Saturday, July 23, 2011

2011 Challenge: Your Questions, My Answers

Kitteh is available to take questions...
The very clever Undina recently posted on my original challenge post, to ask some questions about my process. While I momentarily considered pulling a Felicia Day ("I don't discuss my process!"), in truth I suspect a few of you have questions or curiosities, and I wanted to take a moment to address them.

Let's take these questions in the order asked, shall we?

1. Are you re-testing any of the perfumes? 

In a word, yes, though not the way you expect probably. Part of this challenge, actually, was to force me to start working through my purgatory stash, which frankly is still huge. When I started at the beginning of the year, I had over 200 samples I had been sitting on. Not knowing anything about perfume, it took me several months to buy a bottle of any kind because I felt totally overwhelmed. So I bought a ton of samples. Many of them I tried, but never gotten around to reviewing. The challenge was a sort of way to force me to actually get moving on it.

Why hadn't I said anything about those I'd tried before?

When I started this little blog, I tried to stick to things I loved for two reasons. One, I wanted to talk about my perfume joy! not my perfume disappointment/agitation. So I tended to write about things that moved me happily. Scents that didn't stand out went back into the pile for another go round, with the hope I might love them later.

Two, I can have kind of a sharp tongue. If you've read any of my feminist aesthetic critique pieces, you'll see that I could have been slam book queen of even the bitchiest high school. But I recognize that scents that I don't care for or actively turn me off might be something someone else loves the way I love S-Perfumes 100% Love or CB I Hate Perfume Black March. And I don't want to go hating on something someone else loves. When I first started, I gave an abrupt and scathing review to Solange Cosmic. The review still stands on my blog, and I leave it there because I still think it's a scrubber despite notes that I see today and think "Why don't like this!?!", but I'm much less likely to write such an instantly and purely negative review today than I was three years ago.

The consequence was a back log of perfumes that deserved comment, but nothing I felt the need to write a 1-2 page single-spaced paper about. The challenge also provided me with a way to sort of hit-it-and-quit-it review things that I thought were nice, but not swoon worthy, and still be writing a substantive piece instead of a thumb nail post over and over again.

2. Wearing for 4 hours with many of perfumes (if we're not talking Tauers, Amouages and those occasionals that you hate ;) ) leaves some time even during the week day to apply something you've previously tried. Do you use that time? Or do you give yourself a rest?

I do use that time, usually trying the things that end up posted about at the end of a week two maybe three times. The other thing I do with that time is swap to something I have a bottle of and already know I like. Testing for me will go something like this, on average:

Monday morning: I hate the world, and wear something I like so I don't kill anyone at work. Also coffee. Lots of coffee. Drinking a lot of really strong coffee and screw with my nose, so I try not to sample on Monday mornings.
Monday evening: Perfume A on right arm, Perfume B on left arm. Immediate impressions, initial notes, thoughts, poem/song/film connections.
Monday night, before bed: Something comforting and known or something strong to sample, which I can't wear to work because my workplace is not perfume friendly, which is one of the primary reasons I'd kind of like to find a new job. Seriously. It's a major work hang-up for me. So I test big scents at night and keep a pad next to the bed. Also, I only sleep about 6 hours a day, so night means like 10pm, but I won't go to bed until midnight or 1am.

The rest of the week sort of spins out similarly, with me retrying things I know don't have huge sillage in the mornings while at work, taking an afternoon to do side-by-side comparisons where they occur to me, taking more notes, etc. Occasionally I take a pass day, because I am too tired to write. I have a lot of writing to do; I draft all day at work, I freelance, I write here on Feminine Things, and I am working on revisions to my first novel. FN1. Some days, the nose is willing but the creative spark isn't. So I take a day.

3. With some perfumes I noticed I start liking them more on the second/third try - aren't you afraid to miss any you might like not on a first sniff?

I am ALWAYS afraid of that. That Cosmic review? Haunted me enough that I BOUGHT ANOTHER SAMPLE OF SOMETHING I HATED. Yeah. I bought something I disliked twice for fear it was my newness to perfume that made me dislike it. It wasn't. Cosmic is not for me. And I feel good saying that now. But I'm always afraid of that, which is why almost nothing gets posted without being tried twice, usually at different times of day on different days.

Here are some other questions that have come my way I thought I should answer publicly.

4. What's with the theme weeks?

So two things have happened here at Feminine Things that were completely unanticipated by me when I started at the beginning of the year. The first is that perfumers have started contact me and sending me their perfume to review. Not many and not often, but it's  happening occasionally. FN2. FN3. The second thing is that I keep finding new houses I really want to try and they keep selling me these handy dandy sample sets, with 10-12 scents, which works out to about two weeks of reviews.  It wasn't planned when I started, but I've liked the theme weeks that cover five or six scents by one house, so expect to keep seeing them.  I'm also hoping to do some theme weeks by note, but that's a Perfumed Court order or two away.

Anyone else have any questions for me?  About the challenge, the mixes, Feminine Things, or me?  Or anything really?  Anyone? Beuller? FN4.

The lines are open.  
FN1. Yeah, I can't believe I just dropped that in either. It's a big deal to me, life long dream , blah blah blah. Whatever. I can't bring myself to talk about it yet. But yeah I'm doing it. Started last September, first draft was completed back in April, and I'm in the heavy line by line editing period before the second draft goes to my handful of readers in October/November. I'm hoping to start looking for an agent by the end of year. So there you have it. When I feel like I have more to tell you, I will.

FN2. I'll be honest with you, I never thought that would happen. Yeah, I like to write and yeah, I've smelled a lot of perfume, but what the hell do I know? Enough, apparently, which is flattering. Having a unique voice helps, I think, and I've worked on to develop mine.

FN3. My solicitation and review policy is here if you're interested.

FN4. "Ummm, he's sick." Sorry.  Had to do it.


Ines said...

You wrote a novel? How wonderful! :)
I always wished I could do it but I don't think I have it in me, I'm a reader through and through. :)
Can you at least tell us a little of what it's about?

Undina said...

Thank you, Diana, you answered almost all my questions. One more (though not related to the challenge): how do you plan to move your collection?

Diana said...

Ines, all I feel ready to say about it is that I set it on a college campus, and feel good about some of the writing so far.

Diana said...


I keep all my boxes, so any time I'm moving my perfume, I repackage everything. For the two months I've lived here, I haven't even then out of the boxes.

I usually move my bottles in a suit case, wrapped in t-shirts and clothing to soften impact. I then keep the case with me and move it directly from one place to another in the first round of moves.

As for samples, I have been struggling for a good way to store them for years. Currently they are in a small jars and plastic baggies, wedge in upright to avoid leakage inside an Ikea box with a lid. What I'd like to do is buy a bunch of bullet cases to store each sample upright, but I haven't gotten to it yet. Also, David bought me a lovely wooden tea box that I keep small decants and spray samples in. I generally pack these smaller storage systems into a large box or two, again with t-shirts and clothes, and carefully move the directly from one climate controlled location to the next.

I have so much perfume, and I keep getting more, which means storage and moving is an ongoing problem. When David and I move into a house next year, one of my goals in looking at possible rentals is to find (a) a place with big enough bathrooms for growth (b) a closet I can commandeer for perfume, or (c) a master bedroom that can accommodate all our current furniture *and* a separate dresser or revolving pie stand covered with a drop cloth to keep my perfume in (the latter is my ideal storage).

Undina said...

Thank you, it was a very interesting explanation. And I love the idea of the rotating storage.
I store my samples (those that come without cards) in such ammo boxes. I love them. I have two different sizes - for 1 ml vials and for 2 ml sprays. But I probably need to look for the next size because some of my bigger samples do not fit.
Are you flying with those bottles or only driving?

Diana said...

Driving. I think between the cats and the fume I'll probably only be moving by car for the rest of my life. :)

Now it's my turn -- how did you know which size cases to get? What size cases do you have? I don't want to actually set foot in a gun store, which has stymied my process.

Undina said...

I didn't know either and didn't want to go to a real store. But I have a friend who is into guns (other than that he's a nice guy ;) ) and he helped me with sizes. I'm actually writing a post about those boxes so I'll give links to those that I have and show some pictures.

Undina said...

I've just published a post with links to the proper-sized boxes.