Blog: On (Not) Being Creative During the Lockdown

Our blog series regularly invites guests to share their thoughts on different aspects of life in Dundee, their own practice and anything in between. Steph Liddle is a Ceramics Designer/Maker based in Dundee who creates contemporary, graphic ceramic jewellery and homewares.


Lockdown. What a rollercoaster. I wish I was using this time to be creative, to read and look and be inspired. To catch up on the tasks I usually neglect, and to experiment with new ways of making. But instead, I’ve found myself feeling completely void of any creativity and inspiration. The sketchbooks that I usually tote around everywhere with me “just in case” have sat unopened. The myriad of other creative projects that are usually fighting to get out of me are dormant. I even bought a bag of clay, in a sudden burst of enthusiasm, with a plan to use this time to experiment with hand-building some new forms and shapes. But when I opened it, it turned out that my hands had been replaced by someone else’s. Someone who had clearly never touched a lump of clay in their life.

Making is usually the way that I think things through and make sense of the world around me. It busies my hands and stills my mind. Even at my lowest moments, when anxiety and depression felt like they were winning, I’ve still managed to continue making. But suddenly the urge to make has left me, and I feel lost and hopeless without it. My mind is overrun with “what if’s” and unknowns, clouding and subduing any creativity that once lived there. My head is all over the place, figuratively at least.

While some people might be finding that lockdown feels like a break from real life, and a much-needed chance to step away from work, that couldn’t feel further from the truth for me and many other self-employed creatives (not to mention those with caring responsibilities and key workers).

I love my real life, I’m lucky that I get to spend the majority of my time making and being creative (as well as wearing 100 other different hats, admittedly), and to help other people to learn those skills and discover how making can bring little pockets of calmness and joy into their lives too. I know that this is a unique position, and I’m grateful that I’m able to spend most of my days this way. But it didn’t happen overnight – it happened gradually over a period of years, and at the trade of financial security and safety nets, and a regular income. And now, just as I was finding my feet, it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under me. I’m worried that everything I’ve spent the last 4+ years building, won’t be there at the other end of this.

It’s less than 2 weeks of lockdown and already I feel lost, and without a purpose. So I’m trying to be kind to myself. To give myself the space and time to have a cry on the sofa, or get lost in a book. I’m giving in to the “what ifs” and the anxiety for the moment, in the hope that if I listen to them (for once) they might settle down in time. Whilst being in lockdown might not be the opportunity to flourish creatively that I hoped it might be, maybe it will turn out to be an opportunity to start a conversation with those feelings I’ve long ignored. And maybe after that, I can dust off those sketchbooks/that bag of clay/the sewing machine and find my way back to making. Hopefully, I remember how…

Things I wanted to do during the lockdown:

Drawing, so much drawing

Maybe I’ll design a collection of stationery, adorned with all those amazing drawings!

Sew some new clothes

Let’s buy a bag of clay! I’ll experiment with hand-building new forms and be so inspired!

Some more drawing

My house is going to be the cleanest it’s ever been

I’m going to work my way through all of those unread books hanging around

Maybe I’ll do an online course? I could learn a whole new skill!


Things I’ve actually done during lockdown:

Eaten a lot of snacks

Read a couple of books

Had a sit-down

Done some yoga (often half-hearted)

Had a cry

Worried that I’ve left a bin bag full of banana peels in the studio for an unspecified length of time

Watched a cat in the garden

Started watching Tiger King (what is going on?!)

Had another sit-down

Eaten some more snacks

Washed a dish or two

Had a dance in the kitchen

Built a replica Mid-Century house on The Sims

Watched a dog in the garden

Had another cry, under a blanket – because that’s what adults do




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