August 8, 2016
For Strange Women and Jill McKeever
It was former Deputy Editor Tama Blough who first brought Botanical perfumer Jill McKeever of For Strange Women and her artisan fragrances that evoke memories and sensations to our pages. Tama was searching for a fragrance that would remind her of beloved cat Buster and fell in love with Winter Kitty. Jill is the 108th American featured in our series. In one minute, we breathe in approximately 15 times, in 1 hour 900 times, And in 12 hours 10800 times, and in a day 10800 x times 2. There are 108 dance forms in Indian Tradition. 108 is a Harshad Number, an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. Harshad in Sanskrit means “joy-giver. On the lighter side, how can we NOT love a woman who names her “sweetie darling” chickens after Edina and Patsi of Ab Fab.-Michelyn
Jill McKeever in her garden
PROFILE: I was born in Saint Louis in 1983, and moved to Kansas City in 1986. My parents lived very conservative lives; my dad was an accountant and my mom stayed home with me and my little brother, Gregory. We spent a lot of time with our grandparents, who were all quite dynamic and influential to me. With my dad’s parents we would play in the wood shop, garden, collect worms for the compost, ride skateboards, and climb trees. They raised three boys and treated me no different, and I loved the sense that this instilled in me; that I was tough, resilient, and empowered. My mom’s family were more what I would call “party people.” They all have a distinct sense of humor- a dry wit mixed with zany language and understated sarcasm, followed by obnoxious cackling. If I’m around the right people, this side of me is revealed. I think sometimes this humor and my tomboy influences surprise people who assume I’m going to be a certain way based on my petite frame, soft voice, and dark, feminine style.
Jill dancing by the river
My mom’s family also was supportive of the natural interests I had, and when I found my grandmother’s old violin in her basement, I knew I had to learn it. I also loved to dance, and became fluid in movement to the point that I felt I could express absolutely everything I felt through it and the music I danced to. I went to college at Missouri State, where I studied audio design and video production. There I joined a metal band, a synth pop band, a synth-industrial band, and an acoustic folk-rock band, playing violin, synthesizers, and vocals. I spent countless hours in the school’s recording studios, mesmerized by acute differences in sound frequencies, resonances, harmonies, textures, tones, and the aesthetic “soundscape” that I could create by carefully turning the knobs of the soundboard. When I studied audio recording and music, I realized that the only way my visually-trained mind could learn to interpret what I heard was to attribute visual references to each quality of sound. A couple years later I became drawn to the emotionally rich, and again, invisible world of natural scent. While the visual realm includes thousands of words to develop an understanding of every aspect of what we see, only a handful of words exist to specifically describe scent. This again created the necessity to borrow visual, textural, and even aural vocabularies as I felt no option but to develop synesthesia to understand scent. As the vocabulary became intertwined, so did my ability to perceive sound and scent across multiple sensory channels.
Listening To Scent by Jennifer Peace Rhind
As I further explored the art of perfume construction, I discovered the many similarities between perfume and music. As music is an aesthetic study of sound that combines mathematic theories with human expression, perfume is an aesthetic study of scent that balances biological science with emotion. I realized both can be creatively approached in a very similar way. The composition goes beyond “notes” and “chords” and into the percussive, melodic, harmonic, and ambient nature of each essence as it fulfills a specific role in the final orchestration.
Meanwhile, I had moved back to Kansas City after college and found myself to be a starving artist, living in a cold, dark, stone basement of an old house west of downtown. I was sick a lot, but had no health insurance, and learned to use herbal medicine and essential oils as a necessity at this time. I pursued video, graphic design, and photography work, to limited success, as I had few contacts or resources. I took a video/web/graphic design job at a local school district because it seemed my only option.
For Strange Women perfumes
But the district administrators that I worked with were absolutely the worst, and I nearly lost my soul in those two years but I pulled together the strength and courage to leave that job in 2009 and begin several of my own creative projects. I didn’t know if any of them would become a success, but I worked nonstop on them until one began getting an incredible response – For Strange Women Perfume. It was at this time that I realized my natural ability to understand scent through synesthesia, and the brand brought me back to myself. I had found an avenue back to my own voice, expression, and I began to curate my own world, like I had with dance and music. Balance, harmony, acute sensory perception, and creative alchemy will always draw me into their magic and they are my meditation.
For Stange Women Boutique in Kansas City
For Strange Women now has a studio/boutique in the heart of the Kansas City crossroads art district. I have two amazing assistants, Tara and Ash, and many supportive and creative friends that I collaborate, craft, hike, brunch, travel, and have backyard bonfires with. I have a cat, Onyx, and chickens, Patsy and Edina. I have a house on the Kansas side that has plenty of woods nearby and I’ve been working on turning it into a more sustainable homestead.
Jill McKeever in her studio
ON AMERICAN PERFUMERY: In many parts of the world, it is unacceptable or discouraged to forge a new path, to explore the frontier. It is expected to carry on a family trade or tradition, to follow your parents in their footsteps.
Jill in Alburquerque New Mexico
I think the U.S. has a naturally rebellious nature, an energy that began with the Revolutionary War and that has remained in our consciousness. Although it’s a little arrogant, it’s also one of the main premises of freedom; you can be anything you want, regardless of what preceded you. When I began this perfume brand, no one else was doing anything like it and there were certainly no perfumers or even artists in my family. Although I got some crazy looks when I described the type of scents I wanted to create, the idea that I wanted to become a perfumer, and to sell my perfumes online where the customer was not even able to smell them, was not considered too radical for the U.S.
Melora Creager founded the cello-based ensemble Rasputina in Brooklyn in 1992,
FAVORITE AMERICAN ARTIST: Melora Creagor, the creator of Rasputina. Her music had such an influence on me and the first couple Rasputina albums were a soundtrack to my introverted goth girl teenage years. The connection I felt to the melancholy but beautiful cellos with victorian and historical references to sad stories and strange characters influenced my own style to become softer and more feminine. I first bought “Thanks for the Ether” and listened to it on my walkman while in Colorado for the first time, the spooky soundtrack aligning perfectly with the mountains and the tall forests, and I still feel deeply connected with it.
Jill McKeever, Alchemist and founder of For Strange Women
For Strange Women Winter Kitty
Thanks to Jill we have a draw for US registered readers for your choice of Winter Kitty Tobacco +Leather French Oakmoss Decadance & Debauchery November in The Temperate Deciduous Forest Northern Moongarden and Fireside Story
To be eligible please leave a comment with what you found fascinating about Jill McKeever’s path to perfumery, a memorable line or quote, your choice of fragrance should you win. Draw closes 8/11//2016
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