Smelling Colours

There is nothing more energising that a sudden, clean cut change of season – as we have today. Summer gone, in comes Autumn and with it a real sea change in colours. Even the air smells different – earthy, smoky, mossy and woody.

So today I am testing a theory. I’ve sliced some heady seasonal fruit and vegetables, all of which display highly saturated colours. I am asking a sample of friends to smell the veg blind folded and then choose an NCS colour from my colour index fan which best represents the smell they have just been exposed to. I am pretty certain they will choose fairly saturated colours and probably pick a great Autumnal palette, but we shall see (results in next post).

Below are the fruit and vegetables in the experiment. I’ve chosen to photoshop the images purely because it simplifies the colours in each photograph.


Turmeric root



Selection in experiment

If you are interested in other ways to describe scent, you may enjoy yesterdays Culture Cafe programme on BBC Radio Scotland where two poets were asked to write a poem inspired by smells they were exposed to by Erika Duffy, Scent Technician at Lush.

Meanwhile, I am going to take some of these raw juicy colours and start designing my next range of textiles – first collection currently being screen printed and should be ready early November…..more on that shortly.

11 thoughts on “Smelling Colours

  1. I’ve always been able to relate smells to colour, and vice versa, but the colour is always associated with something. e.g when something smells green, it’s because it makes me think of vegetables. Woodsmoke is a mossy green-brown because I’ve most frequently experienced this smell in the south-west of our state, in wood cabins, surrounded by lush forests that depend on high rainfall, with resulting landscape. Sundays smell yellow because of hazy summer afternoons when the light is bright gold and the air thick, warm and enveloping etc. I’m keeping an eye out for the results of this experiment!


  2. I love the sound of your yellow Sundays and your wood cabins. You paint a great picture in words alone! I’m excited about the experiment results too -most looking forward to seeing the pomegranate colour association.


  3. Beautiful, interesting experiment. Seasons brings about changes in mood, emotion, way of thinking, brings out memories, helps create new ones. Sight, smell, touch, all contribute to a delightful experience. It’s part of the reason why we all look forward for the next season. sensational post.


    • Lovely comment, thank you very much. Yes, these are exactly the things I love about seasons too. Although we humans can control so much I really like the fact that we are tiny in comparison to global seasons, tides etc. I am glad we as a race are unable to control some things!


  4. Wow, what an interesting experiment! I’m looking forward to seeing the colours that your sample group chooses.

    When it started getting hot here in late spring/early summer, I could literally smell the heat in the sand at the dog park. It was so fascinating!


  5. Well heat isn’t something we’ve had much experience of here in Scotland this Summer but Autumn is certainly bringing some wonderful smells and colours this year. There were some surprises in my experiment! Many thanks for your comment, it’s great to get feedback.


  6. This is really interesting, I love colour but when I think of smells I’m not sure that I immediately associate it with colour, they tend to remind me of a particular memory or a season. I wonder if some people can smell colour more than others!! I look forward to reading the results.


  7. A slight link here regarding the comment you left on my blog about the book you are reading. It made me think of another book I really enjoyed, the beautifully titled Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall, which was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2003. It’s about a painter, and the dynamics of a motherless family and a life in synaesthesia.


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