Thorn & Bloom caught our eyes instantly, and we can’t wait to spritz and spray these perfumes at our Brooklyn Fair coming up in just a week and a half! Jennifer Botto is the designer behind these perfumes and gave us an insight into Thorn & Bloom.
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind?
Thorn & Bloom Perfume’s philosophy was born of the notion that imperfection can elevate beauty in surprising and spectacular ways. I prefer to work holistically, keeping the ingredients as pure as possible and allowing the aromatic’ full spectrum to shine through. Sometimes, this spectrum can include unique nuances that, to some, may be an acquired taste. I see these nuances as essential elements, knowing they’ll impart depth and character to an otherwise mundane blend. The name Thorn & Bloom Perfume refers to this yin & yang duality in natural perfume. I love the notion that life is full of both imperfection and radiance, and experiencing the two simultaneously can be very powerful.
“But he who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose” -Anne Brontë
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
I think my obsession with all things sensual began with Diane Ackerman’s book A Natural History of the Senses. Her ability to reference science, nature, history and personal experience when describing scent completely drew me in. I find the world of olfaction fascinating, and working with naturals helps bring me back to my roots as a farmer’s daughter. Living in the city often gives me nostalgia for my rural upbringing, so when I blend these raw materials, I’m immediately swept away to another place. I can leave the city for a little while and be surrounded by brambles and blooms, or stand in smoky cloud of smoldering cherry trees.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
While I haven’t had any major failures inside the company, I do see a more universal failure on the part of the FDA to regulate the term “natural” on cosmetic/perfume packaging. It’s very hard to compete with larger companies that capitalize on murky FDA labeling requirements. Many consumers have no idea that the term “natural” is meaningless and many formulas contain synthetic chemicals. These formulas are often much cheaper to produce than truly 100% natural fragrances and so it is a challenge to educate consumers about the differences in ingredients and pricing.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
Selling my first full-sized bottle felt like such an accomplishment! A patchouli-loving customer bought a sample of Orange Blossom from me at an outdoor craft market here in Boston. She loved it so much that she returned 3 weeks in a row hoping to find my booth. We finally reconnected and she bought a full 30ml bottle, explaining that she had become addicted. I was thrilled that she enjoyed my perfume enough to seek me out week after week!
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
I basically haven’t had a day off in 6 months! My biggest sacrifice is definitely leisure time. I’ve also put all of my savings into the company, which should scare me but somehow doesn’t. I have faith in myself and in Thorn & Bloom, so I can sleep at night knowing with good certainty that things will work out.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
I currently live in Boston and although it’s an amazing city, I often find myself lost in deep nostalgia for the sensory experiences that shaped my world. This desire for connection led me to start experimenting with scent as a means to transport myself outside the city’s boundaries, and into the great outdoors of my youth. Reveling in scent can be the perfect way to escape; it can bring you full blooms in a frozen tundra, fresh grass in a sea of pavement, or a lover’s musk when you’re all alone.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Growing up on a farm in northern NY helped me to appreciate craftsmanship and natural raw materials, a respect that stemmed from watching my parents work their land and build their house. I love witnessing the revitalization of all things craft and artisan in recent American history. It’s so exciting to be a part of a movement that values quality work and local production. One reason I choose to work with natural materials when I make perfume is that I want to support farmers and processors of these raw materials so that these methods (and ultimately the raw materials themselves) are not forgotten.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
Working for myself allows me to maintain control over my vision while providing me with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I never felt passionate while working for others’, but now I feel full of energy and enthusiasm. Although it’s sometimes very scary, I love the freedom that self-employment offers.
What are some inspirations for your work?
My two primary sources of inspiration are nostalgic memories and nature itself. Savage Garden was an attempt to recreate the scent of my mother’s garden after a spring thunderstorm. Bluegrass essential oil added a wonderfully green, fresh and metallic quality very similar to ozone. Stranger in the Cherry Grove initially started as a recipe to conjure the scent of black cherry pipe tobacco, which my father smoked for years. Wild Rose is meant to mimic a freshly plucked rose in a hyper-real way. To me, roses have always exuded a musky raspberry aroma, so I wanted to capture that delicious powdery-soft fruitiness.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
I value a self-taught approach to creativity. While I enjoy learning about the elemental basics of my craft (organic chemistry, plant science, distillation techniques, traditional French blending methods, etc) in an institutional setting, I believe that creativity is best honed in a personal way and should come from within. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and trust your creative instincts!
Thorn & Bloom Perfume is an artisanal perfumery handcrafting 100% botanical fragrances using the finest natural aromatics. Our fragrances are comprised of Essential Oils, Absolutes, Concretes, CO2 and SCO2 Extracts, Organic Extracts and Natural Isolates in a base of USDA certified organic grape alcohol. We use organic and wild harvested aromatics whenever possible. We do not use synthetic aroma chemicals, preservatives, phthalates, GMOs or animal byproducts. We source from only the best perfumery supply houses with a strict policy of purchasing only ethically harvested materials. Our bottles are topped with custom wood caps made by a local artisan exclusively for Thorn & Bloom Perfume.