November 17, 2022
People & Places

The call of the wild

A lingering love of scent has blossomed from a hobby to an all-consuming passion for one Limestone Coast artisan.

From the outside, the old stone building looks like any other dotting the paddocks of the Limestone Coast, but step inside to be transported into another world.

Divided into the “light room”, the “dark room” and dominated by the “cabinet of curiosities”, all are vital to the studio’s main purpose: the art of scent design. Surrounded by walls of tiny bottles and “recipes” in progress, this is Amanda Stevens’ place to create. A mere skip away from the main residence on her Mount Gambier property, it’s close enough when creativity strikes, even if that means pyjamas at midnight.

“I’m not a nine-to-five kind of person,” she says.

“Sometimes I just get onto a scent and it’ll be bugging me and I’ll run down and write it down or change it. If inspiration strikes, I have to do it then.”

Over the past two years, the studio has been transformed into the home of Rewild Co, where Amanda designs signature scents for brands and properties, as well as her own range. The philosophy of the business is simple: artisan, slow and handmade from start to finish.

Perfumery was a world away from Amanda’s early years in Mount Gambier where, as a teenager, she helped out on her grandparents’ sheep farm at Penola.

Although she didn’t know it, scent memories were already being created – cut grass on the high school lawn, the gardenias in her nanna’s flower patch – that would carry her towards a future career path.

It was after a move to Adelaide in her early 20s to study make-up artistry that a vivacious lecturer, also a perfumer, sparked Amanda’s interest.

“She just grabbed my attention; it was something about her confidence,” Amanda says. Going on to work in sales for global make-up brands, Amanda kept her interest a sideline.

“I fell in love with the scent side of it but for years and years, it was just a hobby.”

At the time, perfumes were all about celebrities, big brands and mass marketing – anathema to Amanda, who believed in a more measured personal approach.

“I just got so frustrated with these beautiful perfumes. The whole creation side of it was dismissed as not being important,” she says.

“I wanted to tell people’s stories through scent and that means working one-on-one with people and understanding what they want.”

Amanda was living in Victoria’s Grampians region with her husband, surrounded by wilderness, nature and free-roaming animals, when her one-time hobby branched out into a fledgling business. However, it was on a move back to Mount Gambier in late 2020 that Rewild Co “grew up” and found its home.

Amanda spotted the old limestone building on the property they were thinking of making their family home. Already enamoured with the main house, a curious Amanda asked for the keys to what she referred to as the “shed”.

“I remember walking in through the solid door, it was all covered in dust and I said, ‘That’s it’,” she remembers.

“Everyone was scratching their heads, saying ‘I can’t really see it, Amanda,’ but I could.”

Amanda had fallen for a piece of Mount Gambier’s history; an 1840s blacksmith and saddlery room with stables, one of the first buildings built by European settlers arriving in the area.

When they bought the property, a sheaf of historic documents, including the architect’s plans for the house – previously the shearers quarters – and historic titles, were also handed over to the couple. Feeling pressure to do the building’s history justice, Amanda’s renovations stepped lightly on the original footprint to retain the feel of the historic structure.

“It’s just another chapter in the life of the building,” she says.

Studio complete, Amanda moved in the tools of her trade and turned her attention to her overflowing inbox – jam packed full of orders, as the pandemic prompted a flurry of attention to Australian businesses.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it would have happened over COVID, but Buy from the Bush featured me, then Edwina Bartholomew, then Mamma Mia and it just exploded. It was wonderful,” says Amanda.

“I remember one moment in our lounge room where my husband came home from work and there were boxes ready to be posted and I couldn’t even fit them in the car.”

“He said, ‘I thought you told me this wasn’t going to work!’”

Eighteen months on, the doors to the cabinet of curiosities are thrown open and Amanda’s attention is focused on an inspiration board for a signature scent for a South Australian beach shack.

Drawing out a pink kaolin clay and a flower from the cabinet, the board is the beginning of the creative process for her, forming the basis of the key notes – the perfume’s hook.

A move into the dark room follows, trialling, eliminating and adding; seeing which scent patterns come together, a process that can take months or even years. Amanda works solo and the only visitors are the birds that perch on the branches outside the studio windows.

“I love how the seasons change outside,” she says.

“The changing landscape adds that extra complexity to
the aesthetic.”

During the course of a year, Amanda might create up to 30 unique scents, with nearly 40 stockists around Australia for the business’s own range. Designing a scent for a property is vastly different to creating one for a person, Amanda explains.

“You have five seconds when someone opens the door and that’s it. It hits you with ‘This is who I am’,” she says.

Delivered with the perfume is a list of how to scent the property, using candles, bath soak and cleanse baths so it’s layered throughout the whole dwelling. Deployed in these subtle ways, a scent designed for a property can evoke a strong memory; transporting the visitor back to a particular time, whether it’s lazy summer beach days or perhaps a lovers’ weekend away.

Amanda asks if I’d like to try a finished perfume. My inner wrist bared, Amanda spritzes twice and tells me to “dab gently” to the other wrist. Any harder pressure will bruise the scent, she explains.

The scent of “Love and Mutiny” fills the air as each of the 38 separate notes dominate, linger or recede – a harmony of tangerine, sweet fig and jasmine.

“It will change many times as it moves through each one,” she says.

“Perfume should be used and loved and appreciated.”


This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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