Posts Tagged ‘ Women ’

Aftel Archive of Curious Scents

My nose needs a nap after taking in dozens of smells this morning from the 300 note perfume organ at the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents. The Archive is a tiny museum located next door to perfumer Mandy Aftel’s home in Berkeley.

Mandy and her son graciously answered our questions about the artifacts on display. Mandy showed us her collection of ambergris, which is used as a natural fixative in perfume. When sperm whales eat squid, they produce ambergris to protect their stomach linings from sharp squid beaks. Sperm whales puke or poop out waxy lumps of ambergris, which then float on the ocean until they are collected and sold. In 2016, three fishermen from Oman harvested 80 kilograms (176 pounds) of ambergris valued at $2.8 million USD! Ambergris smells better than expected – it is musky, earthy, and sweet. Mandy’s son opened a small vial of oud oil and held the stopper under our noses. To me, oud oil evokes a dank moldy forest. It is distilled from agarwood using steam. High quality oud oil may sell for as much as $50,000 USD per kilogram.

We were invited to take home paper strips dipped in our favourite essences. Scott chose dill, plai, and massoia bark. Dill is Scott’s favourite potato chip flavour. Plai is a Thai ginger. Massoia is an evergreen laurel from Papua, New Guinea that smells like sandalwood and coconut. As Scott put his strips in a single glassine envelope, the plai and massoia bark aromas were quickly overpowered by the dill. I chose citronellol, tolu balsam, and ravensara. Citronellol is a compound found in rose oil. Tolu balsam is a dark sticky resin that smells warm and spicy. Ravensara, an evergreen from Madagascar, reminds me of anise and fennel.

Our sensory experiences included not only smells but also tastes. After eating dark chocolate spritzed with essences of cardamom, ginger, and peru balsam, Scott bought a pink peppercorn spray to flavour our salads and ice cream at home. Yum!

Arpilleras

Last weekend, I admired this arpillera in Ojai and couldn’t resist taking a photo of it.  Now, I wish I had brought it home with me.  Arpilleras are three-dimensional appliqué textiles sewn by folk artists in South America.  This particular tapestry was created in Peru; it depicts a happy day at the beach.  Ironically, the technique originated in Chile as a means for craftswomen to overcome their despair.

Chilean women first created arpilleras to earn much-needed income in the 1970s following Augusto Pinochet’s violent rise to power.  Pinochet’s policies encouraged women to embrace domestic life and discouraged them from being politically active.  However, Los Desaparecidos (The Disappeared) and the widespread poverty that ensued forced many women to seek employment outside their homes to support their families.  Raúl Silva Henríquez, the Archbishop of Santiago, enabled women to run arpilleras workshops in Roman Catholic churches, and facilitated the sale of finished tapestries abroad.  This grassroots enterprise evolved into a social movement as the artisans started documenting the harsh realities of their daily lives in the arpilleras they created.  Participating in arpilleras workshops empowered women to fight for social justice and political democracy in Chile.

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