Ca Fleure Bon - March 2017

Natural Perfumes & Apothecary: Workshop at The Annex, Waiheke Island with Vanessa York, New Zealand Natural Perfumer.  
Natural Perfumer Vanessa York, Emma Hughes, 2017
"My Soul travels on the smell of perfume like the Souls of other men on music". 
Charles Baudelaire
Meeting with Vanessa YorkNew Zealander and Natural Perfumer on Waiheke Island, in the midst of a summer laced with the sub – tropical scents that grace the nightime air here was a rare treat.  She is a graceful and modest woman who exudes passion for her Art akin to one of her creations lifting off the skin in rarefied air.
Fleurs de Mal, Emma Hughes, 2017
"Where creativity rides high, attended by Muses, passion resides at its core."
- Danu Seith-Fyr
There has been an increasing interest this side of the globe in ‘Naturals’.  Vanessa is on a mission to take this further and explore them from a uniquely New Zealand perspective, using botanicals from the native bush.  Pure nature, distillates derived from source that also incorporate like wine, differential elements that arise from Terroir, for as Vanessa points out English Lavender is very different from Lavender grown in New Zealand, for botanicals are affected by climate and soil as much as grapevines.
Fleur de Mals manifesto states: "We believe in New Zealand-made. We believe that the mass-market model is a dinosaur. We believe that hand-made is true luxury. We believe that luxury is not necessarily expensive. We believe in brave indie makers, artisans, and craftspeople, including ourselves. We believe in brave critics and curators.  We believe in beauty. We believe in quality. We believe in dreams. We believe that perfume is art. We believe that art can change the world."
Scent Trails Emma Hughes 2017
Vanessa’s  artistry was born out of pure passion for fragrance from her early influences and also a desire to create using only naturals.   The distinctive name bears witness to her love of Baudelaire and in her words… to just create a more raw, less sanitized expression of scent. "And it's true; perfumeries – particularly natural perfumeries, such as this one is – tend to be named for the pure beauty of nature, rather than its darker side. But I've always loved those poems, with their dissonances and harmonies, and the way they entangle beauty with disgust, love and desire with bitterness, abandonment, and exaltation. Like poems, perfume can evoke all of these sensations, and more. In my perfumes, I love to evoke dissonances as well as harmonies. I get inspired by the weeds as well as the flowers, the shadows even more than the sunshine. The plant names of our perfumes capture this twist. Fleurs du Mal perfumes are not for everyone. But some people like them very much" -Vanessa York.
An intimate gathering of women bought together by Mandy Mee and her creative workshops under The Farmers Daughter. For some their first experience of an olfactory journey, others more versed, into the clean, bright setting of The Annex, a boutique small cakery sited in an iconic New Zealand cottage, whitewashed and pristine.  We were greeted by a table set with wild jasmine and a multitude of small vials set in groups of notes, according to top, heart and base. 
Our evening began with Vanessa in beautiful style, setting a scene with fragrance history and structures of perfumes, how they are composed, vertical, horizontal blending and for the participants, turning their thoughts about what fragrance inspires them, or defines them, something to compliment and clothe them. We were encouraged to explore certain notes with the accords, passed around hands full of anticipation and noses ready to delve into olfactory story telling with a personal twist.  Poised to begin creating our own expressions.  Structured around 10-12 drops per accord, 3-4 notes in each accord.
Perfumers Workshop Emma Hughes 2017
Akin to wine tasting and my review notes that I can do so easily, I approached my fragrance from an instinctual basis, not second guessing my senses, for allowing the logical mind to intrude overrides the sensorial knowledge innate if we just trust.It was exciting to have in front of me all these essences to delve into and bought up my keen intention to one day have an antique organ in my home. So it begins. It is an extremely personal path to the creation of a fragrance, it arises in the same place as any art form, it opens a window into the Essence of a person, The fragrance that grew out of immersion in that evenings wonderful company, under the subtle guidance of Vanessa has, just like the proverbial genie been let out after a few weeks of all the notes getting to know each other and created a symphony that one hopes will reflect and reveal its alchemy on my skin.
Creation of a Fragrance Emma Hughes 2017
My Fragrance
Top Notes – Lime, Neroli, Galbanum
Heart Notes – Mimosa, Rose, Elemi
Base Notes – Labdanum, Benzoin Styrax, Frankincense, Vanilla
Spicy, bright and woody it lifts and clears like a fresh Nordic forest with a light animalic  strike to intrigue. after a few hours, it is softly mysterious and laden without headiness with warmth and sensuality.It was a brief suspended moment, those 2 hours one evening on an Island, when ordinary life was halted and we partook in an alchemical creation of ourselves, delving inside a Crucible to create externally.
Thank you to Vanessa York and Fleurs de Mal Perfumes.
Danu Seith-Fyr, Contributor
Disclosure: Samples my own creation, opinions my own.


Waiheke Weekender Nov 2016

Knit one, pearl one on Putiki Road.  

Nicki Jonas attends a workshop on 'extreme knitting' at The Annex hosted by The Farmer's Daughter, a new island business that is bringing bespoke artisans to Waiheke.

The Annex WaihekeAs I ‘run-walk’ my way down Putiki Road in the rain, the light on inside The Annex café is a welcome sight. I have come to knit. Well, ‘extreme knit’ actually, according to the Plump & co website. Stepping into the warm cottage the whole effect is very Wonderland-esque. Perched on stools are enormous wooden needles (think knee height) and beside them equally oversized ‘bumps’ of Plump & Co’s signature chunky, rope-like felted yarn.

Displayed around the room are baskets, blankets and poofs all knitted from this impossibly chunky wool. The effect is a contemporary take on traditional knitting. The pieces are sculptural, with enough weight and structure to be hung on the wall or knitted up as a floor rug, but soft too.

I take a surreptitious sniff of the wool and enjoy a heady whiff of farm life. Jacinta Stevenson is the woman behind Plump & Co. “It actually started when my husband said that a textile design business couldn’t be done,” she says, laughing. “I thought to
myself you’re either all in, or you’re out. So I quit my job, started spinning and felting yarn from home and doing markets”.

The business has since developed, with a growing team, an online following and Plump & co fans up and down the country, due in part to these boutique workshop tours that make stops in small towns as well as the main centres.

This event is hosted by The Farmer’s Daughter, a new island business concept by Mandy Mee that is bringing “bespoke artisans” to Waiheke. Mandy, who spotted me with my nose in the wool, says she was attracted to Plump & Co for this very reason.
“It’s my way of being in nature,” she says. The Farmer’s Daughter works with The Annex and another new local venture, Little Tart Bakery, to create unique workshop experiences. A collaborative ethos is clearly important for the business-
Jacinta Stevenson of Plump & Co. “I thought to myself you’re either all in, or you’re out. So I quit my job, started spinning and felting yarn from home and doing markets”. women involved in these creative projects happening on the island, both in terms of supporting local and New Zealand made products and building a community.
“It’s why its Plump & Co” says Jacinta. “I wanted to offer an experience, something that people can be a part of and make their own.”

Social media plays a part in this, with creatives from all over sharing their projects on Plump & Co’s Instagram page. Jacinta shows me the latest, students from Massey University in Wellington who have used her felted yarn to push the boundaries in their work with textile development. The yarn itself is such a textile statement that you can’t really go wrong as a novice knitter. I manage to muck up my pattern on the first row and still create something that could feature in an interiors magazine. Speaking of which, Heidi from The Eclectic Boutique in Surfdale is here, knitting for the very first time.

Proudly holding up her rows of knits and pearls, the ‘gaps’ are declared to be part of the character. Knots are celebrated as rustic. It’s very much a departure from traditional knitting; rather than strictly following a pattern we are encouraged to find our own style.
As we settle into our projects, the talk is easy and spare over the industrious clinking of our huge wooden needles.

"I come to these things for the conversation as much as the project," says Amanda, a fellow extreme knitter.  And I think how true this is.  I had come to knit, but as the night draws to a close I am reminded of how craft, event in these modern forms, can bring people together in such a comfortable, fun way.

The creativity that such collaborations produce is exciting to be a part of.