And then, there’s the jacket…the not-so-straight-jacket

A.V. Walters

I don’t usually give it much thought, as I walk around—but occasionally I get remarks, and sometimes stares. It’s… about the jacket. From time to time in my life, I have engaged in transformational art. It isn’t capital A art, it’s somewhere in the cracks—between art, craft and therapy. Years ago, during a particularly tough period, I did a self-portrait doll. I was trying to work out just who I’d been, how circumstances had changed my life’s plans, and exactly who it is I wanted to be, going forward. The doll had helped me focus on the rebuilding efforts; it let me crystalize who that doll-person had been and honor her, and her dreams, as I went forward with my life.

doll

When I moved to Two Rock, my life was in tatters. The one thing I had most invested my energies in, and my self-image, was my marriage. And it had proved to be unsustainable. I was, once again, at a crossroads in my life and I needed a project to help me work all that through. Of course, I had taken up writing and I suppose that could’ve been ‘it.’ But the writing was fiction and, intentionally, it wasn’t about me. Even though I believe that you can really only tell the truth, in fiction, I was too fragile at that time for scrutiny, even in make-believe. I’d thought about doing another doll, but it felt too much like a duplication—not enough breaking of new ground. By chance, my sister gave me a hand-me-down jacket—a denim jacket that she’d worn as much as she’d cared to. It was frayed a little and stained and, like me, had seen better days but still had a lot of life left in it. And, that’s how the project started.

jacket4

I decided it was going to be a symbolic self-portrait. I thought that a hand-decorated jacket could tell a story, my story. It would be a moving target of who I’d been and where it took me. I decided to include even the bad, in symbols that I would wear as badges of courage and survival. I once read that embroidery was the closest form of decoration to tattoos. I have no formal training in sewing or embroidery, so I’ve had to make it up as I go. The jacket is a WIP (a work in progress) and I’ve joked that we’ll know that it’s finished, when I’m dead. In the meantime, I’m not dead yet, and it’s been a cool project that I can pick up from time to time, when the spirit moves me. (Or, for that matter, when the spirits move me.)

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It’s also, well, a jacket. In fact, it’s my only real coat. Our Two Rock winters are fairly mild, so a jean jacket is just about right. Sometimes, if it’s really cold, I’ll wear a down vest under the jacket. So, it’s my everyday wear, forgetting that it’s not something people experience everyday. I’m reminded of that when I get a reaction.

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Some people love it—they’ll ask me what it’s all about, the meaning of the images and patches. Sometimes they want to know how they’d go about making one for themselves. Did you take a class? Where did you buy that patch? And then, there are those who won’t even look directly at me. They steal a sideways glance, and then quickly look away, as if it might be contagious. Occasionally, I’ll get a really negative comment, almost hissed with scorn. They might suggest, Aren’t you a little old for that? Or, What are you, some kind of hippy? I’ve learned to welcome it, and it’s all become part of the experience. Their reactions reveal as much (if not more) about them, as the jacket does about me. I know, I’m a bit of an odd duck. I stopped fighting that, a long time ago. So, what about you?

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