perfume

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. at West Elm with Being Elliott

The very talented fashion stylist and blogger Brynn Elliott, of Being Elliott, is curating a pop-up party at the Austin West Elm with a smoking hot lineup of local makers including Esby, Leah DuncanPlante Clothing, and this lucky gal!

Brynn and I swooned at the idea of collaborating on a perfume, so she's taking a break from her busy schedule to indulge in a private blending session at my studio. And guess what folks? We are giving away samples of her gorgeous custom natural perfume at the event. Free Perfume? Yes, please! It's a limited supply so come early and we'll see you there.

J.Hannah Co. Botanical Friday: Virginia Cedarwood

Virginia Cedarwood (juniperus virginiana) is the epitome of wood notes in natural perfume. It's a top note with a warm dry quality, helpful in dampening down overly sweet blends. There are many types of cedarwood including Atlas, Himalayan, and Texas, all of which have completely different woody aromas. 

Some people instantly think of old cedar chests and high school wood shop class when they get a whiff of this essence and it's for good reason. Virginia Cedarwood is distilled from timber waste from pencil factories and sawdust. Seriously. How about that for an amazing reuse!!

In my practice, this essential oil has been very useful to impart dry clean depth in men's fragrances, oriental blends, and herbaceous formulas. Smell Virginia cedarwood for yourself at an upcoming natural perfume workshop!

Cedar Pencils

Cedar Pencils

J.Hannah Co. Botanical Friday: Bulgarian Rose

It's Bulgarian Rose harvesting season! What better time to highlight the flower considered one of the most important essences in perfumery. As a new perfumer, I wasn't always a fan. The oil smelled too stuffy and "old lady" like, but I have grown to adore rose oils and traveling in Bulgaria made me greatly appreciate it's history and origins. Wherever we traveled, everything was coming up roses!

Bulgarian Rose Festival. (image from bulgariatravel.org)

Bulgarian Rose Festival. (image from bulgariatravel.org)

Roses have many various species grown all over the world and in Bulgaria they grow the Rosa Damascena. The Bulgarian Rose Valley near the town Kazanlak is the heart of the oil production. Most of the harvesters are women who work with a delicate and painstaking patience as to not damage the flower. When the flower is distilled it produces essential oils and hydrosols, commonly known as rose water used in personal care and cooking. The harvest happens May to June, and also includes local rose festivals celebrating Bulgarian culture and the treasured national symbol. 

Damascena Rose

Damascena Rose

In perfumery, rose can make a formula find cohesion. It can soften rough edges. It can bring together dissonant oils in the bottle as if they are meant to be together. Seriously, you can't go wrong by adding a few drops of rose. This video at the Bulgarian tourism portal highlights the rose harvest, rose museum, and the local rose festival. 

Want to create a perfume with rose? Join us for an upcoming workshop!