Culture: 357 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Ballet Inspired Perfumes

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” This wonderful quote nonetheless misses the mark. Music can be captured in words just as dance can be used to understand shapes and forms. What’s more, perfumers working in collaboration with ballet artists have shown that one can even smell adagios and allegros.

In my FT magazine article Ballet in a Bottle?, I describe several perfumes inspired by ballet or created in collaboration with ballet dancers. The results are fascinating–the spirit of ballet has a lot in common with perfumery, from its ineffability to its complexity.

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How a French Perfume Company Influenced Ukrainian Embroideries

One of the most quintessentially Ukrainian embroideries is called rushnyk (pl, rushnyky), richly decorated hand towels that accompany a person from birth to death. In two videos that I recorded, I would like to show you rushnyky embroidered by my great-great grandmother. I discovered them by accident when I was cleaning out our shed and spotted a large chest hidden under old rugs. The drawers were jammed, but I persevered and opened them only to discover decaying paper and mouse droppings. I rummaged in it–no, I’m not even one bit squeamish–and I found the embroideries. I cleaned and restored them and it’s a pleasure to share them with you.

My great-great grandmother Pasha wove the cloth on a hand-loom, and she then decorated it. These embroideries are at least 70 years old, and yet they are remarkably resilient.

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How to Learn Multiple Languages at the Same Time

It’s usually recommended to focus on one language at a time, become fluent in it and only then start learning another one. However, language acquisition is a continuum, and some of us need to study languages for work or travel. Others are impatient. And yet others are passionate about languages and the process of learning by itself excites them. In short, it’s possible and sometimes beneficial to learn more than one language at a time, and I will share how I do it. Please take a look at the other articles in my language learning series, and share your experiences with me.

A few caveats, however. First, if you’re studying your first foreign language, then taking up two at the same time will not work. It will be too overwhelming. Second, if the languages you’re learning are too similar, you might consider learning one until you reach an intermediate level and only then start the other one. Third, if you can’t devote the time, it’s best to limit your ambitions. If you need at least 10 hours of practice a week to progress, then you’d require twice as much to learn two languages.

Imagine that you would like to focus on learning Spanish and Russian. Your Spanish is at a lower intermediate level, while you’re a total beginner in Russian.

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The Turkish Art of Kolonya or How to Wear Cologne

The sight of a driver bearing a bottle of kolonya on the bus journeys across Turkey has always left me with mixed emotions. They always insisted on waking you up and then drenching you with perfume, whether you wanted it or not. On the other hand, a splash of kolonya always felt refreshing, and I became so used to the ritual that I began to practice it myself whenever I needed a pick me up. Using my Turkish friends’ example, I would pour kolonya generously into my hands, rub and whatever remained, I’d dab over my clothes. Of course, one needs a light, cologne-style perfume to accomplish it successfully, and Turkish kolonya is perfect.

Kolonya comes from the word cologne, and it became popular in the court of sultan Abdülhamit II (1876 – 1909) before taking over the rest of the country. Kolonya supplanted rosewater, which was used in a similar manner, since it was seen as antiseptic and cleansing. Kolonya is still offered to people at the restaurants and cafes. Kolonya is the first thing you’d offered entering a Turkish home, along with a plate of candy. The former is for cleanliness and refreshment, while the latter is for ensuring a sweet conversation, according to one Turkish belief. The kolonya culture is part of an old tradition of hospitality and sharing as well as a reminder that perfume was once valued for its salutary properties.

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Make Time for Yourself and Banish Guilt

If a person with children and living in an extended family were to write my article How to Handle Self-Isolation and Not Lose One’s Mind, they would instead title it How to Survive Quarantine and Not Kill One’s Family. Then again, they probably wouldn’t even write it, because they would be too busy being a career professional, cook, cleaner, and school teacher. All of this in addition to the general anxiety. Since most of the household responsibilities fall on the shoulders of women, many of my female friends are finding this period of confinement stressful. Whether they live in New York, Tehran or Kyiv, the problems are the same–they are under pressure from their employers, schools and their families.

Far more qualified people than me can give advice on how to manage home schooling, household responsibilities and children. On these pages I can only provide comfort, distraction, and a reminder that taking a moment out of a day for oneself is crucial. And that such moments shouldn’t be tainted by guilt.

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