Nature as Muse: A Sensory Exploration of One Landscape Through Four Creative Perspectives

4 Sundays in October from 2PM to 3:30PM at the Mountain Lakes Preserve in Princeton

Friends of Princeton Open Space has invited four creative professionals to lead workshops in the Mountain Lakes Preserve that examine how nature inspires fragrances (perfumer), cuisine (chef), poetry (writer), and branding and design (graphic designer). Each workshop includes a woodland walk to explore the sensory landscape, followed by a simple creative exercise that puts the concepts we learn on our walk into practice.

October 9: Perfumer: Etienne Bouckaert, Firmenich
October 16: Chef: Gab Carbone, the bent spoon
October 23: Graphic Designer: Sarah Smith, Smith + Manning
October 30: Poet: Douglas Piccinnini, writer and poet; chef at Poor Farm Food

Cost: $100 for 4 workshops
To register:

Event Partners: The Arts Council of Princeton and Mountain Lakes House

Capturing the Aromas of Nature
Sunday, October 9
Artistic Discipline: 
Instructor: Etienne Bouckaert, Firmenich

"I am inspired by the little things that make a bold statement. There is no better place to find that than in nature." Etienne Bouckaert

In this workshop, perfumer Etienne Bouckaert will lead us on a woodland walk to experience — and put words to — aromas in nature. Back at the Mountain Lakes House, Etienne will explain how technology allows us to capture a fragrance from nature and recreate that aroma in a perfume creation. From the traditional methods of distillation and extraction, which produce essentials oils and absolutes, to Firmenich's state-of-the-art NaturePrint® technology — the most advanced and ecological process available — we will compare different extraction systems and smell the effect of each on some classic raw fragrance materials.

ETIENNE BOUCKAERT is a perfumer at Firmenich, the world's largest privately owned fragrance and flavor company. A magna cum laude graduate of ISIPCA, the world-renowned perfumery school in Versailles, Etienne sees himself as an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary — always searching for uniqueness in his creations while keeping a realist's point of view. This philosophy has earned him awards in the fine fragrance, body care, and hair care categories worldwide, including the 1994 Femme Fatale Fragrance Competition and the 2005 Perfumers’ Choice Award from the American Society of Perfumers.


Taking Culinary Inspiration from the Natural World
Sunday, October 16
Artistic Discipline: 
Instructor: Gab Carbone, the bent spoon

"Working with fruit foraged from a tree that someone planted many years ago —when that was the fashion of the time — keeps us connected to our shared history. Those stories that we tell through food, that’s the thread of humanity.” Gab Carbone

In this workshop, chef Gab Carbone will discuss how nature, history, memory, place, and season impact and inspire her flavor explorations. Gab will lead a walk in the Mountain Lakes Preserve to explore and catalog sensory cues that can be used to create desserts that evoke a place or experience. When we return to the Mountain Lakes House, we will imagine what flavors of ice cream would capture the experience of Mountain Lakes in fall. We'll learn about Gab's challenges when extracting flavor and creating ice creams and sorbets that match her customers' expectations. And we will taste examples of raw ingredients and the ice creams that they inspired.

GAB CARBONE is co-owner of the bent spoon, an artisan ice cream shop and bakery. From mushrooms to spruce needles to beach plums, bent spoon's ice cream and confections are a celebration of nature and the flavor of the Garden State. A graduate of the French Culinary Institute's pastry program, Gab has gained a national reputation for the quality and originality of her ice creams. She has created over 550 flavors of ice cream and sorbet since founding the bent spoon with her partner Matt Errico in 2004.


The Interaction of Color and Nature
Sunday, October 23
Artistic Discipline: 
Graphic Designer
Instructor: Sarah Smith, Smith + Manning

"Identity design is comprised of elements working together to communicate in a distinctive way. Inspiration will often come from nature – especially color, pattern and scale." -Sarah Lewis Smith 

In this workshop, graphic designer Sarah Lewis Smith will explain how she gathers inspiration from nature and records her ideas through photography and sketches. And, she will show examples of how she uses nature in her work as a graphic designer. After a brief introduction to Joseph Alber’s Interaction of Color, Sarah will lead a walk in the Mountain Lakes Preserve where we will observe color and collect fall leaves. Participants will use leaves in a color exercise to explore the relationships of hue, value, and disappearing color. Color swatches and mat board will be provided, so that your work can later be framed.

SARAH LEWIS SMITH is co-founder and creative director of Smith + Manning, design and branding. The Princeton-based company has created identity and branding programs for Princeton University Alumni, Learning Ally, Johnson & Johnson and University Radiology. Prior to returning to Princeton, she lived in Europe and Asia and created the identity for Alfred Dunhill, China Airlines, Singapore Post and Singapore Telecom.


Expressing Nature in Words
Sunday, October 30
Artistic Discipline: 
Instructor: Douglas Piccinnini, poet, writer, and chef at Poor Farm Food

“As a writer and chef, I relate to nature through the somewhat abstract notion oftime.”  - Douglas Piccinnini

In this workshop, poet Douglas Piccinnini will lead an exploration into writing about sensory perception and memory. Douglas will begin with a brief discussion about how, through sense memory, he relates to time and nature in his writing and he will read a few pieces of his writing that exemplify this connection. On our walk, we will document what we hear, see, touch, smell and, perhaps, taste.  Upon our return to Mountain Lakes House, we will review our sensory impressions, then share and discuss our experiences.

DOUGLAS PICCINNINI is a writer and chef. He is the author of a collection of poems, Blood Oboe (Omnidawn, 2015) and a novella, Story Book (The Cultural Society, 2015). His work has appeared in The Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-DayAntioch ReviewDiner JournalLana TurnerNYTimes.comThe Seattle Reviewand Verse — among others. Piccinnini is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in NYC and has worked at numerous establishments in New York City and New Jersey including: Diner, Marlow & Sons, The Fat Radish / Silkstone, Agricola, Rojo's Roastery and Poor Farm Food. As a chef/owner of the Lambertville-based culinary outfit, Poor Farm Food, Piccinnini works closely with his wife, chef Robin Hollis, to follow food through the “timing” of the seasons — working with small, local farms to create thoughtfully sourced, well-prepared food. Learn more about Douglas Piccinnini at and