“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I read that quote the other day and I liked it so much that I posted it on my Facebook status. I like reading and finding little nuggets of wisdom like that because not only do they make us think a bit deeper, but they also can sometimes inspire us. Emerson is great for that. I also like Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) because he had a knack for stating the obvious. I love his directness.
Sometimes all it takes is a little thought for us to remember things like this. For being such a short phrase, these words are quite powerful.
We all like our comfort zones. We learn to do something, which at first may seem awkward, but for some reason or another we push to finish and in the process we become comfortable with our own abilities and finally we accomplish. There are great feelings associated with accomplishment. Feelings of pride and acceptance and sometimes even importance. I believe that most of us like to stay in these comfort zones and that is why doing something that is so familiar to us gives us so much pleasure. There is little stress and the rewards are pretty good. That is what having a hobby is all about.
But what happens when we do something so many times that it becomes routine or mundane? After the initial exhilaration of discovering something new and exciting that we were able to do, sometimes it can become a bit stale and somehow loses the fun and sparkle. I guess it would depend on how often and how much time we are able to devote to it. If we only get a couple of hours a week in the shop, I would imagine that the anticipation of having the time to create would only add to the fun and satisfaction of the time spent there. For others, who do this for a living, the thrill of doing a certain type of work or project may lose its luster a little faster.
Many times I have had people say to me ‘If I had to do this for a living, I would not like it and it would take the fun out of it’. There is one man I know in particular that said it recently. He is a wonderful intarsia artist and makes beautiful pieces. He does have a side business doing that, as he has a ‘regular job’ besides. His work is well-renown, published, and you would think that is his only source of income. I was surprised when I learned it wasn’t. But he works his job daily and his treat to himself is working on his intarsia pieces. For him, it keeps it fresh and there is no pressure and he calls the shots and wouldn’t have his life any other way. I admire him and I am happy to see that someone can have such a wonderful outlook on his own life. It really makes me happy to see.
For myself, I enjoy doing woodworking and creating as my business. I never get sick of it. As some of you know, I also paint and it seems to me that if I find myself getting caught up in one aspect of my work or business, there are several other choices I have in which I can switch gears and do something different. And then there is always something new to learn. I guess that is why I like coming here so much. I love to see what everyone else is up to and I learn so much from seeing their interpretations and creativity. It makes me want to stretch farther and get out of my comfort zone and try some new things.
I saw the project in the gallery yesterday called “Nude on Wood: My Wife” by Div where his wife had done a beautiful painting on a pretty piece of wood he had. The painting portrayed a woman in an impressionistic style which reminded me of Monet. It was simple, yet beautiful and I caught myself looking at it for a long time. I do that with wood pieces and projects also. I see some of the projects in the gallery and I find myself gazing at them as they take me to another place. I guess that is what art is all about.
With working for the magazine and as a designer, I live under the ‘what have you done for me lately’ way of thinking. No matter how popular or well-received a project or pattern is, it will run its course and soon people will be looking for something even better then next time around. I don’t consider this a bad thing. It is the nature of the beast and it forces me to not sit on my laurels and get out there and think. It keeps my job fresh and exciting and as rewarding as it was when I was first published. It also helps me reach my potential. (Do we ever reach our full potential? I really don’t think so.) I’ll rephrase that – it helps me reach a higher level.
I found out yesterday that my editor wants the little dresser tray for the magazine. This was great, but it was a bit of a double-edged sward. I had lots of positive response from the pattern since I presented it this weekend and people wanted the plans as soon as I could write them. However, it will now be under the holding period that I had talked about before and I would not be able to offer it for at least several months. There was one customer in particular that was emailing me for the plans, saying (kiddingly) he would be at my door until I get them done because his wife loves the tray. I have the undesirable task of emailing him today to let him know that I can’t provide plans to it until a much later date. I will direct him to the magazine, so he can get them a little sooner, but somehow I don’t feel that will be a great consolation to him. I did, however, say when I showed the piece that it was subject to approval by the magazine, so I think I gave a good heads-up to everyone. Somehow I don’t think that will help. I really hate disappointing people.
It is a shame that it put a little damper on things. On the very positive side, it will drive me to create more types of similar projects and get me really moving. I am thrilled that my editor feels it is good enough to be featured. It seems that even after all the years of having things published, I never take it for granted and I am relieved and proud and joyful each and every time something is accepted. I try to look for new ideas and combine different woodworking techniques and try to get people interested so that they stretch a little.
I was so pleased to hear from several people – both on the comments and in private emails – that they were going to drag out their old scroll saws and maybe give them a try again after seeing my projects. I also have had several questions regarding scroll sawing which made me see that I have increased awareness in some of an aspect of woodworking that they may not have thought about in a while, or ever. It felt good to answer questions and encourage others to give something new a try. That, my friends, means more then any paycheck to me! If I have inspired even one person, I have done a good job!
With that said, I had better get moving today. I find myself longing for some ‘shop time’ when I can do some cutting again, but I need to proof read some instructions, do computer work and also some book work for the business today. I also need to do some drawing so I have something to cut. :) That’s OK though, it will make that shop time all the sweeter when I get there!
I hope everyone has a great day and tries something new today!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"