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Among Perfumers: Valerie Lee Vitale and Maria McElroy

March 21, 2019

Among Perfumers: Valerie Lee Vitale and Maria McElroy

Valerie Lee Vitale: Desert Flower began with a memory of driving with your family through the Mojave Desert. I can smell its reverence to that time and place, and yet it blooms beyond that memory. Desert Flower’s destination lands current and modern. Do you consciously fight against melancholy when you are creating your fragrances?

Maria McElroy: I think I might use the word “nostalgia” that has a tinge of melancholy at its essence. I embrace this emotion and find that it has a deep beauty, that aching sort of beauty that works itself with ease into my creative process.

Valerie: You visit your brother who lives in Morocco often, what are your favorite things to do together? What would be on the breakfast table?

Maria: We are both avid perfume lovers, so he is often at my side when I am on a quest to find some undiscovered fragrances. We both love art and fashion and of course food, so those are always on our list. Breakfast at chez Robert is usually on his sublime terrace over-looking one of the King’s palaces in Marrakech. We always start with green tea, then fruit and dates from the Madina market and Mahrash Moroccan Bread, characterized by a round, somewhat-flat shape, and a slightly coarse texture. We get this bread; still warm from a street stall it is delicious.

Valerie: A bit of ugliness lives in anything that is truly beautiful, are there any raw materials that confound you, any that live in Desert Flower?

Maria: Imperfection and ugliness I agree are part of what makes something beautiful and interesting. Desert Flower doesn't have any difficult raw materials, it’s all heady exotic flowers and deep Arabian oils, but at times even bending delicious oils can have its challenges.

Valerie: Your fragrances are thoughtfully luxurious. How do you define luxury that goes beyond the materialistic?

Maria: That is such a lovely compliment, thank you. For me luxury can be very simple, much like the breakfasts that I share with my brother. Slow Luxury, is tradition, craftsmanship, and time to appreciate the small and exquisite things in our everyday life. Just sitting in my Atelier with a cup tea and watching the clouds float, for me is a luxury.
Thanks to American Perfumer and Maria for allowing a glimpse into her creative process and day-to-day life. My poems are inspired by Maria’s fragrance, Desert Flower - I re-imagined wearing it in the morning, day, and night.

Valerie Lee Vitale, writer and perfumer, Soliflore Notes

Light shatters dust
a flower stands curled and tossed
Flicker and shimmer
I am a flower
flicker shimmer 
Pursed mouth warm breath may we always be
this close

Roll the backseat window all the way down 
Taste the morning sun rising 
Crystalline flowers shine

Curved desert stone for miles 
We remain close 
Crevasse canyon salty pools
Succulents burst as they should
Striated pink reds orange
Endless expanse 
Time travel
Mohave sun
Imagined colors spiral through glass 

Earthy stone takes flight

A flower seems more vulnerable at night
Look down upon it 
it is waiting for you
Take notice
A desert flower alone
Tenderly it speaks 
touch me
I want to surround you

Thank you to Valerie Lee Vitale for her beautiful words. Check out more of her work at Soliflore Notes.
(All photographs courtesy of Valerie. From top to bottom: Maria in Morocco, Joshua Tree National Park, Valerie in her studio.)

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