Conversations with an Artist: S+M Fragrances

Manuela King-S+M Fragrances | Poet and the Bench

Sense + Memories Fragrances by Manuela King explore the harmonious connection to nature and our own nature. As a landscape architect, Manuela's familiarity with the botanical nature of plants and their properties influences her foundation in perfume design, with parfum, the most concentrated form of fragrance, as her sublime result. She captures the idea that nature can bring humans into a more balanced living relationship, while scent can transport you to another time and place. Together we collaborated on a handcrafted botanical perfume oil, No. 11, an otherworldly gender inclusive scent to ground you in the moment and transport you to magic.

8 Questions

Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
Art has always been an integral part of my life.  As a young only child, I immersed myself in drawing, painting and the imagination. In college, landscape architecture was a natural integration of my interest in design and plants. The older I get, the more I realize that the creative process is critical to my joy in life. This applies to architectural design and fragrance design as well all of the arts.

What themes do you pursue in your art?
I try to design experiences that affect the emotions, whether I am designing a place for people to occupy or a fragrance that touches their heart.

S+M Fragrances x Poet and the Bench_Emotion Woman Image

Tell us about what influences the direction for your craft.
I believe I have three distinct influences on my fragrance design. As a landscape architect, plants are part of my palette. I have always been intrigued by not just the shape and form of plants, but also their less visible characteristics such as scent and ecology. When I started working with fragrances, I started with a foundation of understanding the sources for the botanical ingredients – how they grow, where they are found in nature and what other plants they work with. I am influenced by the mythology of the healing properties of flowers. Plants have a centuries long history of being used to work in conjunction with the body. I find that to be true for the fragrances of plants as well.

Memory, places and stories are key influences on my design. Many of my most powerful memories of places and moments in my life are triggered by a scent –my grandmother’s garden with its giant lilacs, the scent of the wet earth in early spring after the snow is gone, the fragrance from the bay trees and redwoods in my own garden. I  wanted to design fragrances that trigger memories and named my brand Senses + Memories. The way I design a fragrance starts with a poem or a story or a place, something that evokes a strong mood in me. I then imagine what that story would smell like. For Vampyre, I imagined the scent of the air in New Orleans and the wood scent of a dark paneled room. For my neighborhood series, I walked the neighborhoods of San Francisco, noting what plants grow there and formulated fragrances that reminded me of those places. For my GHOST line, I imagined the story of how a faint scent of roses can be read as a sign of a spirit. I designed Amnesia after returning from a trip to Hawaii and how I wanted to bring back the sense of relaxation and calm of Aloha spirit.

Finally, I am influenced by the folklore of the healing and storytelling properties of flowers.  Plants have a centuries long history of being used to work in conjunction with the body.  I believe that scent has an energetic influence on our mind and body.  My fragrances are based on my research and my own personal response to different fragrances.

S+M Fragrances x Poet and the Bench_Botanical Perfume Ingredients

How has your work developed over time?
My fragrances have evolved as a collect more and more natural rare ingredients. Each new ingredient opens up new possibilities and combinations.

S+M Fragrances x Poet and the Bench_Botanical Perfume Ingredients 1

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
I work out of my home in Mill Valley which has multiple decks that open out to views of Mount Tam. I find that the connection to nature is inspiring and it is hard to imagine working without it.

Manuela King S+M Fragrances x Poet and the Bench_Inspiration Ingredients

Do you collect anything?
Too many things! I collect art, crystals, perfumes, tarot cards and all sorts of quirky objects that resonate with my quirky point of view.

S+M Fragrances x Poet and the Bench_Botanical Perfume Oil

What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
I loved The Queen’s Gambit. It was visually stunning and the story was very powerful.

What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey? 
Don’t be afraid to express your ideas. Be yourself, trust yourself and keep your mind open.

Manuela King S+M Fragrances x Poet and the Bench_No 11 Botanical Perfume Oil

No. 11 is our collaboration with Manuela on a fragrance that captures a mood of Poet and/the Bench, at once gritty (of the workshop), woodsy (our location) and a little sweet (because beauty). A mysterious gender inclusive perfume blend, it's inspired by the idea that the universe aligns to point out where our true path lies. A fragrance to put you in touch with your intuition.

Purchase here and read the FAQs here... and come experience the smell in person at our shop in Mill Valley.

Bonnie & Jeffrey

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