For all it’s challenges one of the things I’ve enjoyed about the numerous lockdowns we’ve had in the UK over the past year is the amount of Zoom learning I’ve been able to take part in. While there’s nothing like physically going to a class, interacting with others & learning in person, having the technology to take part digitally & do so from home comes a close second.
The cost of these digital workshops is often more affordable & bite sized too, meaning it’s been possible to dip a toe into a new subject or craft & see what I think. I’ve learnt a traditional Japanese mending technique called Sashiko with & patched my jeans, learnt visible darning to mend my threadbare socks, learnt the basics of botanical bundle dyeing with Cara Marie Piazza live from her New York kitchen (certainly a class I wouldn’t have been able to take part in otherwise!). Learnt about foraging for native plants to turn into infusions & vinegars with John Rensten (pictured above) and the basics of Cyanotype prints with I Printed That. All from the comfort of home with a cup of tea & notepad in hand. Some of these classes have been co-ordinated by Toast with the added benefit of the proceeds going to charities.
In the lead up to Christmas I took an online Zoom class with a health & wellbeing social enterprise called Hackney Herbal. Abi, a knowledgeable Aromatherapist guided us through the process of blending essential oils to give as gifts. We focused on blending festive oils like cardomom, mandarin, frankincense & myrrh into room sprays & talked about the similarities between blending oils & blending flavours when cooking. Much like cooking, experimentation to find out what works for you is all part of the blending process.
It got me thinking about the seasonality of scent, what do the seasons smell like? While we may be very familiar with seasonal eats, the idea of seasonal fragrance struck me as something around us constantly, but which we‘re not necessarily very mindful of. Possibly because smell is so personal & evocative. When designing my soap bars I think about specific seasons, places, plants, scents, & experiences that I want to capture as well as having an idea of the ‘feel’ I’d like to convey with the scent, for instance should it lull & relax the senses or uplift & awaken?
For me winter is the smell of coniferous trees, Pine, Cedarwood, Juniper & Rosemary, resinous, musky, herbal, in the Forest bar. Along with the Grove bar, think leafy groves of new season Italian citrus, bright skins which once peeled release potent natural oils into the air, Bergamot, Orange & Patchouli essential oils to revive & enliven.