I just watched a Netflix show "Empire of Scents". As I watched it it dawned on me that maybe there is something disappearing from our world, and we haven't thought much about it.
I was a graphic designer back in the dark ages.
I remember when cut and paste required sharp and sticky things. Back when you would construct mock-ups using what ever materials you needed to simulate the finished product. When you often had to open the windows or turn on the fans because of the vapors!
My mind reels when I remember those smells. Then sweet vanilla of Rubylith and Amberlith. The warm smell of the hot wax. The difference between the smell of newsprint, coated stock, and Bienfang marker papers. There was something between fear and potential in the smell of the markers as you started rendering. There is not a graphics person around who couldn't identify the smell of rubber cement from a room or two away. And even the metallic smell of the rapidograph ink pens was a daily incense in our studio. Those are only a few of the odors that rose - for good or for ill - from our tools.
When computers came so did sterility. There is no smell to the keyboard (well there shouldn't be anyway!!) you can not smell the marker or glue residue on your fingertips. We lost the touch of the paper and the physicality of the construction. But until now, I hadn't thought about the loss of smell and how devoid of that sense the computer process. For me (insert "Ok Boomer" here) much was lost. The visual aspect of design was still there; The process was, in many ways, freer; Efficiency was enhanced. But it was like moving into a new building - shiny and beautifully functional, but without historic memory.
Now I sew.
I have long thought that I chose this medium because of the physicality and how it echoed those "good old days" of design. I fondle my cloth as I choose it and push it through its paces. I cut, slice, slash, poke, and iron my cloth, just as I did paper in "the good old days". That is where I though my joy came from.
But now I think maybe it is also the smells. There is a distinct difference in the smell of cotton vs. poly vs. linen. I realize that I am smelling the fabric as I fold it or rummage through my stash. The mixture of fear and potential is back every time I open a package from Spoonflower and smell that newly printed fabric. My bag of yarn scraps smell of sheep and hemp, and cotton, and mustiness. The slight oil smell that my sewing machine emits. When my iron hits the damp fabric there is a vaporous aroma that is sweeter than any perfume. The glue scents are there in the fabric spray and the glue stick. Once in a while the marker smells enter with the fabric markers or when I am addressing a box for shipping.
I often am jealous of my dog when we are on walk.
Her world is a completely different one than mine is. Mine is one of sight and I am thankful for that, but hers is one of scent. Sights can confuse her, distract her and even scare her, but scent is her reality. I would love to have a moment of that reality to see what I am missing.
I wonder, as we become more and more technological, if we are forgetting how much that sense of smell has meant to humankind. Will we remember video games in the way I remember the smell of Monoply money or the metal of the pieces. Shopping on line is efficient and I embrace it, but it has been a long time since I took an olfactory lap around the perfume counter at Macy's. Our quest for clean sanitized surrounding and concern for the environment has eliminated the smell of leaves burning in the fall. I am no Luddite. I am happy with the advances in technology, but this was just one of those things that (as Arsenio Hall used to say) make you go "hmmmmmm?!"
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