In the Studio with Apoteker Tepe

For perfumer Holladay Saltz, the differentiating core between the meaningful and the material lies in the ability to inject intention, artistry and a little irreverence into the process. Looking past the conventions of the big fragrance players, she composes with rare and natural materials, for a contemplative experience that is unique to each. 

Curious about her approach and one-woman operation, we asked Holladay to give us a glimpse into her new Rhode Island studio, where she conceptualizes and batches her line, Apoteker Tepe. Here's what we found. 

On the path to being a maker.  

I went to art and design school, then onto a stint at a wonderful but short-lived think tank doing research into the future of publishing, then to private-sector tech startups when the bottom fell out of the economy. That was a turning point. Fast-forward to 2013 and I was the creative director for a company whose sole purpose was making toss-away marketing sites that no one, not even the clients, cared about. It felt terrible and frightening, but I came to the conclusion that I needed to jump off the train. I’d been working with fragrance for some time, had always been fascinated by the sense of smell, and I longed to make something with my hands without the use of a screen.

Apoteker was and is a continued exploration. Fragrance and smell are often overlooked as avenues to meaning, but they are incredibly visceral and ancient - nothing affects people in quite the same way, literally, as smell.

Everyone has their own relationship with scent, but there are things Holladay hopes you take away from hers. 

People find meaning in different places at different times, and one of the lovely and terrifying things about putting something subjective into the world is that once it leaves you, you can’t really control it anymore, nor should you try. However, I hope that when someone smells a fragrance I create they are reminded of something they might have forgotten until that moment; I hope it makes them pay attention to something they may not have otherwise noticed. 

She looks for the rare. 

The fragrance industry is extremely old and mostly controlled by a few corporations who manufacture not only ‘fine’ fragrance but everything from detergent to flavors for processed foods. Making real money in fragrance, like most other physical things in the current age, is dependent on volume and consistency. Having volume and consistency means that you cannot use raw materials that are very expensive, and that these materials must also be entirely consistent from batch to batch. The extension of this is that in your average department store fragrance you have almost no natural materials— everything is synthetic. Natural materials are beautiful and complex (there are nearly 500 aroma molecules that make up the smell of a rose), and importantly, variable. They have personalities, and they are not merely the sum of their parts. I think it’s a loss when we no longer know the smell of jasmine or orris, only their reconstituted elements. Being small and independent means I can focus on quality and on uncovering something people may not have experienced before. It also means there is a limit to how much Apoteker can grow, but I completely accept it.

Interestingly enough, Holladay wears fragrance almost exclusively while she is formulating one. Though she still has her favorites, yet to be extracted and bottled! 

There are things I always want to smell: dark wet earth, salt air, and the still, hot interior of old churches in the summer.

Now available at Catbird are three of Apoteker Tepe’s debut scents. Explore here or stop by the shop for a dab. 


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