Bonjour a tous!

    New Year’s has come and gone, school has finished and I received my diploma as <<student perfumer>>.  So now what? you may all be wondering?  Well, so am I!!  I am now officially, a student of perfumery!  The next step, technically, classically, is to train under a Nez for 9 more years before ever hoping of attaining the title of ‘Perfumer’.  This is the tradition.  I respect that- but how to do it?  As you know,  I have been offered an internship at Mane & Fils for 3 monthes beginning whenever I choose.  I had heard rumours of what the placement involved, but about a week ago, I phoned the director of the department where I would be working to get a detailed description of the project.  As it turns out- they are creating a data-base containing descriptions of all the most commercial mainstream –shampoos, shower gels, and fabric softeners– from the 8 main marketing regions of the world. It would be our job to smell, evaluate/categorize 100’s of these products and enter the info into the reference library. Interesting?  Perhaps.  But for 3 monthes, full-time, with no hope of working with raw materials, or creation on any level, I question its value.  At least for me.  If I was hoping to get my foot in the door with Mane for a future job, maybe.  But I have to remember why I came to France in the first place- to learn the art of perfume creation in the classical French tradition.  True, there are some great and creative formulae in shampoo and shower gel (believe it or not), but I would not have any contact with the creation aspect of these.  However, I was feeling still very unsure of my decision so went to see the director of PRODAROM ( to ask his advice.  He agreed that perhaps this was not ideal or me, so made a call which got me an interview at Payan Bertand, a Grassois company founded in 1854.  ( I met with the director of the perfumery department and had a brilliant conversation that helped me feel inspired if nothing else.

This man asked me what I wanted with their company (I said, an internship in the creation lab- working with raw materials), and he asked, for how long can you dedicate yourself to us?  (To which I answered truthfully, seems how I’m running low on $- for 1 to 3 monthes).  He then told me that realistically, for a period as short as that, there was not a lot I would learn!  Of course!  He then said, what I really need to do, is set up my lab and get to work practising, because with a year of school under my belt, this is the only way to continue to learn anyway- even under the tutelage of a Nez, one can only continue to learn by constant practise.  He gave me his card and said that he would be there for me if I had any questions at all, and that they could send me samples to help get started. And that was that.  I left feeling quite elated and by the time I got home, I thought, but what if I was to offer myself to them for longer, for a serious length of time.  So I proceeded to write a letter saying that I would be happy to dedicate myself to Payan Bertrand for 2-5 years either here in Grasse or at another of their subsidiaries internationally.  I now await….. But of course, what he suggested is what I really want to do!  Of course!  My passion and love is studying the raw materials so I can fully express myself and create beauty in this medium. But I also know how much I don’t know…and only time and guidance can fill in those blanks.  so how to make the most of my remaining time in the mecca?

Yesterday, I phoned the perfumer Michel Roudnitska.  ( Read the articles here about Edmond as they are most interesting)  I was put into contact by a wonderful woman I have come to know from Toronto who is a friend of his.  (  And next week, I have an appointment with him! This man is the son of Edmond Roudnitska who was a master perfumer and who created many masterpieces.  Their approach to perfumery is the one I am most interested and inspired by- that this is an art form and one that connects deeply with our inner selves.  It is about beauty and the expression of it.   As well, Edmond was the man behind many of JC Ellena’s ideas, including simplicity in formulation.  He was a thinker and always worked outside the constraints of pure commercialism.   I feel like I am going to the source with this move, rather than taking the path most travelled. 

Other than this wonderful upcoming experience, I am also trying to decide when and where for my next steps once I leave France.  (I feel sad even saying that…but I console myself by saying- I’ll be back)  There are a many options written on post-it notes and stuck all over the wall beside me! – 1.a month in Mexico- resting and studying my books- while I wait for the snow to melt in Nelson.  2. a month in Rome volunteering in a cat sanctuary in the ruins (this is something I ‘ve wanted to do for years)( 3. going straight to Montreal to check it out seems how I am seriously attracted to the idea of living there. 4. going straight to Nelson to get to work on my business (it’s so cold and there’s tons of snow!!)  5. contacting an Irish perfumer I have found out about and seeing if he would take me as an intern (postscript…. I tried to contact this man and sadly found his obituary- see below)   Those are the main ones- there are others, like travelling in Tunisia, Morocco or Turkey that have been ruled out due to high cost….who knew it was so expensive in these countries!  It’s cheaper in Grasse!

Since I am feeling quite up-in-the-air right now as to what the ‘best’ decision is…I am very open to advice!  I am feeling quite humble these day actually and aware of ‘all that I don’t know’, so if anyone out there has a perspective, I am interested to hear!

 And by the way, as I wait, I am going through all my perfume samples (all the Miller Harris and many Annick Goutal, for example) and evaluating, dissecting and note-taking.  A great way to keep my nose tuned up!

Also in a few days, it will be exactly one year since I arrived in France!  Un anniversaire d’importance!


Arthur Burnham [May 14, 2007]

Arthur Burnham, perfumer and founder of Arthur Burnham & Partners Ltd., has passed away. Burnham’s 35 year career in fragrance included an apprenticeship at Roure Bertrand Fils et Justin Dupont, where he was the only British apprentice. He also spent 18 years with Dragoco UK. Burnham’s distinctions included a chairmanship with the British Fragrance Association. A talented rowing crewmember at Cornell, Burnham narrowly missed selection for the 1964 Olympics 

Day of the Lunar Eclipse or The Never-ending Day

Yesterday was a day out of time, a never-ending day, a day on which a full lunar eclipse could take place and it would seem entirely appropriate. 


It all began with me waking up for the first time in my new apartment, on the floor, with one hip asleep and my head aching and my eyes puffy and dry.  Sleeping on my yoga mat did not turn out to be nearly as romantic as I had hoped.  A nice hot shower may have been a good remedy for the fairly dark state of mind I was in, but unfortunately, try as I might; I could not make the hot water tank produce anything but cold water.

I dragged myself up through the city to meet the girls at the bus depot with the plan of going to Auchan, a huge ‘hypermart’ where I was to order my fridge, find a hot plate, and hopefully, most importantly, an air mattress, plus get a few other little odds and ends to outfit the place.  .(Auchan, by the way, is like Save on Foods meets Walmart meets Home Hardware, meets Future shop, times 10.) Thankfully, Ana, the Brazilian helped organize the fridge situation -(even ordering a fridge and trying to get it delivered, is tooth-grindingly complicated)- and then the three of us, Australia being the third, cruised the aisles picking out some priority items for me.  It was so wonderful to have such a supportive team cheering me up and simply being understanding as to the challenges of settling in here. I am eternally grateful!  (Tip; a suggestion from yesterday- buy some cheery napkins, they will make you happy every time you look at them!  I, with my slightly neurotic concern for recycling and keeping my environmental foot print light, have never bought napkins or serviettes for myself, so it was a real treat to buy some with a photograph fig motif. – thanks Rebeccah!)

After 2 hours and only about 2/3 of the store covered, we knew I had hit my carrying capacity, so we checked out with chocolate brownies from heaven and caught the bus back to Grasse.


 I barely had time to blow up my new bed (a built-in motor blows up this single air mattress into a wonderful island of comfort) before heading out to the Palais Congres for the 9th Annual JOURNEE du PARFUM – Concours de Nez. This was a complicated event, somewhat tradeshow-like with representatives from various Grasse raw material companies at booths showing examples of what they offer.  Payan & Bertrand was there, showcasing their Australian essential oils, Robertet and Mane were two others.  As well, a society called Osmotheque, from Paris which acts as a library of perfumes and their history as well as being a high security bank for the formulas of approximately 400 perfumes that are no longer produced.  They had samples of perfumes from 2000 years ago that have been reformulated as well as many from the 18th and 19th centuries.  To visit this organization in Paris, an appointment is required, and then a personal tour can be arranged.  Of course, this is now on my ‘to do’ list!

Another part of the event was a competition of the nose- identifying raw materials, perfumes and answering industry questions.  There were three categories; Adultes, Semi-professionels, and Jeunes de moins de 16 ans…they start young around here! I’ll be more equipped to enter next year, both in language and experience.


Finding representatives of the companies who speak English was difficult, and I found myself feeling very frustrated with the extreme limitation that the language barrier is placing on my experience here. French is not a simple language to learn, but I do have the advantage of coming from
Canada and having some background from school.  Yesterday I hit a place where I know it is crucial that I surmount this barrier if I am to really access the opportunities that exist here.


At 5pm, the attention of the day turned to the ‘Spectacle olfactif’ de Michel Roudnitska, son of the extraordinary perfumer and philosopher Edmond Roudnitska.  Michel is a visual artist and perfumer of sorts who sets film and performance to scent. His film, lasting about an hour was a montage of images, music, scent and morphed design from various cultures around the world- Australia, North America, Africa, Tahiti,
Asia, Buddhist culture, etc…..  Each section of the film was punctuated by a fairly intense burst of scent being released into the room.
Tahiti smelled of fruit and the sea, the African safari images of lions and other creatures smelled animalic and dusty dry with resins of trees.  North American First Nation drumming and dancing with desert shots that smelled of cedar and pine with smoke. The music, drumming and chanting soundtrack was interwoven with beautiful images and sound of a woman playing the cello and by the end of the film the audio level was full and loud. Mr Roudnitska’s aim is a full sensory experience, with sound, visuals and smell.  He is the only one in the world doing this sort of art and it is really an amazing experience.  I caught myself wondering how this would go over in NAmerica, where many people are quite sensitive to perfumes; perhaps being over-sensitized by life in general and who seem to be slowly closing themselves to the sensual world of scent.  Here in France, and especially in Grasse, where fragrance and perfume is an integral part of cultural phenomenon, the tolerance and appreciation levels are much higher..  Their love of wine and decadent food is another symptom of this


After the show, everyone made their way upstairs for a cocktail party with cakes and drinks.  All of us from GIP were there, as well as the mayor of Grasse, many old family industry people from the Grasse perfumery world community, of course Mr Roudnitska, and to my delight, my inspiration, Jean Claude Ellena.  Mr Ellena is the Nose behind the Hermes fragrances as well as many others that he has created for the likes of Bulgari, Frederic Malle, Cartier, and many others.  He is self taught, although born and raised in Grasse, and works independently in his lab up in the mountains behind here in a little village named Capris.  This man is a true Nez, a master of this art and I, with much nervousness introduced myself to him and had a little chat.  This was such an honour and such an amazing opportunity.  A few times I looked around the room in amazement that this group of important people, all at various degrees of experience and age, who are the who’s who of Grasse, to note that there were only about 100 people in attendence.  There must be thousands of people around the world who are perfume fanatics and who would have given anything to be at this party, and yet, although the event was open to the public, here in Grasse, it is taken entirely for granted by the masses.  


Later, buzzing with the afterglow of meeting my hero, four of us including two GIP students from last year departed for Antibes, a small city about 25min drive from Grasse, to have dinner and go out for a drink. We parked at the marina which houses huge yachts and sailboats, and made our way on foot through the gate of the ancient stone wall that surrounds the old part of the city.  Our destination was a tiny little Italian pizza joint that serves slices of delicious pizza covered in everything from smoked salmon to chevre. (my favourite)   

Afterward, as we walked out to the sea again, we were amazed to begin to see the Moon being eclipsed by the shadow of the Earth. The air was warm and clear and the 4 of us made our way to an outer section of the marina where a massive luxury liner ship was docked.  Some young guys walked by and said it was Bill Gate’s boat, but who knows if this is true.  Nonetheless, all the boats here are spectacular and this marina is known as the port for absolutely amazing luxury boats and sailboats. (similar to Monaco)

Antibes (pronounced Aun-teeb) itself is very beautiful with its huge stone wall along the water and spotless old streets.  There are many young people here and definitely more of a nightlife than in Grasse.  Keeping our eye on the slowly shrinking moon, we decided to go to a bar called the Australian.  The name seemed so out of place, but we found it to be a bustling large bar with a massive outdoor patio that will be great in the summer.  We got a table by the window and as the moon was slowly eclipsed, we had a couple of drinks and raised a toast to a most spectacular day.

When I finally laid my head down at about 1:30 AM, in my new flat, in Grasse, in France, with wonderful new friends just down the road, and an endless variety of opportunities clustered around my imagination; with the moon once again shining from above, I knew without the shadow of a doubt, that all my dreams were possible.

The first days of school~

view on the walk to schoolIt’s been a few days since my last report.  I have experienced three days of school so far and these have been 3 of the best days of my life!  Day one when I walked into the classroom/lab, and spent time looking at the perfumer’s organ (the station where a perfume is created) and the shelves full of endless little bottles of aroma chemicals (natural and otherwise), I was so overcome with happiness, I felt like melting onto the floor in a puddle of joyful weeping!  Absolute bliss!

 During day one and two,  our professor introduced us to  eleven aroma chemicals.  This is the beginning of a study of 175 in total.   We will learn 10 per day from tomorrow on.  It’s very challenging work, memorizing and then being able to identify chemicals like hexenyl acetate CIS-3,  Phenyl ethyl alcohol, or methyloctine carbonate, by smell,  as well as being able to say what aroma family they belong to (Green, Violet etc) and whether they are a Top, Middle or Base note. bottles of raw materials We are tested by being given random blotter strips and then having to identify what it has been dipped in.   Lots and lots of memory; but memory deeply connected to imagination and descriptive language.  I learned an interestng thing- if we are unable to smell a certain sample, (which happened to me), it means that I have never smelled that particular substance before.   As I worked with it, over the course of an hour or so, I could begin to register it and so developed a new olfactory capability. 

perfumer’s organToday we had a different professor; the one who will teach us the naturals.  He has been working with the natural raw materials for 35+years and is a wealth of information.  He took us through 10 oils- all of the citrus family, including chemical constituents etc.  It’s  surprisingly difficult to identify and distinguish between, by memory, sweet orange, bitter orange, grapefruit or lemon oil, especially when the blotter has dried for 1/2 hour or so.  He instructed us to train constantly, like an athlete, to get to know the materials by heart.  Practise practise practise! our instruction tableIt can be likened to an artist learning and memorizing all the colours; intimately, by name, by scent, by how they develop over time, and by how they interact with each other. 

It’s interesting to note that I smell in colour.

 I am feeling exhausted, but happier than I have been in years.  Perhaps happier than ever before- C’est ma vie!

sunrise with the pigeons

the telling dream

arrivingLast night I dreamed I was telling someone that I was moving to France to study perfumery (as I have been doing for months) and, with a jolt, realized that there was no future tense to the story any longer;  I was already here!  In a millisecond, all the blanks were filled in, what my flat looks and feels like, what the city is like, the surrounding countryside- it was startling. 

I think this means I have really arrived- it has sunk into my cells, it’s not a concept anymore.  I am here.

meeting the others…

looking out toward Cannes- note the pollution…Yesterday I decided to embrace the Riviera and catch the bus to Cannes.  So far, my biggest venture beyond the old city centre has been the 3km walk to find my school.  This process of acclimatizing to a new environment/culture/life has been an interesting and at times a daunting process.  I’ve been watching myself take it in stages, creeping out from my hiding place under the covers and making my orbit from home larger and more encompassing every day.  At first when I would step out my door I felt so exposed and vulnerable.  I felt like everyone was looking at me and saying to themselves, see her, she doesn’t speak French and she has no idea who she is here, what a stranger.  It has all been incredibly unfamiliar, and the unfamiliarity is unfamiliar.  (having spent the last 12 years in the same small town…)  Part of the challenge, I think, is that I am not a traveller here.  I’ve travelled in the past and in that role I am an observer and everyone knows it and I feel comfortable.  This is different.  I’ve moved here.  I’m making this foreign place my home amongst people whose home it is.   They don’t know that unless I tell them,  I’m realizing, and as the days go by, I do tell them.  And they welcome me.

Now, here I was yesterday,  excited that my trepidation was vanishing and I could hop the bus (for 1euro30) and spend the day shopping and rubbing shoulders with a whole other breed of people.   Someone told me that the sister city to Cannes is Beverly Hills.  I’ve never been to California, but the Cannes I saw is all about money and fashion.  Lots of money and very high fashion.  Oh, and lots and lots of little dogs.  This is the French Riviera after all.  That said, there were bargain racks galore and I found a few great things that fit my budget.  (the Zara store is wonderful…)

place de le petit dejeuner…Today, I had the pleasure of meeting five of the other students (they had already connected)  and the six of us drove up the mountain together to an amazing very posh house surrounded by olive trees and gardens with a view out toward the sea .  (I didn’t really get the whole story, but apparently it is owned by the daughter of the landlord of one of the group…)  Anyway, it was just us there, a very mixed group, one each respectively from Japan, Brazil, California, Sardinia (the only male), Australia, and moi- Canada.  The Sardinian cooked us lunch and we all ate pasta together at this great long table in the marble floored dining room.  Each person shared their intriguing story of why and how they have ended up here, to study perfumery.  To summarize:

Japan– works for a large cosmetics company doing research as to the efficacy of the physiological effect of fragrance. 

Sardinia-barely speaks English, so as of yet, I don’t have his story.

Brazil-is a vivacious high powered lawyer who since childhood has felt that her sense of smell has been extraordinary, becoming more so as she has aged.  She has left her former life behind to come here and pursue her gift.

Australia– has been working with a perfumer in the industry in her country and wants to take it further; wanting especially to eventually find placement in a European company.

California– is a micro-distiller!  A very interesting girl, and as interested in the naturals as I am.

Canada– that would be me, and I am here to formally learn the art of perfume formulation and to study the over 500 raw materials that will be taught in this course; therefore enriching my knowledge base and developing myself as an artisan perfumer/nose/entrepreneur. (to put it a bit more succinctly than I did at le petit dejeuner….)mimosa and hyacinth- the perfect perfume.

So that is my report for today.  I am about to spend the rest of this full moon night curled in my loft, the moonlight pouring through the skylight and the scent of fresh mimosa and hyacinth infusing the air.


 13th century doorways into the bishop’s palace that are now a fountain- I can hear the water from my flat.Other wise I would like to post the question for anyone who might know- can I absorb the calcium that is in the mineral rich water?      (the ground water filters through limestone to feed the spring that provides Grasse with its water. )

My kettle build ups a layer of white inside every 2 days or so.