Lampblack by Bruno Fazzolari
Every evening before sunset, the preparations for the lightless hours commenced: father would fill the lamps with petroleum, trim the wicks and replace the spent ones; and mother would clean the soot off the fragile mouth-blown glass shields with a round bottle-brush. This job had to be done well ahead of time to ensure they are completely dry. Failure to do so would result of the glass exploding into shreds once the heat of the flame kisses the damp glass.

This is how I grew up, in the dim light to do the homework to in contrast to the blasting Mediterranean sun. Moths and fireflies will gather around the lamps and candles, often sacrificing their tiny lives by getting too close to the light... If you were too light-greedy by raised the flaming wick - the exact opposite result will be achieved: would  too much soot will collect rapidly on the glass, blocking the light and create more work for the next day...

One day technology arrived at my home village in the form of solar-power, and the petroleum lamps and all those little strange mundane details of electric-free life were almost forgotten... Until I encountered Bruno Fazzolari, a visual and perfume artist as well as an art educator - and his new perfume collection of 5 fragrances with the eponymous title. I instantly fell for two out of the five, and learned that the soot collecting on such lamps has a name, and is also the most ancient of all pigments: Lampblack.
Petroleum lamp by MrsFaraway
Petroleum lamp, a photo by MrsFaraway on Flickr.
Lampblack is not an isolated perfume - it was debuted as part of an art show at Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco, alongside a series of Exploring the relationship between art and perfume is a controversial and difficult subject (for many reasons I feel should be the topic of another post) and it's both exciting and encouraging to see an artist taking the risk and seriously pursuing the challenge.

Lampblack pigment is not simply black - but also possesses brownish or blue background hues that might show more clearly to the untrained eye after the colour fades a bit. It's a very versatile pigment - and is used to create India Ink, as well as black water colour and oil paints.

The primal, basic nature of lampblack pigment appeals to me. There is something very straight forward about it; yet also a mystery. It connects the innate need to tell a story through the ages - on cave walls or the Metro station.

Lampblack perfume encompasses that connection: it has some very prehistoric elements such as the smokiness of nagramotha (cyperus, a relative of vetiver that has an almost tar-like scent that is not unlike petroleum at its pure state); an ink-like quality that makes one think of the cold steel from which bridges are built. Strangely enough, it also reminds me of a visit to a fisher's docks in Haifa in elementary schools, when we were shown a cephalopod and the ink that comes out of it. There was a salty, metallic scent in the air of a rainy winter day, the rusty ships and wet wooden docks.

Upon application, Lampblack possesses an abstract yet familiar freshness merged with woodsy and mineral elements: sulfuric grapefruit, flint-like black pepper and woodsy sandalwood and vetiver. Quickly, a turpentine-like smokiness of nagramotha interferes with the agreeable opening, and an abstract array of molecules that bring to mind ink and minerals. Underneath it, if you listen carefully, there's a quiet jasmine note peaking through the rather angular structure, echoing the "fruity magentas" and splashes of yellow that are peaking through the buoyant spills of thick India ink in the artist's painting - but perhaps it's the other way around. Powdery benzoin mellows out the dryness of the woods, suave and absorbent like rough watercolour paper.

Lampblack perfume and the entire collection of 5 can be purchased directly from the artist's Edition webpage, or via his Etsy shop.

Fashion, Clutter, Trends, Seasonality...

If you're puzzled by the title of this post, I'm not surprised. There seems to be little connection between these three words. How this came up in my mind is by observing how other designer friends of mine work and how easily they can move from one collection to the next as the seasons change. They can abandon completely a certain style (or a whole bunch of styles) from last year or even last season, and just move on... Snap!
Like that.

Of course, you can see some connection between styles, or gradual development of a certain pattern from season to season. But with all due respect, these folks (i.e.: fashion designers of all sorts - clothing, bags, accessories, bikinis, jewelry...) can just do something else every season and get away with that.

And I envy them for that!
Yes, I do.
Because perfume used to be the one thing that people don't change with fashion. It used to be the person's "second skin" which they identify with, and maintain regardless if their outfit is gray, blue or green; or if they're wearing a flapper dress or a jumpsuit. It used to be unrelated to fashion altogether until Coco Chanel introduced her No. 5 parfum. And even than, perfume was complementary to the fashion, rather than part of fashion trends.

Nowadays, however, there are "trends" in fragrance that change every 1-3 years or so. Some three years ago or so orris was all the rage, and orris butter disappeared from the market faster than you could utter its name. Than it was agarwood, which became a staple for any self-respected niche house. And now it may be tuberose or lily - at this point I just don't even care!

The longer I am in this business of making scents, the less sense it makes to me and the more inclined I am to just do my own thing and disregard what's going on out there. At this point I just find it overwhelming and a little discouraging that there are indeed trends. I know this is just a mood of mine and that too shall pass. However, right now, I feel no inclination to follow a trend or even launch any new perfume this year. Next year, maybe. If the timing seems right. I have about 5 perfumes that are pretty much ready to go as far as formulation, name, concept... I just don't want to launch them right now in this atmosphere where you must have at least one new perfume every season if you want the media - magazines and blogs mostly - to pay attention to you.

My publicist sent out press releases introducing my brand (which was pretty much undercover for its first 5 years of existence, and had nearly purely online publicity for the past 4 years, lead 100% by yours truly, who was doing all the footwork of being involved in perfume communities and offering my expertise and engaging in passionate discussions about anything perfume related - from raw materials to vintage perfumes, to taking photographs of my own bottles to contribute to community forums). Yet, now that finally hardcopy magazines are getting to known about my brand, it's not enough for them that what I do is unique and unusual and that they've never heard about me or smelled my fragrances before - all they want to know is what new perfumes I'm going to launch.

I apologize in advance for ranting and venting - but I'm getting a little fed up... My profession walks a very fine line between the sacred and the profane (perfume has spiritual and religious significance to most people; yet the first topic of conversation with a layperson about perfume will ultimately lead to pheromones within the first 20 seconds of conversation); expertise and quackery (no one REALLY can predict how any combination of notes would smell like together, not to mention on any particular skin!); and the thing that I'm most concerned with no: the fine line between it being a commodity, a fashion accessory or an art form.

Are my perfumes verses of poetry that are only uttered once they touch the skin? Or are they an adorement for the body, just like makeup or jewelry? Or, perhaps, they are nothing but a fashion accessory to make a statement about one's style and social status, selected carefully yet randomly to match your outfit, leather bag and a pair of stilettos?

So what is it really? Do I need to roll in a new perfume every season, like a fashion house, and dispose of all the oldies - in order to be noticed and survive in this competitive market? Or do I just go about my business in whatever pace I feel like for introducing my new creations? The latter seems like the way to go - following my own heart and my path. Having the freedom to choose when and where is the right timing for something to come out...

Yes, it would have been nice to launch a new fragrance this winter; and I had one planned out but an element is missing there that is out of my control so that means that the timing is not right (it was going to be launched along with a complementary tea, but that tea is not nearly ready!). My focus this year was going to be on the complementary products, such as the body products, and also the new chocolate bars - as a way to expand the experience in which fragrance can be enjoyed and incorporated into modern lifestyles to enhance, enrich and bring moments of sensual pleasure that descend above mere hygene or skin care. To me, having those little rituals on a daily basis is part of the "art of living". It is part of how I feel I can make a difference and make the world just a little better for my friends, family and clients.

My philosophy in my own personal as well as business life is that of maintaining a balance. A day is not complete if I don't include certain elements that I made a priority in my life. If every day could be my last day on earth, than I'd rather spend it doing what I love and what I care about the most: spending time with my loved ones (family and friends), being creative and productive doing my art and work, taking care of my physical body so it's well nourished and active and feels part of this beautiful world, and also spend some time for reflection, relaxation and quite.

The latter seems to be the area most people around me find most challenging to pay attention to - and the experience I'm trying to create at my studio for my guests, as well as the actual products I develop - are designed to fill that gap. Come to my studio, and you will have to slow down your pace a bit because the colours here are both crisp and serene. Because when you come in you will step out of your shoes (both literally and metaphorically) and make some time to sip tea, savour truffles, and explore the different perfumes I created, or the natural raw materials, which are like keys to long forgotten chapters of our own history, and to unexplored realms of the depths of our souls.
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