About 10 years ago, I got into knitting in a big way. I tend to get obsessed with things and this was no exception. I voraciously learned every stitch, technique, and style. I learned how to make socks, sweaters, shawls, and more. After I’d made things for everyone in my life and had enough socks for myself, I was hungry for new projects. I’d spend hours searching through Ravelry (awesome site for knitters, btw), trying to find new projects. One day as I was about to begin a wine cozy, it hit me. What am I doing? Nobody needs a wine cozy. Wine doesn’t need to be cozy!!
You see, what happened is that I (and people like me) love to knit. And we ran out of ideas for projects to make. It’s like we had this skill (knitting) and knowledge (stitch patterns) and were desperately seeking something to do with them.
Wine cozies were invented because people like me needed a new project, not because wine bottles need to be swaddled in wool. This is the same thing as knitted toilet roll covers. If your main goal was to create something to keep a bottle of wine cold or hide spare toilet paper, there are better ways to do it than to knit something.
Our techniques and pretty knitted patterns were driving what we created, not the other way around.
I believe this tension and backward way of coming about things is an unspoken problem in the world of polymer. We all love to learn techniques and create pretty patterns, veneers, beads, and I think causes us to get ourselves boxed into a mindset that paralyzes us. When we have a technique in our hand and go around looking for something to make with it, it’s a bit like desperately seeking wine cozy patterns.
We’ve all sat there with a gorgeous piece of something on our table and then felt that empty feeling…what should I do with this? Sometimes we think of something right away and we’re off making an object. But more often we feel that ugly tension, and it makes us feel like we’re somehow empty and devoid of ideas. (Never mind all the other negative things we tell ourselves.)
I think a better way of coming at this is to look at techniques as tools. Set the veneer or cane aside. Put the beads in a box. File your technique away in your mind. These skills (and things you made with them) become tools just like sandpaper or a texture sheet.
Now. Come at it from the other side. What problem needs to be solved? Put the wine in the fridge. (Or open it and have a glass.) Now, what would your cousin really love to wear? Does she like bright colors or have a favorite hobby? Did she just redo her living room and might need coasters? Now that you know how to make great mokume, you can use your knowledge (a tool) to create an awesome pattern in colors that she’ll love. See where I’m going with this?
Obviously, this isn’t going to be the answer for all “writers block” in the claying world. But I suggest that if you’re stuck it might be helpful to look at things in a new way and from a new direction rather than beating yourself up, assuming a deep lack of creativity and artistic worth.