The magazine of material culture

Continued Conversation: D.S. & Durga

 Interview by Sophia Klapischak | Illustration by Leah Quinaz

In our second issue, Atlas interviewed small-batch perfume makers D.S. & Durga about their musicly inclined Bowmakers scent collection. D.S. & Durga have since released their HYLNDS collection, which draws inspiration from ancient folklore and the mystic lands of Scotland and Ireland. 


ATLAS: In our conversation last summer, you had mentioned "thin places"—did you experience these places while you traveled in Scotland and Ireland? Can you recall any specific instances? 

D.S. & DURGA: Perhaps the most dramatic place was climbing to the top of Slieve Guillon in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. We walked up into the clouds of rain and made our way up to a 3,000 year old burial cairn on top. A mile away on another peak is the mythical lake where Finn McCool was tricked into jumping in, turning his hair white forever. Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake is this site. 

ATLAS: What was your process of selecting the ingredients for HYLNDS? Each fragrance is so beautiful and each ingredient seems so meticulously selected. Did you have "ah-hah!" moments?    

D.S. & DURGA: I smelled absolutely everything I could get my hands on—much to the amusement of the film crew I traveled with! I took notes and some samples with me. The ingredients are often accords built from materials that yield oils. I am trying to recreate what cannot always be extracted.

In terms of an "ah-hah!" moment, Finlaggan on Islay really surprised me. The castle ruins are dotted with such lush & sometimes tropical smelling flowers—gorse, meadowsweet, woodruff.

ATLAS: Is your interest in Nordic folklore, culture, and geography fairly recent? The region has always seemed to have a certain magic. 

D.S. & DURGA: I’ve never been as deep into it as I am now, but it’s been there in the background of my life. I have Irish ancestry and Van Morrison was a big part of my childhood soundtrack. The Norse sagas are endless tools of inspiration.

ATLAS: Your scents carry the whimsical ability of bringing together fantasy and the earthly familiars. Many times one can think of a region with mystical preconceptions of what it would feel like. Did the folklore and mysticism enhance your feelings while you were tangibly there? 

D.S. & DURGA: The culture of myth is ingrained in the people and the lands in these countries. It’s in the names, customs, foods, holidays, etc. I think you can approach myth and mysticism in a real way without it sliding into the realm of “dorkiness.” The line gets greyer as I go on though. I may be in too deep.