Saturday, July 13, 2013

Testing, Testing and More Testing

    I'm working on a new perfume. It is being developed according to a visual plan -- matching notes to visual themes. There were about eight pieces of visual information but thus far I have only worked on accords for three of them. One was not at all successful but two offered hope. Thus, in an effort to move forward, I made a blend of these two accords to see what might come of it and, after a few tweaks and twiddles, I arrived at a very small vial of what seemed like a nice compound. Liking what I had made, I scaled up a bit. Then, still feeling confident, I mixed my compound with alcohol -- about 10% in 90% alcohol -- and let it sit a bit.

    The first sniffing of a test blotter, after a night or so of sitting, was bland and did not seem at all to represent the visual image that had led to this particular formula. Several days later, another test on a test blotter revealed a great deal more. One note, that originally seemed to me quite suppressed, now dominated. This note was important to my visual image but was not intended to be dominant. (In fact it is a difficult material to work with but exciting when you get it right.)

    Now, because of this repeated testing, I am taking two steps backward. Rather than removing the offending element I will remove, one by one, several of the surrounding elements and then, perhaps, strengthen one or two others, to get it back on theme.

    Now here's the important point. Making perfume can be a random act or it can be deliberate. If you think of perfume making as an art, it can only be deliberate. This means that just creating a nice smell won't do it. This means that testing is essential. You can only test if you have an intention. And if simply making a nice smell is what you are testing for, that's nice. But perfumery can be so much more.

    Testing for the "so much more" means testing each of your mixtures -- your trials -- against your stated, in this case visual, goal.

    So the fact that what I've done so far might be "nice" counts for nothing. The standard is my visual image. And what I've done so far falls short in that -- although it passed successfully through several levels of testing -- it failed as it approached the finish line. The "finished" (and now NOT "finished") perfume.

    It is frustrating to fail when you feel you are so close to the finish line but if you desire to impose some standard upon your work -- to have your work represent YOUR vision (for better or for worse!) -- you must continue to test, test, and test some more -- and be willing to step backward and analyze when your test results show you have taken a wrong turn. Then start up again toward YOUR visual goal.

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