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Throughout the run of The Taming of the Shrew, a dynamic lineup of special events will offer everyone a chance to live in the world of the production. Designed to look like the open-air markets of Padua and curated to appeal to savvy, contemporary customers, the Piazza d’Amore will host unique shopping, show-related discussions, special performances and culinary events. At the same time, Padua Finishing School will offer artistic workshops that encourage life-long learners to explore new things. The workshops feature some of the best craftspeople, designers and makers in the area, not only allowing our patrons to meet local artists but also to get their hands dirty and make art of their own.
On Friday, June 3 Florescent perfumer Susannah Compton led a sold-out Botanical Perfume Making class. Beforehand, we caught up with Susannah to ask her a few questions.
STC: What kind of art do you create?
I handcraft perfume using pure botanical ingredients and offer workshops on natural perfumery. I work with plant-based distillations and precious absolutes like true jasmine and rose as my medium, so what you smell comes from real flowers, herbs and other botanical aromatics. This is pretty unusual in the perfume industry, since the majority of fragrance we encounter comes from synthetic scents that were created in a lab by a chemist. Botanical essences have depth, complexity and a life force that’s missing from synthetics.
Where are you located/where do you offer workshops?
You can find my perfumes and workshop offerings at florescent.co. In addition, The Lemon Bowl, a creative studio that offers many crafty workshops, hosts my perfume workshops.
Is there a specific time period, artist or region that inspires your work?
My work takes inspiration from ancient Egypt, which many consider the birthplace of perfume, as well as Paris at the end of the 19th century, when perfume began to really emerge as an art form. Modern art has also been very influential, particularly on the aesthetic of my brand. I’m grateful to have access to some of the best museums and galleries in the world here in D.C.
What do you wish for people to learn in your workshops?
I hope people will engage with their sense of smell in a whole new way and learn that creativity can also be applied to scent. Our sense of smell has the ability to move and transport us like nothing else. It’s a direct line to emotion, memory and our most elemental desires.
What’s your origin story as an artist?
I’ve maintained creative practices my whole life, and perfumery has been my most fulfilling one yet. I began working with botanical aromatics about five years ago, blending first for practical and therapeutic purposes. As I began to encounter some of the more rare and precious natural essences, I felt drawn to work with them in a creative way. The leap to making perfume didn’t feel intimidating because I understand flavor, smell, ratio and balance from a culinary perspective and from a fine art perspective. I just had to figure out the technique and quirks of the medium so I could create the scents I wanted to wear. It turned out to be way more complicated than I imagined, but I fell in love with the process along the way and stuck with it.
If you really taught at a finishing school, what class or lesson would you teach young girls?
I would teach a class in herbalism and the practical applications of herbs for everyday health and wellness.
Make a metaphor: how is your work symbolic of a marriage or union?
Perfume is the marriage of distinct, individual aromas that merge to form an entirely new fragrance. The perfumer must choose wisely because some aromatics will clash and fight, creating a putrid stink while others will overpower the blend entirely. The perfumer must know how to navigate the peculiarities and distinctive nature of each essence in order to create something lasting and worthy. Perfume must have balance and harmony in order to transcend and be lovable.