Category Archives: synaesthesia

Conscious Creativity and the Art of Avoidance…

May 7, 2019

Filed Under : 5ftinf Tables - Arrangements - Art - colour - Conscious Creativity - synaesthesia - texture - The Lonely Kiosk Project

Looking back over the past few months , something which seems noticeably missing on this blog is anything much I have written about my new book Conscious Creativity , apart from a post I put together about the ‘Conscious Creativity’ scent I created and then painted. 

Most of 2018 was totally consumed with the writing of it and then the subsequent promoting of it: I ploughed all my focus and energy into those directions because, apart from anything else, this was the only book I was ever going to write. ‘Conscious Creativity’ is about seeing the world in a different way; offering easy techniques to unlock doors of perception as well as exercises to engage the senses. There was something almost autobiographical in writing it; it’s basically a manual of how I work, how I see and experience life and how I like to use what is right under my nose to constantly inspire me. I wanted to explode the myth that creativity is just for the arty. I want everyone to realise their enormous creative potential and I want everyone to connect to their inner abstract and acknowledge that all the unspoken stuff going on in our heads is something to be embraced rather than ignored. Creativity is often pared right back in our teens, almost to the point of disbelieving it’s existence. Therefore if we limit creative conversations and dismiss, for example, what colour a number feels like, what shape a a neat whisky tastes like, or what a scent sounds like, we will undoubtedly be limiting our growth in all areas. And so I wrote a book ( because I was asked to ) about personal creativity; how to connect to and value your ideas, instincts and senses. How to accept getting things wrong, how to experiment and how to experience the world in ways which feed your creativity and secure your foundations.

Last year was both nerve-wracking and stressful, exhilarating and exciting, and even though I’m sure my son and partner would have preferred me to have been a little less hyper, I wouldn’t have changed any of it. It was an experience I never imagined I’d have…particularly because I am not a writer and have never had any ambitions in that direction. I have had plenty of ambitions in many different areas, but not in writing. Writing takes SO long; it’s all about describing things rather than looking at things, getting the grammar right, making words make sense, and getting a point across. There’s no running at a canvas with a dripping paint brush, there’s no paint splats all over the floor and no acrylic-drizzled trainers. There’s just the constant tippitey-tap of the keyboard, the clunk of desperate deletion, and a slightly achey shoulder. And you can’t hang a finished piece of writing on the wall to feel the glow of it’s colour on your face. You can’t take a chapter to the framers and you can’t stare at an article and feel something innate simply by looking at it. With writing you have to open the computer, distance yourself from distraction, and go off into some other world. I understand that lots of people love writing, but I am not one of them; it feels awkward and as if I’m in new territory, emotionally and creatively, which I’m completely unfamiliar with. I think as a consequence of this unfamiliarity, last year meant that I wasn’t able to keep on top of all my nice little organisational systems which I’d forged for myself pre book. This year, copious amounts of photographs still lurk uncategorised, my computer and iphone storage is bulging at its Apple core, and yet I have been defiantly ignoring everything that needs to be done to fix it all…

For the last 6 weeks I’ve been teaching and encouraging a group of students in my online class to explore more fully the concepts and chapters I write about in my book. I hear myself advising students to ‘Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’…We all need to explore the ugly places, look at the dark shadows; the ones lurking in street corners as well as the ones hiding inside your deeper self. To discover what it is you don’t like and why you don’t like it is a crucial juxtaposition to all that you find easy and attractive. These sorts of investigations, difficult as they often are to face, have the potential to ripen and develop into wonderful personal projects. This is the way to new discoveries and I really feel that seeing new things, hearing new sounds, tasting new foods and totally engaging with your senses is the most authentic way to grow creatively…However, as I am fundamentally a sensory person; a person with synaesthesia and a person obsessed with abstract images, colours, smells and tastes, I am becoming increasingly aware that I keep avoiding, and even dismissing, the fact that the written word plays a huge part in all this.

I wrote my book not only pretending that I was an author, but also, I think, pretending that it wasn’t writing at all; it was just chatting, like an encouraging teacher might chat. The words which I had to tippitey-tap out on the computer were an inconvenience to overcome in order to get people doing stuff. To get people out of their heads, away from reading the words and away from thinking that because it’s been read it’s been done. Even as I’m writing this the words are getting on my nerves and I have the dread sense that I’m repeating myself. Working out the words gets in the way of how I feel and getting in the way of the shapes I want to express. I have to conjure words in my head and arrange them on this screen, rather than mixing paints on a palette and daubing un-interpretable marks on a canvas. To share my thoughts with you I must converse in this universal, wordy way.

I feel like I’ve fought against writing and reading all my life; words are black and white and have regular shapes, they are not Bismuth Yellow, Quinacridone Crimson and amorphous…but now here I am on my blog writing probably more words in this one post than have appeared on my blog in the past 3 years!

Do I have a point? Well, yes, sort of…I think so… Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’... It’s my own phrase and a phrase which has been sitting rather awkwardly on my shoulder recently.

In tandem with my online class students, I will go out myself and do lots of the homework exercises I set because I like to be able to talk about fresh and personal experiences in my Live sessions. I also genuinely love doing them; it feels like a treat and I often feel completely inspired afterwards. I do try to experience places and things which are out of my norm, ugly or strange, but this way of working is where I really feel creatively comfortable.

‘Do the things you don’t feel comfortable doing’Well, I don’t feel at all comfortable writing loads of words. I feel like I’m betraying the person I’ve told everyone I am for the last 25 years! I also tell people that the exercises in my book are there to help you grow in any discipline across the board, not just painting and photography. So why then I am I so reticent to acknowledge my writing ( nb. I deleted the word ’embracing in favour of ‘acknowledge’ as it felt much less affectionate…that kind of says it all! ). The answer is ‘I really don’t know’, but I do feel that the time has come to consciously explore these unchartered wordy waters, just to see what happens and to see where it takes me. I can’t exclude pictures from this new territory; that would just be a terrifying step too far at the moment, but I do want to try and at least play with some of my own advice. I don’t want to be hiding behind my words like some self-satisfied creative guru, I want to move forward; I want to mean what I say.

“Creativity is about discovering your own ways of working, your own unique practice, and growing the confidence needed to accept that. It’s not about learning how to create something like everyone else, it’s about learning how to acknowledge the true value of what you do.” Conscious Creativity, Introduction, Page 9

( The photographs below are an assortment from the book launch, the book press workshops, various stills of the book and experiments from various chapters…the cider was gifted by Wyld Wood Organic Cider, the Kombucha by Old Tree Brewery, Brighton, Chocolates and Tea and Cake from Fortnum and Mason, Flower installations by Kate Langdale Florist, Scent from The Experimental Perfume Club and the Venue and food from The Regency Townhouse, Brighton and Paul Couchman  )

( photo above taken by Julia Smith from www.humphreyandgrace.co.uk ) ‘Conscious Creativity’ was released last November and is now being stocked all over the country and online as well as in Foyles, The Tate Modern, Anthropologie, Waterstones and The National Gallery. It is currently in its 5th printing.

Weekly Snaps…with David Adjaye’s Making Memory Exhibition

February 5, 2019

Filed Under : 5ftinf Tables - Arrangements - Art - Brighton - colour - Conscious Creativity - cycling - exhibitions - London - Museums - synaesthesia - texture - Weekly Snaps - Winter

As I haven’t created any ‘Weekly Snaps’ posts for ages, I should just say that they are almost entirely written in images; I always find wandering about, looking at things and finding stuff that matches up far more satisfying and expressive than words…  The next few photos are from the brilliant new David Adjaye exhibition: Making Memory which opened at The Design Museum last weekend….you can find all the details HERE

Catching Up…with Colours and Clothes

January 31, 2019

Filed Under : 5ftinf Tables - Arrangements - Art - Brighton - colour - Conscious Creativity - Cornwall - cycling - exhibitions - Fashion - London - synaesthesia - texture - The Lonely Kiosk Project - trips - Winter - workshops

It was a crazy few weeks before the New Year; I was planning and organising loads of stuff around my book launch, running workshops, sending out calendars and hosting my Artist’s Open House. It was full on to say the least, but kind of exciting at the same time. I was probably a bit too hyper to be honest, but I was enjoying a big old creative flow. However that basically resulted in major Christmas flu; spending  hours in bed, coughing like an old fashioned smoker and just completely crashing for the first part of January. I had all sorts of things I was going to do as soon as Christmas was over; sort my photos, sort my emails, sort my house, fix the cooker etc, etc. But I found it SO difficult to rally any sense of urgency, any sense of practicality and any sense of getting on with things. It’s only been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve felt much better and now I’ve got creative things I’m desperate to do, but which I have no time to do, pouring into my mind and waking me up at 3am! One of the major ‘jobs’ I’ve had to address is that of new workshop dates…I think I sort of wanted all the information to just appear in people’s heads without me having to do anything. I lose hours working on the aesthetics of putting an Instagram story together for example; I absolutely love doing it, but the reality is that it always takes way longer than the half hour I hoped it would. I also think, as I’ve hit an Instagram Stories note, that they are in part responsible for me not keeping up with my blog consistently: they are so quick and easy and reach so many more people that it leaves blogging feeling clunky and not as satisfying as an instant response to my surroundings…Anyway, here I am, nearly at the end of January, just about catching up, or at least with all the workshop info and booking details ready to go. So this post is going to be a combination of January things; colours textures and general observations as well as a pointer to my next online course.

There are still various things I need to really catch up on: the next big job is getting some of my paintings listed in my online shop ( something I’ve been promising since September! ) and getting back into making some clothes again! If you haven’t already seen, my inner clothing imp seems to have been unleashed, and the stories of my handmade and thrifted clothes are shaking up my feed on Instagram! …and my old ‘Weekly Snaps’ posts are something I need to get back into too…as my Grandpa used to say: “We’ll see what we shall see…” And just another reminder about the online course and with more details in my shop here 

Synaethesia, Painting and That Boutique-y Gin Company…

November 22, 2018

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - synaesthesia - The Shed

Last night That Boutique-y Gin Company launched their amazing new range of olfactory gins. To coincide with the launch, they had asked me to work on a special art project for them using my synaesthesia.

They wanted me to smell the aromas of the new olfactory range they’ve been working on with perfume expert Lizzie Ostram, aka Odette Toilette and then paint my responses to them so that they would have some visual abstract references and which they also then made into a gift box for the launch. I had been told that the best way to sample these gins was in a goblet shaped glass as it would release the aromas more efficiently, and as it is the actual aromas of these gins which is their main focus this was an important factor to bear in mind. To taste the gins as effectively and specifically as possible, I was to add a teaspoon of water, rather than any tonic…

Because I didn’t want to be in any way influenced, either consciously or subconsciously, by any of the gin names, I decided to number them myself and keep the name label hidden on the other side of the sample bottles…

The scents of these gins are really mind blowing…I’ve always loved the smell of gin to be honest; taking sneaky whiffs from my mum’s glass before I was old enough to drink it, and apart from an accidental Pimms encounter at a family friend’s garden party when I was about 11, I think a gin and tonic may well have been my first sophisticated drink, however my mum’s G and T’s never ever smelled like these!

Spending time consciously taking in the scent of a drink can so often be overlooked, which is why I love the fact that these Boutiquey Gins are actually encouraging people to connect not only to their senses, but also to those familiar, happy experiences in our memories, rather than just plain gin drinking.

Utilising my synaesthesia, I took time to smell each gin individually, and make intuitive sketches of my visual abstract responses, using water colours, acrylics, pastels and pencils.

The interesting thing for me was that there was a real continuity of lightness, almost like a certain pitch in music, which appeared to be the fundamental gin flavour itself, but which then became punctuated by colour, shape and texture with each individual gin aroma I experienced. The tastes of the gins were much more delicate than I’m used to and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the tastes with just a tiny drop of water added; something I had never tried before.

But it is the aromas of these Boutiquey Gins which is unlike anything else I’ve experienced with gin…they are perfumed in such a beautiful and delicately complex way that they entice you to go on an exciting scented journey, spending more time smelling them than you ever usually would and they transport you to a very different and pleasant sensory state, even before the alcohol hits your palette. I would be seriously happy to have gin smelling sessions with these gins even if I didn’t drink!

Very occasionally I suddenly smell a scent from my past, for no particular reason, and often it’s like experiencing some sort of pleasant ghost; a ghost which says ‘Hey, remember how happy and carefree you were when you smelled this?’ or ‘Yes, you do still remember the perfume your Granny wore when she hugged you’. Last week I experienced just that with one of these gins. It wafted into my scent memory as I absentmindedly picked up a pile of post one morning; a sudden and wonderful reminder of how much I’d enjoyed the scent of Bottle No 1…I went back to it and treated myself to a furtive sniff before breakfast.

I won’t attempt to explain in words the aromas and tastes, because I much prefer to use paint to illustrate the experiences, so below are some of my sketches and some images of my process followed by a couple of pictures with some of the goodies from the That Boutique-y Gin Company launch event last night, included their amazing 10 ml gin rollers which came in the box made from my ‘Big Dipper’ painting. All the gins had this sort of shape ( above ) when hitting the back of my nose…

‘BIG DIPPER’

‘BEWARE OF THE WOODS’

’DEAD KING’

‘FRESH RAIN’And here are some of the unique gin fragrance pens made especially for the launch along with my box!For more information about these olfactory gins visit the Boutique-y Gin Company website here You can also follow them on Instagram here @boutiqueygin as well as Odette Toilette at @odettetoilette 

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Conscious Creativity…with The Experimental Perfume Club

November 6, 2018

Filed Under : 5ftinf Tables - Arrangements - Art - Brighton - collaborations - colour - Conscious Creativity - synaesthesia - texture

When I began writing Chapter 7 of my book ‘The Senses and Synaesthesia’, I hadn’t realised that it would become the heart of what I wanted ‘Conscious Creativity’ to be about. I realised how passionate I was about getting people to connect to their senses and how acknowledging even the most everyday scents and sounds is crucial to developing personal creativity . I started to imagine what my book would smell like, the pages and the print, and then I suddenly realised that I actually wanted to create a scent that I felt represented the book itself.

I met Emmanuelle from The Experimental Perfume Club last year during the ‘Perfume’ exhibition at Somerset House ( there’s a post about it here ), and I asked if I could come to one of her Open Lab days in Hackney so that I could blend a ‘Conscious Creativity’ scent. Open Lab means you can spend time exploring and experimenting with the vast perfume organ in Emmanuelle’s workshop and create a unique scent of your own. One couple who were there when I was, were blending a scent for their wedding day and another for their honeymoon!  It was a truly amazing and utterly absorbing afternoon and I could have stayed for hours…I experimented with mixing scents rather like I mix paint on a palette, the only difference being I had to look at the scents in my mind’s eye. Time lost significance at The Experimental Perfume Club and I was drawn into a visual and scented space inside my head, which in turn led me to creating an abstract image of the scent I blended with many essential oils including Birch Tar, Coffee and Eucalyptus.

So now ‘Conscious Creativity’ the book, has a corresponding scent and painting.  I wanted the scent to be open and fresh, include a hint of citrus and have a strong woody note to echo my constant Instagram companion, the table. This is my visual journey of my inspirations, texture references and experiments which then became a painting of the scent of ‘Conscious Creativity’…

sketches and texture inspiration… Paintings often start off completely different to what the final piece actually looks like…I started with multi coloured layers so that I would be able to scrape back to reveal hints as I went on… You can order my book ‘Conscious Creativity’ here and please do email me if you would like any more information about my paintings. If you would like more information about The Experimental Perfume Club, you can follow them on Instagram and also look on their website where you’ll find more about their workshops, Open Lab days and fabulous new perfume collection ‘Layers’ ( which I am wearing constantly at the moment! )

Tuesday…with some new Workshop News!

August 7, 2018

Filed Under : 5ftinf Tables - Arrangements - Art - Autumn - colour - Conscious Creativity - Summer - synaesthesia - texture - workshops

At last I have some new workshop news to share with you! 

So, I will be running a Full Day creative workshop on Sept 8th on The Isle of Wight as part of the creative retreat which has been organised by Laura at From Britain with Love.

It’s for a small group of people and looks like such a relaxing but also really creatively stimulating weekend in very unique accomodation by Tiny Homes.

My workshop day will be exploring some of the elements which will appear in my new book Conscious Creativity which comes out in November ( but which you can pre order here ).

I’ll be exploring how to use use your instinct, intuition and whatever is around you to help discover ideas and notice details and we’ll be looking at:

SCENT

COLOUR TEXTURE and WABI SABI COMPOSITION and MOBILE EDITING TIPS …and in the afternoon we’ll be going on a sensory woodland walk to connect to everything right in front of us and under our noses and how inspiring that can be.
There are loads more details on the From Britain With Love website here, which is also where you can book your place.

It would be lovely to meet some of you, and help you to explore you Conscious Creativity!
( P.S  There are only 6 places left, but there are also a few day tickets for my workshop available too )

Synaesthesia and Painting in Jamaica with TUI

April 25, 2018

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - colour - synaesthesia - trips


A couple of years ago I was asked what my dream job would be and I said that it would be something which combined painting, photography and maybe a bit of chatting!

Last month, during the coldest late winter the UK had experienced in years, I was flown out to a very hot Jamaica for basically that dream job. 

I had partnered with TUI Sensatori, along with Perfumer Dawn Goldworm and Professor Charles Spence, to be one of their ’Sensatorialists’, staying at one of their five-star luxury resorts in Negril, Jamaica and had been asked to interpret my sensory experience by creating 3 abstract paintings utilising my synaesthesia. I was asked to bring to life on canvas, the sounds, tastes and smells of the most memorable sensory elements I experienced whilst I was there.

Synaesthesia is a merging of the senses and when experiencing sounds, tastes or smells the brain stimulates corresponding abstract visuals. I’ve been using these visuals to create paintings for about 15 years and as I had never been to Jamaica before, let alone painted there, I was incredibly excited.

Making the time to simply connect to my senses can often feel like a luxury. Life can be filled with train journeys, headphones and staring at the computer, but if we regularly connect to our senses and consciously exercise them, it’s obvious that when we relax on holiday we are much more open to their effect and the heightened experience and pleasure they bring.

Scientific research has shown that actually drawing things on holiday, rather than just taking photos or videos, is a massively effective way of reminiscing. Therefore TUI Sensatori are  on a mission to help people capture and prolong their holiday memories by getting in touch with their senses and encouraging people to sketch and make a record of their holiday in a more unique and visual way. 

I personally think everyone has synaesthetic tendencies but it’s whether or not you want to or are even able to find the place in your head where the images are. Babies must gather information in a very abstract way because they can’t read and they don’t have words but as adults it is absolutely a sliding scale; some people suddenly realise that they have always thought of the taste of lemons as spikey, others just don’t connect the taste to anything remotely visual.

So this is a blog post charting my personal experience whilst I was staying at TUI Sensatori in Negril, and showing you the paintings I created for TUI whilst I was over there. And although I obviously did take lots of photos, I also spent hours painting on the beach which I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed… 

Apparently there’s a lot of digitally induced holiday amnesia going on at the moment and as a big Instagram user myself I personally know how full on it can be, but my time with TUI in Jamaica genuinely took me into another, much more relaxed zone.

( I also got some of the press who came out with us, to paint on the beach ) And when I got back home I spent a bit more time getting the paintings finished, which brought the whole experience directly back to Brighton…

The Sounds of The Sea ‘The Scent in the Spa ‘Spicy Jerk Sauce Taste with Barbecue Smoke Aroma’

Whilst I was out there TUI also made a mini film about my experiences which you can watch HEREand there is also a quiz put together by Professor Charles Spence to see how connected you are to your senses and whether you have synaesthesia or not which you can try HEREWhenever I’ll think back to the resort in Negril, it will be recalling the sound of the gentle waves lapping on the beach at sunset, the barbecue smoke aroma on the beach with the taste of spicy jerk sauce ( something I had never tried before ) and the gentle citrus scent in their Spa…oh yes, and the fact that I walked off the plane in Miami right behind David Beckham!!

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