Conversations with Artists: Heather D'Angelo
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Heather D'Angelo is a perfumer, musician & ecologist living in San Francisco's Mission District.
"I synthesize my background in musical composition and scientific inquiry to create fragrances that tell stories of place."
Can you tell us about your background and how you ended up where you are?
I have a pretty eclectic background so I often marvel at how I ended up where I am today. My first career began with my indie pop band, Au Revoir Simone, founded in 2003 in Brooklyn. With Au Revoir Simone, I toured all over the world for over a decade, opened for incredible bands such as Air and Broken Bells, and ended up performing on two episodes of David Lynch’s 2017 Twin Peaks: The Return.
While this career was going, I started a side career by returning to school to get a degree in Environmental Biology from Columbia University. My research took me to the tropical rainforests of Malaysia studying how oil palm plantations affect soil microbial communities, which made a big impact on how I think about large scale agriculture and climate change. I graduated from Columbia in 2012, released another record, toured, and then moved to San Francisco in 2014 looking for some much needed peace and quiet.
In San Francisco, I finally had the time and space to pursue a hobby that interested me for a long time—perfume. I taught myself perfuming for around three years before launching my company, Carta, in 2017. With Carta, I synthesize my background in musical composition and scientific inquiry to create fragrances that tell stories of place. My debut fragrance, Moena 12|69, features an essential oil I personally sourced from the Peruvian Amazon called Moena Alcanfor. You can read more about that journey here.
Any favorite Bay Area spots?
Tartine Bakery! Sorry if that’s so lame and obvious but I live one block away from the bakery so the unceasing scent of buttery croissants is part of my daily tableau.
My other favorite spot is, of course, Tigerlily Perfumery on Valencia Street. Not only is Tigerlily the best place in the US (that I’ve found) to discover perfumes you can’t find anywhere else, but the owner, Antonia Kohl, is an integral part of SF’s indie perfuming community. She’s done so much for bringing awareness to indie perfumers and her shop is a warm gathering place for sniffing meetups and fragrant celebrations.
Any guilty pleasure reads/movies/habits/food?
I’ve been watching a lot of Outlander lately, which is basically petticoat porn but I don’t care. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe have incredible onscreen chemistry and the escapism of 18th century Scotland calls me these days.
What's the biggest myth about being an artist?
The biggest myth about being an artist is that we’re dark, depressive, suffering creatures and we must be so to create good art. I think David Lynch said it best: “It's good for the artist to understand conflict and stress. Those things can give you ideas. But I guarantee you, if you have enough stress, you won't be able to create. And if you have enough conflict, it will just get in the way of your creativity. You can understand conflict, but you don't have to live in it."
What are your timeless style pieces?
I have a couple of Mulberry Bayswater bags that are timeless and always make me feel dressy even if the rest of me looks slobbish. I also love simple gold jewelry; I wear a small enamel coin necklace by Jessica Winzelberg everyday that says, “La Lune Vous Garde.” I also wear a lot of turtlenecks which feel timeless to me. I recommend this one by Ozma of California.
Any causes you support?
I’m a huge fan of the incredibly important work that Camino Verde is doing to reforest lands degraded by deforestation and gold mining in the Amazon Rainforest.
Follow @cartafragrances or visit Carta fragrances to learn more about Heather's virtual classes and TBD perfuming workshop at Optical Underground.