The Queue: Saskia Wilson-Brown

The Queue: Saskia Wilson-Brown

Discover what individuals from our craft community are into right now.

Published on Monday, August 31, 2020.
Founder of the Institute for Art and Olfaction Saskia Wilson-Brown

↑ Featured in "The Craft of Scent" in the Beauty issue of American Craft, Saskia Wilson-Brown is the founder of the Institute for Art and Olfaction.
Photo: Courtesy of Saskia Wilson-Brown

Introducing the Beauty series of The Queue

A weekly roundup for and by the craft community, the Beauty series of The Queue introduces you to the makers, writers, curators, and more featured in the most recent issue of American Craft. We invite them to share their shortlist of exciting projects, people to follow, and content to consume to help you stay dialed into what's happening in the world of making.

Celebrating our shared humanity through scent and art

Based in Los Angeles, Saskia Wilson-Brown is the founder of the Institute for Art and Olfaction and one of several expiramental scent artists featured in the August/September 2020 issue of American Craft. "The Craft of Scent" examines a growing movement of independent scent makers using perfume as a powerful means of self-expression. @artandolfaction

How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I am the founder of a nonprofit called the Institute for Art and Olfaction, which I started to create access and facilitate experimentation in the field of perfumery. Perfumery is a largely inaccessible industry, but if perfumery is an art form, and if art-making is a human right, then the tools and materials of scent-making should be available to all.

Scent strips used in a workshop of the Institute for Art and Olfaction
Attendee at workshop of the Institute for Art and Olfaction

↑ Read more about Saskia and the Institute for Art and Olfaction in "The Craft of Scent."
Photos: Courtesy of the Institute for Art and Olfaction

In these times of COVID-19 isolation, social unrest, and calls for change, where are you finding beauty?
I’m finding beauty in researching historical and cultural rituals with scent with my colleague Minetta Rogers. As examples: Himba women in Namibia collect aromatics every morning, burn them, and perfume themselves with the smoke; the Koran describes aromatic materials in paradise, which include floors strewn with saffron and women made of musk. There are so many fantastic stories, and the history of how humans have used, imagined, and worked with scent is entrancing.

Director of operations of the Institute for Art and Olfaction Minetta Rogers

↑ Saskia's research partner Minetta Rogers is the director of operations of the Institute for Art and Olfaction.
Photo: Courtesy of Saskia Wilson-Brown

What are your thoughts on the relationship between craft and beauty?
There’s a whole category of aromatic materials known as the animalics that have historically come from the rear ends of various animals (nowadays, they’re mostly synthetic, thankfully). These materials often smell dank, rotten, urinous, or even fecal. And yet, they have their own magic. They are certainly more impactful than yet another beautiful rose. I think that answers the question. ;)

Poison by Paul Schütze

↑ "Poison" by Paul Schütze @paul_schutze.
Photo: Used with permission from Paul Schütze

What’s your favorite social media post you’ve seen recently?
It’s a photo of some flowers by artist/musician/perfumer Paul Schütze, based in London. It’s a lovely photo of flowers – maybe the loveliest I have ever seen – and it has nothing to do with what terrible shape the world is in right now. I appreciate that.

What podcast should we be listening to right now?
Fall of Civilizations Podcast: well researched, strangely soothing.

Are you binge-watching anything right now?
Recently my husband and I watched all episodes of a show called Toast of London that has literally the funniest scene I’ve ever watched, ever. It’s mid-season, and by the time it comes you know the characters pretty well, and it’s just perfect. I actually thought I might die from laughter. Can someone die from laughter? Turns out you can. Luckily, I didn’t. But I’ll tell you, it was close.

Perfumery is a largely inaccessible industry, but if perfumery is an art form, and if art-making is a human right, then the tools and materials of scent-making should be available to all.

What research or writing are you doing, or seeing others do, that’s kinda cool, and why?
One person in particular whose work I am very excited about right now is Nuri McBride. Her blog Death/Scent, explores scent from a historical perspective. She does impeccable research, and her work is fascinating, timely, and very down to earth.

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Death/Scent logo

↑ In her blog Death/Scent, Nuri McBride explores the role of scent in burial practices around the world and throughout time.
Image: Courtesy of Nuri McBride

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