The moment I walk into DSH Essense Studio, I am surrounded by colors of green and blue, with gold accents, giving everything a warm Egyptian glow.
The scent of spice hangs lightly in the air.
It is Saturday and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has agreed to meet me at 1:00 on this holiday weekend.
I arrive early.
A client is finishing up a consult, making the final decision in her perfume choice, taking great care to match this with a turning point in her life.
"Hi," Dawn says, behind me. I turn to see a petite woman with her hair pulled away from her face, fully exposing her clear, light green eyes. We greet each other and jump right into conversation, skipping from one topic to another; perfume, art, life, perfume and again...art.
"I love working with all types of art," she says. "It's about more than just perfume for me, and I want to notice and create beauty everywhere."
Her studio reflects this attitude with abstract art adorning the walls, handmade jewelry atop a chest of drawers and various displays of perfume. We move briefly into the blending room and I marvel at the array of essential oils and the complexity involved in composing perfumes.
Dawn talks about the individual consultations she offers and what they include. "There are many different kinds, depending upon the client's preferences, life experience and current needs."
Spoken like a true aromatherapist.
As we begin talking perfume in earnest, Dawn asks me a few questions. I list my top five: Jardin en Mediterannee, Borneo, Black Aoud, Sycomore and Fracas. I tell her that 2010 is the 'year of the rose.'
Now, we're ready to play with perfume.
I sit down at the counter and Dawn stands on the opposite side on a stool so she can tower over me. To emphasize this, she makes a gesture of the Scary Perfume Monster.
Her goofy side unleashes my own. We laugh a lot.
She's about to teach me the proper way to test many perfumes at the same time. Of course, those of use who play with perfume constantly have great nose endurance, so we're in for the long haul.
Dawn's system of testing is simple. And brilliant.
First, the perfumes - approximately 25 of them, chosen by Dawn - are sprayed on cards and examined through the drydown. Then, I choose the contenders that will be applied to my skin, about 16 perfumes.
The skin test goes like this:
Dawn sprays the end of one of her fingers, then applies the perfume to my arm in a single dab. "I get the first sniff," she says, breathing in quickly twice, then exhaling through her nose before smelling the spot on my skin. She repeats this ritual for every perfume, using different fingers, washing her hands once in between so she can continue to apply on both arms. Dawn tracks the used and unused real estate of my skin carefully.
She is detailed and methodical, just like a Virgo, the sun sign we share.
After both of us enjoy multiple sniffings of all that she has applied, I narrow the field again, making a row of my favorites. More sniffing ensues until finally, the top three emerge and reflect on my skin as follows:
Memory & Desire - orris and ink, then black licorice, rose and wood
Vetyver - smoke and gasoline, charcoal, rosewood and vetiver
Vintage Patchouly - patchouli, pipe smoke, rose, sandalwood and incense
Dawn understands that rose comes in many forms, a hidden gem within other notes, like the unexpected, but perfect, harmony in a choir.
Many samples accompany the above perfumes, which will show up in future posts.
My experience at Essense Studio is delightful and I highly recommend it to any perfumista. I look forward to going back and exploring further, perhaps when I move from my 'dark rose' phase into the next, whatever that might be.
DSH perfumes will still be there. And so will I.
Pictures taken by me and B-man at Essense Studio.