Each year at my Artist’s Open House in Brighton I create an installation in my shed/studio…themes over the years have included Shipwrecks, Pioneer’s Cabin, Nesting, Frozen in Time and the White Shed.
Earlier this year when I was working on the #myStJames project I visited Floris in Jermyn St, London; the oldest perfumers in the country, and I was absolutely fascinated with how a perfumer almost seems to paint with scent. ( you can read an earlier post about it here )
It made me become incredibly preoccupied with scents and memories which is why I decided I wanted to crete a space where people could almost smell their past and to ‘dress’ the shed with a feeling of nostalgia and personal history; something smell and scent gives immediate access to.
When I told Floris what I was going to do they kindly provided me with lots of scent samples which I was then able to subtly place within drawers, boxes, tins, jars and even a couple of handbags and a book; sometimes on their own and sometimes combined with other elements…I was also so chuffed when Susan Beech from A Petal Unfolds agreed to let me include some of her incredible paper flowers and Cable and Cotton gave me extra lights for the ceiling.
Also as a synaesthetic artist I often paint smell ( and taste ) and so also included within the installation some paintings which depict scent. When I was little my mum put a scented sheet of purple paper into a drawer in the spare room…I used to go in on a rainy day just to open it and take in that smell.
I can still recall it; not in a very tangible way, but more like recalling a dream; one of those you never forget…
As an abstract painter I enjoy emotional responses rather than representative, and was completely taken by surprise when I found myself weeping at the scent of ‘Iris’ having emotionally revisited one of the happiest times and places of my life 30 years ago, for a matter of seconds.( the handbag above contains ‘ Madonna of the Almonds’ by Floris as well as a dusting of talc, the small top box contains ‘ 1962’ scent by Floris and the glass jar contains ‘Lily of the Valley’ by Floris )
( the binoculars case below contains Scent ‘No. 127’ by Floris, blended in the 1800’s. It’s one of my favourites because it is like directly smelling history ) ( drawer above contains ‘Palm Springs’ scent by Floris ) ( drawer above contains ‘Cerifo’ scent by Floris ) ( drawer above contains ‘Edwardian Bouquet’ scent by Floris ) ( drawer above contains ‘Honey Oud’ scent by Floris ) ( bag above contains ‘Mahon Leather’ scent by Floris ) ( above is some of my mother’s old cream from the 1970’s and a box with pencil shavings inside ) ( drawer above contains ‘1988’ scent by Floris ) ( lilies and a painting of their scent behind )There are 75 smells in the shed which you can experience in boxes, jars and drawers ( anything containing a smell has a little round sticker on unless it’s a plant ).
You can pick and choose and let the smells take you back to places you’d forgotten or never even thought about.
The identity of the smell itself shouldn’t be important; it’s where it takes you in your memory which should be savoured.
So far people have had some incredible responses and everyone has come out telling me stories of smells from their childhood or past…some of my favorites so far have been:
‘I’ve just smelt a ghost’
‘That smells like an old lady’s chair’
‘Oh my God, that’s the school soap!’
‘I’ve just visited my Grandpa’s front room’
( tin above contains ‘White Rose’ scent by Floris )( incredible hand made paper flowers inside a drawer with the scent of Floris’s ‘Edwardian Bouquet’ from A Petal Unfolds )
I’ve also included some smells which are not so nice…not many, but I wanted people to experience a range, so if you visit, beware of this tin…it contains asafoetida!!There’s nothing quite like opening a drawer or a box which not only has some interesting bits and pieces inside but which also has a specific scent…I have absolutely loved putting this installation together and I think it is only the start of a new phase for me of working artistically with smell!You can visit the Open House and experience The Scented Shed, in Brighton during the last 3 weekends of November 11am – 5pm, and you can follow the accounts @64sandgate on Instagram and Facebook for more details