natural perfume

Skive is a winner! J.Hannah Co. in the house

Did you hear the good news!? Skive won an Art and Olfaction Award in the Independent category. Natalie and I are tickled pink that Skive is a winner in such a prestigious award.

I traveled to Los Angeles and was so pleased to meet my outstanding colleagues in the world of artisan perfume. There are far too many to list here, so check out these fun pictures of the night.

Art and Olfaction 2015 Finalists and Winners. 

Art and Olfaction 2015 Finalists and Winners. 

Jessica Hannah of J.Hannah Co. with the Golden Pear. Skive by Canoe, winner in the Independent Category.

Jessica Hannah of J.Hannah Co. with the Golden Pear. Skive by Canoe, winner in the Independent Category.

Skive, Art and Olfaction Winner 2015.

Skive, Art and Olfaction Winner 2015.

Skive is a tribute to Natalie Davis's work, capturing the essence of her sun-drenched leather design studio, animalistic with hints of freshly brewed tea. Skive consists of carefully chosen oils with aromatic qualities reminiscent of fresh turned earth, old wooden cabinets, sweet tobacco, and dried tea leaves. This natural perfume celebrates both craftsmanship and outdoor adventure. 

J.Hannah Co. Beginnings and Pure Fume

People always ask, “How did you get into perfume?"
Like any pursuit, it's challenging to pinpoint the exact beginning. It’s more likely that seeds are planted over a long period of time. Maybe it began as a girl smelling my grandmother’s perfumes, or skipping down her mint-lined sidewalk. As a teenager I stumbled into a job spritzing perfume on passersby at the mall, which paid handsomely but left me in a bored high-heeled agony. I had an inspiring time post college working in a high-end bath product boutique in Chicago, and later still I  made my own soaps. I would linger in the local natural food store and dreamily smell essential oils.
Things really took a turn when I returned to graduate school and earned a degree in interdisciplinary art focusing on media and performance. I created interactive performance installations, that I admit were some of my favorite work.

Showroom No.6, by Jessica Hannah. Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee, 2008.

Showroom No.6, by Jessica Hannah. Photo by Sarah Jane Rhee, 2008.

In all my time creating I continue to find experiential artwork that engages the senses to be my favorite. So in an effort to create a platform for such work I teamed up with the talented Ania Greiner co-curating Food & Performance. This showcase of performance art involving edibles brought out some outstanding creative minds. I was fortunate to work with cutting edge and damn fine artists during this period.

Milk Nest, by Janet Schmid, Photo by Cynthia L Post, 2011.

Milk Nest, by Janet Schmid, Photo by Cynthia L Post, 2011.

Through it all I was taking perfume classes, reading olfactory books on aroma, making horrible perfumes, learning from my mistakes, falling in love with gorgeous natural fragrances, and exploring the olfactory arts. I was dedicated to improving my skills and it has taken many years to be where I am today. My work is a gift and I love sharing it through workshops and bottles of aroma.

So it's been awhile since I created an artwork outside of my perfumes. All this blending is informing my art making process and leaving me questioning. What would my installation look like? How would I share an aroma outside of a bottle? Is it possible to investigate the perfumer's process through installation?  In all of this working and questioning I am fascinated with the fecal animal essences, which have been around for ages. So, when the opportunity arose for me to install art in a gallery bathroom, I jumped at the chance, because perhaps, just perhaps, the evolution of the scent will include your input. Join me this Saturday March 28th in Chicago's Slow gallery, in the Loo to sniff Pure Fume, my olfactory installation.

Pure Fume, by Jessica Hannah, 2015.

Pure Fume, by Jessica Hannah, 2015.

J.Hannah Co. Tincturing Ambergris

One of the most fascinating aspects of natural perfume are the animal essences. They are beautiful and mysterious. When dosed properly, they can add magic to a perfume. One of the most intriguing gems is Ambergris.

Ambergris is whale excrement and considering one of the most valuable and precious essences in natural perfume history. It is thought to come from squid beaks that lodge in the intestinal track, causing irritation and then expelled from the whale. After floating for a long time the substance gets more firm and is found in the ocean or on the shore. The lucky folks that discover ambergris are rewarded handsomely. Many a sailor dreamed of retiring after finding a chunk of "floating gold".

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Today I am tincturing my ambergris through a very simple process. First I will grind the semi-soft stone then place it in a high proof perfume alcohol. It is warmed for a few hours in a double boiler, then left to steep for months.

What does it smell like? Every piece is a bit different, but to me the common aroma is a cross between amber, marine, and sweet powder. 

My first whiff of ambergris was years ago when studying with Mandy Aftel, and it's intoxicated me ever since. To learn more about ambergris, I highly recommend Mandy's magnificent new book, Fragrant.

Ground Ambergris

Ground Ambergris