Botanical perfumer Kirsten Schilling has just begun rolling out a series of short videos I made to promote her brand, Arabesque Aromas. Ms. Schilling is an artist and an artisan. No only does she make incredibly unique botanical perfumes but she also has published an aromatic cookbook and, most recently, a beautiful collection of short stories.
This is just the kind of project that I really enjoy. Kirsten came to me with a good general idea of her goals, and then we talked about aesthetics and tone and structure and her desire to keep it as raw as possible. Modest projects like this remind me that the simplest approach can often be effective, even when my tendency is to “produce” as much as possible. I used only the gear I had on hand, and we did very few second takes. The result I think is very quaint and sweet and authentic. As an art historian and archivist, she is a treasure trove of knowledge on the kinds of subjects a lot of kids just can’t afford to learn about in school these days. There are perfumes inspired by literature, legends, and personal travels. Of course, I spent too much time researching archival imagery to illustrate these lush stories. I wanted to make short docs out of many of them!
I’m a big fan of these perfumes. I despise artificial scents of all kinds. I would make a feature documentary about aromatic pollution if anyone out there would fund it. People often seem to be rolling their eyes at me when I protest to exposure to things like so-called “air fresheners” in cars and office buildings. It sometimes feels as though our built environment desensitizes and leaves people unable to empathize with those of us who truly feel we are being assaulted by toxic chemicals. But, alas, rant over.
I wear The Star Seller all the time, and I have The Virgin and the Gypsy for special occasions. Everyone’s chemistry is different, so I would not recommend any one particular perfume. It’s worth it to order a sampler and try them out for yourself.
I spent a good deal of time over the previous decade (do we call them “the teens”?) following and interviewing artists who struggle to balance marketability with artistic vision, and I know firsthand how challenging it can be. Ms. Schilling has a very strong sense of integrity in her work as a botanical perfumer. She clearly does it because she loves it. And she still holds down a full-time day job! She is a true inspiration.