I miss the tactile in the age of the information superhighway. Twenty years ago I would spend my free time over blank canvases with mixed media to work out/through narratives and my understanding of the world around me. I may still sketch but those ideas are kept on my iPad in the Paper app. In fact, during our summer holiday in Europe I often sketched fragrance blends based on our given environment. (I’m also glad I left many of those blends as sketches, because mixing licorice, birch and coffee together sounds better than the physical result.)
Nick Offerman has a wonderful one-man show “American Ham” that features his tips for a prosperous life. Tip #5 is Get a hobby:
When you can make something with your hands, it’s not nerdy. It’s actually super-sexy. Who would you rather be attracted to? Someone who can text fast, or someone who knit the dress that she’s wearing?
The Internet allows us to share media at such rapid speed that we retain so little of what we consume. The scandal of yesterday is already replaced with a meme today that will be acquiesced by a 6-second video tomorrow. Our collective attention span requires online content to constantly evolve for fear of losing an audience to the better, brighter new thing. It it wasn’t for The Wayback Machine occasionally snapping moments in online time, how else would we keep track of all the times a company changed its visual design and user experience?
Being a hobbyist perfumer is not cheap – holy mother of pearl is it ever not cheap – but it allows me to create visceral pleasures using just a little oil and a lot of time. Even if my fragrance blends are more failures than successes, the latter smell amazing to wear. At the same time I learn from my mistakes and I’m able to create better blends.
I’ve created two fragrances, both perfumes, for friends. The results were better than I expected, and I’m able to give a gift that can’t be consumed like a listicle or animated GIF. At some point, sure, maybe I could attempt a product line of essential oil fragrances, but that pipe dream doesn’t require me to cut costs just yet.
Sometimes I like to daydream that my hobby could lead to something bigger, but then I remind myself that my knowledge of chemistry is nil and I really don’t know essential oils like a pharmacologist understands medications. This sanity check allows me to stay close to my makeshift laboratory and occasionally
use friends as occasional lab rats share the fruits of my labor.
Having a hobby like perfumery allows me to find permanence in a stream of constant impermanence. A sort of intersection against technology and Buddhism, I suppose. What makes my hobby so gratifying is the moment a fragrance fills one’s senses and creates unadulterated joy. And that is simply amazing.