Houston Matters

How Designing Her Own Fragrances Helped Kathryn Way Deal With PTSD

The Houston artist and designer talks about her craft.

Lowborn Goods designer perfumes, Chasing Waterfalls and Daddy

Kathryn Way’s home is filled with the scent of perfume and lit with the warm glow of rainbows. As soon as a person is acclimated to the scent of jasmine, citrus would waft in only to be taken over by a round of leather or patchouli then fade again like a carousel.

A window film, put up to create privacy in her bedroom also produced many small prisms for the southern light to change into fractured rainbows over her bed, where her two kittens, Pantoufle and Chicken, would tussle and sleep. Her home filled with soft pinks and wallpaper of tropical leaves along with art pieces, pillows, and furniture she designed herself.

This place a retreat, a fragrance testing lab for her business, Lowborn Goods, and a therapy session all at once.

Kathryn Way Lowborn Goods
Kathryn Way in front of her artwork holding a pillow she designed before she began making fragrances.

Way designed her home to be as cozy as possible on the advice of her therapist in order to combat post-traumatic stress disorder after details of her personal life were leaked online by internet trolls.

“My therapist made up a list with me of ways I could feel safe in my home,” Way said. “So one of those ways was to go find some scented candles that made my home feel cozy and comfy.”

But she had trouble finding scents that she liked.

“I kind of always know something that I want in my head, and if I can’t find it, I just go make it.”

So, she took on the process of making it herself — although she ran into many difficulties in the process.

Kathryn Way Candles
Candles that Houston’s Kathryn Way hand poured into cement holders for her company Lowborn Goods.

“To make the fragrances, I bought four different ingredients…or just fragrance oils that I thought would go well together, and they absolutely did not,” she said. “They would fight with each other… It was so hard to throw away a gallon of something. But my whole house would smell like you’re walking into a candle store, and if I mixed a scent that didn’t go, I would have to sit there and live with that mistake — walk into my kitchen where I eat and smell…literally the scent of failure.”

After months of experimentation, she arrived at her first candle, and soon developed a line that friends complimented and asked to purchase. And within a year she found herself with an online store and a sold-out candle line.

Kathryn Way hand measures and pours all the candles from her home in Houston. Double boilers sit underneath freshly poured candled in her kitchen. Her cat, Pantoufle would later knock over a full boiler, losing hundreds of dollars worth of product.

“A customer told me she would dip her finger in the hot wax and dab her neck with it to wear as a perfume,” Way said. “Then another told me the same thing. So I knew I had to make them into perfume before someone got hurt.”

Way spent many more months developing a roll and spray perfume called Golden Hour and Witching Hour and did what she would have considered unthinkable months prior: she opened her home to the public where strangers could come purchase her goods.

As one of the last purchases of the day was made, a customer remarked, “I just love your place. It’s just perfect and cozy.”

Kathryn Way’s Makeup Of Perfume:

  • Perfume Note: A single scent or combination of scents that last the same amount of time and compliment each other.
  • Top Note: The lightest of perfume notes. These are scents that create the first impression and draw you in when applied and disappear faster than the other notes.
  • Middle Note aka Heart Note: These are typically floral scents such as jasmine and rose, or fruity scents such passion flower that appear after the top note fades away. They make the majority of the perfume’s makeup.
  • Bottom: Common bottom notes are patchouli, sandalwood, and vanilla. These scents are usually considered too strong on their own but when mixed with other notes become pleasant.  These scents wear on the skin the longest and change with an individual’s own body chemistry. Vanilla, for example, can smell sweeter on some and not at all on others.
  • Spray-On: A mist style of applying perfume usually made with alcohol or another base that holds the scent.
  • Roll-On: A directly applied style of perfume with an oil base and usually applied with a rollerball.
    Kathryn Way Bedroom Cats
    Kathryn Way’s two cats, Pantoufle and Chicken, play on the window sill in her bedroom. The privacy screen was added to help alleviate some of Way’s PTSD symptoms.

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