Freddie Albrighton on perfume, tattoos and Canvas for Der Duft.

Artist and perfumer Freddie Albrighton is based in Worcestershire, UK. Known internationally for his colorful hyperreal-to-surreal tattooing style and eponymous indie fragrance brand, Freddie's most recent project was the eau de parfum Canvas for Der Duft. We checked in with him to learn a bit more about his creative endeavors and the making of Canvas...

Q. We definitely smell the black licorice (anise) accord you mentioned. Was there anything other than the color that inspired you to choose this ingredient to represent ink?

A. The colour (black) was the starting point – I knew I could spin the liquorice accord slightly marine and salty both representing the more common “sea/squid” association with ink, and also the saltiness of skin. The salt aspect isn’t something I focused on – but it made sense to me for liquorice to be a focal point that I could then add colour to.

I also liked the idea that it had to be built as an accord (with there being no natural liquorice absolute/oil) — in the same way inks and paints were made by hand by the artist to begin with — with the colour and pigments eventually added. It was a perfect “canvas”.

Q. It’s interesting that skin is your canvas for both tattooing and perfumery, one permanent and the other ephemeral. How does your creative approach differ from one to the other?

A. I’ve never really thought about that but you’re right! You’ve kind of explained it there — the permanence in tattooing is restrictive. With perfume it almost doesn’t matter if someone wears a piece of your work and decides it’s not for them. With tattooing that results in much worse consequences than just having to “wash it off”, haha.

The creative approach has some similarities with technicalities and client expectation though — both have to be somehow familiar and “wearable”. When it comes to other people’s bodies, things are a little more considered and restrictive creatively than painting on a canvas I suppose, but also far more satisfying when it affects someone so directly that the artwork can become a part of them. Having said all that, in tattooing I work mostly to client briefs, so I feel I have much more freedom and personality in creating perfume.

Q. How and when did you first get into perfume (we loved your old review blog, Smellythoughts — you seemed young to have such a sophisticated nose!)?

A. Thank you! I deleted all my old blog posts — I was so young and reading them back would be quite painful now, haha. I was very opinionated, as all teenagers are. But as with all these stories, I was young… as a teenager I was wearing whatever perfume I found unique or controversial and this carried on into my discovery of independent and niche perfumery.

My main interest to begin with was always thinking of art forms, and the more experimental the better. As I’ve gotten older, as always, tastes change and my aesthetic has changed. Exploring perfume and smell in depth is like a whole new world. It’s the one sense we get taught nothing about and have zero training in throughout childhood or youth. I think that’s why perfume-people get so obsessed — because it’s a huge part of us that we barely understood and didn’t have the language for prior to discovering the joy of perfume.

Q. How would you describe your tattoo and perfumery aesthetics, are they similar?

A. I think they are, without me forcing it. I love a dreamy aesthetic, high contrast and soft edges — things that blend into the skin, dip in and out of focus, have familiarity to them but are distorted just enough that they're contemporary. I try to achieve this in tattooing and I feel it has passed over into making perfume.

You can play with similar uses of complimentary colours, textures, emotions etc. In both I like to reference classical images and structures but with a more modern narrative. I like to think both have a slightly rebellious/punk edge, but maybe that’s me just trying to be cool.

Q. What was the process like when designing a perfume for Der Duft?

A. Honestly it was wonderful... and daunting. Canvas for Der Duft is my first fragrance for a brand other than my own. Anselm gave me a single word as inspiration and left me to it. I created 10-15 concepts to begin with, which we explored, evolved, scrapped completely, etc. It was creatively exhausting and super exciting. I didn’t have to follow the personal narratives and stories of my own collection and could just go wild with ideas.

Der Duft chose one of my wilder more experimental concepts to build on, which became Canvas. The process after the selection was lots of refinement and tweaking until it had the texture and pitch I had in my head. As a self-taught perfumer, this is the challenge — knowing when to stop and what harsher edges to leave in place for personality.

Q. What aspect of creating perfume gives you the most joy, and what is the most challenging?

A. Working away from client briefs in a medium I have wanted to get creative in for years gives me so much joy. I can finally get out and explore and be hands-on with the countless ideas I’ve had in my head for years. The fact I have my own brand now, that it's been received so well, and am working with another brand like Der Duft is still very dream-like to me. I’m so excited about the future and what is to come.

It’s been a huge creative lift for me — having been a tattooist for almost 10 years and having ups and downs with motivation towards it — being able to finally put my all into my true passion is extremely fulfilling. At the end of the day, there are many technical challenges for me to learn in creating perfume, but I enjoy that.

So the most challenging? Let’s say all the business side, logistics, self manufacturing, social media managing... I’m not a “business” person but I’m trying my best. All that faff is worth it though, to have people wearing my perfumes and feeling very fulfilled. The possibilities seem endless with creating perfume and being so early on in my career feels exciting.

Thanks, Freddie! We look forward to seeing what you do next. 

Tattoos by @freddiealbrighton