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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Capturing the forest's aroma

Playing with my twin to discover wood aromas in her perfumers' organ. The wood smells of Japanese and European pines, manuka and others just opened the heart area for me. Wonderful. Sarah spoke of the earth smells as the predominant smell in the forests of New Zealand and the need to capture the airiness to create space for the forest notes to fill.

Contacted Jill Mulvaney from who is NZ's top distiller of NZ flora.

28 April 2022

Hi Jill,

I've just left a message on your mobile but thought it would be good to follow up with an email and share more information. I'm doing an MFA on the beech forest opposite where I live in Eastbourne Wellington, focusing on the embodiment between us and the trees. Part of this exploration is the breathing in of the trees' essential oils as we walk through the forest which I'd like to replicate in my exhibition (maybe using a vapouriser?)

I am struggling to find people who have extracted NZ native essential oils and wonder if you may know of any contacts?

The oils I am hoping to source are -

  • hard and black beech

  • manuka and kanuka

  • northern rata

  • kamahi, rewarewa and pigeonwood

  • plus maybe some understorey plants like five finger, mahoe, rangiora, hangehange, lemonwood, koromiko and coprosma

  • there is also a lovely patch of aromatic orchids that I'd love to be able to source the perfume of - Dendrobium cunninghamii, strongly scented Earina autumnalis and some E. mucronata.

Hope this all makes sense to you?! Ngaa mihi, Suzy

28 April, 2022

Hi Suzy

The only ones on your list that produce essential oil are kanuka and manuka. Our natives are not evolved to produce compounds that turn into essential oil on distillation as they are primarily wind of bird pollinated.

Kanuka and Manuka and readily available commercially.

Regards, Jill

13 May, 2022

Hi Jill,

I spoke with my MFA mentor Simon Morris about your offer to recreate the smell of the East Harbour Regional Park and he thought it a wonderful idea to collaborate together! Are you happy to consider this? Maybe outline what you think it would involve time and cost wise and if you think it feasible? I feel it would add such a full bodied experience for the audience and it is the embodiment between the forest, the trees and us that I am trying to explore - Suzy

15 May, 2022 This is the sort of project I love. Will put something together next week. Can you give me some more detail about your exhibition - Jill

16 May, 2022 Wonderful and thank you for your enthusiasm Jill to even consider it! At this stage the installation is still in its early stages. It will be at Massey University Wellington Campus end of October/early November (date not yet finalised). The installation is still forming atm but I am thinking there may be -

  • ceiling to floor frottage sculptures of trees from the forest made using Japanese mulberry paper with a transparent quality. These may be arranged to create an interior space. At the base of each sculpture may be a bell jar containing the tree's wood/fruit/leaves i.e. its offering

  • a water/clay sculpture ... Each day, as an act of gratitude to the forest I will place a newly formed unfired clay bowl under a very slowly dripping water installation. I imagine the water and clay particles spreading outwards along the floor uncontained as the bowl disintegrates and the pile of clay growing higher with each additional new bowl added speaking to the process of formless to formed to formless

  • a combined publication of peoples' accounts of their embodiment with the forest including a photograph of their favourite space within.

  • May also include the summer and winter watercolour scroll drawings of the forest canopy made as I moved around the edge of the forest to capture to trees making food from the sunlight. These may be just rolled up or hung to create an enclosure - yet to decide.

  • I would like to have the room flooded with your scent using a volcano vapouriser or what ever suggestion you have.



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