Making Scents: Experimental Perfumery With Saskia Wilson-Brown - Atlas Obscura Experiences

Making Scents: Experimental Perfumery With Saskia Wilson-Brown

Mon, Aug 19, 2024
3 sessions
$215 per person
Up to 30 people
See Dates
$215 per person
$215 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this 3-part seminar, learn the basics of perfumery, delve into the history of the practice, explore aromatic materials, and create your first short perfume formulas.

Course Description

Led by Saskia Wilson-Brown, the founder and director of The Institute for Art and Olfaction, this course will provide an expansive overview of perfumery that introduces the technical and foundational information you'll need for your practice. Starting with important social context for the global history of perfumery, the class will go on to cover fragrance families and taxonomies, materials of natural and synthetic origin, diluents, and the basics for a safe and happy practice. Importantly, we'll do the hard, fun work of smelling, discussing each material in the kit through an intensive process of sensorial evaluation. Finally, we'll create several introductory perfume formulas, and gain an understanding of how to expand from there, and we'll wrap up the course with a glimpse into the perfume industry with a focus on independent and experimental practices. Overall, Saskia provides a humor-laced, facts-based introduction to the art and science of working with scent that also serves as an intensive primer for what we hope will become your favorite new practice. Get your noses ready and let's explore the challenging, technical, and magical world of perfumery!

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes three total sessions, each meeting once per week for two hours.

Summer Section A: Meets three consecutive Mondays beginning July 15.

Session 1 (Monday, 7/15, 7–9 PM ET): Lab Basics: Safety, tools, and fragrance families

Session 2 (Monday, 7/22, 7–9 PM ET): Materials and Strategies

Session 3 (Monday, 7/29, 7–9 PM ET): Industry: Mainstream vs. artisan practice

Summer Section B: Meets three consecutive Mondays beginning August 19, skipping the week of September 3.

Session 1 (Monday, 8/19, 7–9 PM ET): Lab Basics: Safety, tools, and fragrance families

Session 2 (Monday, 8/26, 7–9 PM ET): Materials and Strategies

-week off-

Session 3 (Monday, 9/9, 7–9 PM ET): Industry: Mainstream vs. artisan practice

Between Sessions

Between sessions one and two, participants will be asked to create their lab solutions.

Between sessions two and three, participants will be assigned four short accords so they can compare small formulas in the final session.

Course Materials

As part of this class, The IAO and Atlas Obscura have teamed up with Perfumer's Apprentice to offer a materials kit containing 18 aromatic materials and some basic labware for this class. The cost of this kit is $75 plus shipping and handling. Order your kit here. We recommend ordering your kit as soon as you have purchased a spot on the course to ensure that you are able to receive it in time for class, though please note it is not strictly necessary to have received the kit by the first session.

Please note that these are professional grade perfume materials and although we have selected all our materials with safety in mind (and none of the materials are allergens), there is nevertheless a slight possibility that you may experience a sensitivity to one or two of them. We request you do not work with your materials kit until our first class, in which we will cover health and safety when working with perfume. If you consider yourself highly sensitive to fragrance, we recommend you not take this class.

In addition to the kit, the course benefits from several other small purchases: blending tubs and small labels. Information about where to purchase those will be shared in class 1.

The kit contains professional grade perfume materials. Although we have selected all our materials with safety in mind (and none of the materials are allergens), there is nevertheless a slight possibility that you may experience a sensitivity to one or two of them. Please do not put the aromatic materials on your skin before diluting them (we'll explain that and other health and safety notes in class one). If you consider yourself acutely and problematically sensitive to fragrance, we recommend you not take this class.

Pricing Options

In addition to full-price tickets, a limited number of no-pay spots are available for this course. Please note that these tickets are reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course and who expect to attend all sessions. No-pay spots are distributed via a randomized drawing two weeks before each course begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page

Community Guidelines for Students

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Atlas Obscura Online Courses

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Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.

About Your Instructor
Saskia Wilson-Brown
Saskia Wilson-Brown

After receiving an MA in fine art from Central Saint Martins, Saskia Wilson-Brown co-directed the Silver Lake Film Festival and ran international filmmaker outreach at Al Gore’s Current TV while producing initiatives around new models in the arts. In 2012, her interest in multivalent practices led her to create The Institute for Art and Olfaction (IAO), a non-profit devoted to access and experimentation in the field of perfumery. Through the IAO, she has launched projects with institutions such as Pulitzer Foundation, Getty Institute, Hammer Museum, Wallace Collection, New Mexico Highlands University, and many more. In 2013, she launched the Art and Olfaction Awards, an international awards mechanism for independent perfumers, and in 2018 she launched Open Sourcing Smell Culture, an initiative devoted to open source principles in perfumery. She recently served as a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art in London, and is currently producing a new radio show called Perfume on the Radio, finishing a documentary about ownership and historic reconstruction in the field of perfumery while pursuing a PhD about the historic and contemporary relationship between perfume, access and power. 

What Else You Should Know

This is an interactive, small-group seminar that meets over Zoom. Students may be encouraged to participate in discussions, work on assignments outside of class, and workshop projects with their instructor or classmates. Due to the interactive nature of this course, we strongly recommend students attend as many live sessions as possible. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes. 

Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.

Group Size

There are 30 spots available on this experience.

Dates and Availability
  • Mon, Aug 19, 2024
    7:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m.
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