FOUNDER OF JAZMIN SARAÏ PERFUMES
In your own words – who is Dana El Masri and what is your ‘mission’ in this current season of your life?
I'm a multi-disciplinary creative. I am sensitive, passionate, and curious. I love art and all things scent-related and I believe our sense of smell is a portal to understanding our true self. Right now, I have loved learning and sharing more on the role of scent and ritual in South West Asian and North African cultures and how those also play out when living in diaspora. I want to find a way to bridge worlds in a way that makes sense to me and others while celebrating traditions we might not know about.
Briefly describe your path as a perfumer and interdisciplinary artist
This is tough to put into few words; I started out in music and sound production, I found perfumery after I graduated from Concordia. It was an instant connection, so I moved to France to study/train. I came back to start Jazmin Saraï (for lots of reasons) and found the time to hone my craft and experiment with other mediums. Since I have always loved different forms of art and have expressed myself through a few, I found the connections between them intuitive and fascinating. My work as an interdisciplinary artist began with my synesthesia as well as collaborations with artists from other worlds and I began to incorporate that perspective into almost everything I do now.
What does a current day in your life look like?
I don't love doing the same thing every day so each day changes but I always wake up early and start work at the same time. Some days I will practice and smell materials, other days I will formulate an idea, compound a perfume, or filter bottles, or take care of orders. Most days I'm answering messages, taking meetings, and making sure things run smoothly. I wear many hats and juggle a lot of roles as I'm sure you know being a creative entrepreneur yourself!
How did the pandemic affect your creative pursuits?
I had to rely on online interactions a lot more which I don't love since smell requires a physical presence to be appreciated fully. It did give me time to explore some ideas I had put to the side and I started teaching at the Institute for art and Olfaction in LA which brings me joy.
Can you tell us a little about the ‘On The Nose' podcast – what inspired you to start it?
I have lots of ideas going on at any given time and sometimes it takes me a while to execute everything. On The Nose was one of those ideas. I really enjoy talking to other perfumers and creatives in the industry and since my industry hasn't been that open in the past, I thought this could give people (outside of perfumery) insight into how we think and approach scent in all its unique ways.
Where are you finding inspiration at the moment?
Hearing people share their scented memories of home really reminds me of why I do what I do and that brings me hope, which gives me inspiration. Alternatively, inspiration for me comes from everywhere and sometimes suddenly, but I have been leaning into the anthropological and cultural side of things a lot more. The process of creating perfume is slow and requires a lot of thinking and experimenting, I find solace in the fact that I don't need to rush.
Name one thing upcoming that you're excited for
My AANM residency in Dearborn, Michigan this August! I will be doing more research on traditional olfactory practices in SWANA and the role of scent in ritual, as well as hosting a workshop to converse with others and their scent memories and a smell walk!
What rituals or activities are keeping you grounded and clear-minded right now?
Burning incense, taking deep breaths, gratitude.
Any books, podcasts, shows, or films that have resonated with you lately?
We Are Lady Parts, while I'm no longer in my rock/punk phase, I really appreciated the storytelling and most importantly, a non-stereotypical representation of Muslim women. I wish I had something like that growing up and I know many have said the same. Randa Jarrar's Love is An Ex-Country was also a visceral and poignant book that I really loved. Her writing is captivating, I own all her books.