I’m in the car with my photographer Laura – we’re driving to visit Jocelyn Fullerton.
It’s one of those freakishly hot, windy spring days and we’re both glad not to be in the Royal Botanical Garden, our alternate location since Fullerton takes botany students there (she’s also a lecturer in herbal pharmacy and pharmacognosy, amongst other hats).
Laura wants me to describe the photography subject.
“She’s gregarious,” I start.
“She’s… I wouldn’t be surprised if she was a member of a coven actually,” I say. “She’s a bit witchy.” But of course that’s not the right word (despite the cauldron tucked in the corner of Fullerton’s bijoux home in Sydney’s bohemian Inner West). She’s an enchantress.
I first met Fullerton at one of her fragrance workshops, pitched to all kinds of ‘nosy’ types: makers and crafters, flower freaks, aspiring perfumers, collectors, retailers, anyone who’s intrigued by the world of olfaction. As a magazine writer obsessed with perfume but with a nose ‘trained’ mostly via PR press releases, I was firmly in the aspiring camp. I wanted more from that world, and I got it. A whirlwind tumble down the rabbit hole of perfume history emerging into an alternate universe of scent ingredients, Fullerton holds nothing of her extraordinary knowledge back, she is a captivating speaker with a fulsome energy that thrives on the looks of wonderment on the faces of her students as they put their noses to some of the most captivating scents ever made.
Fullerton has perfected a fantastic party trick for workshops. First she introduces a classic perfume – Christian Dior’s Diorissimo for example. We sniff. It’s gorgeous. Could I tell you what’s in it? No chance. With a twinkle in her eye the enchantress dips a paper test strip into a tiny brown bottle. It’s Diorissimo’s hero ingredient, lily of the valley, in pure chemical form. Sniffed side by side, suddenly my nose is activated and there, revealed in the perfume, is that prized floral note. It’s magical, and I’m entranced.
By the end of my workshop I had not one but two fragrances created by me but orchestrated by Fullerton who lifts, intensifies and balances elements with incredible skill.
Months later, Laura and I are invited into the perfumer’s cool dim sitting room, happily entombed by shelves stacked with cookbooks, reference texts, biographies and relics. It’s tricky to keep the perfumer talking about herself for long. She’s too full to the brim with the desire to inspire and within arm’s reach are a mind-boggling array of vintage perfumes, rare ingredients and of course her ‘organ’, octave after octave of aroma-chemicals, absolutes, extracts and tinctures that she not only totes to workshops but uses to construct perfumes for her artisan brand, Cult of Scent.
“Smell this!” she says, thrusting a strip under my nose.
I raise an eyebrow and inhale. She looks at me with a gleefully penetrating stare.
“What are you getting?” she asks.
This is the perfumer’s favourite phrase to reference the subjectivity of scent. Never “there is” such and such note, but instead, “I get”. I get something sharp, I get a floral, I get… sunshine. It’s no surprise that Fullerton seems to have a knack for injecting sunshine into her scents. Richness and intensity is always matched by the goal of happy-making (legendary perfume critic Luca Turin described her creations as bringing a smile to his face). This is Fullerton’s magic – bottling joy.
And she is an expert at her craft.
She is also presenting a number of free workshops at Floriade 2017
And a very special Kids Perfume Workshop