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Liz Zorn is a Jill of all trades: aside from being one of the most talented independent perfumers in the industry, she is a multi-media artist and a businesswoman. Her Soivohle (standing for Sending Out Inspired Vibrations of Healthy Loving Energy) line includes some of the most masterful fragrances I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Zorn’s latest collection, Soivohle Absolute Pour Homme, debuted on Monday the 29th of August. Her next launch will be the re-launch of  her Acousticjus line, set for early Fall.

Enjoy the interview below, in which Liz and I discuss creativity and the life of an independent perfumer!

JP: Liz, your fragrances are among the most creative and unusual fragrances I have ever had the pleasure of wearing. When you sit down to work on a fragrance, do you work with a basic idea of what you’d like to smell or do you work spontaneously?

I do work with an idea. I am often inspired by the slightest of things. The sound of birds singing at first light, or a night bird in the dark. It doesn’t have to be related to smell, yet as I mull it over in my head I am able to construct a scent around my inspiration. I am spontaneous in other areas of my life but for my art, I always have a clear vision.

JP: I know that you’re a multi-media artist (musician, painter, and photographer, wow!) as well as a perfumer. Do you experience any overlap in these areas? I ask because I imagine that creating a fragrance must, in some way, be similar to sitting down to write a piece of music or mixing colors on a palette for a painting.

I would say that there is a symbiosis. One does not exist without the other, or others. For me, the process is the same for all. It goes back to that initial spark that gets the ball rolling. A song could easily become a scent as a scent could become a painting. I am working on a new perfume now inspired in part by a song. So much so that I am writing a new arrangement of the song as I work on the scent. There is no separation really, art is art.

JP: I realized that your studio is the perfect example of this overlap. Please do tell me about Scentual Artistry (the name of Zorn’s studio) as well.

My studio is located in a fine arts building in Cincinnati, Ohio called the Pendleton Art Center. It is an old renovated factory with eight floors of artist studios. There are painters, sculptors, jewelry artists, photographers, and many more. I had my painting studio in that same building twenty years ago, so there is a bit of a “full circle moment” going on there.

JP: Who do you create fragrance for? Yourself, for your customers, or for the sake of art?

For years I have maintained that I create for myself, but that isn’t exactly true. I definitely do not create for the marketplace. I think the “ART” comes later. My motivation is more about the chase. I am all about process, the dancing around of ideas, turning an intangible thought into a tangible reality. I like how all of the pieces come together like a puzzle. Perhaps that is it, the puzzle. I like solving puzzles.

JP: Does the categorization of “independent perfumer” bother you at all, or do you embrace the total lack of commercialization? As a blogger, I sometimes feel that “independent perfumer” can sometimes come across negatively or smack of unprofessionalism.

I don’t think there is a lack of commercialization at all. There is the work, the creative, and there is business. We are an LLC Company, our brands are trademarked, we keep records, we pay taxes. Just like any business. Do I approach it differently than a large corporation, yes I probably do.  What does that mean “Independent Perfumer”. There are professional, perfumers, people who create perfumes for a living and there are those who would fall under the heading of hobbyist. Some of us own our own companies and can be considered independent in that regard, while others who work for someone else may not have as much independence.

Does that make one better than, or more qualified than the other, I don’t think so. At the same time, there is a double edge in being independent. It is wonderful to have the freedom to create as I choose, but also a big responsibility to keep my business solvent and make the right decisions. I am like anyone else in that regard. We all need money to live.
JP: I am so excited for the re-launch of Acousticjus in the fall. I love how on your website you say that the line is “all about letting your hair down and kicking back” - what inspired the creation of this line, and do you imagine it attracting a whole new audience who may be intimidated by your Soivohle line?

A few years ago, (for a couple of years in a row) I made perfume gifts for my granddaughters at Christmas. This is where the idea came from originally; I wanted to create a line of products for a younger audience such as these girls. That idea went through an evolution. I thought, “How cool would it be to create an “Unplugged” line of fragrances?” Unplugged meaning that the fragrances would be alcohol-free. That is when I started to link the idea with music and came up with the name Acousticjus, as acoustic music is often referred to as unplugged.

When we first launched Acousticjus last year, I was not so clear on the whole picture of what I wanted for this line, so I decided to rethink it and do a complete overhaul of the look. I also decided to make the entire collection vegan, so  I reworked a couple of the formulas to remove things like honey absolute and beeswax absolute. I am often asked about animal products in my Soivohle perfumes, and will not compromise on those formulas or that brand and how the perfumes are created.

As it stands now Acousticjus does have a younger vibe, but the perfumes are not dumbed down to appeal to a younger age group, I find that whole approach to marketing very insulting. Often times in the marketplace people will just buy what is offered. Why not offer something a bit more challenging and unique?

JP: It seems too easy to ask what your favorite scents are, so I’ll ask a variation on that question instead: are there any scents you shy away from when creating a fragrance, or do you go ahead and use them anyway?

I feel like, in anything else, perfumers can get in a rut; I know I do. I find myself reaching for the familiar, the materials that I am most comfortable with. I do stop from time to time and jump completely out of my box and gather up all of those bottles on the back shelf collecting dust. It is important to keep a fresh mind. So, I do like to change things up from time to time. Nothing is off limits.

Liz Zorn Soivohle website

Josie Plumey

Director of Niche and Indie Fragrances
An Interview with Indie Perfumer LIZ ZORN
By Josie Plumey
September 10, 2011

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