A Year of Challenges – Getting My Freeform On. Help!

I have decided that I will take part in the International Freeform Fibrearts Guild Challenge for 2017. I intended to enter it last year, but time ran away with me and it just didn’t happen. This year I want to make sure it does. It starts on January 1st and ends in May, by which time the completed entry should be finished, photographed and sent off. Each entrant has to create a piece of work on the theme which must include freeform crochet or knitting. All entries who submit a qualifying piece of work are published in a book.
 The theme for 2017 is “Patterns in Nature”. Such a big topic! Where to start?
I obviously need to do some research on this – I can’t just pick up a hook and make this up as I go along. I’ve decided to make a scrapbook of my research and ideas and eventually a plan for what I want the piece to be about and how I want it to look (and what it will be! It doesn’t have to be a piece of art, it can be anything). 
My research has started with looking at the Golden Ratio in nature. I first found out about this when I started my training in Sound Therapy and was fascinated by it. It seemed like the perfect place to start researching patterns in nature. In nature the Golden Ratio results in a nesting process which can be repeated into infinity and which is shown as a spiral. It’s best exhibited in sunflower seed heads and the nautilus shell. Pine cones are another great example.
I’ve also looked at other patterns – animal skins for instance. There’s no denying that animal skins display some great patterns – giraffe, jaguar, tortoise shell, zebra, butterflies, snails …
I’m drawn to forests though, so I’ve also looked at patterns in trees; the rings inside a tree, obviously, but also bark patterns, the way trunks grow and branches are formed, the palm tree which has several different kinds of pattern all in the one tree.
And the beach has to be a great source of inspiration for patterns – the shells, the waves, sand spirals left behind by razor clams, fish scales, seaweed.
Obviously, I’ve only scratched the surface of each of these areas at the moment. I sort of feel that I need to pick an area to focus on before going deeper into any of them. I’m also feeling like I should know what I want the finished piece to be before I choose a theme, but to do that, I need to know what the theme will  be so that it all fits together! Aargghhhh!
One thing I do know is that I don’t want to buy any yarn for this project. I have a huge stash of recycled yarns I was given a couple of years ago, which I like to use in my artwork. There’s still loads of it left because I didn’t really do any crocheted art in 2016. I’m planning to do a lot more in 2017 so I hope that stash will be much smaller at the beginning of 2018 than it is now.
Back to my current quandary though; where shall I concentrate? What area would you choose? Why? Should I produce a piece of art, something wearable, something usable?  Help me out!

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