My friend has the ability to remember every detail of who ate what at which restaurant in which year; whether they liked it, who served us, who rode home in which car, which couple had a fight… I am continually amazed by her (and grateful, since my memory is often so appalling I rely on her for the recollection of some small detail when reminiscing; she is our group’s keeper of history; it is dazzling!)
When it comes to me, well, I’ve dabbled in useful/useless skill sets, but one thing is clear: I’ve always had a super-sensitive nose. Sometimes more of a curse than a blessing, I have fun with it anyway and I am realising now how much this sense of mine has begun to lead my life in new directions. The sense of smell is deeply, deeply powerful; a host of both memory and small pleasures.
Dating sites are filled with flowery-dreamy ‘like’ lists which start so often with ‘I like how the grass smells after rain’. And clichés abound around wood-fires and salty sea air… During my MA in Creative Writing, I learned to be jealous of these clichés, but to avoid them, always, so I’ll go another way; personally I adore the scent of cut garlic under my fingernails; the tiny, fragile scent of windswept bluebells (preferably experienced while lying among them; an exquisite and highly-recommended, sensual experience sadly too often left to us art models). My dog (a long-haired chihuahua who feels most comfortable in rainbow hand-knitted jumpers) smells like custard creams. The cushions I leant against while I reclined nude in front of a painter every few days for a year (my first sustained foray into the modelling world) had a certain smell (of incense, tapestry, conversation; art itself; of endless glass vases full of paintbrushes). The entire island of Bali is a song of ‘come back!’; it smells of canang sari offering, ginger tea and epiphany; the collaborative interaction of grains of rice, frangipani flowers, sweet snacks and burning sticks all arranged in the coconut leaf baskets which grace the edges of pavements, doorways of temples; all tinged with the fiery bolt-pasts of moped petrol oils.
Ah, I’ll take the bad with the good; it’s worth it.
For me, the urge to create manifests also through cooking, which I see as a parallel art (since so much of what I create for my skincare & beauty is entirely edible; why not?). I like working with pure, innocent plants and learning as I go; there is nothing flimsy or wan about this; plants can be gentle, yes, but they are also intense, vibrant, distinctive and powerful, and when brought together from their individual shelf-places and nudged together like notes in a symphony, can render surprising results and new, colourful ways of being. Free-styling this way in the kitchen (experimenting, playing, failing, succeeding… instagramming, unashamedly) has led completely naturally (in my mind) to creating my own natural beauty products and now, every day, I wear plants – plants which heal, soften, nurture, protect & transform.
People think I’m mad when I reformulate a ‘perfectly good’ hair serum for the eleventh time simply because I know it can be even better. If something doesn’t smell like a gift, it isn’t worth putting on my body or in my hair. I have said before that this is an entirely selfish whim; I am only, always, aiming to please myself. I am indulgent.
There should be a lightness in beauty; a swift transmission of the truth of something real and pure (heavy, synthetic fragrances always seemed old-fashioned to me, even when they weren’t). …Or there should be no ‘shoulds’, but space for the belief in this kind of stuff; the wild art of innocent beauty.
This time last year I had no idea I would be reading books on business mindsets, going on practical courses, turning my home kitchen into a lab, taking over vast cupboard space with glass jars full of botanicals, extracts, plant oils & powdered clays… I really had no idea. All I knew was that I didn’t want to put false, synthetic, unprouncable chemicals on (=in) my body anymore; I wanted to make more and more of my own – individual masterpieces I truly had confidence in – until everything in my bathroom cabinet, each jar or tin parading its promise of health and beauty on the porcelain shelves, came from my own hands. I only want to get better, and share what I’ve learned to create.