Perfumer Heather Sielaff hand-blends idiosyncratic, mostly masculine scents for her label OLO Fragrance in her apartment in north Portland. “I’m not really girly,” she admits, and her perfumes tend to be intriguing rather than sweetly attractive. For example, Forêt’s notes of pine and vetiver recall the scent of earth and damp northwestern trees, while Victory Wolf’s birch tar, cedar and tobacco evoke nights spent camping beside an open fire.
Sielaff recently had a commission to create the smell of diesel fuel, which succeeded but had some unexpected consequences: “[The client] turned out to be allergic,” she says.
“Years of practical use allowed me to get to know the individual essential oils quite intimately,” says Sielaff, who trained as a neuromuscular therapist and studied aromatherapy on the side. “The thought finally occurred to me that making perfume would give me the opportunity to utilize my knowledge in a more creative way. It was initially just a hobby and I’m still a little surprised OLO took off the way it did,” she says.
Undoubtedly one of the most significant elements to OLO’s appeal is Sielaff’s sense of humor. Diesel-based perfumes aren’t the only unconventional product that she’s attempted—the limited edition Make Deux room spray—interpret the pun in order to deduce its intended usage—asks the would-be customer, with tongue firmly in cheek, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a smell?”
Sielaff’s intimate knowledge of scents keeps her perfumes multi-layered, personal and complex. Many of her projects stay local and never make it out of Portland.”Some perfumes are limited edition or created for special events,” she says. One such side project was a fragrance created for the Portland-based band YACHT, called Shangri-La, that blends more than a half-dozen scents into one moody, floral concoction. She also created a limited edition art bottle and box series with Portland glass artist Andy Paiko and Portland woodworker Jason Rens.