By Helene Grove

I was sitting there looking at my box of clay. I had pulled out all I could possibly need for this very important project.

I had been tumbling with it in my mind for days, and now the time had come. The kids were taken care of -- well, sort of -- my husband was home to deal with them if I had my hands in something un-put-downable. All in all I was ready to go.

But in all my brainstorming, I had forgotten one very important thing: the art of self-control.

I was flooded with great ideas, but as I wasn't out to create a series, I would have to make a hard choice. This was my first brick in the wall of creator's block.

My second brick was when all the colours of my clay box seemed to blur together and not one seemed to "speak" to me.

I was going 'round the bend fast.

The third brick was the fact that all the small starter steps I took failed on me. The Mokume Gane didn't turn out as I wanted it to. The mica wouldn't shift, the translucents got burned in the oven and to top it all off, the pushmolds broke because I had tried to economise when making them, and now I couldn't remember where they had come from in the first place. They went to the wastebasket, and I went to bed with a headache.

By now I was considering that maybe the Higher Being(s) were trying to tell me something. I tried meditating on my project. I burned incense and tried to find inner peace (not easy with two boys and a very active toddler around your knees).

I played the most soothing music. That didn't help. I played upbeat music, New Age and Techno. Neither helped nor sparked anything.

I was going nuts, started to be very unpleasant to be married to. I wasn't aware clay could do that to you.

I tried everything. I went through every kid's book in the house (there are a lot), looking for that one image that would spark my imagination in the desired direction. I spent two straight evenings on-line and by now had developed a very sensible attitude towards possible plagiarism. Oh - the fear (don't deny it, you have been there . . .).

I looked at our bar and wondered if maybe alcohol could lure the elusive spirit of creation out of hiding. I came to the conclusion "No" - mainly based on the fact that it was pre-noon, and it wouldn't look good. I wouldn't be able to justify it to myself, anyway.

I even remembered how relaxed I had felt with a cigarette in my hand and contemplated picking that up again. "Nahh," same reasons.

I ended up baking four different cakes and two batches of bread and inviting the in-laws for coffee.

I was at the point where I was certain that for me to be a good/great artist, I had to be semi-mad. (Madness and genius are so very close, and I'm certain that one has more than a touch of the other.)

In the end, I tried my very last reserve. I tidied up my workspace and I started finishing earlier projects. I had some things that just needed a small touch to be considered finished and others where some larger steps had to be taken. And what do you know, it helped.

I started to focus, and before I knew it, I was in the midst of my original project. It's not done yet, but it's well on its way.

And me -- well, I learned a lot about myself.


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