Ainslie Walker has always been enthralled by perfumery. “I remember my parents showing me an article on a ‘nose’ [a skilled perfumer] in France in National Geographic when I was a child. It seemed like an amazing job but also near impossible for me to achieve, especially pre-internet. I was living on a small farm in Wellington, near Dubbo, very far from the South of France!” As an adult, that all changed. Walker studied naturopathy and moved to London where she worked in the product development of high-end skincare. In 2002 she went to the Rose Harvest Festival in Bulgaria, which inspired her to enrol in perfumery courses and specialise in olfactory creation.
Now back in Australia, Walker works as a scent designer and a consultant to spa and skincare brands. She also offers bespoke perfumery workshops. The first series of these workshops is The Invisible Accessory Project in collaboration with the Courtesy Of The Artist Loft, a newly launched gallery space in the Strand Arcade by the contemporary jewellery and objects house of the same name.
Workshops last three hours and cover the history of perfumery, an introduction to raw materials, traditional perfume structures and olfactory memory development. Walker brings around 100 raw materials to the workshops and with her students creates a “perfumer's organ” of 40 or so materials. This is the collection from which the class will experience scents and experiment with composition.
The workshop culminates with the design and creation of your own signature eau de parfum to take home. “By increasing the students’ olfactory palate dramatically at the beginning of the workshops, I find that they gain much inspiration and insight for their own creations,” Walker says. “They learn they can recreate a smell from their memory and almost paint a picture with the raw materials.” There is no limit to the complexity of a fragrance; the amount of top, middle and base notes used in fragrances is extremely varied between perfume houses.
Walker’s own signature scent includes green notes of fig, woody notes like leather, tobacco and amber, incenses and musk. “On another day it would be tuberose, rose and spices,” she says. “The possibilities of perfume creation are endless and so the list goes on.”
The Invisible Accessory Project's next workshops will take place on August 24 and 26 at Courtesy of the Artist Loft, Level 4, The Strand Arcade, 412–414 George Street, Sydney. Tickets are $360, available here.