The Portuguese Barro Negro is an ancient ceramic technique that is now being regenerated. It’s distinguished by its intense black color and the way it’s created. When the Barro Negro pieces are fired—piled on top of each other and buried in earth—they connect and fuse. Then they’re taken apart, but the places of contact between objects become marks on the their glistening dark surfaces and reminders of their individual stories–what they’ve touched and what touched them.
In the same vein, the encounter of two artists leaves a lasting imprint on the way they see their craft. Daphne Bugey, an independent perfumer and a consultant for Firmenich, has been living in Lisbon for almost three years. A creator of fragrances for houses such as Dolce & Gabbana, Kenzo, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Le Labo, and L’Artisan Parfumeur, she has always loved to travel. Trips to places like Japan and India enriched her creativity by offering a chance to experience new scents, to meet new people, to learn new languages, and to leave her comfort zone. With her move to Portugal two years ago, she continues her adventures and explorations–and makes them an even more integral part of her life.
Originally from France, Noé Duchaufour Lawrance has likewise followed creative projects that took him from Paris to Tokyo, from Milan to Marrakech. Trained in metal sculpture (ENSAAMA), he then explored the sphere of “Mobilier des Arts Décoratifs.” His projects, eclectic and distinctive, include the Sketch restaurant in London, the interior decoration of the Maya Bar in Monaco, the Sénéquier in St Tropez as well as a collection of furniture for Ceccotti, a perfume bottle for Paco Rabanne, and a hotel in Marrakech. Lisbon attracted him for the same reason as it had Daphné. It held a promise of adventure and impressions–and of the wind. Noé, like Daphné, is an avid kitesurfer, and this passion brought the two artists together for the first time.
Then there was the Soenga. During this yearly event in the village of Molelos, different groups of artisans gather together to fire their pieces.
In 2018, Noé met with the ceramicists Xana Monteira and Carlos Lima and designed a line of Barro Negro objects. When an idea occurred to Noé to design a perfume diffuser for his collection called Made in Situ, he approached Daphné. She agreed to create a fragrance story.
Daphné: I’ve lived in Portugal for almost three years—and what drew me about the project was a chance to immerse myself more deeply in Portuguese history and culture. A chance to forge a stronger connection with my adopted country. A chance to work with another artist and a friend. A chance to pay homage to the work of Portuguese artisans. It was about explorations and connections.
Noé: Explorations and connections were indeed at the heart of the project. In fact, the central idea of Made in Situ is the connection. The connection was the clearest way for me to portray the sentiment of the Soenga, the artisans and community coming together to celebrate this tradition. I wanted to create a tribute to these people in their togetherness.
In collaboration with the ceramicists Xana Monteira and Carlos Lima, Noé designed a Barro Negro perfume diffuser sphere. Daphné created a fragrance to give its story another chapter.
The First Impression
Noé: I was drawn to the black ceramics, Barro Negro, on our visit to the Portuguese Ethnology Museum archives in Lisbon. The material has a depth to it, the way it absorbs the light and registers the process of its creation. It looks like charcoal but with a density that gives it a curious strength. Then I found out about the Soenga, an ancient pit firing technique still practiced today in the village of Molelos. During this annual event, the artisans and village population come together to keep the tradition alive. These distinguishing characteristics in material, process and community are what made me decide to learn more about this craft.
Daphné: And I remember clearly the first time I held a Barro Negro object. Black with silver reflections, it had a unique texture that felt wonderful to touch. The irregularity made me think of the wabi-sabi, the Japanese concept of the beauty of imperfections, and how exquisite simple things can be when they bear the imprint of the artisans.
The artists began their work, bringing their own stories and impressions to it.
Daphné: In the beginning of all perfume creation, I immerse myself in the universe of the brand, or in this case, the designer, Noé. I listen. We exchange. I do research. Then I ask myself what story do I want to tell? What will be my sources of inspiration? With the Soenga perfume, it all came effortlessly and naturally.
Noé: It did all come naturally. When I saw Daphne plunge in the project by agreeing to take a trip to Molelos and to immerse herself into the atmosphere of the Barro Negro collection, I knew that we would create something beautiful together. Her respect for the site, the project, the artisans and the “Soenga” ritual touched me.
Daphné just mentioned reflecting on which stories she sought to tell. I likewise had my stories. For instance, the landscapes around Molelos reminded me of my childhood home in Brittany. I wanted to create pieces that gave the sensation of these forms and their presence while also playing with shadow and light as seen with the stone masses in the mists that sweep through the region in the mornings.
Noé: On our first visit we woke up early to leave at 6am and take photos of the landscape. There was a dense fog and we couldn’t see anything. We continued to drive up towards the top of the mountain. As we drove through the fog and rose above it, it became an undulating sea of clouds. When we arrived at the top, the sun was shining in a superb blue sky and it was a beautiful morning. This experience was so vivid.
Daphné: It was vivid and rich in such a dazzling variety of sensory impressions. When I first met the artisans Alexandra Monteiro (Xana) and Carlos Lima, two master artisans in the village of Molelos who collaborated with Noé on his collection, I was immediately moved by the poetry of the environment–their house, their garden with aromatic plants such as rosemary and lavender. Xana and Carlos then took me to see the oven. When they opened the cold oven, I was struck by the intense scent of smoke. Raw smoke, extremely addictive!
Still under the spell of this impression, I continue exploring. I smell through the oven opening. This time it is the smoky woody nuances that emerge, but they are more subtle than the first scent. I realize then that they remind me of palo santo, a sacred wood from Latin America.
The team finally takes me to the site where the Soenga was to be held a month later. It’s a beautiful, sunlit site, surrounded by eucalyptus and pines, with aromatic herbs and moss on the rocks.
I observe the ferns. I notice the contrast of greenery against the earth and the intense blue sky.
And then a fairly precise idea emerges—to develop a contrasting aromatic smoke note for my perfume.
Noé: Daphné was ready to explore different themes and stories! She was incredible to observe. Her understanding of the context was immediate, both instinctive and professional. She listened and immersed herself completely into the experience.
And so the pink granite rocks of Brittany, the rustle of the eucalyptus trees during the Soenga ceremony, the mosses festooning the rocks, and the memories of sacred wood from another place became a black ceramic object of art and a perfume.
Noé: I decided on a perfume diffuser, specifically, because it resonated as a medium through which to explore and share the full sensual experience of this place. This was due to the porousness of the material, the distinct atmospheric experiences in the mountains and the smoke, the flames, and the earth of the Soenga.
Daphné: The smoke, the flames, the earth, the trees, that moonlit night in early July of 2020…. There were so many stories to tell. The ceremony enchanted me. I just realized that I keep referring to the Soenga as a ceremony, but that’s what it was. I can’t even think of it as anything other than a ceremony, because the firing of the pieces in a large pit in the evening had a sacred aspect.
I thought then of the word perfume and its meaning in Latin—“through smoke,” evoking a sacred offering. For this reason, I wanted to add a note of incense to my fragrant story.
I also realized that this art has much in common with perfumery. Depending on how a material might be processed, it acquires a different character. A rose can become a honeyed rose absolute or an effervescent rose essence. And a lump of clay can be transformed into a myriad of forms by changing the way it’s worked.
Daphné: Living this experience with Noé and the ceramists has stayed with me. Its beauty, its antiquity, its history still move me. I am grateful to be able to participate in the Soenga. It lingers in me.
Noé: The Soenga lingers in me too. And the Soenga Perfume created by Daphné evokes the experience of the moment. I smell it and I travel immediately. And I think that it was fascinating to share the creative process with Daphné. Her approach combines a structured process, like that of an architectural project, with the perfect knowledge of ingredients, smells, and a strong sensitivity. I realized that we each tell stories, with our respective palettes.