We present to you Ally Northfield's essay that captures the essence of her journey through the world of natural perfumery. Ally's heartfelt words reflect the profound impact of her experience at the Natural Perfume Academy, painting a vivid picture of the transformative power of botanical fragrances. Her exploration, learning, and growth mirror the essence of our academy's ethos, resonating with the dedication and passion that have shaped our 15-year journey. Join us in celebrating this milestone and immerse yourself in Ally's eloquent testament to the magic and artistry of natural perfumery.
Assignment Final essay Ally Northfield
I had no idea what to expect about natural perfumery. If I was to describe how these last many months have gone, I would say that this has been like unwrapping the most delightful alien. I have figuratively walked around this course, inspected it, perused it, tripped over it, poked it, shaken it, washed it, walked away from it, tried to explain it, embraced it, done a million things instead of it, but above all, have absolutely and totally fallen in love with it.
A casual thought...
This has not been the easiest journey. I started from the point of view that we have a finca, we wanted to grow lavender but had no idea what to do with it, except make soap and candles. Just like everyone else. So, I thought I'd better get a bit more experience of how scents work together and sudden Iy it was like playing a part in a bizarre movie where you walk through a bubble of something gooey, and everything just simply takes off.
The beginners mind...
I have had to approach everything with a beginner's mind. Early assignments reflected this, putting leaves in a fridge, taking them out, crushing them, smelling them. This was accessing a place in my head that was delighted with the apparent simplicity of process and overjoyed at the results and complexity of thinking olfactorily.
Mistakes, trips and tumbles
Alongside the beginner's mind comes the beginner's mistakes. At times I have not had the vocabulary to express what I am doing, I still struggle with definitions, top, middle, base, and classifications. I have admired the discussions between course participants and realised how much skill there is in perfumery as an art and how much more skill there is to natural perfumery.
It always takes me a while to understand and believe in what I am learning, so I have returned and revisited course work so frequently to elucidate what steps I've needed to take. And in the end, it is all about the doing. I've had some real blunders. I realised only when I was working out my final dilution ratios of my first accord that I'd approached the Jean Carles method back to front. My scales were measuring ounces instead of grams, which freaked me for a moment until I realised that weight is weight, as long as its used consistently (but I need to replace my glasses!). Above all, I have realised that this art demands your time. It cannot be hurried. It can be planned, made more efficient, but cannot be hurried. And I have built a great deal of respect for this, and I hope an understanding of what lies ahead.
I am lucky in that I have options, a garden, a field, existing plants that are now starting to make themselves known, such as the beautiful Linden tree. With this comes responsibility. How much of the Linden tree blossom would I take to experiment? How much do I leave for nature? How many orange trees would it take to create a beautiful absolute, and how much do the bees need what I would like?
This course, and by default natural perfumery, has made me seek out help and brought forward people with skills in planting and natural regeneration, and a plan that is doable rather than overwhelming. I now know I can give back to nature and make our patch more healthy and nurtured. I’ve realised I don't have to use my own plants in all my perfumes. I can seek other contributors; I don't have to carry the load and for me that is really important; to be able to love what I do and relax and enjoy it.
This is exactly what I didn't know I wanted, and exactly where I want to be. I feel as though I have found a voice I never knew I had, and have been gifted an opportunity to work with nature in a way I genuinely did not expect. And yes, there may, or may not be candles and soap, but there will definitely be perfume.
Ally Northfield's journey through the world of natural perfumery has been nothing short of inspiring. As she unwrapped the layers of this aromatic art, she discovered a newfound love and passion. Ally's dedication to the craft shines through her words and experiences, reminding us all of the transformative power of natural perfumery. If you'd like to follow along with Ally's future perfumery adventures, you can find her on Instagram at @tribeally
Thank you, Ally, for sharing your beautiful journey with us!