Belinda's Bash

by Belinda Naylor-Stables, MA Design

Open Studios and the meaning of life…

This month I thought I’d just touch on the way to a meaningful life via Open Studios…

The eccentric aunt metphor

Many moons ago I had an Aunt who flitted from one interest to another. From dressmaking and Spanish blackwork embroidery she went on to classical Greek and read lots of ancient Greek plays. Then she segwayed into several Russian themes – which was odd as we have no Russian connections. She immersed herself in J R R Tolkien and the Hobbit. Then fanned by the flames of Dr Zhivago in 1965 she went on to learn the Russian alphabet and embraced the Russian language. Finally she bought the three stringed Russian balalaika and learned to play it.

Looking back I’m surprised to realise what a tremendous impact this particular Aunt had on my life and the way I view the world. And it struck me, looking for a metaphor to illustrate what people get out of Open Studios, that the eccentric aunt is it. Like her, Open Studios introduces visitors to a wealth of crafts, skills, cultures, values and beliefs along the way.

How many visitors get new ideas and interests as a result of Open Studios?

The astral travel metaphor

Actually, that’s not the quite the end of my aunt’s Russian story. Finally she wanted to visit Russia but she couldn’t afford the airfare. By this time it was the eighties and she had dipped her toe in the pool of Buddhism. She decided that if she could not go to Russia physically she could travel there spiritually by means of astral travel. This technique described by the Buddhist monk-turned-author Lobsang Rampa, is an out of body experience. If I remember rightly, he said that in a half-sleep state you can let your spirit leave your body to travel the planet. However, as you can probably imagine, it’s very important to do this in a safe place. If your cat suddenly jumps on you, or members of the family scream for the next meal or bang loudly on the door because they’ve forgotten their house keys it could spell catastrophe. Apparently, the link between your spirit and body, a bit like an umbilical cord, can be broken by these types of shock, with dire consequences. The point I want to make is that you have a similar and safer experience of this – via Google Earth – or, even better in my opinion, on an Open Studios tour. Personally, I’m often spiritually uplifted by the way our HVA members’ travels are interpreted, expressed and encompassed in so many different and vivid ways in their works. I think I’ve mentioned before that with Open Studios you can travel the whole world in the confines of Hertfordshire.

How many Open Studios visitors come away with different images of the world in their heads or hands?

The glass dome metaphor

In many ways my aunt was a collector of life experience. The contents of her head would be equivalent to collections we can visit under glass domes now: the British Museum, Kew Gardens and the Eden Project for example. Marketing for the Eden project invites you to see “…how without vegetation we would not exist at all.’ For me Herts Open Studios is the glass dome encompassing the works of artists and craftspeople in Hertfordshire. It makes me think that perhaps without self-expression human beings may as well not exist at all. The world would certainly be all the poorer and duller without it.

How many Open Studios visitors are inspired or entertained by our self-expressions?

Your contribution…

If you encourage your visitors to fill in feedback forms it should help to answer the questions I’ve raised above. You can imagine it’s really important for future funding or sponsorship to show how much Open Studios is valued in these ways.

My other concluding comment is short but could be big at the same time. It’s that everyone opening up their homes or studios may be doing it to add meaning to their own lives – and by sharing your gifts you are adding meaning to your visitors’ lives too, for sure.

Wishing you plenty of visitors and loads of fun! If you have any positive reflections on Open Studios and the meaning of life don’t hesitate to add them here…


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