Synesthesia is when a sense, such as sight triggers another sense, like smell, at the same time. Some people are born with this ability or trait… A person might experience blue as both a color and a particular taste. Everyone with this trait experiences it differently.

That’s what I learned this weekend at Building Bridges Art Exchange at Bergamot Station — an exhibit sponsored by the International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists in partnership with UCLA ArtSci Gallery.  At the exhibit we met Jamie Smith- a sommelier who has synaesthesia.  He spoke and did a wine tasting and synaesthesia workshop with us.

As I listened to Jamie speak of his experiences –feeling colors in his skin, smelling the scent of music, seeing the taste of wine in colors — Suddenly my character “Hopper Smith” from my children’s book Master Davey and the Magic Tea House come to life!  Perhaps this is what Hopper experienced… When Hopper tastes the tea in the story he tastes an magic garden… he smells the scent of a tiger… he hears the chirping of birds. I wasn’t thinking of synaesthesia when I wrote the book or developed the character but having met Jamie and hearing him describe what he senses was an exciting revelation!

As part of the workshop Jamie gave us wine to taste then gave us crayons and drawing pads to draw what we tasted. Though most of us in the audience did not have synaesthesia, after tasting the first wine ( a white wine) the color yellow predominated in most of the drawings.  The second wine… the color purple and brown predominated.  The fourth wine–hit me immediately… PINK… all I could think of was PINK… and the word CANDY… and almost unanimously — pink was predominant in everyone’s drawing.

I promised Jamie Smith to send him a copy of Master Davey and the Magic Tea house. I am so excited to get his feedback on my character Hopper Smith… Does Hopper have synaesthesia?  Or is Hopper just a child with a great imagination who allows his senses to lead him to magical places?