I am the author of Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume, which won the 2001 Sense of Smell Institute's Richard B. Solomon Award. It continues to be translated and published around the world and is considered a cornerstone of modern natural perfume. I have developed my own line of liquid and solid perfumes, face, bath, and body products: Aftelier Perfumes. I co-wrote Aroma, a cookbook about using essential oils, and my line of Aftelier Chef’s Essences are used at Michelin-starred restaurants. I was recognized in Perfumer and Flavorist on their “it-list” of perfumers, chosen on Basenotes as one of the 25 most influential people in perfume, and named by Forbes as one of the top seven bespoke perfumers in the world.
Over the last 20 years of teaching hundreds of students, I developed a format for studying how to create beautiful natural perfumes. The initial portion of this learning is done independently at home, using the Level 1 Workbook to incrementally build your knowledge and skills, working with up to 6 essences blended in oil, which forms the core learning needed to attend my in-studio class. (You can do my Olfactory Workbook at any time, it has exercises over the full range of essences, learning how to choose specific ones by comparing them side-by-side within their families, and discovering the ways they can lock with or bury each other.)
After completing the Level 1 Workbook and learning the fundamental building blocks on your own, you can come study in person with me at the small 3-day group class I teach in my studio here in Berkeley. In class, you will start out with hands-on blending of at least 9 essences in alcohol. This course of study is geared toward anyone interested in learning how to create beautiful natural perfumes, providing you with three things that you need in order to become a good perfumer:
- most important: the ability to edit and revise your perfumes.
- a thorough understanding of the blending capacities of perfume essences.
- how to think about perfume structure.
This level of instruction can’t be done remotely – I need to see how you interact with the materials, and spend some time 1-on-1 (the class size is very small). You will learn the process of “learning to learn.” In the small group environment of the class, you will see many cycles of identifying and fixing design problems in creating perfume formulas, which increases your ability to analyze and improve your fragrances. This is a key step in learning how to critique your perfume formulas. It is very important to understand what contributes to the essences burying or locking with each other; both effects can have either a positive or negative outcome in a perfume blend.
At the studio classes, I work directly with each student in making liquid perfumes. In the mornings, I lecture about specific essences and their unique capacities in a perfume, and we do some odor studies as a group. In the afternoons, students work on a specific perfume construction, sometimes based on the morning lectures, or sometimes dealing with a specific type of perfume, like a floral-floral, or a chypre. After each student has created a perfume, I constructively criticize the results, pointing out where the flaws are, and as importantly, how to fix them. We evaluate again after the students have revised and remade their perfumes. Examining the details of these very specific examples illustrates the broader general concepts, which improves each student’s ability to create beautiful perfumes.
Each student makes 6 perfumes to take home, but the goal is not to make great perfumes in class. The goal is for you to learn to critique your own designs, finding and fixing the flaws in your formulas. Every time you create a new perfume, there will always be new design problems. Learning natural perfumery with me is like studying painting at an art studio; my teaching focus is solely on the aesthetics, not on weights, scales, specific gravity, or how to run a business.
The class fee of $2,000 for the 3-day session covers all materials, including the essences used. The topics include:
- filler & accessory notes
- natural isolates
- burying & locking
- using different forms of particular essences (essential oils, absolutes, concretes, isolates)
- why top notes are so difficult
- final perfume = total lock
- scaling up your formulas using the Aftelier drop chart
- for returning students, at your second class, I will give you the content & format for you to be able to teach a beginning perfume class of your own
The studio classes are scheduled several times throughout the year, meeting for a long weekend (Friday through Sunday, 10-5 each day). Each session typically includes a mixture of beginning and advanced students. When you buy the Level 1 Workbook, your email address is added to the list for announcing the class schedules. Each session is announced several months ahead by email and then filled on a first-come basis. You will receive a Level 2 certificate of completion after attending 2 sessions, a Level 3 certificate after completing a total of 4 sessions, and a Master Level certificate after 8 sessions.