San Francisco based perfumer Yosh Han sent me this wonderful Q & A with natural perfumer Tanja Bochnig of April Aromatics. Enjoy a long insiders‘ talk! By the way, my SOTD is Unter den Linden by April Aromatics. Gorgeous.
A perfumer, aromatherapist, yoga instructor and former model, Tanja Bochnig is the “creatrix of April Aromatics.” Her passion is to create natural perfumes using precious essences, extracts and absolutes from nature, 100% natural, organic whenever possible. After having spent 20 years in NY, she moved back to Berlin to raise her daughter and launch her exquisite collection of botanical perfumes.
Yosh: I was so happy to meet you in Düsseldorf. When I first learned of your products, I just knew that we would hit it off. I love meeting kindred spirits in the perfume world and I love it more when there is a deeper connection with the energy work. I really appreciate your two collections: the natural perfumery collection and Aroma Yoga. What was your inspiration to create separate collections? Do you need to be a yogi(ni) to use the Aroma Yoga collection or can the fragrances be used outside the yoga studio.
Tanja: I feel that we work similarly in the perfume realm and with the essences. I want to express my gratitude to you again, for so generously and kindly connecting people in the world of aromas and for giving us an insight with your writings about other perfumers. It is so nice to know that there are so many likeminded people out there in the world of perfumery.
The two collections of April Aromatics came from my love to these two worlds: yoga and perfumery, which are very connected. My aromatherapy background gave me the understanding of how the oils work on a therapeutic level, physically, emotionally and spiritually and so perfectly fit with the teachings of yoga. When we practice the asanas in yoga, we become very open with all our senses and combining our practice with inhaling and applying the aromas of the essential oils, enhances the whole experience of yoga. I have witnessed beautiful moments with students in class, where a much deeper healing could take place, due to the use of the oils during breathwork, asanas and meditation.
Essential oils have an affinity with certain chakras, which they benefit. For instance the lower chakras, which relate to the physical body and are strongly connected to the earth energy, can be stimulated and energized by oils vibrating on the red color rays and are found close to the surface of the earth. When an essential oil is distilled it contains magnetic rays reflected from nature. Using the associated oils on the chakra areas along the spine, can help balance the chakra to which the oils is linked. The messages that the plants color and aroma carry relate to lessons we have to learn in order for our soul to grow.
One does not have to be an avid yoga practitioner to use the chakra oils. It is actually very simple. They can be used morning or night after showering. One can use one chakra scent or all of them at once, depending on the state of the mood each day. I use them intuitively. Actually I relate everything to the chakras and it becomes a fun ritual of each day. I do have a lot of healing practitioners using the oils and sprays on their clients with the energy work.
Where the chakra line is purely for a therapeutic use, my natural perfume collection is for the love of the scents. Creating perfumes that smell heavenly, with the attribute of being 100% natural, making you feel good at the same time.
Yosh: I call what I do vibrational perfumery because my fragrances also resonate with chakra energy and numerology. Rather than create a collection based on each of the major seven chakras as you did, I used certain chakras as a starting points because I did not want to create anything prescriptive per se. I knew I did not want to go into aromatherapy.
In my work, I use both natural and man-made essences. Even though gardenia doesn’t have a natural essential oil, I do find that if a person really loves gardenia and they smell it (and wear it), their vibration can change. If they were in a negative mood and they smell gardenia, their vibration can change positively. Even though it’s not strict aromatherapy in a medical sense, it does change a person’s energetic frequency.
With your fragrances, did you create the perfumes using natural essences for the olfactive characteristics or did you also incorporate their natural healing powers?
Tanja: Everything is energy! Everything has a vibration and once we are aware of that we can understand that what we surround ourselves with, can change the way we feel, think and act tremendously in each given moment. I do not call them healing perfumes, but they are definitely that. Natural essences have the quality to really alter the way one feels, depending on the memory that is triggered from a specific scent. So each of my initial 8 perfumes, evoke a different state of mind, a different feeling and memory to the wearer.
I created them out of special situations during my life. Depending on how I feel on a certain day, I choose the scent that enhances or supports that mood. The aromatic vibrations of plants are in tune with our inner energetic vibrations and can have a significant effect on us, releasing blocked energy from our emotional body.
Yosh: I like that you infused your fragrances with crystal energy and Bach flower remedies. I have crystals all over my house. I think it makes a huge difference in my life. Do you know the work of Oliver Durbano – the jewelry designer/perfumer in Paris? He uses crystals in his work too. Were you also inspired by Aroma Soma at all? There is also a lady named Jenny Pao in SF. She has created nectar essences that also infuse flower essences in her remedies. I also recently met Lisa Bertoni who uses aromas in her yoga teachings too.
Do you think that more people are into what could be considered new age perfumery? It is goofy terminology but sometimes people say that I am new age – even though these traditions are old! I am from Los Angeles and live in San Francisco. I grew up with Chinese Traditional Medicine. I think it is just in my DNA. To me, it is completely normal. When I meet people who think it is hocus pocus, my heart hurts for them because they do not have the capacity or openness to appreciate the deeper work. What I find more revealing is that many people confide that they actually believe in this stuff but that their spouses, family or co-workers don’t believe it so they are like secret believers. Why do you think people are so afraid?
Tanja: People are afraid of their feelings, being in touch with their emotions and their deepest core! Many think that when we feel, we are considered weak, when we cry we are weak…Its all about compassion, showing understanding and being there for others first. When we give and love unconditionally, we get so rewarded in a beautiful way. But many people think, that when they give to others, they are in lack for themselves. It’s the way we are raised and it is our unhealthy society and media that shows us this example every day.
This is why it is important to become quiet each day, to go within. Taking time to get in touch with our inner longings and feelings and finding that love inside of us. If all people would feel more love, the world would be a better place. And the use of plants and essential oils through my products and perfumes help me with that. Plants teach us how to love unconditionally, because that’s what they do…giving to us unconditionally.
Also finding and connecting with that light that is so abundantly there. Connecting with the beauty around us in everything, especially in nature and the plants.
New Age perfumers or else… Everyone has a different path in expressing his or her soul desire. It is about accepting the other and letting everyone live his life purpose. If one wants to work with purely synthetic materials, it is fine, if someone wants to use mix media, it is fine as well. Each one needs to find what makes his or her soul sing…for me it is using 100% naturals…
I have heard of Olivier Durbano, but I do not know his perfumes. I would love to try them. It sounds beautiful. I have seen photos of his creations and was very impressed. There are so many talented perfumers out there and I just love how each one expresses their inner beauty and the variety of styles and taste.
Crystals have the ability to enhance everything they get in contact with, infusing their power and strength to the wearer and place. All my stock bottles are infused with diamonds and each 30ml EdP bottle contains clear crystals.
The different ways of perfumery, “New Age Perfumery” is spreading all over right now…its great! My wish is that more people share and support each other in this industry.
Yosh: When I smelled your Unter Den Linden – I had a sense of déjà vu. Your fragrance reminded me of a fragrance that I wanted to create but never did Have you had that kind of experience before? It is so lovely – I used the entire sample you gave me already. It smells like a lullaby.
Tanja: I constantly have a déjà vu with scents…I guess it’s because they are so closely related to our memories and emotions. I love that you love Unter den Linden, I can send you a refill, then you can feel how Berlin smells in May and June, which is what inspired me to create this scent. Unter den Linden energizes my solar plexus chakra.
Yosh: I love the Precious Woods. You were inspired by a trip to India and it does smell like what I imagine India to be. I made a botanical fragrance called Winter Rose after I went to Turkey. It has only roses and cardamom. When people smell it, they say it reminds them of India. Do you think that when people have these smell memories that they are energetically re-connecting with themselves? I also just realized that you went to Turkey with Robbi Zeck and Jim Llewlyn too. Wasn’t Isparta magical?
Tanja: Each perfume that I create is inspired by either a trip to a certain country, a chakra or color, by a person or is dedicated to a certain flower that has given me a lot of support, inspiration and love.
I went to India twice, (once to the northern part and another time to the south) and I was able to witness the whole process of how an essential oils comes about; starting from the way it is grown, harvested, distilled, etc.; a beautiful experience. Precious Woods was created after those two trips to India, containing the most precious extracts of sandalwood, frankincense, cedarwood, patchouli and many more. Precious Woods helps me to strengthen my root chakra and gives me a sense of groundedness. The sequiterpenes, found in high levels of e.o. such as frankincense and sandalwood, help to increase the oxygen level in the brain, which in turn unlocks the DNA and allows emotional “baggage” to be released from cellular memory.
Rosenlust was created after my trip to Turkey. At 5 o’clock in the morning, I was able to pick the roses from the fields and mingle with the beautiful women there, then carrying the petals to the distillery where they then processed further. Isparta the beautiful town of roses, yes magical. Rosenlust helps me to be in touch with my purest feelings and resonates with my heart chakra.
Yosh: We have so many coinkidinks. Even our colors are the same – white and pale aqua blue – which is my healing color. What does your blue mean to you?
Tanja: Aqua blue, or baby blue, has always been my favorite color and it is the color of my business cards…funny to see in Duesseldorf, that you had the same colors on your boxes. Like minds think alike. This color for me represents the angels, feeling a deep connection to everything that is coming from the higher realms. Its also the color of the throat chakra…my weakest chakra, one that I need to constantly work on. Strangely, (very unlike my other job, modeling) I do not like to be out in the public eye and it is hard for me to speak about myself. (Writing is much easier).
I am a very shy person and I feel that light blue supports me with accepting my own inner voice, speaking my truth without being afraid of it. This is also one reason I pushed myself to do the yoga teacher training, to get out into the world and teach. Something that did not come easy to me. But I believe that we need to look at the things that are our weaknesses to be able to overcome them. Funny enough April Aromatics throat chakra scent is the smell that I least like! And in my classes I always say that the things/people we do not like, are the things that we need to look at or need in order to grow.
Yosh: Even though you are deeply spiritual, you are clearly very right brained too. All your fragrances IFRA compliant. I am a little wary of American natural perfumers who don’t follow these guidelines. Americans are not necessarily required to follow these guidelines to sell in the USA, but if artisan perfumers want to evolve their business internationally, they too will have to re-formulate. I get a lot of young perfumers who freak out and ask me what to do. Other than Keep Calm and Carry On, what words of encouragement do you have for artisans wanting to follow this path?
Tanja: Haha, keep calm and carry on!!! You did study my FB profile photos quiet well!!! ☺
I am the last person who wants to deal with all the rules and regulations, at times it makes me feel so uneasy and keeps me from being the creator I want to be, just the perfumer. But if we want to sell our perfumes the proper way, we have to have a sense of business and clarity about it. I really had to learn and use the right side of the brain…it was a pain in the neck, as you know to get the IFRA standard, so much work and costs involved, eps. if you are not a big company. But with everything that is work involved, we feel so much better when things are sorted out and clear. I do! (Actually this is a root chakra attribute: money, business, grounding…).
In order to sell in stores in the EU, it is a must to have all the certifications and tests done and quiet frankly it is all about our safety as well, especially if it is about products that we put onto our skins.
I had a lot of help with this and that is my advice: Get professional help with the things that you are not familiar with and focus on your strengths and passion.
Yosh: You spent your entire adult years in New York traveling and modeling. Do you find that now that you’re back in Germany that you’re kind of a foreigner too? I mean, one gets used to the freedom and openness in America. You seem so much like a Californian to me – any plans to come to the Left Coast?
Tanja: Oh Yosh, this question brings tears to my eyes. America is and will always be my secret love. I do have my US citizenship after having lived there for so long. Most of my dearest friends are living there and I miss it very much. Not so much like the first year I moved back to Germany. It was like a withdrawal at first.
I came back after having been away for 20 years and I did feel like a total stranger. Even though I had no accent when speaking German, so many words were missing and I was thinking in English most of the time…it was so hard to even speak to business people, because in Germany things are much more formal and stiff (which sometimes has its advantages…), but in the US everyone speaks to you with their first names and things are so much more loose and easy. Now after being back for four years, I do enjoy the lifestyle here in Berlin.
Also since I have been back I was able to grow and support my perfume business on a completely different level than when I was living in NYC.
Raising my little daughter and having a family in Germany has many beautiful advantages and for that I am grateful. The government financially supports every family in Germany and I love that there is so much nature and space around. For now it is perfect to be here, but nothing is forever, so we shall see when America will have me back. ☺ Blessed Be!
Photos: Yasmina Rossi | Yosh Han