I also do watercolor. In that medium, I play with small pieces every day, keeping a feel for the problematic water/paint ratio, trying new things, now adding in goache and acrylics. But for some reason, I've avoided doing that practice, that play in fiber.
Can't quite figure out why. Somthing about fiber being more important (to me), or the cost of materials, or some undiscovered reason. I tend to think that every piece of fiber art I make is important. And it shouldn't be. It should be that some are, but some are just learning experiences that will never leave the house, even as jpg's on the web.
I should practice what I preach to my classes--to follow the Doritos principle: Use it, they'll make more.
In that vein, I've started playing with fiber. I've been trying to make needle felted hedgeapples; so far the examples are interesting looking (translation: they have a nice personality), but not very evocative of hedge apples. I have a big piece involving them I'm designing in my head, but that's not playing around...
Then yesterday I dug in my fun box. It is filled with snips and pieces (Ann, you don't get them all) of things that didn't work, things that needed trimming, pieces from playdates where we tried new processes. I took a piece of polyester that had been disperse transfer dyed, trimmed it down. Then I fused some curves of hand dyed silk on. Next came lots of close quilting, using a piece of felted wool sweater as a background and as a batting. Here's the result:
I got lucky. This one came out pretty nice. It is a little greener in person than it's showing up on my monitor. Anyway, this is a keeper. But if they aren't, back into the box they go for another time. Some of the postcards I made for Fiberart for a Cure were the result of these bits and pieces. So far, I don't think any of them have led to bigger pieces, but I'm sure that things I have learned that no one else can see have made their way into other work.
The moral of this story is take time to play. Don't worry about the outcome.