Recently I wrote about the connection between art galleries and perfume and wanted to learn more about the perfumes made by Irish-Candadian artist Erin Quinn. I’m always interested in finding scents that are a little different from what everyone else wears – and EQ Factories is one of the smallest, yet most intriguing, perfume companies I’ve come across. It’s a good time to support a small business – all the perfumes are handmade in Dublin – and the scents are well worth investigating.
Born in Toronto, Erin Quinn moved to Dublin in 1998. She received a first class honours in NCAD in 2008 in Photography and Digital Imaging, and began exhibiting in 2010. She has exhibited internationally and was awarded the prestigious Curtin O’Donoghue Photography Prize in 2011; “Adam” (from the Breaking Point series) was shortlisted for the inaugural Hennessy Portrait Prize 2014 in the National Gallery of Ireland. But she was always interested in perfume, too. “I’ve always had a passion for fine fragrance and as a teen I used to wear Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior which is known as a male fragrance. It made me feel enveloped in a cocoon, made me feel more self-assured. I really disliked the sickly-sweet scents that were targeted at girls and women.”
“I’m self-taught but studied and worked hard to learn in an industry that is quite secretive,” she explains. After about a year, an artist friend asked if Quinn would like to be part of her exhibition, a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, assuming she would submit photography. “Instead I told her that I was really into scent and all things olfactory at the moment, and jokingly said I could make a scent for the show. And there began my conceptual perfume-making process! I called the scent Portrait of a Landing in ode to Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady.” Quinn’s olfactory installation aimed to create a “scent-filled odyssey from the earth’s orange trees to the moon’s powdery surface while evoking some of the aromatic memories of July, 1969”. She used notes such as sweet orange, to conjure memories of the air at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and tobacco (“Anxiously smoked cigarette clouds filled the air while the crew awaited the safe lift off of Apollo 11”).
The Imma shop approached Quinn a while after and by last December she was selling seven scents in their shop. Some sold out and there was a lot of interest. “Now with the Covid-19 situation, I’m trying to move forward in other ways with it.” With the IMMA shop currently closed, Quinn has been busy setting up an online shop where you can now find both perfumes and art prints. In between home-schooling, Quinn is busy blending more formulations for sale. “I have a little lab in my home and generally only blend around 15 bottles of a particular blend at a time. Each ingredient is measured precisely by weight. I source my natural ingredients from Paris and my perfumer’s ingredients from large French perfume companies.”
I’m wearing her Can’t Do Without You, a rich and earthy blend of hyacinth (my favourite spring smell), patchouli, frankincense and tobacco. It has a kind of violet lushness, and reminds me of the very distinctive Haeckels perfumes. It’s perfectly unisex, and nothing like the mainstream fruity pink juices flooding the spring perfume market right now. And it’s more attention-grabbing and powerful as many perfumes that are priced three times higher. Others include Rose Petals on Suede, and Flower Shop Floor, which is more about green stems and fresh leaves than bloom, with notes of peony, rose and geranium plus lavender, grapefruit and coriander – a perfect spring scent.
It’s an intriguing approach to perfume. “I see it as part of my art practice and try to approach it in that way. To me it’s not about sales but as an expression and sharing something really intimate about myself in each one. Scent connects us so precisely to a moment, experience, to a person or memory like nothing else. Connection and feeling connected is so important to us all right now. I like that my scents can connect me to someone on a very deep level.” Eau de parfums, €35 for 10ml. Use code IRELANDLOCKIN for 20 per cent off all scents until the end of April.
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