Thirteen thoughts from perfumers around the globe. Each perfumer profiled at Perfume Polytechnic has been presented with the same set of thirteen questions that probe into scent memories, imagination, education, history, the creative process and philosophy. How each perfumer answers these questions, and what form the answers take, is up to them. Tune in each week for a new instalment to learn more about the olfactory arts and how perfumers think about smell.
Today is the second of five, weekly instalments in Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts. Today’s interview features JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes, who is based in Southern California. JoAnne is a certified aromatherapist, Royal Alchemist, natural perfumer, and teaches scent appreciation classes and “Create Your Own Perfume” workshops. JoAnne’s perfume company is a green company, using sustainable materials, some of which she grows and extracts herself. She is the author of Sacred Scents.
Last week Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes answered the thirteen questions. You can read her interview here. Coming guests in Series Two of Thirteen Thoughts include Andy Tauer, Ellen Covey and Shelley Waddington.
You can catch up with Series One of Thirteen Thoughts here.
The intention of Thirteen Thoughts is to let each perfumer speak for themselves about who they are, what drives them, and what they do with fragrance, so without any further ado, let me introduce you to…
JoAnne Bassett of JoAnne Bassett Perfumes
Tell us about a significant olfactory memory from your childhood.
I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. We had huge lilac bushes that were more like trees. Every Spring we would have large vases in our house. I remember every room filled with this sweet yet tangy smell. I will never forget that.
What is your “origin story”? When, why and how did you decide to become a perfumer?
In 1993 I became a Certified Aromatherapist. From the beginning I would make aromatherapy synergies for stores, resorts and salons. These were often commercial fragrancing projects using a diffuser I imported and private label lines. The owner or manager would always want me to make them a natural fragrance. So I started making perfume potions and then I created eau de parfums. It really just happened all by itself.
Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or are you self-taught? Have there been any mentors or other personal or cultural influences on your work as a perfumer?
I took a blending class for my aromatherapy business but I am self-taught as a natural perfumer. I did not have a perfume mentor.
Who are your favourite perfumers or perfume houses, and what do you like about their work?
I love the style of the French perfume houses like Guerlain. Beautiful and elegant bottles and packaging. A modern-day perfumer I admire is Roja Dove. He has class and some of his perfumes I tried in his store in Harrods in London I enjoyed as well as the bottles and packages. My style of perfumery is classic and I admire perfumers and perfume houses that still honor that style.
Describe your brand to us: tell us about the kind(s) of perfume that you make, as well as your brand’s philosophy or ethos.
When I was five I started wearing fragrance so by the time I was in my late 30’s I became chemically sensitized and could no longer wear my Joy or Chanel 5. So for me to wear perfume I had to create it from essential oils and absolutes. My indie, artisan and niche brand is based on 100% natural perfumes using only essential oils, absolutes, tinctures and macerations that I make from my own plants, and flowers. I use organic and wild crafted oils when I can find them and really like supporting the small distillers and farms.
My favorite material I like to work with is rose otto and have a good collection of them including Bulgarian vintage white rose. It is the “flower of light”. I love working with the vintage oils I have and use them mainly in my Custom Bespoke Perfumes.
My perfumes awaken the beauty within™.
How do you come up with the idea for a new perfume? For example, do ideas come to you spontaneously, do you work conceptually, or do you try to fill gaps in your range?
My perfume collections have come to me as a result of my travels. The places, and the memories they evoke make it easy for me to be transported back and to create my experience and put it in a bottle. If I discover a new essential oil I may create a collection around that like my Royal Alchemy Collection has sacred frankincense from Oman and I named them Sacred Frankincense 1-6. Often a name or an idea comes to me and I just create the perfume from there. It is very easy for me to do.
What element of your perfume making process do you think readers of this blog would be interested or surprised to learn about?
Being a Royal Alchemist I perform alchemy on the fragrances I create. They are filled with energy and intention. They are much more than perfume.
I am a Couture Custom Perfumer and I create custom perfumes that transform people’s lives using my gifts of clairvoyance and more. In my 22 years of creating one-of-a kind bespoke perfumes, I have seen miraculous transformations in my clients’ lives. My gift of working with Divine energies enables me to combine precious oils to support clients and miraculous changes come quickly and effortlessly. Both my male and female clients have experienced miraculous changes in their relationships, finances, jobs and where and how they live.
What are the current challenges you face as a perfumer, both creatively and in regard to manufacturing, distributing and marketing your perfume?
In the US we have not had the compliance issues that the IFRA (International Fragrance Association) regulations of Europe have caused. I feel it is a matter of time before we will have to comply also and can no longer use oakmoss and some of the ingredients they suggest. It affects our distribution as we have to follow their guidelines to sell to the countries being regulated.
There are also many new artisan and indie brands coming to market; both natural and synthetic brands. The market is full of new perfumes and the niche brands are saturated. Finding a way to be different and to be found is key. My quality of ingredients sets me apart and you can smell the difference.
How has your work as a perfumer affected your perception of everyday smells?
My nose has always been very sensitive. So nothing is different there. I continue to be curious about any smell I do not recognize.
Many ingredients that are edible are also used in fragrance (chocolate, vanilla, coffee and rose, to name a few). If you could reverse this process and turn any perfume ingredient into an edible ingredient, what would that be? Which fragrance ingredient do you think would taste nice as a flavour?
Tuberose would be my choice. It is so sensual.
If you had a time machine, which historical period in perfumery would you like to go back to and work in as a perfumer?
The Belle Epoque (“Beautiful Age”) in France.
If you could invent a new olfactory gadget, tool or technology, what would it be and how would it benefit perfumers and/or society?
The ability to extract raw materials like lilac or violets easily and effortlessly would be a dream. Now we have to tincture or enfleurage raw materials and it is a lengthy process.
What is the purpose of perfume?
In general to make you feel good. My purpose is to Uplift Humanity’s Consciousness Through Botanical Fragrances™.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s interview with JoAnne Bassett. I would like to extend sincere thanks to JoAnne for taking the time to answer these questions and to share some of her thoughts and philosophies with us. I really enjoyed finding out about JoAnne’s interesting work with alchemy and clairvoyance: such an interesting way to create perfume, infused with healing energies. If you want to find out more about how JoAnne became a perfumer and her journey into scent, her book, Sacred Scents, delves into these topics more deeply.
Visit Perfume Polytechnic next week to find out how the marvellous Andy Tauer answers the thirteen questions in Thirteen Thoughts, a Perfumer Interview Series. Sign up to follow this blog so you don’t miss an episode of this series with fabulous perfumers from around the globe.
All interview answers and photographs were provided courtesy of the perfumer, and remain their intellectual property. All interview questions remain the intellectual property of Perfume Polytechnic. Please do not reproduce interviews or images without permission.