WELCOME TO JORUM JOURNAL ISSUE 19
JORUM JOURNAL is a monthly glimpse behind the scenes at independent perfumers Jorum Studio. Find out what’s inspiring us, what’s motivating us, what we’re celebrating – the thoughts and stories behind our unique fragrances.
AUGUST at Jorum Studio brought the Edinburgh International Festival – a month of comedy, theatre, art, music and cultural events which leave Edinburgh abuzz with creative energy and visitors from across the globe.
On our blog, we delved deep into Rose Highland and Spritcask, two fragrances from our Scottish Odyssey collection. We also thought about creating travel scent memories, and what to consider when looking for the perfect scent to capture your travel adventures in Scotland and elsewhere.
A moment with: Gabriela Silveira
Photographer Gabriela Silveira recently captured some of our best-loved scents through her extraordinary lens. We catch up about her creative practice, immortalising scent in image, the inherent politics of gender, the body and environment, and more...
What drew you to plants and flowers as a subject?
I began using flowers as still life subjects during a period of great change in my mid twenties. I find them fascinating because they are coded with so many different meanings – an expression of love, a heavenly gift, the circle of life and death, beauty, youth, femininity, etc… they have a rich symbolism to draw upon whilst, at the same time, being ‘just flowers’. As someone that hates talking about their work, I love that it can be easily read as ‘just a picture of a flower’. I suppose it allows me to ‘talk’ about things without really needing to talk about them.
Who/what are your biggest inspirations and influences?
I take most of my inspiration from reading (literature, poetry, theory) and nature. For something specifically visual, I am inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's flower paintings and Erwin Olaf’s magnificently lit, subversive photographs. The depiction of lighting in Dutch Golden Age paintings is a heavy influence in my work, as is Edward Hopper’s ability to depict these lonely, liminal atmospheres.
You often combine botanical subjects with the human form – ‘flesh’ – is there an ideological connection between the two within your work?
Yes, this is twofold.
1: The flower is a symbol for beauty, sex and death. The body is the subject of beauty, sex and death.
2: As a ciswoman brought up in a highly sexist culture, the understanding of the (female) body – flesh – is that it exists only for the pleasure of men and outside of this context not to be flaunted. The flower is the ‘sex’ of a plant, but it is coded as something beautiful, pure, a gift from heaven. The sex of women (the only context in which the flesh is permissible) however, is disgusting, perhaps even the ‘original sin’.
We loved your beautiful photographic interpretations of our fragrances. What is your process when it comes to capturing something as intangible as scent in an image?
Because scent is so personal (the way I interpret it will be very different to someone else’s interpretation) I think it’s important that key fragrance notes are used in the composition of imagery which will be used between advertising and editorial. This gives a grounded visual cue for what the perfume actually is. From this starting point, the emotions that each perfume evokes for me is the way I’m able to translate it into images.
My process for this photoshoot specifically was to first study the notes, key fragrances and reference pictures. That, alongside the background colour, which is strongly connected to each perfume, gave me a starting point to figure out what kind of elements I wanted to include in each composition.
After receiving the perfumes, being able to study each (on a piece of paper, as I didn’t want my skin to affect the fragrance) then gave me a strong idea of what lighting and mood I wanted for each composition. Gorseland for example is a very happy and fun fragrance for me, so I knew that I wanted to make that a dynamic, flower-filled and bright composition. Atheneum on the other hand is a very comforting and calm fragrance, which I translated into a softer light and darker atmosphere.
We love your ongoing series entitled ‘MOTHER’, which shows a diminutive figure enveloped by the vastness of nature. Can you tell us more about this project?
Speaking here from a western (colonial) perspective, our society perpetuates this pervasive line of thought that the mind/intellect/MAN is ‘high culture’/GOOD, and the body/wisdom/nature is ‘low culture’/BAD. The former signifies men whilst the latter signifies women (hence we call it Mother Nature). We are fed this myth that men are distinct from nature (see the definition of nature on Oxford Reference: the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations) so that we can dominate and exploit it. MOTHER is about reconnecting to the world and, in turn, oneself. Portraying the body (naked, no armour, vulnerable) and nature, not as low culture/bad, but as indispensable.
I think that this distancing from nature – climate change, individualism over community, mass extinction, etc. – is the root of a lot of anxiety in our era. Caring for the world as part of oneself, as opposed to a separate entity, is the wisdom we need to move forward.
Do you have a favourite scent, botanical or otherwise?
Petrichor – it has a strong nostalgic quality for me because the sunshine and summer storms in Brazil often make it have a very intense smell. Sadly in Scotland it’s a much rarer occasion so my fondness for this scent has increased.
You were born in Brazil, and now live and work in Scotland – how do you feel that either or both of these places have informed your work, if at all?
I can tell you that my aesthetic has changed a lot since I moved to Scotland. The colours I gravitate towards tend to be a lot more muted (I honestly couldn’t understand when I first moved to Edinburgh, in the middle of winter, how people could find themselves in the city – so many streets and trees are the same tones of greys and browns!)
My sensibility for lighting has also transformed. In Brazil it’s so much brighter, bold and stark, whereas in Scotland there’s this beautiful quality to the light where even in the middle of summer, solar noon is never really high in the sky, which gives more nuances to shadows and the way it shapes objects. Winter light in high latitude places is frankly heart-achingly beautiful, everything looks like a painting when the sun is shining so softly.
I think I could summarise this as: living in Scotland has given me more appreciation for working with soft nuances, whilst living in Brazil has underpinned the bold and colourful in my work.
Can you talk about a potent scent memory that you have?
I actually really struggle to link memories to scent, most of the time when I come across a scent that is meaningful to me, it evokes emotions quite powerfully. Sometimes I’m able to pinpoint it to a person or a location but mostly it harks back to a feeling that is related to the scent. The one memory that I have is entering the orchid room for the first time in full bloom, at the Glasgow Botanic Garden glasshouse, and immediately being transported back to my grandmother’s house.
My grandad used to have an orchidarium in the back garden and whenever there were blooming orchids, he would bring them into the house for my granny. I stayed with them for a few months while the flowers were blooming, but I had never linked that scent to their house until entering a room that was thick with the smell of orchids.
It was such a commanding emotion which immediately filled me with saudade for her (it wasn’t long since I had moved away). I always hope it will happen again when I enter that room, but so far it hasn’t.
Currently, what is the most important thing to you about your work?
For my personal work, the most important thing is helping me navigate and understand the world. It’s all for me, and I found it to be a powerful tool to work through niggling emotions and feelings – as opposed to commissioned work which is all for others. For that, the most important thing is creating effective and striking imagery that helps independent makers and retailers further their work.
Lastly, what does craftsmanship mean to you?
Craftsmanship for me is creation out of love. I believe that there must be a good amount of love involved to be able to create something to such a level of excellence.
The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
A haunting novella situated on the boundary between the divine and the mundane.
Guitar: The Shape of Sound by Ultan Guilfoyle
100 years of guitar design – inspiring, especially so for our perfumer Euan.
Babble by Charles Saatchi
Guaranteed to bring a wry smile to your face, these diary-like passages contain humorous musings from one of the best minds in advertising.
Material focus: Gurjun Balsam
One of the mildest but most useful woody materials available to the perfumer, Gurjun balsam holds many secrets. There is an inherent black pepper spiciness, characteristic woodiness, an oily resinous quality that is varnish/ lacquer-like and a damp rooty quality that’s very appealing and useful.
Gurjun balsam can be used with a lot of freedom, using large quantities to create more Gurjun-centric profiles or can be used as a modifier with other materials in creative ways. I find that Gurjun balsam is more useful playing a supporting role, helping to modify and improve the strength or character of other materials.
Beautiful profiles can be created using other woods, roots and balsamic materials such as amyris, copaiba, vetiver, sandalwood, cedarwood, guaiacwood and labdanum.
It’s a silent but crucial building block in our perfume Athenaeum, adding inky oiliness and polished wood richness to the profile whilst helping to add more dimensions to the massive inclusion of patchouli oil.
As a side note, despite there being no Gurjun balsam present in Gorseland, there is a Gurjun-like tonality that rises over time, deriving from the inbuilt cannabis accord.