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Fragrancing FEAR

Posted: May 16, 2007

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Tolaas has a modest chemistry education, but she never wanted to be pigeon-holed within a university focusing on just one discipline.

“What interested me was very much the nothingness [of chemistry]—what does the nothingness consist of?” she says. “How can I make the invisible visible? That was my starting point: taking things apart and putting them together.”

Tolaas’ first addressed the invisible with a focus on the weather of her native Iceland and Norway.

“Why is the weather so important?” she asked herself. “Why do we communicate the weather only [in terms of] bad and good when there are so many variations?”

Inspired by the invisible and curious about the interesting scent molecules in the air in Iceland, Tolaas dove into fragrance as a medium. As her interest in smell communication grew, she found that the same challenges inherent in weather applied to scent—the limitations of “good” and “bad.” What she found particularly interesting—and what the traditional perfume industry faces in commercializing scents—is that she, as a lay member of the public, had never had any education in using her nose.