As some of you may know, I went from being a perfumista to a dedicated DIYer about two years ago, and have been avidly encouraging all budding perfumers to go forth and create lovely, peculiar, and amazing smells ever since. I’ve also been exchanging creations with a number of other DIYers, and have been particularly enchanted with the works of Teresa Csorba, an American perfume fanatic/nose who enjoys creating in a spirit similar to C. Brosius; in other words, she loves to make evocative perfume oils that conjure up particular places and times. I was fortunate enough to interview her recently and here is her story.
Marla: When did you first know you were a perfumista? How did your family and friends respond? Which perfumes were your first loves?
Teresa: My sister and I quit smoking together about 13 years ago and our reward for a week without smokes was to go to the local perfume oil shop and buy something. They offered custom mixes and we started mixing our own instead. About two years later, I had the yen to do more elaborate mixes and that shop had closed, so I started buying basic materials to mix at home. They were mostly mood-sachets rather than perfumes, at first. For example, I have one named after a rigged wooden ship (the Wawona) that contains birch tar, an equivalent of oakum (the hemp jammed between the deck planks to water seal it) and a turpentine note. Smells like a wooden ship!
As for first loves in perfume, I think my most vivid memory was a school carnival with a coin toss where you could pick from a range of donated items as your prize. I spent a whole lot of money to win a little bottle of Chanel No. 5, and while I’ve never been able to wear that scent, the memory stays. I lusted after that itty bitty jewel bottle and didn’t stop till I’d won it (annoying a lot of people, no doubt.)
Marla: At what point did a love of perfume turn into a desire to make things for yourself? What pushed you in that direction?
Teresa: Mass-market scents seem to always be very similar to each other or very expensive. There's also a general “perfumeyness”, to make up a word, about them; they have no reference to the world around them except to smell nice on the skin. The same thing that drives Demeter and CB I Hate Perfume is what started me out on this expensive hobby. I want to make moods and atmospheres in scent (like paintings, which I'm not good at making); the aforementioned “Wawona” smells like walking the deck of a rigged ship; “Twilight” smells like an autumn night outdoors; “Adventurer's Club” smells like a gentleman's turn of the century club with tobacco, leather and wood. And I also have ended up making scents that just smell nice on the skin, too and making scents for family and friends, some of whom can’t wear store fragrances. I'm having fun.
Marla: What are two of your favorite creations, what inspired them, and how did you go about making them?
Teresa: I’ll pick two good winter scents to combat this snow we have right now. The first is “Sacred Smoke.” I’d been doing a lot of research and reading into ancient lore and very darkly moody and evocative history, and wanted a scent to go with that. Labdanum and rue are the main components, with a synthetic smoke element to give that dark feeling of burning herbs. Then I had to lighten it a bit, so nutmeg and cedar lift it. Yarrow gives it a green feeling and also happens to figure very largely in mystic herb lore, so that was a must-add. Overall, it came out very dark and herby. It’s one of my favorites for the changing times of the year. On the other side of meaningful, I did a series of three based on a favorite movie. Here comes the geek in me: the Russian book series and SciFi film “Night Watch”. I made fragrance pictorials of three of the main characters. My favorite is of Anton Gorodetsky. The character is a cynical, frustrated romantic caught between the light and dark of two worlds, but he also represents old Russia as it tries to deal with the new world order. So naturally, I ended up mixing nothing but stereotypical Russian notes, a couple of ambers, an aged leather, coriander for leaven and rum, because Gorodetsky drinks too much, and vodka isn’t a note I had on hand. It’s very masculine, but both my sister and I wear it.
Marla: What are some ideas for where you are headed next? What inspires you currently?
Teresa: I’m planning on putting up a website offering five of my scents and also bespoke scents for those who would like to try that for a reasonable charge. Many bespoke sites are so staggeringly expensive that only the very rich can have a personalized scent and I think that’s very sad. My next project will most likely involve something spring-like, so I may have to get a hold of some lilac essence. I’m currently leaning towards spring, probably because winter is so cold this year!
Marla: Any funny stories about making your own perfumes you'd like to share? (Here’s my own: I'll never forget the time my youngest son answered the phone, and I heard him say, "No, Mom can't come to the phone right now, she's in her basement lab, sniffing stuff.")
Teresa : I have nothing as funny as yours, but spilling a bottle of synthetic sandalwood was a sad moment. The whole room stank of it for weeks and while I used to be okay with sandalwood, now I can’t bear it. I only use it in small doses now, in the base.
I hope Teresa will come out with her line soon, as I’ve tried her creations, and they are exactly as she says- evocative, poetic, and memorable. Cheers to all you creative noses out there!