Maya Njie: Seeing Scents
The perfumer takes us inside the spaces that shape her vision in fragranceRead more
As a base for her strictly personal scents, Swedish-born perfumer Maya Njie’s domestic and creative worlds provide a familiar ground from which explorations can grow…
“I think I am quite a homebody and if I feel the need to have my own space, it has been possible to find it,” says Maya Njie. And for the Hackney-based perfume creator, comfort is a non-negotiable – in both workspace and home space. Yet, keeping these spaces separate has proven the key to her creativity. “My studio is around the corner from where I live so it’s easy to come and go in between,” she explains. “There are parallels; leather chairs, wooden furniture, plants and blinds. It’s a home away from home in that sense, but without the distractions.”
At once an artform and a science, the world of perfume is underpinned by a strong sense of mood and combining these disparate components with business requires a careful balancing act, as Njie herself has found. She acknowledges this distinction by using the space at her disposal: “I like going to my studio on Saturdays – it’s quieter, especially in the email inbox – to really get stuck into whatever it is I am doing, whether its filling bottles, working on a design project or exploring new formulations. It’s usually really calm and peaceful and I feel the most productive during these times.”
That’s not to say quiet is integral to her working environment, and Njie finds music to be a powerful force in moments where motivation is less immediate. “I listen to music a lot when I work,” she says. “It lifts my mood and is an essential part of creating the right work environment. Music can be there to serve as inspiration whilst layering notes in a formula and works equally as well for keeping the tempo whilst on the production line."
Turning her passion into a business has done nothing to dull Njie’s fascination with scent, and it’s been a surprising comfort outside the realm of her working world. “Having the outlet for creativity within olfaction and photography has been therapeutic and has acted as support for me,” she shares. “Fragrance definitely has an element of wellness to it and to be able to create scented spaces within the house has been really enjoyable.”
Having the outlet for creativity within olfaction and photography has been therapeutic – fragrance definitely has an element of wellness to it
For Njie, much of her creativity is still directly rooted in her environments, past and present, or seeking to connect with personal histories on a greater level. “My scents are linked to my own family photographs and memories,” she tells us. Growing up in Sweden, I looked to London and its cultural output. Its creative offering is vast, sometimes even overwhelming.” Now, by contrast, her inspiration comes from elsewhere: “Funnily, having made it my home for the last 20 years, I find myself being inspired by places from before London such as The Gambia and Västerås.” Perhaps by sourcing moments from afar, and situating them within a home context, she has found the perfect formula, encapsulating the romance of her scents and the portraits they paint.