Sissel Tolaas

Sissel Tolaas is a smell designer, artist, chemist, researcher, odor theorist—a “professional in-betweener” as she calls it, working amid research, commercial, and creative innovation. Smell is Tolaas’s medium, but her interest is not a conventional approach to scent, which is characterized by perfumes that camouflage, deodorize, and sanitize reality. For Tolaas, smell is information. She composes provocative smells to stimulate memory, recreate place, capture seasonality, and arouse emotional and intellectual responses. She simulates complex and often transgressive olfactory experiences to enhance smell sensibilities. She investigates and develops language to communicate smell. She values sensory experience as a way to heighten reality. Tolaas is smell’s biggest advocate. Born in Norway but currently based in Berlin, Tolaas studied mathematics, chemical science, languages, and visual art in Norway, Poland, Russia, and the United Kingdom. In 2004, with support from International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (IFF), Tolaas founded the SMELL RE_searchLab, a workspace to research, develop, and execute smell-related projects for institutional, educational, and individual clients.

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