Despite having two Instagram accounts myself (@wewearperfume and @thewomensroomblog) and spending half my life on it, I had never heard of Philippa Stanton or her fabulously uplifting Instagram account @5ftinf with its 465,000 followers. It is possible you already know about it and are out there, sipping your coffee and rolling your eyes at my slowness. But just in case…
I met Philippa last week at a Perfume Society and Illuminum fragrance event, where she explained what it was like to have sense-merging synaesthesia. It wasn’t until Philippa was in her mid twenties, when she heard someone on Radio Four (where else?) explain synaesthesia and how they saw days of the week as colours. She thought ‘that’s me!’ and became aware that her way of sensing the world, in shapes, colour and movement, like an internal abstract painting made in her head, was not what everyone else experienced. She describes the condition as “What’s going on in your head without the words’ and it forms the basis of her work as an artist. And instagrammer.
Philippa’s paint stained smock, btw, came from her mum, who bought it in the 60s. It’s a work of art in itself…
She started doing her daily Instagram collages as a natural extension of her art work, from her studio in Brighton. Soon she had a huge following and regularly gets emails saying that the images calm people down. She puts things together to reflect how she feels that day, with texture, structure and the movement she creates being as important as the colour. It’ll brighten your life to have her daily images, trust me.
Philippa is much in demand as an interpreter of how to ‘see’ sound, smell and taste and I was at a workshop to help us experience fragrance in a new way, to help improve how to write about it (for We Wear Perfume). It’s very easy to get stuck in cliches when describing perfume, falling back on ‘fresh’ ‘floral’ etc. Philippa made us close our eyes and see what shapes and colours we saw when we inhaled the scent, eyes-closed painting if you like, then we had to draw them and colour them, which was wonderfully absorbing, a bit like meditating….
It feels a bit weird to start with, but it was extraordinary to see our little group’s results, the more you do this, the better you get at tapping into this bit of the brain, Philippa thinks its something we might all have, you just need to practise to get better at it, like any skill. We were sniffing Illuminum fragrances, and this is how Philippa saw them, below.
Philippa is featured in The Perfume Society’s Scented Letter magazine this month, where she also designed the cover. If you want to know more you might also like to know that you can buy cards and calendars from her website here. For those who aren’t on Instagram (why not?) she also has a blog full of gorgeous images here. I wish I had synaesthesia, it really must pep up how you see life, have any of you got it?