December 4, 2013

Perfumer Alexis Karl

Alexis Karl
Alexis Karl is an especially unique indie perfumer, who works both in collaboration in The House of Cherry Bomb, and individually as Scent by Alexis.

Her perfume inspirations seek to intensify the closeness of the mind/body relationship, to marry our animal and poetic natures.

She works in a thoroughly gothic sensibility identified with luxurious decadence, informed and fueled by a strong sense of the melancholy beauty of our vulnerable mortality.

Immortal Mine 
Her perfumes call to an affinity in me, and I have acquired full bottles of such piercingly beautiful florals titled The Voluptuous Horror of Metaphor and The Mourning of Lost Souls,   along with her collaborations in the darkest of perfumes Immortal Mine , made for my Clarimonde Perfume Project, and Tobacco Cognac as well as the brighter Cardamom Rose. There are others rising on my wish list and I want to know what she intends to do next.

She comes by her preference for the gothic style honestly, as she grew up surrounded by her family's cemetery business, and from an early age played every day after school among the tombstones. Her mother kept an antique store just within the cemetery grounds before she became a chef and chocolatier, imparting those skills and a taste for the luxurious gourmand to her daughter.

Growing up among the romantically crumbling Victorian rooms of her family's house included a beautifully decaying conservatory as another youthful playground.  Later she was sent to soak herself in what remains of the still extant late 19th Century horseback riding culture practiced by old school Main Line Philadelphia at the Agnes Irwin School.

She is the most multi-faceted perfumer I know of, incorporating her style and personal history within the wide range of her creative works.  Founder of Scent of Alexis, co-founder of The House of Cherry Bomb Perfumes, she is also a painting and portfolio instructor at Ashcan Studio of Art and teacher of Perfume History through Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

She has formally trained in opera, singing as a performance artist in two bands, Anima Animus Animal and Ondyne's Demise. These performances are an important part of her creative endeavor, while she enhances her expressions in music and writing and painting by formulating perfumes to expand on the moods of her original work in all artistic media.

The perfumes are expressive of a focused gothic style and persona, driven by a generous and effusive creativity. There is something almost oceanic in the waves of ideas bonded to sensual forms of expression she spontaneously generates in such constant abundance.
Body Made Luminous described 
She has been making perfumes for years. There was a recent hiatus caused by that infamous storm Sandy that hit the NYC coast so hard last year, that swept away all her rare and precious aromatic materials, gathered over years. After throwing herself into helping others affected by the storm,  she assisted with the installation of her husband Ken Weaver's art in a show held soon thereafter, and devised exquisite perfumes that went with his paintings in the limited edition Requiem series.  She expanded her collaboration  in The House of Cherry Bomb, and may often be found present at the open Fridays at the Aroma M Atelier in DUMBO Brooklyn.

Her innate sociability moves her to frequently entertain with gourmet meals using skills learned from her professional confectionery chef mother,  and then she incorporates those gourmand influences into her darker perfumes, with the use of chocolate, saffron, cumin, basil, and coffee.

All the many things she does are unified by a style of gothic romanticism that that she lives out within our hard edged urban modernity, to include her perfumes, writing, painting, music, clothing, cuisine, and interior decoration.

She is an avid reader and writer of imaginative fiction and poetry, and is in the midst of writing a novel in urban sci-fi punk rock warrior style, setting scenes of romantic gothicism inside contemporary NYC with all its layers of past and present.

So much physical energy requires an outlet, so she undertook the serious study of ninja martial arts, and has become an enthusiastic practitioner.

She cultivates and maintains a glamorous presence, often dressing in blacks and reds with many pieces made by indie designers. It is a comfortable body conscious form of romantic gothic elegance, that exhibits a sensual awareness of mortality.

All this while personally expressing an innate joyous warmth, which contrasts and sets off the goth image all the more.  She acts as a compassionate friend to those in need within her line of sight, a cat woman who lives with five, and demonstrates generous devotion to her immediate and extended family, while constantly drawing ideas out of the air, to manifest as perfumes, poetry, songs, paintings, and as the fuel for creativity in all her favorite forms.

On sight my first impression is of vitality and gaiety, framed by black white and red,  with perfect milky white skin, masses of dark hair, a red mouth, and  high energy expressed by peals of laughter while she affectionately draws in close to listen and observe, in an active pursuit of drinking in the world as it is. Despite the specific and strictly held stylistically gothic persona there is a sense of openness to a myriad of impressions and knowledgable appreciation of alternate aesthetics and views.

The perfumes hold dual themes of either piercing florals or dark sensually driven gourmand notes, both with a great sense of pleasure in materiality.  She does everything by hand. All aspects of her creativity are forms of ornamentation and decoration using traditional methods to express her modern/gothic sensibility.  So naturally these perfumes speak to my tastes.

I, Daughter of Kong:
Exhibition with perfume for a animal/human
Her road to perfume lead through painting.  During an installation of one of her oil paintings in the offices of Firmenich she met inspiring people, who were perfumers working from a background in chemistry and their innate knowledge of aroma chemicals. These conversations  led her to research the primary inspirations of ancient perfumery.  Ancient Egypt and the ritualistic uses of perfume became fascinations, especially the religious element of magic and perfumes used to strengthen incantations.

She steeped herself in research on how the ancient fragrances were made, as worn and ingested, carried in wine, in oils, and then leapt into the 18th century aesthetic of refined preciousness. Initially she learned about fragrance using three notes, then rose and floral notes as a glaze of transparency, similar to the techniques of glazing in oil painting, incorporating those principals in balance and strength both in color and smell.

Alexis and Ken as American Artists in Rome
Historical and literary references and direct personal experience are incorporated into her process of perfume making. She often travels to Rome and has grown deep associations with the smells of that place, especially the jasmine in May, and the frankincense absorbed by the interiors of old churches.

She treasures her vivid recollections of nights and days spent staying in a jasmine covered building, the scent tempered by cat pee and oranges and brick and marble crumbling into dust. The impressions made by the ancient oxidized glass vessels in the museums led to her hand-gilded flacons and now her etched bottles.

Some primary inspirations for the perfumes continue to be literary, as focused in the essay by Foucault that led to Body Made Luminous.  His essay moved her with its conviction that the romantic beauty of the body will not be understood without a lover's gaze, as it is a lover's obsession that brings out the body's luminosity, its heightened attractive liveliness, and the dark seductive essence of sensuality.

She is planning to assist with a lecture on The Vanity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to be set in the period rooms this Spring, something I avidly look forward to.  She will perfume fans, handkerchiefs, note papers and other materials with scents appropriate to the the time period, to help make the information come alive for those attending. There will also be a full semester course at SVA in NYC offered this Spring where she will instruct and lecture on the uses of fine aromatic materials in art.

Creature's Self in progress
This is an indieperfumer who personifies my favorite aspects of the current renaissance of contemporary perfume in this country -- an artist in the true sense of the term, drawn to the use of perfume as a method and material way to express the pure beauty of a specific moment and mood.

Her perfumes are available at (Immortal Mine and Body Made Luminous) and directly from the perfumer at the Aroma M Atelier in Brooklyn, located on the 10th floor of 68 Jay street (#1007) in Brooklyn.

The studio is open to the public on Mondays and Fridays between 1 and 6 PM  and also by appointment.  You can contact them by email, in case you are in NYC for a short visit, so you won't miss these perfumes.

Please visit her beautiful sites full of perfume, music, painting and mythological hybrids of humans and animals:

Mythological Evolution
Body Made Luminous on Pinterest

Music by Ondyne's Demise, to listen to perfume by, while gazing at a lovely visual images: DIP
I love this music video Anima Animus Animal, Alexis Karl in full gothic flavor: Emshab J'ai Change

Foucault's Utopian Body essay 

Writing excerpts of the first two chapters of her novel as well as a few song lyrics

Body Made Luminous with contact information for Alexis Karl.

Copyright 2013 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.
Above images courtesy of Alexis Karl.  Please credit all reuse or links to this material as appropriate to Lucy Raubertas or Alexis Karl.


Juraj said...

Hey Lucy,

To be honest, it is the first time I heard about Alexis but as soon as I saw gothic indie perfumer, I was interested. It sounds nice and she looks nice. Her appearance is very interesting. It's very unfortunate because I can't try her perfumes, they carry really interesting name and would be interesting to see her imagionation. Nice article :)


Lucy Raubertas said...

I believe we are FB friends, Juraj, so PM me your address there - if you are in the US I can get some samples to you from my own stash. Also IndieScents has Body Made Luminous and Immortal Mine in sample form.

deana sidney said...

What a fascinating lady. I can't help but want to meet her after reading this. It would be a blast. One point I would love to comment on, because it has long interested me, is the scent of incense burned for centuries... I am crazy about that scent but have no idea how you would replicate it... smoking marble dust? The scent is so deep and ancient. It would be a great perfume.

Lucy Raubertas said...

Hi Deana -- actually you did meet last year, but you were both very busy - she was the one at the Clarimonde event holding a candelabra and declaiming poetry over the perfumes -- it would be nice if you could get together to talk more too. There is an event this Friday at the Atelier in Dumbo, and I will be there, and so will Alexis, I hope you will come and try all the perfumes.