Perfume creation – my creative process

This week, I’m lucky enough to be running two natural perfumery workshops with folks who just love the idea of scent creation.

blending scent bar on white

The question I get asked most often, by everyone, is “Where do you get your ideas?”

This is the part of perfumery that comes easiest to me. I have one of those minds that never stops. Ideas flow constantly, consciously and subconsciously, and my head is always spinning with concepts, ideas, theology, psychology, nutritional queries, diagnoses, reasoning, argument, philosophy…… (hence why I’m not a great sleeper!)

pile of books

image via

Unlike many perfumers, my perfume concepts generally don’t come from literature. I love the written word, and I devour books (mostly about ideas, theology, psychology, nutrition, diagnoses…see where I’m going with this?!)

Most of my perfume concepts come from single words, inspiring quotes, lyrics or human experience.

Some of those come from my reading, but mostly they come from listening. Song lyrics, people talking, things my kids say when they’re joyful, listening to a friend talk about her struggles, watching an old married couple hold hands as they walk, listening to the sound of peace in the air on a warm morning….these are the things that give me most inspiration and help me understand more about life and people.

image via

image via

I guess that’s the reason our perfumes have names like “Freedom”, “Hope” and “Seeker”. For me, scent creation is about speaking to human experience and emotion.

freedom setup 3 crop

Once I have a word in mind, I brainstorm about what that word smells like and looks like. What colour is it? What picture is in my mind? What elements are in that picture?A lake? A tree? A mountain?

painting 2

Then I look for a quote that encompasses the word and picture.

seeker sml

Once I have a word, a mental image, descriptions and a quote, I start working with my extracts, something like a painter would set about the paint the picture that it in his head. The translating of these words and pictures can be tricky – I can sometimes be inclined to go off on a tangent, and find I’m bringing myself back to my original picture time after time – but by sticking to that initial inspiration, I find the formula that finally translates the feeling into a bottle.

freedom front banner



Sun-showers and a-ha moments

We had a sun-shower yesterday.

It was the most glorious, delicate sprinkling of rain I’ve ever experienced. A beautiful, warm twenty-five degrees (Celsius), sun shining brightly, when out of nowhere came a drop of rain on my foot, then on my nose, and before I knew it, thousands of delicate droplets, glistening in the sun, falling like the softest of snowflakes. It was as if I was standing under a blossoming almond tree, the petals floating down around me, and all the world like it was breathing in the softest, sweetest harmony. I’ve really never seen a sun-shower like it before.


Yesterday I officially began work on a new fragrance; one to represent summer and freshness and new beginnings. But as I sat there in my studio surrounded by bottles of single notes all vying for my attention, I didn’t feel like a perfumer at all. The thought crossed my mind (and hovered there for some time), maybe I don’t know how to do this anymore.


It’s been nearly eighteen months since we launched (or worked on) a new fragrance, and, if you’ve been following our adventures, you would recall that I have since been through a period of burnout. During that time, I simply could not find my creativity, and I decided that I would wait, heal, recover and come back when I was good and ready. So it’s almost a rebirth for me. And I well and truly felt like a baby yesterday.


I spent a few hours in the studio, not getting anywhere at all. Then suddenly it occurred to me -I work best as an intellectual perfumer; I need to research, to write, to make lists, to group and ungroup on paper before I even enter the studio. It’s the innate research-driven side of me and it’s how I seem to do everything these days. I feel the need to get down the basest details and understand completely before I put things into practice, and that is now the case even in the perfumery.

And that’s OK.

I used to feel uncomfortable with people calling me ‘arty’ or ‘creative’ and now I know why. I don’t feel like an artist. I feel like a researcher. And I feel like my research culminates in a burst of creativity at the end. It’s as if I’ve found a story, located the characters, understood the scene, the context, the motivations and the emotions behind the story, and then been able to put the story together in scent.


So today I came to the studio armed with hours of research from last night, and, guess what?

The magic happened…





The Case of the Elusive Room Diffuser (and other scary tales)

It is a journey that began over twelve months ago….The search to discover the one formula that has eluded perfumers for centuries (or, at least a few years anyway). The mysterious Natural Room Diffuser Formula…… Ohhhhhh, its a mysterious mystery….




Along the way there have been several clues and many, many trials, each one of them failing just as the last. Until that one day, one glorious day, when suddenly the veil was lifted and there before my eyes (and nose) was the formula! And in my own handwriting! Yes! After  hundreds of dollars of wasted ingredients (hello shiny, fragrant floors), long hours in the lab, and poor old husbands with diffuser reeds stuck under their (his) noses at the most inappropriate times, it was finally all mine!

(Cue horrendous evil laugh…)




But really just the beginning.


Yes, it’s true. I have finally cracked the formula for a beautiful and highly effective natural room diffuser. It all seemed so easy at the start, but the biggest problems I faced (and insisted on overcoming) were:

1. The scent throw. MUST be able to smell it at least across a room, if not down the hall.

2. It must not be made entirely of alcohol. The flammability issue, but also the fact that alcohol in an open bottle evaporates so quickly. You’d be needing a new diffuser every few weeks.

3. It must not be too expensive. It should be luxurious, but not just for royalty and superstars.

4. It must be 100% natural. Period.


I am so thrilled that the formula I now hold in my hands can tick all of those boxes.

The next chapter on this journey is to narrow down the fragrance options (FYI There are over 200 fragrance extracts in my studio!). And this is where you come in. It’s a choose your own adventure of sorts. I’d love your comments and suggestions!

Do you have a wonderful memory you’d love to bottle and keep in your home? A favourite tree or flower that you LOVE the scent of? A favourite time or place, or just a scent that always makes you feel comforted, peaceful, relaxed or happy?

Love to hear your thoughts. 











I Surrender

It’s been too long since my last post, so I must apologise to all my loyal followers. I always intend to write weekly, but real life dictates unfortunately, and so you may find yourself meeting with me only every couple of months.

I feel compelled to write about my experience as a perfumer over the past year or so, and be forthright about the ‘blocks’ that can happen to those of us in creative fields. I have definitely been experiencing that for some time now. At the start, I found it frustrating, and I tried to push through it so I could get back to doing what I love, which is bringing you inspired fragrances. But those actions only compounded the problem, and so anything that I had been working on, pushing out, trying to create, fell short of the mark and just wasn’t, well, inspired.

I’m not sure exactly when, but some time over the past few months, I realised that I have been suffering from burnout, and I had an epiphany about my life and my work; I needed to let things be, and surrender to the experience.


And so, if I couldn’t bear to turn on the computer that day, I just didnt. And if I needed to sit on the couch and watch Ellen, I did (and still do!). And if getting into the studio didn’t feel right that day, I closed the door and went home. Or for a walk. Or for coffee with a friend. Or whatever my mind and body needed that day.


At first I thought the world would miss me. That One Seed would suffer for my lack or inspiration, that my customers would suffer for my lack of productivity. But none of those fears seem to have come true, and, in fact, I find myself being more real, more genuine, more ‘in the moment’, more creative in my every day life. And slowly the inspiration has started coming back. Not when I’ve penciled in a ‘day in the studio’, but at random moments, and I am finding that my ideas have been more original and more inspired than ever before.


Its a funny thing to surrender. Such a scary concept – as if surrendering means you give up and throw everything away. But I have found that surrendering actually has the opposite effect. Surrendering to me has meant finding who I really am, where my creativity actually comes from, being more me than ever before, and seeing life in a whole new light.




Scent Bar launch today!

We are thrilled to be launching our  Scent Bar online today!

scent bar trio banner space text

Scent Bar is an exciting way to create your own custom-fragrance using natural extracts and accords from our collection.
How does it work? Simply choose your favourite top, middle and base notes from those listed, and we will expertly blend them into an 8ml atomiser for only $29.95. 

scent bar banner 1

We first launched Scent Bar at the Bowerbird Bazaar back in November, and where overwhelmed with positive and excited responses from our customers. So now you can have the Scent Bar experience whenever you like!

We’ve started with a collection of 25 of the most asked-for notes (tinctured in 100% natural grape ethanol), and will be adding new notes every month. You can choose from some ready-made accords (blends of 2 or more notes to create a harmonious scent), such as a triple rose accord (with 3 different rose extracts and a geranium extract), and single extracts such as ylang ylang, coriander & blood orange.

scent bar oils leaf

Scent Bar is a great way to be able to explore the world of natural perfumery using your own creativity and personal preferences. But if it all seems a bit complicated, you can stick with our ready-to-wear collection, or even have a bespoke fragrance made for you!

Ready to have a look? You can try Scent Bar here

Happy blending! (Oh, and happy new year everyone! )



Why I Love (RAd)elaide…

Adelaide has had its fair share of critics. Most of them hail from towns that feature all-night traffic jams, where the price of milk is almost the same as a small car,  and most of whom have never actually spent any length of time here.

If you want to know the truth about Adelaide (or RADelaide as its affectionately known), you need to ask a local. Enter, me

Expert in Adelaide-ology, Liz Cook

Expert in Adelaide-ology, Liz Cook


Name of city: Adelaide

Location: Southern Australia

Population: around 1.2 million (approx 1/4 of Sydney’s population)

Climate: Temperate. Three months of cold weather (around 14 degrees Celsius  in winter), 8 months of amazing weather (20s to low 30s) and one month of horrid dry weather (somewhere 38 degrees plus)

Features: lots of beaches, decent surfing, great fishing, the best wine regions in the world, fantastic festivals, amazing produce, fabulous cafes

Accolades:  1st – most liveable city in Australia (March 2013, Property Council of Australia )

5th –  most liveable city in the world (August 2013,The Economist Intelligence Unit)

9th – best places to visit in the world (October 2013, Lonely Planet)


Adelaide city - image borrowed from News Ltd

Adelaide city – image borrowed from News Ltd

Yes, it may be relatively quiet, and we don’t have as many night spots and theme parks as some of the other cities around Australia, or 24 hours shopping for that matter, but when it comes down to it, Adelaide is full of the stuff of substance; great food, great people, great weather, great times and a great attitude to life.

Womadelaide festival - image borrowed from

Womadelaide festival – image borrowed from

Now don’t get me wrong here, people, I absolutely adore many places in Australia – some of my favourites are Hobart, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, The Margaret River region in WA, Melbourne, and many others – but I feel it is my job as a human citizen of this great dry desert we call South Australia to defend & uphold its beauty and its goodness. Would I live anywhere else? Sure –  I’d probably live in any one of those places I just listed. But not for lack of affection and gratitude for where I already live.

Henley Beach jetty - image borrowed from

Henley Beach jetty – image borrowed from

Reasons I still choose Adelaide

1. It’s easy to get anywhere at any time of the day. Yes, even in peak hour!

2. The beaches are beautiful, clean, safe and close

3. There are wineries north and south of the city, less that an hour drive away, and they boast some of the best wines in the world

4. We have amazing places to get away, and I can be in some of my favourite South Australian holiday spots in an hour

5. Adelaide is multicultural, and we get to experience the tastes and cultures of many nations. We have a large contingent of Greek, Italian, Russian, African, Chinese, Indian and many other cultures represented here.

6. No one is in a hurry. (Well, mostly!). That difference is obvious when you travel to other larger cities in Australia. Adelaide just moves slower, like a Sunday drive.

7. The weather is mostly great, and almost always predictable.

8. Adelaide is known for being clean and green. There is a focus by government, business and the general population on being energy efficient, recycling, organic agriculture and all manner of green living. (FYI – -did you know Adelaide is the first place in Australia to introduce a deposit rebate scheme for soft drink bottles, and also the first to remove plastic shopping bags as standard practice for retailers! (The 2nd one we don’t always like, but we’re getting used to it!)

9. We’re not trying to be someone else. Lonely Planet calls Adelaide “Charming and effortless, and I would have to agree. There’s no pretentiousness here. We are what we are, and what we are is authentic.

10. LOVE the farmers markets! Adelaide has some of the best farmers’ markets in Australia, including the Barossa Produce Market, The Adelaide Central Market, The Willunga Farmers Markets & Adelaide Farmers Market (my personal favourite!)

Adelaide central Market - image borrowed from

Adelaide central Market – image borrowed from

To end, may I quote a semi-famous DJ that recently said, “Don’t be a hater; be a congratulator”.

Congratulations, Adelaide. I love you for what you are.



PS Here’s one for the South Australians among you – 30 ways to Know You’re a South Australian 🙂

The Art of Happiness

A couple of years ago, I  spoke to a close friend who was heading for divorce from his third wife. He had bought a combie van and was driving down the east coast of Australia in pursuit of…well…happiness, he told me. “I just want to be happy”, he said. I know he was shocked when my response was, ” Happiness isn’t the goal in life.”

Everyone wants to be happy, that is true, and that is a good thing. But when the pursuit of happiness is your ultimate goal, as if happiness is a destination, then you’ll never get there.

happy people

Happiness is not in having a ‘perfect’ marriage, having a life devoid of stress or conflict, having enough money to do the things you want, living on the beach, having healthy children, being beautiful, successful, rich… Yes, those things can make us feel happy, but they are not happiness. If they were, then how do you explain the joy in people in African villages where famine, war, disease and poverty are rife. How can they be happy? Aren’t they disappointed with life? Isn’t there more they want?


I’m reading the book Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic, the man who was born with no limbs…no limbs…How can he be happy? Isn’t life one big disappointment? Hasn’t he failed before he even started?

The answer lies in this fact: happiness is an art; a learned skill, a decision, a choice. An ability to rise above your circumstances and find joy regardless.

happiness quote

I have friends who have lost children, friends who are alcholics, drug addicts, friends who lost every cent they had in bad business situations, friends who’ve lost loved ones too cancer to young. The differences I see are marked: some can still smille, laugh, find meaning in life, while others are still struggling to come to terms with their loss, even decades later, and refuse to see the beauty in the world any longer.

Happiness is a choice. It is waking up in the morning with pain in your heart, and yet choosing to feel the warmth of the sun on your back, savoring a cup of coffee with a loved friend, making the decision to feel joy even though life has been cruel. Happiness is the pursuit of a positive state of mind despite the difficulties, set back boredom, pain, heartache.


Happiness is an art, and one that we all need to learn to do better.



My strange addiction

Hello. My name is Liz and I’m an aromaholic.

Its not just a problem with perfume. I have to smell everything.


Last week I was working with a crew doing a cooking demonstration for a charity, and, after all the samples had been dished out, I snuck over to the pan which once housed a delectable orange pudding, and inhaled deeply. Pretty sure my eyes were even closed. One of the other team spotted me and offered me the remains of her sample, assuming I was wanting a taste, but I declined. All I really wanted was to inhale and get a sense of the subtle nuances that exist between lashing of brown sugar, creamy butter and orange rind. Did you know there are actually subtle nuances in a pudding? Neither did I. Until I became an aromaholic.


I have to smell everything. And not always by choice. I just do smell everything. From the smell of caulking on my husband’s work shirt, the timber dust that might still remain on his skin at the end of the day, to coloured pencils in my daughters bedroom, freshly printed magazines (one odour I detest BTW), every leaf and petal I walk past on the street, the smell of my neighbours’ dinner, new floorboards, old furniture, cotton clothing, nail salons, rubber on shoes, laundry powder, sparks from power tools….Did you know that everything has a smell?


Since I officially became a perfumer in 2009, my nose has become increasingly more sensitive and more aware of the world around me. It’s as if I can now ‘read’ the world by how it smells. Like I need to smell something to know it. For me, it’s as if the true character of an object or place is now defined by how it smells.



Being a perfumer that works only with naturals, and a self-confessed organic/chemical-free junkie in all regards, these days I can smell a synthetic smell a block away. And they hit me hard; give me migrane-type headaches and change my mood (and not in a good way). So my preference is always for the smells that exist in nature.  But good, or bad, I am addicted to aroma.

It’s as if the world has opened up to me a fourth dimension which I knew existed and had even experienced previously, being a person with a nose and all. But now I am adicted. I simply must, with an almost canine-like instinct, understand the world by it’s aromas.

Any other aromaholics out there? Or is this just my strange addiction?



Tools of the Trade

Ever wondered what it takes, practically speaking, to be a perfumer?

Please, step into my office so I can show you through my (well-used) equipment…(You might need to ignore the little drips and spills!)

  • Disposable pipettes


Vital for every perfumer. Allows me to draw the exact amount of extract I need accurately and hygienically every time. I buy these by the truck-load.(It’s a small truck)

  • Funnels and measuring equipment


Accuracy and hygiene are very important in perfumery and cosmetics creation, so I use washable glass measuring cylinders and funnels to measure out ingredients (unless they need to be weighed) and to filter fragrances. The equipment is washed in warm soapy water and sterilised using ethanol before each use.

  • Seripettor


Seri-whater, you ask? A seripettor is an amazing piece of equipment that I would not be without. It attaches to the top of a glass bottle, and very accurately dispenses our perfumes, allowing us to fill vials and bottles by hand quickly and effectively. Believe it or not, when I first started out in perfumery, I would fill every bottle and vial with a pipette!

  • Buchner flask and ceramic funnel


I say its important, but I don’t actually have these as yet. These pieces of lab equipment allow for quick filtering of the perfumes without risk of flammability. Wikipedia puts it like this:

A Büchner flask can be used with a Büchner funnel for separating solids and liquids. Water is poured into the Büchner funnel and the liquid passes through filter paper and is sucked up by a vacuum attached to the side of the Büchner flask, while the solid stays behind in the Büchner funnel.

The Büchner flask can also be used as a vacuum trap in a vacuum line to ensure that no fluids are carried over from the aspirator or vacuum pump (or other vacuum source) to the evacuated apparatus, or vice versa.

The alternative to these is to filter each formulation by hand with a funnel and filter paper (which is how we do it at the moment).

  • Crimper


Not all perfume companies crimp their bottles; some are screwed on. We have chosen crimp bottles with mean there is no risk of the product being tampered with, and less chance of leakages. Crimpers are not easy to find, and ours came all the way from South Africa.

A crimper like this attaches the metal atomiser to the top of the perfume bottle, and folds the metal under the lip, forming a tight seal.

  • Digital scales


Most ingredients and weighed out as opposed to measured when we make our perfume blends. This allows for greater accuracy and replication of the formula each time, no matter what volume we’re making. This digital scale allows us to weigh anything from 0.1g.

  • Magnetic Stirrer


A little secret weapon. Magnetic stirrers are used in chemistry for the purpose of mixing solids into liquid. A rotating magnetic field on the plate causes a little bar placed inside the bottle of perfume to spin very quickly, stirring the liquid and thus speeding up the process of ageing it. When we need to get a perfume ready quickly and don’t have the time to allow it to complete the ageing process naturally,  the stirrer allows the molecules to shake, rattle and roll to achieve a synergistic blend in less time. Under normal circumstances, our perfumes mature naturally in a dark cupboard for 4-8 weeks.

Well, there you have it! The secrets to having your own little perfume studio!

Are you thinking of becoming a perfumer? Perfumer already? Whats in your lab?

Liz Cook


liz head shot bw

Bowerbird Wrap-up

Well, the Bowerbird Bazaar is done, and it’s time to reflect and put my feet up for a few days (and by put my feet up, I mean sort out my tax, organise paperwork, pack and ship orders, check my emails, do some banking…)

One Seed stall at Bowerbird Bazaar

One Seed stall at Bowerbird Bazaar

I love the opportunity to showcase One Seed directly to potential customers, where people can talk to me directly about our products and what they love, or what they are looking for. And the opportunity to work alongside other amazing designers and creatives can never be underestimated.

One Seed perfumer, Liz Cook, Bowerbird Bazaar May 2013

One Seed perfumer, Liz Cook, Bowerbird Bazaar May 2013

I always meet so many lovely, open-hearted stallholders at these events, and find several businesses that I become a die-hard fans of. This time was no different, so allow me to introduce you to these guys whom I love…

Kitty Came Home

Mr and Mrs Kitty (aka Katrina & Farley) are what I would call market carnies- they take their wares on the road 12 times a year, and have tonnes of market experience. Their stall set-up is precision (pretty sure they had it all done in under and hour), and they are two of the nicest people to boot (evidenced by the coming & going & kisses of dozens of friends all weekend).

Kitty Came Home handcraft delightful wallets, purses & clutches from vintage and recycled fabrics within a clear PVC case.

Kitty Came Home button clutch

Kitty Came Home button clutch

Their products evidently last for years, so I can’t wait to challenge my new purse to its most difficult client (me, that is. I am a purse-slayer).

Potted Thoughts

“Potted Thoughts have created a living gift by selecting long living plants presented in beautiful pots to suit any decor. Give the gift that keeps on living.”

Potted Thoughts colour burst

Potted Thoughts colour burst

These guys are fabulous at what they do. It’s one of those amazing businesses that makes you think, “Why didn’t I think of that!” They’re range and quality is superb, and they are just a lovely bunch of people. This little family-owned-and-operated business delivers beautiful plants in stunning pots within Adelaide, and is guaranteed to be loved by whomever you choose to bless with your ‘living gift’.

From Scratch Patisserie

Now I know you’ve heard me blog on Facebook and Tweet about these guys before. And there’s a good reason for that. I’m not alone in declaring that From Scratch is hands-down the BEST patisseries in all of Australia (except maybe Canberra – I havent been there yet) – followed closely by my other favourite, Red Door Bakery.

I had the pleasure of meeting co-owner and pastry chef, Edwina, at last weekends’ Bowerbird, and I confessed my undying devotion for her wares. (Incidentally, I have recently been diagnosed as gluten sensitive, so I now both bless and curse her).

Ugly Raspbetty From Scratch Patisserie

Ugly Raspbetty From Scratch Patisserie

If you’re anywhere near Adelaide, or planning to visit, make sure you find their pop-up store, or visit them at the Adelaide Farmers Market on a Sunday morning.


Whats not to love about undies. Especially these ones. There will be no confusing where you got your unmentionables when you buy a pair of Stonemen.

Stonemen Creative Briefs

Stonemen Creative Briefs

Fantastic modern designs, great cuts, and at a decent price point. Stonemen is a Sydney brand that is definitely going places. (And, yes, I did buy a couple to take home for myself and my man. But, no, I won’t be Instagraming our pair of buttocks as directed).

Namoi Designs

Kalila Stewart Davis is a little lady going big places. Don’t be surprised if you see her gorgeous designs on international catwalks in the near future. Namoi’s designs are feminine with a modern edge, designed and handmade by Kalila using beautiful fabrics and flowing designs.

Namoi Designs

Namoi Designs

I cant wait to see what the future holds for Namoi!

Among The Trees

This sweet little home fragrance business is run by an absolutely delightful mother-and-daughter team, Linda and Ashley. Their products are handcrafted in their leafy home in the Adelaide foothills, and their range is lovely and well-priced.

Among the Trees Fig & Cassis candle

Among the Trees Fig & Cassis candle

It was such a pleasure to see these guys do so well at this market. They are such a delight and I look forward to seeing what they come up next!

I truly love being part of The Bowerbird Bazaar and all it has to offer. I always come home so inspired and with a clearer direction for the future of One Seed. Don’t be surprised if the perfume you’ve asked for and we don’t yet have becomes part of our range in the near future! We listen to all your feedback, ideas and requests.