Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A language of scent

magickalrealism's Textures photosetmagickalrealism's Textures photoset

I'm rethinking smell. Perhaps not rethinking, exactly - smell is smell, technically one of the five senses but also somehow more involuntary. We can take steps to block out sights and sounds, even block out physical sensations by wearing gloves and thick clothing - but with smell, well, even nose plugs have an odor.

While we mainly associate smell with taste - because the next closest similarity we have in the layers of information we get from smell is by inserting something in our mouths - I'm starting to reconsider smell as an extension of touch. First of all, the comparison of smell to taste belies a few assumptions: coffee in no way tastes how it smells, for instance. While I haven't run around tasting my essential oils (an experiment bound to end with a hospital visit at the very least) I'm reasonably certain there's no way they taste like they smell, either.

I've also found that certain scents and their quality might possibly vary based on cultural experience and geographical location. There is no one scent that smells good to everyone. There's a filter going on. Also, if you create a perfume that to the knowledge of your scent-memory isn't comparable to anything else you've smelled, what then?

This is why I'm experimenting a bit with my perfume listings on Etsy. I'm completely reconsidering not just smell, but how I describe it. Right now I'm experimenting with the language of texture: rough or smooth? thickness: does it feel light, or heavy? Does your mind conjure an image of a clogged pipe? Speed: this isn't just sillage and evaporation rate, this is how fast it hits your olfactory nerve and whether it makes you go cross-eyed (some people like that.)

Is it a perfect system? Probably not. But it seems like, especially amidst the challenges of online sellers, it's the way to go.

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