It’s no wonder I’m a perfumer, as I’ve always been drawn to all types of smells. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of going to the department store with my grandfather, when I would run off to the fragrance counter to gaze at the fancy bottles and spray the perfumes all around me. My main inspiration, though, was an elderly Greek lady called Eva who lived across the road from my family home.
Eva was a fascinating lady who was educated and well-travelled. I would sit in her lounge room and be transfixed by her stories of faraway places. She mostly spoke Greek so I absorbed maybe 20% of what she used to say, but either way the passion and knowledge she had about her subject matter really engaged me. Eva had a cabinet full of the precious oils and trinkets she had collected on her travels. She was my first introduction into the world of perfumery and, because of Eva, I developed an interest in essential oils and other countries and cultures.
My parents are Greek-Australian. My grandparents migrated here in the 1950s to start a new life and set up businesses. I’m the eldest child of three boys, and my mother was only 26 when I was born. She always tells the story of when I was three days old and she and my father brought me home from hospital. They drove home during a massive thunderstorm, with me all nice and snug in my baby basket. My mother says that she went to pass the baby basket to my dad, but he was in such a hurry in the pouring rain that he only grabbed one of the handles. The basket tipped over and I rolled out of it and into a muddy grass patch – face first. I had mud all over my face, but I didn’t even cry, apparently. I just looked at her with sad eyes. I like to think that this early experience of being dropped on my face gave me some of that Spartan grit that I have today.
As I grew older, I still visited Eva regularly and my Greek was really starting to improve. Eva lived in her home until she was 94, when she went to a nursing home almost an hour’s drive away. I visited her once a month, and during this time we formed an even stronger bond. I’d started learning to make perfumes by this stage and I decided that when my first perfume was finished, I would name it ‘Eva’. Unfortunately, I never had the courage to present it to her, as it was never good enough. I had almost finished it, but then she died in 2014.
I kept working at improving my perfume-making and blending skills, but sometimes things wouldn’t go my way and the frustration during the long hours and late nights played with my head. I would throw in the towel and go to bed, deciding to give up my dreams of being a perfumer. Then, next morning, I would wake up and go straight back to work. Quitting was never really in my vocabulary.
I started making my own perfumes, mostly because I was tired of all the other ones on the market. I wanted to be an individual and in a way that was natural, as a lot of perfumes were giving me headaches. The brand Samuel Gravan was launched nearly one year ago, and it hosts six authentically natural perfumes and 12 different skincare products that are handmade in small batches. I work with a cosmetic chemist and other skincare professionals and we use the finest oils and plant extracts to create truly natural products.
My skincare brand is called Earth to Body to emphasise the products’ connection with the natural world. My fragrances smell like the flowers they come from, and they harness the power of nature and the beautiful, bold aromas of the essential oils and resins that I use. My studies in aromatherapy have taught me that essential oils have possibilities beyond our imagination to awaken and enrich our senses and our moods.
I love what I do. I enjoy the solitude of working alone and blending essential oils in a beaker, and the fragrances of my favourite ingredients always bring a sense of grounding and comfort to me. Essential oils are very healing and mixing perfume is quite a spiritual thing to do. I find it soothing and a great way to reconnect with my inner soul.
Longer term, I would like to continue my travels around the world to collect rare and precious essential oils, resins and plant matter. I want to continue to bring something different to my perfumes so that each one is truly unique. My latest release, Amyris Summer, was almost six months in the making. Its development was influenced by a lot of people I met as I travelled around Hungary, Prague and Italy. I am grateful to be able to bring something natural and unique to this world in the form of a perfume with a genuinely interesting story.