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Midland, Texas, United States
I write. I make stuff.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Expect Joy

OK. I showed you this last week. It's the coat I started out with, after dyeing (apparently I didn't get a photo of it before I dyed it; it was a really pale greenish-tinged blue). It's not this purple; the finished photos, below, are the truer color.
And here's Expect Joy:
 All the appliqués are cut from t-shirts: I made a pattern for the cat and fish (the clouds are just free-hand), ironed fusible webbing onto the back of t-shirt fabric (mostly from Goodwill), traced the patterns (half facing right, half facing left), cut them out, ironed them in place, and then stitched with three strands of black DMC floss.
Remember, I told you how I cut off the sleeves because it was too tight through the shoulders and chest, and I used those to make the pockets.

 And here was the thought process. As you know, I blog over at, and I'm always making notes for blog posts that might interest our readers. I was thinking one morning about how so many of us go through life prepared for the worst--anticipating calamity and disasters and woes. I tell my husband that if you live with someone like me, you'll never run out of gas or have the cable disconnected because someone forgot to pay the bill. You won't have grease fires or come home from vacation to find your house flooded because the washing machine hose burst (because People Like Us always turn off the water to the washer before we leave on a trip. Duh). But this, for me, is The Year of Learning Not to Worry, and that also means it's a year of learning to expect The Good Stuff. To Expect Joy, rather than calamity.

For me, one of the purest, simplest representations of joy is cats playing. Around here, they go nuts at least once a day, running through the house and leaping over stuff, careening off doors and furniture and doing that thing where they race up, look up at you, pretend to be terrified beyond all imagining, and then turn and try to run off--except their furry feet can't get a grip on the kitchen floor and they end up doing a little cartoon running-in-place thing. I can always hear that cartoon doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle of whirling feet when they do that, and it always cracks me up.

So what would make cats joyful? Well, duh: being able to leap above the clouds, of course. So that came first. And then I thought about the cats I know: they wouldn't just leap around all day for nothing. No. They'd want a purpose if they were going to expend that much energy. Not that they're lazy or anything. No! I never said that! So they're chasing fish. But the fish are joyful, too: not only can they get out of the water and soar through the clouds, but they have WINGS, so while the cats who are chasing them can leap, the fish themselves can FLY. So they'll always win, no matter what the cats think. And since these are not hungry, skinny cats, it's not a big deal that the cats will never catch the fish: everyone is having a blast.

One day, at the beginning of this, I woke up from a nap with a different, way WAY better idea for a title: Joy School. What a fabulous title! I loved it! We ALL need to go to Joy School. Forget Expect Joy; I was so changing the title.

And then I went, "Wait a minute. That sounds reallyreallyreally familiar." So I heaved the big sigh and went in and checked in the library, and there on the shelf with all Elizabeth Berg's other books was, of course, Joy School. I hate it when that happens. Expect Joy, it is.

The thing I learned during this project was something I should already know, and that I learn periodically, but that I forget (duh): don't quit before you're done. Don't end too soon.

Goodlordalmighty. What came to mind just now, and which I will spare you in any detail, is when I worked for a veterinarian who provided day boarding for stud services. So if two people had purebred dogs they were going to breed, they could bring them and leave them in the big pen and we'd (meaning: me) keep an eye on them. This was not my favorite thing to do. Mating is a private thing, and I did not want to be anywhere near, never mind that my job was to let the vet know when, um, never mind. I'll quit with this: inexperienced stud dogs always quit too soon.

Gack. Why does my brain do this to me? Why does it remember the weirdest, stupidest, bleah-est things and NOT remember stuff I need to know? Or even stuff like: who was the killer in last night's episode of Law and Order: SUV (we're into 2007 now, I think. Only about 70 more Netflix episodes to go). We watched the whole thing, and I swear they ID'd the killer,  but dang if I can remember who it was. It wasn't the stepdad or the mom. I don't think. Who knows?  This happens a lot, and The EGE looks at me weird when I ask, "Now who did it?" just as the credits are rolling. Hey, in my defense: after 200 episodes, a bunch of the killers begin to blur together, OK?
 Where the hell was I? Oh! Not stopping too soon. So I had all the pieces stitched on, and I thought it would help everything meld if I outlined each one in dark blue. I did that, and I thought I was finished, but then I thought how much better it would look with another line around each one, this one in the next-lighter blue. And then, finally, in the lightest blue, the one that matched the floss in the Cretan stitch on the banding. Of course this was a lot of stitching, going around each appliqué 4 times (once to stitch, three to outline), but as soon as I did the first one, I knew it was exactly what it needed. It made it WAY better, way more finished, way more cohesive.
 Luckily for me, doing the running stitch on a single layer of linen is like cutting warm butter, so it was a joy all the way, easy on the fingers and very, very relaxing. I'm going to have to work more of this into other projects, for sure.
 It made me think about all the Alabama Chanin style projects I see online, ones where someone uses the pattern and makes up a skirt or bolero and then adds maybe a few appliquéd shapes and maybe a handful of beads and then quits and posts it and says something like, "I like it, but it's not quite what I thought it would be." Of course not: they quit too soon. AC pieces are lush with stitching and appliqué and beading, and to stop before you get there defeats the whole purpose of trying to make what you see in her books and on her website. I have more to say about this, but I'm going to post about it over at CMM sometime in March, so I'll save it for over there.
So that's the thinking behind Expect Joy.

See? I *do* listen to you when you tell me what you want to hear!

Thanks for coming by--now to go photograph the 12 (yes: twelve. I know: What was I thinking?) new-to-me garments from last Saturday. I can't even begin to tell you how exciting it is for me to have a dozen things just waiting for me to figure out how to make them Fabulous~~



jinxxxygirl said...

Rice i read every word and loved it! Love your cats and flying fish and has JOY written all over it!!! Hugs! deb

Zom said...

And I am excited to see what the 12 things are that you got.

I love the meaning behind "Expect Joy", that it has meaning. It is like a kind of prayer (though I know you would probably never think of it in those words, haha). A coat with intention, a ritual piece of clothing, I don't know - you know what I mean. What a cool idea to have different pieces of clothing imbued with different "prayers" (sorry, I don't know what else to call it.) Now I am thinking of the Buddhist prayer flags, your clothes could be kind of like that. Spreading the intention where ever you go, like it floats behind the coat.

Ricë said...

Thank you! I'm so glad it makes you think of Joy! Zom, I know what you mean. I did a series of Prayers to Mama Goode, a voodoo queen/muse. I don't think of "prayers" probably the way most people do. Petitions, maybe? Oooh--I feel an etymology hunt coming on!

The Dog River Cat House Studio said...

First of all, JOY radiates from this piece! My cats are all older and all male, so there isn't a lot of good-natured chasing, but I so know what you mean about the running and stopping and trying to run on smooth floors stuff--we say the boy's having a goose festival here--and you caught that so well. Love the flying fish and the whole concept of the joy of the chase. I remember that from childhood. And thanks for the reminder not to stop too soon. I know I have done this a lot in my art and craft work.

The Dog River Cat House Studio said...

I love a good foray into the thesaurus! Supplication? Orison? I don't think I've ever seen the second one used. Now is when I wish I had the money for an Oxford Dictionary subscription!

Ricë said...

I like those! Years ago I joined some book club (do they even have those any more? huh), and as my "gift" I got the condensed (2 volume) OED. You have to use a really good magnifying glass, and they're quite hefty and large, but still: I have them, and they don't take up a whole shelf in the bookcase. You might try finding a set used, if that would work for you (not as great as a regular-sized set or a subscription, but hey!)

Nancy Brill said...

I need the reminder to not stop too soon. My instinct is to be spare and uncluttered... but things look So Much Better when they are decorated. I'm always bugged by the question of when enough becomes too much.

Ricë said...

Nancy, my advice (not that you asked for it!) would be to pick a project and take it over the top--just keep going until it feels you couldn't possibly go any further. Watch yourself along the way, take lots of in-progress photos, make some notes. See how it feels to push beyond your comfort zone and what you think of the finished piece afterwards. (I'd love to hear about it if you do!)

Sharon Robb-Chism said...

This is a beautiful piece. It radiates happiness. We need more of that in the world.

mo said...

as i read your description of Joy and looked at the pictures, i was reminded of a short video i saw just a week or so ago, about a baby goat leaping in joy ... it's only about a minute, and if you watch it, you'll see what i mean ;)

mo said...

as i read your description of Joy and looked at the pictures, i was reminded of a short video i saw just a week or so ago, about a baby goat leaping in joy ... it's only about a minute, and if you watch it, you'll see what i mean ;)

Ricë said...

Mo, it kind of made me sad because no one was giving the goat the attention it wanted. I wanted the guy to pick it up, or the other goats to play with it. Something! Here, if one of the cats invites me to play, I stop whatever I'm doing and play with them. Luckily for me, they sleep during the day. That goat needs to come hang out with us~~

But it is a cute video--thanks!