Between Art and Scent | Q & A With Artistscent Founder Natalie Kuhles

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Sensory pleasure in all its forms, is one of the best aspects of living in a moment. Even more-so, whether it’s local or abroad, there is a gift in appreciating something enough to have it stored in our memories.  Combining the pleasure and appreciation of sensory experiences is what Artistscent accomplishes by encapsulating both a visual piece of art and an olfactory present within their collection of candles. Designed with heart and connection in mind, Artistscent is the collaborative effort of working with visual artists to create a sensory experience in a physical form that transcends the boundaries of locking in artistic expression within only one medium. We were graciously granted the opportunity to ask Founder and President Natalie Kuhles a few questions to gain more insight into this wonderful endeavor.

Artistscent Founder Natalie Kuhles
Artistscent Founder and President Natalie Kuhles

Q: I find it so interesting how you asked yourself the question of “how would the art smell from the perspective of the artist” In a way asking for another dimension of expression from the piece. As a fragrance expert and appreciator of visual arts, how would you describe the uniqueness of the experience obtained from scents versus the experience gained from visual means? 

N: When the artists described how they imagined the scent that they envisioned for the painting, it brought another dimension into their artistic experience which was one they had never thought of before. In order to appreciate a visual piece of art you have to see it, maybe study it to get the meaning and appreciate the beauty. The additional interpretation of the scent surrounds you with this inspiration – you experience a candle scent all around you as the candle burns and fills the room.  Scent invokes powerful memories and associations. Adding this dimension to the visual art provides a deeper look into the artist, bringing out images and feelings that are not evident in the painting alone.  Each scent we created with the artist has their story and brings more to life: the place, memory or creative thought that inspired the artwork.

Q: Translating intention between mediums does not seem to be an easy feat. How did you approach introducing the artist – an expert of one field – to the new language of fragrance? What made things easier in the process and were there any “language barriers” that needed to be overcome? 

N: Translating the vision of a scent into that fragrance is my expertise in the 4 decades I spent in the fragrance and scented product design business. Whenever a fragrance is developed for a product, the project owner describes in “consumer” terms what the smell should be like and as the fragrance expert, it is my job to translate that into the language of the perfumers (the actual fragrance creators) to achieve that goal. Sometimes that is obvious, like Elizabeth Karlson’s Berry Crush which reminded her of making blackberry jam with her mom. That was a fairly straightforward translation! A more complex example is Ronnie Queenan’s Under Construction II which was inspired by new construction in Houston, his hometown, and the way he envisioned the smell.  He described it to me in his words, – warm, dusty, dry, some floral notes from the new landscaping around some buildings. I took that direction and gave our perfumers direction of the notes both in his terms and in more technical terms (the language of perfumery) that I believed would achieve that. We did a few interpretations and then Ronnie selected the final fragrance which he felt truly exemplified the smell he was describing when envisioning his art piece.

Berry Crush Elizabeth Karlson
Berry Crush candle from the Elizabeth Karlson Collection
City Scape Candle Ronnie Queenan
City Scape candle from the Ronnie Queenan Collection

Q: As an individual who has worked for 40 years in the fragrance industry, what would you say was behind the decision to make this collaborative effort centered around candles versus other olfactory mediums such as diffusers, incense holders, fragrances etc? 

N: Candles surround your space with scent as the heat diffuses the fragrance through the room and they provide a warm cozy ambiance with their flame.  In addition, the screen printed glass allows the art to be illuminated when it burns so it mimics the feel of a painting that is lighted. The overall look changes as the candle burns down and the vessel goes from the opaque white of the wax to clear or translucent glass.  Candles are always the lead item in a high end home fragrance line.  Diffusers, incense, potpourri, and room sprays are generally line extension products.

 

Q: Artistscent does a lot of bridging between worlds – from the visual art with the fragrance form but also with bringing art that would traditionally be on larger canvases into a smaller, more accessible form that could be easily introduced into people’s homes. I’ve seen the fine art world can sometimes function using exclusivity as a form to add perceived value – such as limited edition prints, or celebrity sneaker collaborations that disappear once out of stock. Considering your balanced and accessible approach, what would you say is Artistscent’s placement within the fine art and luxury fragrance world? 

N: Our screen printing and adaptation of the original art or design on glass gives the consumer a unique vessel with the art permanently on the glass. The consumer is receiving a beautifully scented candle and they are getting a unique keepsake as the art is permanently screened on the glass, along with the name of the artwork and the artist. It allows our consumers to surround themselves with expertly crafted premium fragrance and to decorate their space with beautiful art anywhere.

 

Q: Lastly, what makes you excited about the future Artiscent and what can Artistscent fans expect to see as the company grows?

N: We are a new brand, and our customers love our products which is exciting and very gratifying. We are focusing on building our brand awareness so more people will discover us and can enjoy this new way to experience the connection between art and scent.

As we grow, we are thinking about expanding into line extensions such as reed diffusers, along with additional collections from existing and new artists (hint – my sister is an artist – designed all our packaging and website so guess who may be next!) However, the most important part of our growth as a company is to stay true to our roots. From choosing artists to fulfilling shipments, the Artistscent team is dedicated to making the experience for consumers as meaningful as possible. We are not interested in growing so fast that we lose our roots in the process.

Ron Chereskin Circles Candle
Circles candle from the Ron Chereskin Collection

To explore more of Artistscent’s amazing collections visit their website to take a gander or to learn more about their mission.

For more on the Circles candle by Ron Chereskin check out our other feature!

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