From a young age, Ash Compton realized she was a synesthete—a technical term that means, among other things, a person associates colors and pieces of art with strong, specific scents. It’s been a key part of her life, even when her work has taken her into less obviously artistic pursuits, like working as a Jungian artist. Among the many other wonderfully disparate, somehow interconnected entries on her résumé? Freelance graphic designer, art director, cocktail expert, and—bringing things full circle—small-batch perfume maven.
That last one came about after Ash made a home in Marfa, Texas, where she was struck by the vastness of the desert landscape and the ability to see the Milky Way every night. “My veil became thinner creatively working in the desert,” says Ash, who realized scents could be a way to capture that ethereal feeling and share it. Fray Ardens, which she launched in 2017, blends Ash’s passion for fragrance and botany with her psychology roots, digging into ideas around memory and smell. Her woodsy, genderless blends like Nouveau Ranch combine notes like blood orange, singed grass, and violet leaf and are packaged in bottles with hand-carved wood tops made by a friend and labels illustrated by Ash herself. It’s all about blurring the lines between Ash’s many inner lives, she explains: “I consider Fray Ardens an art project as much as a perfume line.”