crafts, handmade life, photography

A trick of three notes

This week has been an interesting one.

As you know, I kick-started the training session, which left me achy for the whole week. It serves me right, though, maybe next time I won’t leave it for as long. Still, it was good aches, the right kind.

Work was very busy, but I enjoyed the week. Some projects I had been working on for ages were put on hold, but other that came unexpectedly came out quite right, so I’m happy about the overall outcome. I’m also finding I like designing logos more and more!

On Wednesday, my team and I finally had our Christmas team outing. We had decided to postpone it, since we didn’t have much time before the holidays. Our boss had kept it secret, so we had no idea what we were going to do, or where! It was quite exciting, I must say, although I was worried I wasn’t going to like it. I tried, however, to keep an open mind (read be quietly judgmental if it wasn’t to my liking).

After taking the Tube and walking for a bit in the Marble Arch area, we arrived at this little store/workshop called Homemade London. As soon as I saw the window, I fell in love with it. Step in, and you’re welcome with a wide, long table in the centre of a room dotted with crafts supplies here and there. I could see a stack of different fabrics in a basket, countless of scissors and pens, pins, ribbon… Of course, I had the biggest grin on my face ever!

After the disappointment of discovering I had forgotten my phone in the office (which I hadn’t, actually, but it was just hidden in a weird place in my bag) I decided I wasn’t going to post any pictures or statuses, and just document the evening with the DSLR I was carrying.

The big surprise was unveiled – we were to create our own perfumes! So exciting!

Nicola kindly guided us through the entire process. First, she explained how perfumes work. I had no idea there were different notes to a fragrance – base (bass?), middle and top. She divided the scents into those three different categories and carefully handed us paper strips, so we could smell each scent and try to guess its name. I have to say I was very bad at naming them, and even worse at spelling them: petit-grain, juniper, neroli, cardamon, geranium, patchouli… I did, however, linked one of them to the chemicals in a portaloo (yes, I’m looking at you, ylang ylang), a scent strong enough to mask about anything, if you ask me.

Some smells were wonderful, and others I hated. Of course, each of us had different tastes, so we had different preferences. I seem to be more inclined towards the darker, muskier scents. I loved the smell of smoky wood (Vetiver) which reminded me of sitting around a fire pit in the evening, and how my clothes smell of smoke afterwards. We learnt that the smell of coffee is a natural nasal cleanser… So when our noses got overwhelmed with the scents, we just had to smell a jar with ground coffee, and we were ready to go on! Coffee is great.

After we smelt all the strips and we learnt their names and chose our favourites, Nicola made personalised recipes for each of us. Adding one drop of this, a couple of drops of that, and unscented coconut oil.

Some of the essences were very thick, and it took ages to get one drop out of the bottle, while others were extremely fluid and… well, let’s say I improvised my recipe a little. Still, not to fret, Nicola helped us fix our mistakes so that the perfume would still smell amazing, and oh boy it did.

All along we enjoyed some nibbles and bubbly. At the end, we got to bottle up our perfumes and label them with their very own unique name. I couldn’t think of any good names, and after trying some of them, I realised that it reminded me of something…

My perfume reminds me of earth (I tried Middle Earth, but yeah, ok, it was way too geeky, I admit it), the red type; it reminds me of origins, like ancestors; and I thought, once again, about tales told around a fire, at night in the wild. For some reason, this reminded me of tribes, and it then came to me.

Here I present you my masterpiece, Anansi, The Trickster:

(It has many more different scents on top of those appearing in the photograph!)

We got to keep our recipes, so I’m quite happy I might be able to replicate the same fragrance. It was such a fun night! You can find more photos on my flickr!

I wore the perfume the next day, and let me tell you, the more I smell it, the more I love it. It certainly feels perfect for me. It’s dark, full, and clever, and even with a hint of playfulness, just a bit like Anansi himself.

The first time I heard of Anansi was through a book, one that I picked with little thought, and just because his author, Neil Gaiman, had already captivated my mind with The Sandman and other stories. When I started reading Anansi Boys, I grew a bit worried about the fact that one of the characters was supposed to be a spider-god. What? A spider, a god? My spider senses (read my arachnophobia) started telling me that maybe I shouldn’t read that book. Hell, I still remember my constant uneasiness all the way through (spoiler alert!!) IT thinking sure, they’re showing pretty much every single phobia people have, but what about spiders? and thinking that at some point, the book was going to traumatise me for life (which seems to have happened, actually, since I still remember how that book made me feel!)

Despite my misgivings, I kept on reading. You can imagine what happened, given all the post above… I fell in love with the book, and with this trickster in particular. I began researching the character of Anansi, and trying to find his stories, even though all stories are his!

This has been one of my favourite books for many years now, and I’ve read it a bunch of times. I hold it dear, as it not only entertained me and showed me how myth and reality can come alive and together in a story, but also reminded me about redemption, and love. I think the most important thing this book did was to tell me about Anansi, and the myths of some of West African countries. I am interested in myth and folkore, and how stories transfer from different cultures, or how similar characters appear in different countries.

Anansi, the trickster, is one of those. He is playful, and clever, and a bit greedy, and he always teaches us a lesson, either by succeeding in his tricks, or by failing at them and getting punished.

The perfume I made has really nothing to do with West Africa, or with Anansi himself, but when trying to find a name, that’s the one that stuck and felt right, so there you go!

“This is my story which I have related. If it be sweet, or if it be not sweet, take some elsewhere, and let some come back to me.”