Tatiana Godoy Betancur started Olear Scents as a means of sharing her appreciation and fascination with the healing potential of plants. Her company focuses on small-batch and hand-blended botanical scents that utilize organic, wild-harvested, and sustainable plant material. The name translates from Spanish to “forming waves as in the sea; to anoint; to flutter” and was chosen to highlight the moon’s impact on not just tides, but our emotions. Recently, we hosted an Olear scents workshop at our Buffy Soft–Space pop-up in SoHo.
Here, we catch up with Tatiana discuss how scents support us in taking a moment to recognize and embrace change.
What inspired you to work with aromas?
A botanist friend introduced me to essential oils and botanical extracts and I became interested in their benefits for topical use. Starting with skincare, I started to explore the ways these extracts made me feel, and to learn more about how they supported psychological and emotional well-being. I decided to study aromatherapy in 2012, during a time of big transition, when I learned that my father had cancer. I delved into how aromatherapy could have an effect on and support emotional states, as well as how scents can become associated with a specific moment. I developed a blend for my dad which supported release and acceptance of transition. Now every time I smell it, I think of my dad and the beauty of letting go. A few months after my dad passed away, I finished my clinical certification in aromatic studies.
What sorts of things have you learned so far?
Much about olfaction, its language, and its connection to memory. In my practice, I’ve learned that most people are very passive when it comes to the sense of smell. If and when we do think about smell, we consider it mostly through a closed and conditioned nose, one that has learned to make associations regarding smell that are rarely based on one’s personal preferences.
What motivates you to seek out naturally occurring scents?
I’ve always been put off by synthetic scents. If I’m around strong synthetic fragrances, I usually get headaches and nasal allergies. I often find them to be invasive and offensive. Botanical scents are subtle and gentle, but more importantly, they have therapeutic benefits that synthetics do not. The wholeness of the materials that I use are important for the purposes of my aromatherapy practice, so I prioritize the quality of botanical ingredients.
What evolution have you seen in people’s feelings around aromatherapy?
The more curious and aware people become about health and how the products we put on our bodies can affect us, the more that people become interested in alternative ways to support health. Aromatherapy as a practice is a lot more popular and common than it was five years ago. In large part, this is due to how unregulated essential oils are and makes aromatherapy easily accessible. I’m wary of aromatherapy being this accessible, because of the amount of misinformation and irresponsible advice that flood the internet. I’m very concerned that people think that if a substance comes from a plant that it must be safe.
How did you start the Chakras line?
The chakra system is an accessible way to understand energy flow through the body and emotional balance. For my aromatherapy certification, I had to work on a final project and I chose to do it on the chakras. Though chakra scents by other brands exist on the market, in my research I found them all to be too weak and simple. Working with essential oils opened up a world, in which I was also considering color and I wanted to work with the naturally occurring color of essentials oils to create these scents, something I hadn’t seen other brands explore. Traditionally each chakra has been assigned a certain color, so I wanted to work with the botanical extracts that would support each chakra energetically, and would also contribute to the final color of the blend. The development of each scent took months, even after presenting the project in class, I made revisions to the formulations until I felt ready to share all seven scents through launching Olear.
How do the personal consultations and workshops come into play?
I didn’t want to start a brand that only sold product, I wanted to start a practice in which I could share my knowledge by facilitating olfactory experiences for others. I’m interested in creating spaces through my workshops and consultations, where people can explore scent more intimately and intuitively. The more that I do workshops, the less I want to tell people about what they are smelling, in an attempt to encourage them to explore their individual relationship to scents. In thinking about the language of scents, I began to think more deeply about how words create associations that inform how we approach a smell. A good example of this is patchouli. A lot of people have negative associations to patchouli, but more as a concept and word than the actual smell. Most people have not smelled pure patchouli, and many times I have found that by removing the word and just presenting people with the scent of patchouli, they are more likely to approach it kindly. I’m interested in the power of our intuition, what our bodies tell us, and how we behave around the unknown. There is always a sense of newness when approaching scent actively and formulating a scent that becomes personal.
Kevin Buitrago is a photographer working in New York.