The founder of Joya, Frederick Bouchardy must have a hidden identity as a magician, we thought the first time our noses came in contact with his newest concoction, Composition No. 6.
Beyond simply evoking a curious and seductive freshness, breathing in the scent literally transported us to the middle of a vast, beautiful, moonlit meadow. When we stepped away from the vial, we were back in real life, with little idea what had just happened... Well, kind of.
After such a stupefying experience, we couldn’t wait to go one-on-one with the brand's mastermind perfumer and get a first-hand lowdown on his tricks.
What inspired you to get into the business of scents?
FB: My interest in scent began with an interest in design. Fragrance, whether in perfume, personal care, grooming or home ambiance, is one component of many in the finished product. Scent is a difficult art form -- all the components must live together harmoniously for the product to be beautiful, but also (more importantly) for it to work. The fact that scented products are often small and often contain so many components is an excellent challenge.
I started Joya in 2004, after college and after traveling and working for a European television station called Arté. I was looking for a new professional and creative outlet. A close friend and I took on an identity design project, which involved fragrance. Researching the available materials, I became obsessed with ingredients, tools, and innovation. I felt inspired to learn how and why certain things are produced, and to see if they could’t be made better.
Would you say smell is the most important sense?
FB: So much has been written about the effect of smell on memory and vice versa -- I can’t get into that.
It is such an important sense that most obviously impacts taste, and also the way we experience so many things. There are so many fragrances these days attempting to pinpoint an extremely specific moment in time or history -- a particular thing that is not extractable. More and more I appreciate the abstract passage, and admire the ambition to tackle the smell of something transcendent and figurative.
How do you come with an idea for a new scent?
FB: This really depends. Sometimes we start with mood boards that range from simple to eclectic. In the past we’ve begun with everything from dirt to poems to a solid perfume from the early 20th century to personally-taken black and white photos.
For our own collections, we begin with a story. The Joya FvsS collection, for instance, interprets objects, botanicals, animals and forms in nature without a recognizable or discernible scent. We first created manifestations of what the scents might be, then, spent over two years imagining how our favorite two might be formulated to work seamlessly on the skin.
Composition No. 6 is meant to evoke the feeling of being in a meadow in the pitch black -- you can almost detect cut grass with a damp quality, but the scent remains implacable. This perfume was also inspired by an art project fragrance that a good friend brought back from Berlin. It smelled rough and grassy, but had an ethereal quality. We went with a similarly earthy approach and tried to achieve a kind of timelessness.
How do you source the raw materials for your products?
FB: Since we are also manufacturers, we cut out the middleman and go directly to the sources we want for materials. Whether we need a captive fragrance or a stain for porcelain, we seek out the best and don’t stop until we find it. If that means waiting to produce or launch an item, so be it.
Your production process must be very unique. What is it like?
FB: Aside from outer packaging and some of the raw materials that we compound or have compounded in one of our partner labs, we produce everything by hand in our studio. For the perfumes and candles in porcelain containers, the ceramic process goes like this…
Blend custom stain with liquid porcelain slip. Mix and strain and mix again. Pour mixture into a custom plaster mold, which wicks moisture from the slip, creating a shell. (The excess slip is recycled and used again after a “rehab” process.) Rest the mold upside down while the shell dries and hardens to create a stable piece. Open the mold, and remove the piece for cleaning. (Much of the timing depends on the weather and how fast the slip is drying, and also the artist working on each individual piece. Like cooking, there isn’t necessarily an exact time frame required but rather a sense of intuition.) Clean the hard piece with a wet sponge, eliminating mold lines and smoothing its surface. Mark each finished piece with the symbol of its maker. Fire overnight in a kiln at up to 2250 degrees, to prepare the porcelain for hand application of illustrations or logos (ink decals on gelation). Fire again at up to 1600 degrees.
When the piece is finished, we move to the fragrance stage when either perfume oil or molten wax is poured into the ceramic container. For small batches, these are poured by hand; at most the process is semi-automatic. For perfume, a chemistry supply cork is place into the bottle and heat sealed for transport. In the case of candle, a custom tool created for each container is used to make space in the hardening wax for a wick, which is pre-tabbed and coated so that it remains upright. This ensures the wick will be straight and encourages an even burn.
What is the concept behind Joya's mysterious packaging?
FB: Since Joya is designed to inspire, relax or set a mood -- not save lives -- the packaging is all about the experience. There are secret and consistent details throughout. There are hidden gold dips and foil accents tucked away, which are meant to be discovered, though not necessarily readily apparent. There are allusions to ancient art forms. There is a lot of play with texture: matte versus gloss, soft versus hard, and blind deboss. We produce everything in New York, and the outer packaging comes from the Navy yard two blocks away, or Rhode Island.
We should've known it was east coast magic all along.
Photos by Jennifer Causey