Art and crafts have a huge place in my life, and I spend pretty much all free time creating art, looking at art, making jewelry, or nerding out about some new thing that I've found and suddenly just HAVE to learn everything about. But it wasn't always like this. Not even close.

My mother and many of my relatives are artists, so I’ve always been surrounded by a creative atmosphere. But I stared at blank papers and didn’t understand it. What is a creative vision? How do you take your feelings and passions and somehow translate them into physical, tangible things, into paintings and drawings? I liked the actual paints and mediums, but didn’t know what to do with them. I liked to collect pretty colored pens, but couldn’t figure out what to use them for.

When I was little , I think 7 or 8, I once locked myself in the bathroom during art class, crying over how I couldn’t draw pretty things like the other girls. They drew horses and faces and flowers, and I just sat there with a paper and a mind that was empty.

Writing, I understood. I loved reading and writing (still do), and that felt like a very natural way to express myself, but I had a very solid image of myself as a person with no artistic ability whatsoever.

That stayed with me for a very long time.

During med school, we were once bussed out an hour from the city (northern Sweden, think snow and reindeer) for a week of mandatory leadership training at a conference center in the middle of nowhere. After the first introduction, we were given colored markers and huge sheets of paper, and told to draw on them  and then use when introducing ourselves to each other.

And for the first time in 20 years, I once again locked myself in the bathroom and cried. That blockage, that image of myself as somehow inferior because I couldn’t draw, was so strong that I seriously contemplated calling a taxi and leaving, which would have meant quitting med school then and there.

But I finally got out of the bathroom, managed to draw some squiggles, and survived the whole experience. It turned out that people don’t really care whether you can draw pretty flowers and horses when you’re an adult.

 

Many years later I found polymer clay, this oh so forgiving medium. I still had a fascination for different mediums, and a passion for finding new hobbies to learn everything about, and polymer clay was a world I knew nothing about. I bought a sample pack of Fimo soft, and Fimo extruder, and I followed a tutorial that came with the it. And… it was so pretty. It was the first time I’ve used this medium and somehow, I still managed to make something that to my eyes looked super cute.

I bought a pasta machine, switched to Fimo pro, and was hooked for life.

The world of polymer clay is filled with tutorials, and I loved that. There was no blank canvas taunting me and my lack of artistic vision, just a series of steps to follow. I found tutorial after tutorial, and in the beginning, I followed them almost exactly, down to the exact shades of the clay.

 

But after a while, I found myself changing things around, making intuitive color choices, modifying the techniques from the tutorials. And one day I realized that even though my basic knowledge came from tutorials, the things I made were really unique. I had somehow found my artistic vision without really noticing that it happened.

Polymer clay, among its many delightful qualities, is fun because you can combine it with so many other techniques, and you can make it look like so many other things. You can sand it, polish it, drill it, use pastel, acrylics, alcohol ink and metal leaf on it, you can use stencils, stamps, silk screen, you can make it look like leather, metal, glass and semi-precious stones.

 

All this makes it easy to accidentally accumulate a lot of various art supplies. Suddenly I knew how to use these things – to play with them, instead of looking at what others can do and beating myself up for not being able to create exactly the same things.

I found art journals, junk journals, smash books, gelli plates, and above all the concept of mixed media. I read about different techniques, followed tutorials, and suddenly found myself creating art that wasn’t like anything I’ve seen anyone else do.

Now, many years after first discovering polymer clay, art and crafts have become such a big part of my life that I don’t understand how I could get by without it before. I have an art studio in our apartment, and I don’t know what I would do if I suddenly couldn’t channel my creativity into art and jewelry.

When I work with my art or polymer clay, my mind can rest. I can lose myself in colors, patterns, stories and creative visions, and there is no bottom of that well. I am incredibly grateful that I have found this world of wonders, after so many years of believe that I didn’t belong in it.

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