There are many things that give me pleasure, but there are few things that give me as much pleasure as the joy of making something. Julia Cameron
My cousin, Abby, makes hats. She makes floppy hats with wide brims and head-hugging berets. She makes cloches and fedoras and bright perky cocktail hats that giggle when you put them on. Her hats are magnificent. They are works of art, each one of them with its own personality. She and her baby bunny live in Manhattan in a small one–room apartment, and this is where she works her magic. And although I’ve never been to her home, I envision her surrounded by fabrics and ribbons and feathers and bows. I envision hats sitting on tables, hats on the floor, hats in boxes, hats that her baby bunny can snuggle up to, hats on her head. I admire Abby. She works at her craft. She is focused. Last March when we met at our grandfather’s art exhibit in Amherst, I asked her what a day of hers looks like. Some days, she said, require fabric-hunting, and some days involve trips to the boutiques where she sells her hats, and all the days require the dreaming up of designs and the creating. She is a member of the Milliner’s Guild in New York, and her hats find their way around the city to the stores and the designers and some of her hats find their way to the far corners of the world. And the hats that have sat in her apartment a little too long, they find their way to the Upper Peninsula, to Joy Center, and onto our heads.
When you claim the time to make something you love, it not only is a deeply pleasurable personal experience – Abby says she loves the hats she makes – it also is a way to share this delight, this joy with others. And Abby is generous in spreading her joy. A few weeks ago, a huge cardboard box of her hats arrived in the mail. It is always a thrill to open a box of Abby’s creations. This time, I pulled out two designer- quality Santa hats that will be perfect for Cam and I to wear around town in the next few weeks, three veiled and baubled cocktail hats that a gal would be delighted to don for a royal wedding, and a black velvet Shakespearean beret that brings out an unexpected renaissance flair in a twenty-first centurion. There were big straw summer hats adorned with grapes, bursting with pink blossoms, and two wide floppy hats draped in ribbons and bows and just right for a derby in May. This new display of beauties added to the hats contained in last years’ box is providing quite a collection for us at Joy Center. And the magic of creativity is that it grows. One person’s pleasurable act of creation shared with the world inspires the creative acts of others. And that is what has happened with the hats.
A drama class from the local high school meets at Joy Center each Tuesday for an hour and a half, and the hats have become a part of their fun as the students practice their version of Hamlet and unleash their unbridled improv talents. And the Wednesday after the new box arrived, Abby’s hats made their way into an evening Joy Center performance by these teens. And, later in the week, the hats found their way onto the heads of yoga students. And, later still, the hats were the surprise hit at Cam’s office party. When Cam slipped the purple-veiled cocktail hat onto his head, he looked pretty good. It’s fun wearing a hat. It’s fun wearing a hat that brings you somewhere new. All of a sudden you are in Morocco charming a snake or in Italy dancing in a vat of grapes. All of a sudden you are bigger and more expansive and maybe more silly than you were before. Joy Center now has a lending library of Abby’s hats, and we, who choose to play with them, like Abby, can find pleasure in creating.
Only Abby can make these hats; they are her unique creation, and the pleasure that she pours into each one of them is palpable. But we all can enjoy the pleasure of making something – and, we do. All the time. We make meals that sing with the harvest of the season. We make quilts and clothes and meetings that flow with an ease and a grace. We make paths through the snow and ripples in the water. We make days that open up wide with synchronicities and laughter and acts of kindness. And, sometimes, when we’re busy creating – creating what is calling to us in the moment – we can put on one of Abby’s hats and perhaps it will cheer us forward. That’s what I’m doing these days. In this most recent box of treasures, I have found the perfect Abby hat for me. It is small and made of woven straw and the color of the summer sky and it perches on the top of my head, and, if you look closely, you will see something special. The top of this sweet little creation forms a nest and in this nest are three cream-colored velvet eggs, and glorious feathers shoot out from behind. And believe it or not, this hat is a winner on my tiny short-haired pinhead that usually doesn’t look good in hats. And it is a perfect fit for a gal who is calling herself a storytelling traveler, who is finding so much pleasure as she allows her own eggs to hatch into poems and stories and essays, for a gal who is feeling light on her feet and ready to fly.