My friend Zee--who leads Emma's Writing Circle, the weekly writing group I joined last summer--requested a Crewel Stone with the word "joy" on it for her sister Laura. Laura's middle name is Joy, and the stone would serve as both memory and promise.
"I think my sister would most love to have a purple stone with the word JOY on it, and a bit of abstract stitching around it, whatever moves you at the time your hand holds the needle," she wrote in an email. She shared the story of her sister Laura and her library card:
"When Laura was a little girl, probably 7 or 8, I went with her to the new library in our Bronx neighborhood; it was just an apartment in a big building that had been converted into a 'branch library.' We had to fill out forms to get new cards and then we went back the following day and our cards were all typed up and ready for us. Well, even then my sister had a terrible handwriting. So her card read Laura TOY instead of Laura JOY. She thought this was the funniest thing. She almost fell down from laughing so hard. This was a time when she was always laughing so hard that she almost fell over, the power of her own hilarity was that strong. EVERYTHING was funny to her, she was pure joy barely contained inside her skin. The librarian asked if she would like them to type up a new card for her and Laura was emphatic that she was THRILLED with her new identity as Laura Toy. She kept that card for YEARS and YEARS. I wonder if she might still have it; I'm going to have to ask her."
As I sketched some ideas for JOYstone, I thought about the intensity and energy that the word connotes. Joy is an intense physical response; it seems to flare up in an instant and can be gone just as quickly.
As Zee wrote, in its purest expression joy can barely be contained. I wanted the stitched joy to pulse with energy and spill over beyond the margins of the stone.
I chose the colors and beads to capture joy's intensity, transforming the stone into a jewel, which in fact the word "joy" is related to (joya in Spanish has the same Latin root). The ribbons around the stone represent flow and connection, how the expression of joy can flow through our bodies outward and connect ourselves with others, much like the sharing of stories in Zee's Writing Circle spreads joy all around.
The most unexpected aspect of JOYstone is how it feels. The raised crewel stitches, which I outlined with a double line of split stitches and then connected and covered with satin stitches, are soft ridges to the touch. A quick squeeze is a gentle reminder of joy, both the childhood kind that Zee described and the more mature kind that arises from "a sense of well-being or satisfaction" (Oxford English Dictionary) and engages body and spirit. I hope that as Laura Joy holds the stone in her hand, she feels the joy that I felt as I stitched it.