Revelland works with an incredible team of artists, performance designers, sense specialists and organisers. This series of articles gets you familiar with everyone involved. Please meet, Sarah McCartney.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about your profession and specialty.
“I’m Sarah McCartney and I’m the founder and artisan perfumer at 4160Tuesdays, working in West London, UK. I make perfume for people to wear, and to use in spaces. I specialise in fragrances which evoke times, places and feelings, often to make people feel happy and uplifted; sometimes the people I’m working with want something completely different.”
How did you get to this point in your career?
“I was organising events for The Guardian and Observer newspapers, then I slid into copywriting when I was offered a job with Lush cosmetics, the bath bomb people. After 14 years writing, and training people to write what they really felt, rather than what they thought they ought to say, I wrote a novel about a perfumer and problem solver who made perfume to help her clients through their difficulties. I felt that I wanted to create the fragrances I had described in the book as nothing like them was available to buy at the time. This has been my ongoing task since then, as it turned out to be a secretive and complex world, but I seemed to have an aptitude for it. I am mostly self-taught, but I also read a lot of books.”
Can you share some of your highest highs when it comes to adding your specialty to a music performance?
“Working with Stephanie Singer and BitterSuite is a constant delight. The first musical event I worked on was BitterSuite’s multi-sensory Debussy String Quartet. I’ve also worked on wonderful projects with filmmaker Tereza Stehlikova. The first was a recreation in taste, sounds and scent of William Morris’ trip to Iceland which took place on Sunday evening at Black’s Club in Soho. Another is at the Czech Cultural Centre in London, Ophelia in Exile.”
Do you dare to share an utter fiasco with us as well?
“There was an opera I perfumed, which the musical director was very excited about, but one of the lead singers walked out on the day when she found that my name was printed on the front of the programme. It went ahead with another lovely singer who stepped in to rescue it, so the event itself was wonderful, but the 24 hours beforehand were a nightmare.”
“There was one project that I turned down, and a more adventurous colleague took it on instead. It was a play set in Victorian times and which featured an incestuous relationship between a man and his granddaughter. I did not want to create the aromas they needed for the performance as I found I could not distance myself from the play’s content sufficiently to be able to regard this only as a creative challenge.”
If we would join you on a random working day, what would it look like?
“You might be disappointed to see me sitting at my computer answering emails like everyone else, and I’d also be diluting concentrated fragrance with ethanol, filtering, bottling and wrapping it up for our customers. On my favourite lab days I will be in my small blending room, by an accurate chemical balance, weighing materials making several different versions of new fragrances which I have decided to make, or which my clients have asked for.”
Why is accessibility important?
“No one should miss out on wonderful things.”
How does your specialty benefit creative accessibility (inclusive solutions for exclusion issues that add value for multiple target groups and promote equal experiences for all)? Can you give a concrete example regarding immersive live performances?
“The advantage of scent is that it can be anywhere. This disadvantage is that it won’t necessarily go away when you want it to. It will fade, but it doesn’t end like sound, sight or touch. There are people who are anosmic – and Covid-19 has brought attention to them – and the sense of smell has suddenly become more valued by people who have lost and regained it, or lost it without it returning. The past two years have taught people that anosmia changes lives and causes loss in a way that very few people even considered before 2020. Scent, for normosmics, will evoke memories. Using scent as part of an experience will help it to be remembered. Opening a vial, or experiencing that aroma unexpectedly will help people to recollect an event.”
What has been the funnest and/or most memorable experience within the Revelland project so far?
“I watched some videos of the musicians in advance and was quite terrified of the idea of meeting KNARS, and then they turned out to be the nicest possible people.”
Do you have any advice for emerging artists who want to take their live performance to a next level and simultaneously become more accessible?
“Think to yourself, what might stop me enjoying this fully? Take away those obstacles. Question the assumptions, ask all the “what ifs”, and then ask what you can add.”