what I want to do

I don’t want to flatter people, I want to excite them. I want to challenge them a little, or a lot if they can take it. Perhaps i’ll practice the art of challenging people just as much as they can take, so that they dig deeper each time. I think being flattered is a theme of our times, and that it is poisonous to people’s ability to think for themselves, think more holistically or think of themselves as part of communities.

painting and perfuming

I find lots of similarities between composing a perfume and painting. Creating accords is analogous with mixing  raw colours to make the perfect colour to convey what you are imagining or what from life you want to recreate. Paints, like perfume materials have different textures, opacities, weights.. Putting them together in a painting is about balancing instinct and control, with each colour/texture suggesting or demanding what needs to be done around it, what needs to happen next…And its all about your responses and memories and dreams... Yes, I would go so far as to say that perfume is the main medium I am working in at the moment.

Here in Scotland there is an embryonic interest in perfuming by independents, or smaller brands. There are a couple of people making perfume here I believe, and some critics and bloggers, but its yet to really take off. This interests me too, the combination of being a country in political flux and struggling to express itself culturally and the potential for something like perfumery. I’m fascinated by the idea of expressing the nature around me that I love, the feelings it evokes, and landscapes, and also the emotive and philosophical responses to that land and natural world. 

Quote: Giacomo Leopardi

“We say that someone of serious intelligence and determination is bound to achieve great things in the world, that surely he won’t remain obscure, whatever his circumstances. But the habit of prudence in matters requiring careful thought inevitably precludes quick, deft resolution; prudence retards progress and delays execution. Because of this, men of great, hard-working genius are often, almost always really, prisoners of their own irresoluteness - they are indecisive, shy, tentative, uncertain, fragile, inept at following through. Quite unlike those who rule the world, where decisiveness, not prudence, gets more done more quickly - that’s why the world is always left at the mercy of mediocrities.”

from Zibaldone di penssieri

Vero Kern

I have been wearing Onda Voile de Parfum for two days after hearing the sad news that Vero Kern has died at the age of 78. I love Onda, a deep, dark and mysterious vetiver, spicy, woody and honeyed perfume. I also have it in eau de parfum which has a wonderful passionfruit top note which makes it exciting and a bit loud. I’ve worn the latter during open studios or other times when I want to say I’m here and I’m just as you find me, no compromise! I find Vero Kern very inspiring, an lady full of life and vigour and sexiness. I’m inspired by her story that she only started as a perfumer in her 60s. I believe she was also a friend of Andy Tauer, another independent perfumer I admire, and there is a wonderful short film of the two of them on one of their regular walks in the local park together, smelling lilac blossoms. With Vero Kern’s passing I renew my intention to explore the vivid and so-alive world of smells, and materials, and perfumes, and I renew my intention to just start being damned uncompromising. A fire in my belly for social issues, planetary action, love for nature, and for independents, people making things they love and pour passion into, making where they live and work places full of life and sensory joy. I go into 2019 taking no prisoners. Thank you Vero!

Vero Kern (image taken from Grain de Musc)

Vero Kern (image taken from Grain de Musc)

Poem: ee Cummings

into the strenuous briefness


handorgans and April


i charge laughing.

Into the hair-thin tints

of yellow dawn,

into the women-coloured twilight

i smilingly

glide. I

into the vermilion departure


(Do you think?)the

I do,world

is probably made

of roses & hello:

(of solongs and,ashes)

Quote: Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

“A time has come for new ways of telling true stories beyond civilisational first principles. Without ‘Man’ and ‘Nature’, all creatures can come back to life, and men and women can express themselves without the strictures of a parochially imagined rationality, No longer relegated to the whispers in the night, such stories might be simultaneously true and fabulous. How else can we account for the fact that anything is alive in the mess we have made?

Following a mushroom, this book offers such true stories. Unlike most scholarly books, what follows is a riot of short chapters. I wanted them to be like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after a rain: an over-the-top bounty; a temptation to explore; an always too many. The gesture to the so-much-more out there. They tangle with and interrupt each other-mimicking the patchiness of the world I am trying to describe.”

from ‘The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins.’

Quote: Giacomo Leopardi

“The reason we don’t feel the worst possible physical pain is because it either knocks us senseless or kills us. We don’t feel the worst sorrow while its at its worst; it stuns us, confuses or overwhelms us, makes us unrecognisable and unknowable to ourselves, estranges us from our feelings and the object of our feeling; we’re immobilised, our inner (and, so to speak, outer) life ceases to stir. Thus we don’t feel the worst sorrows, don’t feel them in their entirety, when they first befall, we know them, one by one, as we advance through time and space. And not just peak pain, but every peak passion, every sensation that, even if it’s not the greatest, is yet so extraordinary and (in whatever way), great, that our spirit can’t contain it all at once. Supreme joy would be just the same.”

March 4, 1821

from ‘Zibaldone di pensieri’, translated by W. S. Di Piero

I know this intimately. This is trauma - the body and mind immobilised in order to protect the subject’s ability to continue, to persist, during the now, and survive into the future. If you were able to experience all as it is right now you would go insane. You would be so close to the truth of existence that you could never go back again to any sense of ‘normality’. Afterwards you feel the urgency of this message from the universe, but you also feel somehow you have mislaid it. This is both beautiful and tragic.

Poem: Charles Baudelaire

There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,

Sweet as oboes, green as meadows

- And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,

With power to expand into infinity,

Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin,

That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.

from blog post by Bois de Jasmin on the Perfumative Zurich

Quote: John Lilly

“The miracle is that the universe created a part of itself to study the rest of it, that this part, in studying itself, finds the rest of the universe in its own natural inner realities.”

from Centre of the Cyclone: Looking into Inner Space

Ghost Vessels

When blood vessels in the retina are occluded and blood flow is prevented, the empty vessels can be seen on specialised images as ethereal empty tubes, which ophthalmologists refer to as ghost vessels. When these vessels have no blood flow they can no longer inform the retina and sight is lost. Retina damage disturbs the person’s ability to use sight as a way of gaining information about the world around them.

The term reverberated with possible meaning for me. A vessel holds something, but an empty vessel has an absence, a loss of purpose, like the retinas if they no longer help the person to see the world.  Similarly, after death, the ghost has lost its vessel, the body, and looks back into the world of the living, with longing and despair. Even amongst the living, some are lost on this far shore, viewing themselves as if from outwith their own bodies. They feel a sense of ‘not being themselves’, or not inhabiting their own vessel.

The Ghost can’t understand why they are outside looking in. Ghosts are both there and not there, sometimes visible to the living, but diaphanous. Ghosts linger on the edges of perception, on the edge of our sight. Death is the ultimate absence. The person has gone and those they leave behind can remember and can still  see the deceased in their mind’s eye. This lingering is a form of ghostliness, and it serves as a reminder of what is lost. Being a ghost is a living death, two opposite concepts which cannot hold water. I wanted to create vessels which couldn’t contain anything, which had lost their purpose.  

Making Ghost Vessels

I collected twigs, and honoured them with black, white and red paint. Twigs are a tree’s vessels along which its sap flows. When it breaks off the tree it dies and becomes an empty vessel. I bound the twigs together roughly and instinctively with wire and string, creating vases, or vessels, which are incapable of holding liquid. As I painted them and bound them together, they began to take on an uncanny sense of life, a twisted energy, evoking movements such as struggling, wrestling and dancing. Surprisingly, from the exploration of purposelessness new forms of energetic life seemed to emerge!

I took photographs of the twigs in a variety of environments, and of the ghost vessels  in ways which revealed the unexpected inner life I had noticed. I explored the twigs’ shapes by drawing and printing them, going back and forth between presence and absence. The images were reminiscent of the empty tube shapes of the opthalmologists’ images. Lastly I overlaid the ghost vessels I had drawn with scraps of paper and printed them again, creating blank spaces, evoking sight loss. 



I have a beautiful new space to work in. I like the experience of leaving my home and going somewhere else to work for the day, or evening. Home is home, where I have a garden and a bed in the eves of the house, where I can lie listening to sea birds and night birds. I think when I’m at home, but I find it easier to have a separate space In which to put things together afterwards. A space for my mind to see what I’ve done. Especially at the moment, while its so muddled and slow, and my memory isn’t great. Visually, in order to see, I need clarity and light with nothing around cluttering up my periphery. Having this new space has already been very clarifying while I prepared for the open studios.