Courtney Gibbs and Tommy Ashby of Subtle Bodies were living with creative friends Qianyi Lim of Sibling Architecture and graphic designer Ross Paxman when they first started taking real steps to turn their idea for a new incense brand into reality. ‘We really started to make progress when we worked with Ross in the upstairs study of our Canning street house’, Courtney explains, ‘he really helped by bringing professional structure as well as his strategy, branding and graphic design skills to the project.’
Research trips to Tokyo and Taiwan followed, where Courtney and Tommy visited a number of high-end incense shops, providing plenty of fodder for inspiration. ‘The incredible attention to detail, relentless devotion to the industry and long history directly inspired our project,’ says Courtney. It reached a point where the couple had gathered so many various products, woods, resins and all manner of esoteric incense supplies, that it was time to start something of their own.
Subtle Bodies’ Japanese-style incense sticks only have two ingredients: the fragrant wood, and a natural binding agent, and each incense stick uses a different raw wood. Careful not to use any generic wood, perfume or oil, this is very much a case of what you see (or smell) is what you get!
Courtney and Tommy got in touch with their preferred supplier and took a trip to Vietnam to visit their Agarwood plantation in the jungle. ‘We met the family and community running it, and learned more about the industry,’ Courtney says. ‘Agarwood is often harvested illegally so we wanted to make sure we were sourcing responsibly!’
Subtle Bodies continues to evolve as Courtney and Tommy learn more about incense and its values and culture. ‘Learning about the smells, the effects and developing the brand direction has been really satisfying, and is the basis for everything that we have created,’ says Courtney, ‘incense has been around for thousands of years, but this is our interpretation, and Subtle Bodies is the outcome.’