My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #41: The Leaf Candle Tray . . . Almost There

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-14-2010 01:55 PM 6074 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 40: . . . . And We're Off! Part 41 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 42: Successful Changes »

I made a great amount of progress in yesterday’s design. Although I didn’t get to start cutting, it was with good reason and I am well on my way to get there today. Sometimes in laying the foundation out for a project, things just don’t come out exactly how we envisioned them. I see things in my head long before anyone ever sees them either on paper or in wood. I know what I want to accomplish, and because of how long I have been doing this it usually comes in the same neighborhood as I pictured. Some things need more adjustment however and it is more common than not that some things need to be revised. This project was no different.

I thought that it may be interesting to share some of that process here and let you see my thought process and reasoning when creating this design. ( I warn you though – inside my head can be a scary place!) So sit back and enjoy your mini-tour of the inside of my head . . . .

This project is the second in the series of candle trays and decorative charms that I will be designing. The snowflake tray was very well received and when I first envisioned the project, I definitely have a series of them that I want to do. I love to have the scent of candles on certain occasions and I realize that many, many others do also. Although the jar candle labels are nice, I wanted to make something that was decorative and unique and could be changed with each season. When I made the little fretwork dresser tray a month or so ago, my candle was sitting on my kitchen table and I noticed how nicely it fit on the tray. I guess that was when the bells and whistles went off and the idea was born.

For the leaf designs, I wanted something open and ‘fret-like’. Leaves are wonderful to scroll and a great beginner project because of the curvy gracefulness and forgiving shape. After all, if you go off of the line here or there a little, who’s to say that it is wrong? There is no set shape for a leaf.

I began with drawing up some different types of leaves in Illustrator. They are pretty basic, but I added vein lines and thought that it would give them an open appearance. This is just an example of a few:

From Leaf Candle Tray

Next, I arranged them in a circle the size of the tray border. It took some bending and maneuvering to get them to look good, but I did like the outcome somewhat:

From Leaf Candle Tray

The next step was to use Illustrator to add the framework and border and merge them together. (See, Lis – I use technology too!) I was having trouble deciding on the outside border. I think that it absolutely needs to be rounded over to give it a finished look, but I really didn’t want a plain circle. I would have much preferred a natural shape that followed the leaves, but the logistics of that type of edge just wouldn’t do right now. The curved edges are simply too sharp for the router, even with the smallest round over bit. I finally conceded that it needs to be round – at least for now – and I will address it again at the end of the project and see if it can be changed later.

I went ahead and merged the drawing:

From Leaf Candle Tray

When I finally merged everything together, I was quite disappointed. Although the essence of my design was there, in looking at it, it looked like a complete mess. This was not an appealing design to me. It was way too chaotic and busy for my taste. You didn’t just glance at it and think “leaves”, you think more of “spaghetti”. It took work to figure out what it was. (This was several hours into the drawing process, mind you!) I was a bit disappointed, but all was not lost. There are – as they say – more than one way to skin a cat.

So I had to rethink things. With the pattern this way, everything was ‘open’ – both the leaves and the background. There was no contrast in the design which was needed to make it work. That left me with two choices: solid background and open leaves or solid leaves and open background. I thought about the choices very carefully. If I left the background solid and the leave open (with the vein lines scrolled in as in the first picture) not only would I lose the definition of the graceful edges of the leaves, but the veins would need to appear to be grid like because of the structure of the tray. I didn’t feel comfortable about leaving them hanging and vein lines in leaves really don’t go all the way from end to end in any particular leaf. Although this may look good in some applications, I didn’t want this to be “cartoony” (I made up my own word!). So the answer was simple – I went with solid leaves on an open background and the veins were negative areas which are to be scrolled out. Not only is this simple to cut this way, but I believe it will also be the most attractive, allowing the graceful edges of the leaves to be predominant.

So here is where I am at right now:

From Leaf Candle Tray

This is by no means a finished drawing yet! I pooped out at about 10:30 last night and plan on finishing it up today. You may notice that the leaves on the left side of the drawing are more defined and not as large as the leaves on the right side. I am in the process of reshaping everything to my liking and started at the top and am working my way around in a counter-clockwise direction refining the shapes until they are ‘perfect’. I think this is a vast improvement over the original design. I colored it in with gray for now so I can picture it better, but when it is cut in wood, it will have a whole new appearance and life to it. I think I will use maple in this design, as I have a nice piece that I believe will be suitable for it.

So that is where it stands today. As always, I appreciate any comments or feedback. I still haven’t decided on the edge, but I don’t NOT like it as it is now, so I may just leave it as is. There will be several others in the series where I will be able to follow the interior design and it may be nice to have a variety. Also, I want it to be strong enough to stand up to daily usage. So this may be the best way after all.

I will have more pictures tomorrow of my progress. I think if all goes well I will be able to finish this off today. I can’t wait to see how it works out!

:) Have a wonderful, creative day!

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

6 comments so far

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2984 days

#1 posted 07-14-2010 04:26 PM

I really like seeing the process as you do it… thank you for sharing! It’s neat to see how another artist thinks.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View OttoH's profile


891 posts in 3008 days

#2 posted 07-15-2010 03:44 AM

Wow Sheila, that is quite the process you go through to create a scroll saw design. I never really thought about how much work it was, then again if it was easy everyone would be doing it. Thanks for sharing the process with us, I look forward to the next posting!

-- I am responsible for how I respond to everything in my life - - Deadwood SD

View MrsN's profile


986 posts in 3524 days

#3 posted 07-15-2010 04:56 AM

it is really interesting to see the process that you go through to create a pattern. All of your time shows up in your finished product. You have great designs.

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3772 days

#4 posted 07-15-2010 10:49 AM

Thank you for showing us your design thought process. It will be interesting to see the finished result. I to am trying to come up with an idea for my new granddaughters dresser I am making for her. It is going to have a hidden compartment in it that is going to open by using a hand carved fairy house. No I am not a nut bar. I guess you are not the only one that has ideas running threw your head. Now that I figured out how I am going to do it, I need to get some sleep (4:00AM). I will do a blog when I get it done. Have a nice day.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Handi75's profile


377 posts in 3473 days

#5 posted 10-29-2010 08:40 PM


I’d have to say I like the Second to the last Picture. The background and Leaf both are open. I seen what it was and it looks Great, it looks and feels like Fret work to me and that’s what I like cutting most.

I like the last picture to, but I myself definatly like the other better.

I think maybe a Doillie border or something. And maybe take some Dark Walnut and Craft some Roman Numerals and Put a Clock insert in it and make it a Fall Clock lol.

Looks Great anyway.


-- Jimmy "Handi" Warner,,, Twitter: @Handisworkshop, @HandisCreations

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2918 days

#6 posted 10-30-2010 12:39 AM

Another interesting idea. I can certainly do it the way you like also. I though it may be that people couldn’t distinguish the leaves from each other possibly. But I may give it a try. :)


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

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