My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #9: Big Things Coming From Small Places (My Shop)

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 06-11-2010 02:29 PM 5466 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: Necessity Breeds Invention Part 9 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 10: Some Days are Just Frustrating »

Last night when I was just about ‘done’ with stuff at somewhere around 10pm, I was picking around this site. I noticed that many of you had maps on your home pages which showed exactly where you lived. I liked that feature very much, as it helped me learn more about each woodworker and the proximity of his or her location.

Nova Scotia always sounded so exotic to me when I lived near Chicago. I pictured icebergs floating with little penguins and polar bears lounging on them and harp seals swimming freely in the ocean. When I first came here, it was far from what I had pictured in my mind, albeit beautiful. In actuality, it was much farther south than I had realized and just across the Bay of Fundy from Maine. As a matter of fact, the landscape is quite similar to the northern Maine coast and you would barely tell the difference when driving other than the ocean being on the other side. :) So I proceeded to map my location for others to see when they were exploring the scope of the site.

This morning, I woke to a couple of responses to my mapping (something which I didn’t even think would be noticed) and they requested pictures of my ‘shop’. Well, that really caught me by surprise. I guess it is expected, because I myself love to see the pictures of all the shops of fellow woodworkers here. It is amazing to me to see all the cool tools, storage and space that people have to work with. There are so many incredible places that I thought, “No wonder they create such beautiful items.”

Thinking about taking pictures of my ‘shop’ made me cringe. Due to some personal circumstances in my life the past several years, I am lucky to have a roof over my head – let alone a shop! (I said in the beginning that this would be a bit personal, but I am not going to go into it further than that, but it is the honest truth). To make a long story short, mine had a happy ending. I changed the circumstances in my life and as of last year, I have been back to the ‘old Sheila’ (so my friends have told me) and on the upswing. I now, however live in a small – although modern, peaceful and clean one bedroom apartment which is on the end of a sprawling ranch house across from the Meteghan River. The area is beautiful as I said, and although there isn’t a lot of room, I love the surroundings and the peace that living here has brought to my life and it has been very conducive to my inspiration and productivity.

After seeing the pictures of the wonderful shops here on LJ, I felt quite silly when I thought about my workplace. Here I am a Contributing Editor to a national magazine and I probably have less room and less big tools than 98 percent of you. However, I am what I am, and I realize that it isn’t the tools that make the craftsman (or craftswoman), but how we use them and what we produce that counts.

As I said before, I grew up with limited means. We weren’t poor, but we certainly weren’t considered ‘upper-class’. I know I could have taken a different path in my life and made a ton of money doing something that I didn’t like to do, but I studied classical piano in university and I chose to make designing and art and teaching my livelihood because it is what I truly love to do. I still think that I am much happier than some people I know with lots of money. So I stand by my choice and I am pleased with it.

So without further adieu . . . . ladies and gentlemen . . . . MY SHOP!

Here is the “nerve center” of most of my work – my DeWalt scroll saw and Sears craftsman drill press. It is located on the opposite side of the kitchen, which is behind the sofa.

From Shop Pictures

Another view of my work station. ( I didn’t notice when I took the picture that Richard, my short-haired orange tabby was in the background) This pic is from standing near the kitchen table.

From Shop Pictures

Every square inch is used for storage. In the cabinet I keep my little wood pieces, some finishing supplies, 1/3 sheet orbital sander, clamps, glue and sand paper. In the drawer are scroll saw blades, drill bits, scissors and tape.

From Shop Pictures

I also sew and made a little Chococat stool cover for my stool. It makes it fun and looks cool! (I love cats!)

From Shop Pictures

This closet holds my cordless drill/circular saw/ kit, my router (I like using a laminate trimmer because it is smaller and easier to handle for me), my Dremel and accessories, router bit sets and other misc. things like computer wires, etc.

From Shop Pictures

My other closet holds some thin boards that I use for ornaments and small boxes and plaques. The shelves opposite also hold small boards for little projects.

From Shop Pictures

I also have several pieces of dressed boards of a variety of hard wood that I keep in my bedroom. I keep the boards flat under the dresser and also on top of the longer dresser and on a deacon’s bench I have in there. Most of the boards are under six feet long so they fit well laid flat. I keep gallon sized water jugs on top of them to keep the boards from twisting and it does work pretty well. I do admit that if you go in there you know I do woodworking, but when you are in the rest of the house, you really wouldn’t know.

I didn’t do a ‘fast cleanup’ just for the pictures. I clean things up with a quick vacuum when I am done and that is that. Because the scroll saw uses tiny blades, there really isn’t a great deal of dust. I do the routing and sanding on the front deck so there isn’t dust there. All the dressing and planing of the wood is done at my friend Bernie’s shop. Bernie is a master craftsman and lives in Digby which is about 45 minutes north of me and he has built over 100 houses and literally thousands of pieces of furniture. He is ‘retired’ now and works in his shop six days a week from 7am until 5pm at night. I first met him when I lived in Digby and needed some planing done. He gave me the key to his shop shortly afterword and I have full use of all of his tools whenever I want. It is people like that who make this world a great place. I love woodworkers so much. He has taught me a lot and I must say I have even taught him a couple of things from time to time which really makes me proud.

All in all, it works for me. I am getting back on my feet and saving to get my own place again and you can bet it will be a place with a nice shop. But for now, I feel very fortunate with what I have and it hasn’t seemed to stop me from being productive. This has been one of the most productive years I have ever had.

I guess it goes to show that good things can come from small places. We just have to learn to use what we have to make it work for us. :)

I hope I didn’t disappoint you guys too much. My editor wanted me to write an article about my little shop and he thinks it may inspire those with small spaces and limited means. After writing this blog entry, I may just do that. I hope that seeing how I do things lets others in similar circumstances know that there is always a way!

On another note, I am posting my latest project after I am done with this. This will be going to the magazine and shows the finished turn buttons that I worked on yesterday. If you want to see them in place, I will have pictures in my project section.

Happy Friday everyone!
(Every day is Friday when you love what you do!)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

10 comments so far

View John Stegall's profile

John Stegall

502 posts in 3511 days

#1 posted 06-11-2010 02:42 PM

I agree will not guarantee that you are a craftsperson. Only skill can do that. I like your shop just fine.

-- jstegall

View MrsN's profile


986 posts in 3520 days

#2 posted 06-11-2010 02:53 PM

I love your shop!!

View charlie48's profile


248 posts in 3164 days

#3 posted 06-11-2010 03:09 PM

I also like your shop !!

-- Charlie............Only time will tell if it was time well spent.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2914 days

#4 posted 06-11-2010 03:12 PM

Thanks, everyone!
MrsN – when I saw your profile the other day about you getting a small corner to work in, I thought “she should see mine!” Somehow I thought we would make good friends! :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3030 days

#5 posted 06-11-2010 04:09 PM

Sheila, I will never complain about only having a single garage to work in again. You acheive so much in such a small space. I’d go for the article about your shop in the magazine. Your editor is right, it will inspire people with limited resources.

Woodworking is not a competition (except when you enter one) and its not about who has the best or most expensive tools or shop. Its about doing what you can with what you’ve got.

I’m sure that some people out there think that my attempting the impossible pattern is being big headed. Its not, its just me trying to expand my experience, mind, abilities etc with what I’m lucky to have. I also hope to inspire other people to have a go. If I can do it so can you sort of attitude. As Stefang alluded to in a comment on a post of mine once, the most important tool you have is your mind and everyone has one of those. Like any other tool its what you do with it that counts. Some will acheive greater things, some lesser. It doesn’t matter. In the end it comes down to looking at what you’ve done, with what you’ve got and thinking ’I did that’

Thanks very much for a great blog.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View a1Jim's profile


117090 posts in 3571 days

#6 posted 06-11-2010 05:23 PM

Great shop

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View ScrollSawVideo's profile


46 posts in 2903 days

#7 posted 06-11-2010 06:23 PM

My long time friend continues to inspire others! Thanks.

-- Karl. N. Atlanta

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3816 days

#8 posted 06-11-2010 06:48 PM

Sheila, this is certainly one of the more unique shop spaces that I have had the distinct pleasure of touring. It looks like you have some nice tools to play with. A scrollsaw is one tool on my list that I just have not found either the space or the opportunity to add to my collection but it is on my wish list nonetheless.

Thanks for the pictures. It was both interesting and enjoyable to tour your shop.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3109 days

#9 posted 06-11-2010 07:13 PM

Sheila thank´s for the look into your shop
but it´s not how much space you have it just have to forfill
what you like to do , of course if you want to build schooners
you need a lot more space :—))
if you don´t belive me then take a look here, thats another
small workshop ,but what Dilo has accomplished there is unbelieveble

the other day there was one (can´t remember who) that posted a blog
about a shop where every maschine was downsiced so they match
what she was doing , it is pens made on a lathe see if you can find it and take a look
its another cool shop deticated to what she needed

I liked your shopstool it´s very funny

have a great weekend Sheila

take care Dennis

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3496 days

#10 posted 06-12-2010 03:59 AM

Thanks for this, and all your other great blogs, Sheila. Welcome to LJ’s!!
As far as shop size, if I could afford any type shop I wanted, it would still be a small one… Less steps!!
It’s you who makes your shop work… :)

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

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