“Balance” is a pure white space, filled with rich blue neon light, divided in several zones. Balance changes and sometimes creates a new perspective for each guest and their place within it. Balance offers new ways of looking at yourself and at the world, including new scenarios of interaction with yourself, with other people, and with everything that surrounds us.
Hi, my name is Maria Smirnova, and I am the author of the Balance studio. Everyone who comes across Mama Ro project recalls their childhood memories. Such as how they built huts and tree houses. How everyone tried to make it snug and cozy. So, I built my house for you, sharing my fantasies and reflections.
I am pleased and thrilled to share with you my story of finding my balance.
Seeking out how to design the space, I realized that it is better to express it through my personal experience. I work as a rehabilitation therapist. Helping children with oncological diseases. While working with children, I see how scary, uncomfortable, and painful they are. However, at the same time, how happy they feel when they start walking again, and when they manage to take control of their body and get back to normal life. So, I realized that each day, each move for them, and for me is a balance achieved in daily work. This is why I called this studio the Balance, and this is what I will express in my studio.
But how to express in the interior what I come across every day? How to colorcast this artistic feeling accurately? In search of inspiration, I end up with surf. How is it like to stand on the water? There is a hard board under you, but at the same time it lies on the water, while water is constantly flowing and changing. I decided that surfers pass through almost the same experiences as my patients do.
Surfers perceive the space and themselves in a new way, learning to re-control their body. These guys learn the power of water, the flow of air and gravity. In the same way children learn to find their bodies for the second time among the physical laws and childlike desires. I had to understand whether I chose the right image. Then I met some surfers. I told them about my thoughts, and they understood me, accepted the idea and shared their stories. Now their stories, experiences, and boards have become part of the studio. At the end I will devote my attention to each of them.
Keeping on thinking about rehabilitation, I realized that losing control over your body means losing the initial point from which we start every day, every action, every dream. The image of initial point is an empty space where the soul searching starts from the beginning. White space.
In the space that I created, I do not need anything extra. There are no transforming and multifunctional objects, a kaleidoscope of details, a mosaic of flowers. Here I will create a an initial point, from which every guest will be able to build himself up, blank sheet, a white sheet. In order to pull away, to reduce the sterility in this space, I added a blue neon light to different parts of the studio. I associate this color with the future, with changes.
The neon color fills the white studio, becoming rich and dense. The air turns into water. By lounging in a yoga hammock you can find yourself in a no gravity state, going back to a pre-natal state. By swinging slightly in this hammock, you can relax and find yourself in a new action. Learning how to move is also a way to interact with the space around you and your body.
While traveling to Norway, I saw the whales. They floated, sank and snorted. For me they became a symbol of something greater than myself and my knowledge. At that moment, through them, I felt a connection with the rest of the world.
In the same way, when my patients start to interact with the world around them and not only with themselves, they expand the boundaries. In this interaction, they come back to themselves, and become children again.
Here it is my balance. From rehabilitation to surfing. From surfing and water to the initial point – the empty space of the studio. From empty space – to the soul searching and your action. From myself to the incomprehensible – to something that is bigger more than us.
I would like to say thank you to Denis and Oleg, the founders of the Surfway and Surfpoint schools, who believed in this project and encouraged and supported me during this whole period. The story of how we met has now become part of the interior and explains what the boards are that you can see on the studio’s walls. You can also click and read this story below.
Meeting Denis and Oleg happened to be an unexpected gift from fate to me. At the very beginning, when surfing became a visual key to the idea of the future studio, I wanted to find like-minded fellows; people, who would tell their story and would like to extend the life of their boards longer by integrating them into the studio’s interior. But it never occurred to me that I would meet these people here in Moscow. In my head people were surfing on the coasts far away in Australia or the states.
I started searching for random people on Facebook, in the communities of these obsessed overseas wave conquerors. Inspired by my own idea, I sent a cherished letter filled with my passion through the waves and winds somewhere far to the coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Of course, hoping that someone would respond to my letter and be happy to participate in the project. But in response, I got only several sarcastic comments and general misunderstanding. Perhaps, that’s how dreams end up lying in ruins.
I wasn’t desperate. On the contrary, it only excited me more. I do not know how many people on the planet I turned to, through friends, and through surfing websites I randomly found. Until, finally, on the website of one of the many surfing schools, I read between the lines that the guys there are a bit crazy, like all of us who have cooperated with “Mama Ro”. I wrote a letter to the founder of the school, Denis. He really liked my idea, and he replied that he would be happy to help.
Denis said that surfing for him is, “the unity with nature, the elements, the opportunity to test yourself, to treat life differently, and to meet new interesting people.” His enthusiasm was so strong, it made him desperately look for an opportunity to practice his favorite sport in conditions that were much less adapted for this. As a result, Denis created a surfing school in Moscow called Surfway.
Here he is preparing the surfers to conquer more serious waves. Anyone can undergo theoretical and basic physical training for surfing. These guys train for a long time in the pool with artificial waves. And, as experience shows, it’s not for nothing. Often, arriving at such schools on the shores of Bali or Morocco, the beginners cannot even get up on the board as this is actually a very difficult thing to do. In Denis’s school, the guys skillfully keep on the board and get to feel their first climb on a real wave much faster.
Denis says that the result most important to him is to show people their own capabilities. In the same way as me in my work, absolutely anyone can be helped to re-experience the joy of being able to walk, run, and rethink the attitude towards their body and find the strength to overcome. Resulting in a life more fully lived. The latter was the main reason why Denis had become a surfer. Being a successful businessman for more than 14 years, at one point he was on the ocean holding a board in his hands, and the world became different in that moment, with new colors, freshness and splashes of water. Then he understood the important things, “I simply lost time and missed important emotions, and most importantly, I live the wrong way, it’s time to change my life.” Denis decided it was impossible to continue the endless road of sales and earning. So, he sold his business, and founded the Surfway school.
Before leaving, Denis gave me a beginner’s surfboard. On this board, newcomers were
getting the hang of the new way of living in Morocco, and those who were a bit more experienced used this board to ride the waves. This board shared a lot of emotions, glazed the morning sun, sped on the wave ridges and saw the sunsets. But when the studio was ready, I realized that the board did not fit in size and texture, upsetting the balance. I had to replace it. This is why the board that you see on the wall is not the real one, but a replication of it, the pure image of the balance. Denis and I came up with our board, which floats on the wave so concisely, that it reminds you of the adventures that happened to Denis in the endless expanses of water. Now she’s with you here in the studio, speaking of the capacities hidden in us and inviting us to get to know ourselves better. Perhaps, after all, we will find a real board with its own history, that will want to find its place in this studio.
The second gift of fate was Oleg. His board is right in front of you. Oleg comes from a family of Soviet climbers who were brave, desperate and strong-willed people. “Of course,” he says, “In my childhood I rode a lot of mountains, skiing and other extreme sports.” But then, Oleg recalls himself at the age of eleven, for the first time leaving for the summer on Meshchersky Lake with his parents’ friends. He had an old windsurf and a desire to learn how to ride it. Day after day, he worked through the difficulties on his own. Oleg finally not only got on the board, but also directed it where he wanted it to go. And soon he began to teach everyone around in the area.
At the same time, a sign meeting for Oleg takes place. Sasha, the friends’ countryside neighbor, takes eight hours every Friday on his old “Oka” to get from the city to the lake. Then takes half the Saturday assembling a catamaran and riding it until dark. Sunday comes, and all occurs in reverse order. Admiring the neighbor’s dedication, eleven-year-old Oleg offers Sasha to drop it all and learn how to ride a real sailboard.
Sasha accepted the boy’s challenge and happily agreed to try a new sport. And in gratitude for the joy he experienced, he brought her a strange thing for those times, a training kite (a free wing of a bird, which can be controlled, hovering somewhere high above a head). But they didn’t have a special board needed for the kite. However, Oleg immediately found a way out of the situation, by adapting an old inflatable mattress. They then were surfing on the water and landing more and more difficult maneuvers on the waves. The basics were comprehended from the first surfing books brought from abroad, from experience, and the desire to stand on the wave. So, kiting appeared in the life of Oleg.
After this summer hobby, water became an important element in Oleg’s life. How could he think about textbooks and studies, when there is wind outside that can perfectly straighten your “wing”, and when the waves are ready and waiting to captivate you on the board? The idea of construction school, which loomed on the horizon, flew away with a new gust of wind. Instead, training in a sports sparked joy, as well as taking international surf courses, where he wanted to learn so much more beyond his personal experience. Sleeping in a tent, practicing from dusk to dawn, with only enough money for training only. Everything was easy.
Oleg’s parents were mountaineers. A real team sport, where one sleeping bag weighs as much as a baby elephant, where it is extremely hard to get something out of the equipment pack, and having your team’s help is a necessity. Dad helped Oleg realize his plan, and opened a small school called Surfpoint. So that the same enthusiastic people with the desire to conquer the expanses of the ocean waves could try to get up on the board without having to fly away to distant Bali or the Hawaiian Islands with no experience on their belts. But they had to start just as Peter the First on the Neva river, from a piece of swamp on Plescheyevo Lake. Then two hundred KAMAZ of land and a lot of work followed.
But following his dream of sports was not without injuries. That is why Oleg understood the studio idea very clearly. He himself had to rehabilitate. And the first winter hike with a broken leg was like his father’s ascent to the seven thousand meters mountains. “I remember very well these 40 steps to get in the building and the road to the store at four hundred meters,” Oleg laughs. I think he found his balance. For Oleg, it’s a combination of hobby, school development, work, and family care.
…And here is Oleg’s surfboard, which experienced many falls, and many joys from the performed stunt. That was bitten by a barracuda on the side who thought it was a Silver Fish and was repaired by Vietnamese masters. It’s right here in front of you in the studio.
Dream, dear friends!
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