Sissel Tolaas proudly says that her job is to educate the world on how to smell in a more appropriate way, one without prejudices. And by combining creativity with her knowledge and skills in chemical science, math, linguistics and languages, Sissel develops methodologies for all age groups and demographics to get to the heart of smell and its relationship to a person and his surroundings. And that is why she has been chosen as this year’s CEW Great Idea Award for Fragrance Innovation, sponsored by IFF.

Born and raised in Norway, Sissel Tolaas, a self-described “smell artist,” speaks eight languages and was educated in universities in Norway, Russia and Poland. She now lives in Berlin, where in 2004 she founded a lab meant for smell/olfactory and smell-communication topics. The goal of the lab is to change the existing approach to the nose and smells and the process of smelling.

It was in 1990 when Sissel dived deep into the art of smell and began building a smell archive, a collection of smells from travels around the world, capturing them in air-tight containers, ranging from dirt to leaves to a motorcycle seat to fear (she captured and replicated the smell emitted by 21 men who had a fear of other people.) She’s even replicated the smell of sweat based on samples provided to her by willing—yet anonymous—participants, and has developed smells for certain time periods (yes, time periods) such as her work in creating what World World I would have smelled like. This project was particularly challenging “as I had no original source to work with,” Sissel said.

Her collection has reached 6,730 smells contained in air tight jars, including dirty fabric, dried fish and rotten bananas, scents that document a time and place, as opposed to a written diary. She has taught herself not to have an emotional reaction to smell by smelling with a blindfold. She now can relate to such scents intellectually, rather than emotionally. To learn more about Sissal and her projects, visit her tumblr page here.