I spent an evening making perfume with Jessica Hannah. She teaches workshops all around the country but calls Austin, Texas, home. She's composed small batch perfume collections alongside several designers including Natalie Davis of Canoe Goods and stylist, Brynn Elliott. Attending one of Jessica's workshops is not crafting perfume- it's engaging in often ignored sensations, conversing over the complex histories of fragrance and man, and sharing laughter at a table of new friends.
Jessica is a performance artist with degrees in film and interdisciplinary art and media. She is vivacious and fills the room with her warmth and energy. Jessica recalls disparate notions and histories and braids them into fascinating stories during her workshops. She attended the Institute of Aromatic Studies in San Francisco and apprenticed with Mandy Aftel in Berkeley and builds on that work with her own anthropological research.
Each student gets a board with top, middle, and base note options. We sample and learn about the origin of each oil over the course of an hour before mapping out our own formula. Jessica meets with each student, tweaking the formula to make sure one note won't overpower another. She then pulls from her library and begins dropping 2 drops here then 6 drops there of mossy vetiver, sweet rose, and resinous olibanum.
We were able to share our own experiences with fragrance starting with a father's after shave or a high school girlfriend's CK 1. I have strong memories of my Nanna Clyde's Oscar de la Renta perfume. Our ability to link memories to smell is the greatest strength of our sensory organs and perhaps our most primitive.
Jessica has an ingoing calendar of workshops including 2 in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois, at the Botanic Garden and a workshop at the Dallas Arboretum. Check for her next event here.