Interview with Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids

pollack representational1)      Do you have a smell from childhood that you loved-anything from your Mom’s perfume to your dog’s paws-and what was it?


When I was about two years old we moved from the house where we had been living. As my parents packed things up, I remember sniffing the windowsill in the bedroom and feeling a little distressed to think that the new place wouldn’t smell the same. I really loved the smell of that house.


2)      Are you a synesthete, do you “visualize” odors, or “taste” colors, and does it affect your output?


I don’t like to use the word “synesthete” because it sounds like a special ability or superpower (on the positive side) or a psychiatric disorder (on the negative side). I think everyone probably has some degree of “synesthesia”, but have unconsciously learned (and/or been taught) to suppress it. The phenomenon of psychedelic visual phenomena typically associated with music shows that when certain inhibitory mechanisms are released, “synesthesia” can occur in anyone. Having said that, odors to me have a shape, color, texture, and density, and sometimes patterns of movement. So does music, but much more dynamic. Having a very concrete visualization of odors helps in remembering and identifying materials, analyzing and synthesizing (in the cognitive sense) and figuring out when I have achieved the emergent properties (shape) that I’m aiming for in a blend.


3)      How do you see people using your perfumes, as accessories, personal signatures, or therapeutically?


People are free to use my perfumes in any way they like, and I’m sure they use them in all of the ways that you mention. I make what I like, and don’t target a specific demographic or use.


4)      If perfumes can be categorized as narrative (like Jean Patou’s 1000) or as abstractions (like No 5) or mood altering (like Eau Dynamisante) or evocative (like L’Heure Bleue) which are yours?


All of the above and more, often many or all of these categories simultaneously. The Devil Scents are obviously narrative, Sonnet XVII, Olympic Amber, and Ballets Rouges are abstract, and I hope all of my perfumes are evocative of something. Probably the most clearly evocative are the scents of place, like Olympic Rainforest, Kingston Ferry, and Blackbird. Every perfume in existence is mood-altering, so this is a given.


5)      Do you have a particular material you prefer to work with or that you always return to?                                             


I have a fairly large set of materials that I like and find easy to work with, but I’m continually in search of new, exciting materials that will change the way I formulate perfumes.


6)      What is your current best seller?


Olympic AmberCurrently my best-seller is Blackbird. Earlier this year it was Olympic Amber. It changes with the seasons and what people are writing about online.


7) Which of your perfumes are you proudest of, and why?


That’s sort of like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite! I’m proud of all of my perfumes, all of which have their fans, but mostly I’m proud of the learning progression I’ve gone through, from making fairly simple and crude scents when I first started tinkering with perfumery, to making more refined compositions as I continue to experiment and learn. The biggest source of pride and enjoyment comes from having gained the skills and confidence to push beyond the boundaries of conventional, formulaic perfumery to realize a personal vision.


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