Who: Ezra-Lloyd Jackson, artist, scent designer and perfumer from South East London. We got to know Ezra a little in his position as junior perfumer for the excellent Olfiction, so were excited to see that Scent Trunk had commissioned him to create his first commercially available fragrance, Trackside Buddleia. We caught up with Ezra recently to find out how his career was going, learn exactly what olfactive terraforming is (you heard it here first) and how his move out of London had inspired this new scent.
Today I’m wearing Trackside Buddleia by Scent Trunk, my first public perfume credit.
‘Trackside’ is all about my experiences travelling between the countryside and the city and existing between those atmospheres. It opens in the context of wide, green, dewy spaces — fields, and forests. It moves through a friction of metal and floralcy and arrives at a solid, concrete-like shape which feels like traffic and smoke. From country-scape to city-scape.
Connecting these two environments both olfactively and literally, is buddleia, a mundane plant which grows on the side of train tracks. I wanted to question what is seen as and associated with the idea of the ‘exotic’ in this country and to turn that lens inward onto such a domestic and commonplace plant – reevaluating an everyday olfactive landscape and striving to make that curious and compelling.
Also, It takes the same time as my journey between these two spaces for the fragrance to move from its top notes to the dry down
There’s a strong interplay for me between the familiar and the unknown — like going into a new place or terrain for the first time, with a sense of optimism and curiosity. In addition the metal facets influence a sense of grounding and bravery.
Part of my scent ritual is moisturising my skin after showering, bathing or swimming. Another part is burning incense to settle the space I live in. I like to wear fragrances with people – If I’m in company with friends or family I’ll often show them the scent before spraying it so we can share where that fragrance takes us together.
For me, fragrance is essential. I’ll spray a perfume over my wrists, collar bones, back of my neck, scarfs and certain clothes before I step out.
When I work on scent design projects I sit down with the collaborator and together we go through the materials and all of the contexts, memories, associations, situations, events, attachments and detachments that the materials bring up.
I scent my home simply by existing in it, what I call ‘olfactive terraforming’. In my kitchen I cook with a lot of herbs, like bay leaf, paprika, cardamom, cumin, ground coriander. My space is ‘terraformed’ with burning incense, with alcohol-based fragrance, with what I wash with, with what I moisturise with; with other people’s presence and what they bring to the space. Also just the fresh air, especially during the summer, opening my windows, and letting my yard breathe with its environment.
The scent of goat skin and wood from when my dad used to make Djembes is very nostalgic for me, as well as wild growing lavender, all over South London. Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier, Francis Kurkdjian, which was one of my earliest fragrances. And Cardinal by Heeley, which is nostalgic to a very certain person at a very certain time.
Most definitely fragrance helps me with my mental health. I really felt it when I temporarily lost my sense of smell due to Covid. I found it hard to navigate my own home, olfactively speaking. Eating food was like listening to music without the melody.
My regular interactions with scent will change my physical state, not just my headspace. I recently took my driving test and I was of course nervous for it. I brought a silk scarf with me and sprayed it with a load of my signature scent, called i. 20 minutes before my test my heart was racing, so I sunk my face into my scarf, inhaled, almost ingested, the scent and it genuinely slowed my heart rate down.
Being a perfumer has played a role in the maintenance of my mental health too: to create scents and not just smell them. Working at the Olfiction Lab out in the countryside really started to widen my mind and provide clarity to my thinking, I think quite literally by being able to see such open space and broad horizons – to have the opportunity to bask in nature. To exist amongst rather than merely existing ‘in’.
My practice as a perfumer is a constant exercise in empathy – relating to other people, channeling their stories, meeting their intentions with my own. I hold dearly my responsibility over other people’s mental states and nostalgia. For instance, you could show someone a scent that’s really upsetting for them, perhaps it’s even violent. Overall though there is great joy to be found in the journey of what I call ‘memory mining’ with another person, which is quite a sacred encounter to have. A big driver of my work is being able to connect with other people and to leave seeds with them to have further connections with themselves and their memories and associations. This is why I push back and work away from the idea of smells as being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – they’re a part of our existence and experience, and everyone – regardless of their class, gender, ethnicity and other ‘societal markers’ – engages with and practices that every single day. No one ‘possesses’ a scent in my view – you have an interaction with a scent that is personal to you and you can find your own heart in it, but also in essence it’s a collaborative and communal experience.