , yet, but might one fine day test it.  We’ll see.

For the time being, I continue working on my rose watercolors (urghh) and my various perfume trials.

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20150129s

risk and post heroic societies

January 29th, 2015

Today, there was an article about risks et al in the newspaper, in the context of avalanches and protective gear and more. This is one of the topics I enjoy reading about, for a couple of reasons.

One of them is my impression that we, here in Switzerland and in some other spots, try to move towards a zero risk culture. Which, in my humble opinion, is very wrong. Because zero risk does not exist, except maybe that our risk to live forever is zero. Zero risk translates into a couple of things: Kids growing up without being given the chance to develop a realistic apprehension of what risk means when climbing up a tree. I am convinced that my falling down (a little) tree as kid helps me to go through my life, not because I climb trees these days, but because I learned a couple of lessons, falling down… Imagine a business world, creative world, perfume world, where all risk is eliminated. No allergens. Safety sprays that are children safe. Non flammable by addition of flame retardants. And no risky new formulas that might not work on the market.

Quel horreur!

From there you can do the next step and ask about legislation and legislators: What risk do they actually try to minimize. Is it a relevant risk, with high probability and large damage? I think the safety belt saved many lives and it is ok that legislator made it the law to buckle up  because the risk of being injured is pretty high per kilometer on the road (although in general you might wonder whether any legislator has the right to tell you what to do as long as you do not harm anybody else. I prefer to live in a society that gives me the right to harm myself). I think however, the legislation about perfume ingredients is hard to justify, simply because the damage is minimal, even if the risk is somewhat higher. The same is true for many other domains. Perfume just happens to be the one where I have some insights.

I also like to think about risks because of statistics and the funny revelations that come with taking statistics seriously. Risk and frequency of occurrence and probability of sizes of losses all belong together. Here’s an example: There are events that are extremely rare, like BIG meteorites falling down on earth, But the probability that all human life comes to an end with a big meteorite falling down on earth is very, very high. Therefore, every day, the risk for humans to die due to a meteor falling down is actually pretty high. Even if it only happens every 60 million years or so.

One last word: Our societies’ risk aversions are directly linked to our being post heroic or to living in post heroic societies.  With all the consequences. Here’s a long and intelligent article about being post heroic.

Finally…. when it comes to perfumes, I want to live in a heroic society.

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20150127s

labels

January 27th, 2015

Today, a quick picture from yesterday: putting labels on flacons of Noontide Petals, and polishing the flacons before doing so. I do not like every color equally. The yellow of Noontide Petals, however, is one of my favorites, together with the orange labels of Orange Star (orange being complementary to blue). The labels stick pretty well even without polishing beforehand, but we play it safe there. With their extra thick lamination, and with the labels bending over the shoulder of the flacon, I am always a bit worried that they don’t stick well enough.

Perfumes can be pretty aggressive, from a chemical point of view: Ethanol, and especially some rough other ingredients such as lavender oil can be hard on a label. Especially, when the labels, wet with perfume, are touched. As the label sits right there where your fingers land when spraying, we learned that lamination is key. I learned so 3 years ago. I got labels that were “sort of” laminated, but not strong enough. In daily, average use they’re ok. But on fairs and also in shops where you have everybody spritzing and trying, there the labels really got worn out after a while. Thus, I switched suppliers and technology. A little detail but…. I was always so unhappy seeing my bottles with the should labels being not shiny and looking cheap (the labels weren’t)….

These days, we get our labels from an online printing service, based in Germany. They using super trooper technology and basically, it does not matter really whether you take 10 or 1000 labels at a time. Technology really advanced there and digital printing with laser cutting out of the contours made it all possible. I am not sure it was that easily accessible 10 years ago. The same is true for printing on bottles: lower minimal order numbers, better quality.

And the same is true for perfume creation and production. Prices for a perfume created by a perfumer in Grasse or somewhere else went down. Like: Get a star perfumer (or his lab staff) for … well: Not much.

No wonder everybody seems to get their own perfume brand these days.

 

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20150126s

a glimpse of the creative space

January 26th, 2015

Good morning from Zurich, where I just realized that the first month of 2015 is almost over. Wow. Time is running so fast.

After a couple of intense, out of the ordinary days, we are back to our good old routine this week, with a lot of packaging tasks and paper work that needs to be done. Today’s picture shows you my creative space that maybe looks different to what you might expect. However, this is not the office space where I spend a good time of the day working on the PC and where I try to keep trial vials under control. And where I write most of my mails, answering questions like “I know you do not ship here or there, but can you make an exception for me?” (answer: No we can’t) or “we have this new platform xyz, please send full bottles to review your scents” (no we don’t).

In brackets: The number of new perfume and fashion blogs is still growing and contrary to the bigger brands I can’t really send full bottles and I am also reluctant to send samples, the longer the more. I haven’t really developed a policy for free samples for blogs, though. I guess I need to do that one fine day…

Anyhow, this is the creative space, a room that does not really come with a nice perfume organ (with neatly arranged bottles of perfume raw materials), but a room where you find most perfume raw materials arranged in a chaotic order. The closer they are to the bench, the more often are they used. The raw material bottles are pretty large, but most of them are pretty empty and I just use up what is left for trials. Production material is stored in a different space, and so are expensive, delicate materials that are  stored securely in fridge. Like the tuberose absolute that I got the other day and that sits tightly closed at 3°C now.

So here you find material like Sandalore for instance, a molecule that smells like sandalwood, mostly, and that I use in my scents as it is a great fixation molecule and adds a nice deep woody sandalwood note to the base of scents. Or you find ambrein there, a natural extract from Cistus ladaniferus; woody, ambery, leathery, dream stuff.  This one I actually used yesterday to try a couple of ideas that I have in my mind for a nice amber scent.

But you find more… pictures, sketches, watercolor brushes, oil colors that linger around the corner, a digital screen to work with adobe’s photoshop in order to optimize pictures of bottles and render normal glass flacons into dream stuff. And, not visible here, more trial vials. Basically , the house of tauer is a trial vial swamp.

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20150121s

dream stuff

January 21st, 2015

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.

Happy dreaming!

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20150120s

cheating and roses

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.

Amazing.

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.

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20150119s

typical day in the factory

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.

gulls flying over the Limmat in the evening

gulls flying over the Limmat in the evening

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!

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CurrencyExchangeRate

exchange rates

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.

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20150112s

leaving things out

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:

watercolor sketch

Watercolor of a creek in evening gold.

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.

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20150111s

writing down ideas

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…

 

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