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Mabelle O'Rama; The Emotional Power Of Aromas

Mabelle O'Rama; The Emotional Power Of Aromas

Photographer: Anna Lachlan


Please, introduce yourself!
Hello, I’m Mabelle, originally from Lebanon and have lived in England for 12 years now. I’m an artist and scent maker experimenting with traditional and unconventional mediums to enjoy scent. I’m also a mum of toddler twins Luna and Rafael, who now think all paintings have a smell.


Can you tell us about the different types of art mediums you use?
Scent is the focal part of my art and is the starting point for each piece. After formulating the scent, I mix it with melted soy wax, then pour it on wooden boards. By combining vibrant and sometimes unexpected hues, I get to illustrate the emotional power of aromas. On the other hand the fluidity of the wax portrays the energy and spontaneous beauty found all around us. This becomes an immersive experience with an olfactive, tactile and visual element to it.


Abstract artwork by Mabelle O'Rama, showing light blues and a golden circle in the middle 

'Grow through what you go through'

Photographer: Anna Lachlan 


What first drew you to painting & perfumery?

I’m on a mission to encourage more people to enjoy their sense of smell and one way to do that is by adding scent to unconventional mediums. I also wanted to explore further the idea of artistic scent as a link to memories, by adding a visual element, and liberating myself from the restrictions that come with designing a perfume.

I had explored scenting different mediums such as paint and fabric which lacked durability. Wax was an act of serendipity, and this experiment came to life during my first event when I was selling candles and needed to decorate and scent my studio. To my surprise, the artwork got so much interest and I ended up selling a piece. This was a light bulb moment where I knew I was onto something.

Abstract art by Mabelle with sandstone colours and warm pink tones

'Somewhere only we know'
Photographer: Anna Lachlan

What inspires you as an artist?

Nostalgia to the home where I grew up, Lebanon, and its abundance of nature, flavours, and joie-de-vivre despite everything happening there. There is also my curiosity and imagination running wild towards our ‘wider home’, outer Space with all its sparkles, gravity and the lack of it and the many wavelengths of light.

Scent is a very powerful tool to connect us to our memories, transport us to the scenes and people we miss or even allow us to dream of how a new place would smell. I use this sense to indulge in reminiscence or fantasise of imaginative spaces.


Abstract art piece by Mabelle with dark blues and golden flecks

'Is this the river I've been looking for'

Photographer: Anna Lachlan

What, if anything, do you want the people who see your art to think/feel/do differently?
A lot of people naturally close their eyes when they come to smell the art, which I love to see, dedicating their full attention to their sense of smell. Then they open them and take it all in while looking at the piece. I like to think they get transported to a place or memory through the scent, then open the eyes to elaborate on that with all the colours and textures involved.

What has been your happiest moment/greatest achievement?

Receiving an Honourable Mention by the Arts and Olfaction Awards judges for my perfume Lunar Dust has got to be one of my happiest moments this year. Being a self-taught scent maker, this kind of recognition gives me the confidence to keep exploring with scent.

What has your biggest challenge been over the past couple of years?
My type of Olfactive art is a completely new concept, so I’ve had to figure out many elements of it myself with lots of trial and costly errors. It’s a delicate and time sensitive process, where I need to wait for the wax to cool down to mix it with scent and colour, but pour it quickly enough before it solidifies to work with the fluidity of the wax. Lastly translating scent online still has its challenges but consumers are getting better at imagining how notes could smell.


Abstract art piece by Mabelle with earthy tones and raised texture

Close-up from 'Somewhere only we know'

Photographer: Anna Lachlan

How has becoming a mother impacted your creativity/creative process?
It got impacted in so many ways. The lack of sleep to begin with made me a bit delirious but offered a new perspective.

On a more serious note, as a mother feelings became more intense. Missing is deeper, I can almost feel a hole in my heart (and you’ll see some of these holes in my art), love is more exhilarating, guilt is very enveloping and sadness is scarier. The art has given me a space to express all these ups and downs which has been a great outlet.

There is also nature re-appreciation which happened after having kids and lockdown. Watching them fascinated by the simple facets of nature, experience things for the first time and their curiosity around it, has been a great reminder of how generous nature is. The endless shades of orange and green in autumn, the smell of daphne in the air and the quest to find the source, the unexpected sun rays in winter that lifts the spirit and amplifies the laughter, the fascination with the moon light and lunar phases, the sound of the foamy waves crushing on the rocks and the salty smell that almost makes the tongue thirsty. It makes me want to run to my studio to capture those details.

What smells, colours, imagery would you use to describe Lebanon to someone
who has never been?
You’ll find the most delicate white gardenias and damask roses on church altars with their aromas mingling with the frankincense & red wine.

 In the cedar valley, you’ll be mesmerised by the Lebanese cedar trees 100s of years old standing tall amongst the pure white snow and the cold icy air, but you’ll warm up inside the cabin indulging in hot Lebanese coffee or a fresh mint tea.

We love our citrusy flavour and not just the typical ones. I’m talking tangy sumac that comes from the red berried plant and sour verjuice, the grand cru of lemon juice, which is made from green grapes before they ripe.

I almost forgot the coast. The Mediterranean breeze with its 50 shades of blue and green. The warm hugs and salty kisses you get with each wave. The aromas of orange flower and jasmine nearby reminding you it’s almost sunset, to take a seat and wait for the show. By far the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen.


Artwork by Mabelle with swirling blues, and touches of gold.
'See how wide the Mediterranean sea'
Photographer: Julian Emsley

Thank you so much for sharing your work. How can people find out more about you and your art?


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