My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #45: A New Way of Thinking Can Open Many Doors

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-18-2010 01:30 PM 4126 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 44: Not Really Woodworking (Kinda/sorta, but not really) Part 45 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 46: Scrollgirl's Gone Batty!!! »

It is amazing how sometimes you can envision a project before it is created and it comes out exactly as you thought it would. My leaf candle tray was like that. I saw it long before it was ever created and when I was finished it was astonishingly close to the picture I had in my mind of what it would look like.

There are other times, however, when you know you want “something” but you aren’t exactly sure what that something is going to look like. It is as if you can see it in the distance through the fog and although you know what it is generally like, you can’t see the details or picture it exactly. I find it takes longer to work on projects like that because without seeing a clear goal at the end, it is difficult for me to push ahead with full force. Everything I have read recently regarding success seems to emphasize the importance of having real and definite goals. The philosophy is that if we fail to do so, our chances of achieving success greatly diminish because whatever successes we do achieve will occur by chance, not by planning.

So where does that leave creativity?

As I mature as a designer, I find that more and more the goals I make for myself don’t have to be set and clear at the beginning of the project. There are times I am lost – not by lack of ideas but by too many of therm. I had a quote last week in one of my blogs about focusing on one goal at a time and putting every ounce of your energy into it, and I liked it. But what do you do when you research something and there is so much information in front of you that you get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start? This used to be a stopper for me. I would try to filter through too many reference photos at a time and many times I would abandon the project altogether. It was quite troubling. I could understand abandoning a project for lack of ideas and information, but I was having trouble understanding the concept of shelving a project because I had too many resources. I felt myself heading into the ‘overwhelmed’ category with this next project I was working on. I just had too much to think about and I didn’t really have a picture of the final project inside my head to strive for. In fact I had several different pictures. The problem was that I only had one piece of wood and only wanted one outcome.

In former days, I would have probably chosen to go on to something else. After all, did I want to cross the stormy ocean in a canoe? Or would I wait until a later date when the seas were calmer and I had a ticket on an ocean liner? I have lost many projects to this way of thinking. Projects that had potential but never quite made it to reality. As I get older (Yikes! I don’t like saying that!) I have recently been trying a different approach. I do it anyway. I just start drawing without an end in clear sight and see what will come to me. I pick the one element that I want to focus on and allow it to grow before my very eyes. If I try something and I don’t like the outcome, I throw it in reverse and move back a step and try something else.

It may sound simple, but it is a very new way for me to design. However, after having several ‘good ideas’ go by the wayside because I was too frightened to sail uncharted waters, I decided enough was enough and thought “What have I got to lose?” A day of work? A piece of wood? Why not?

Yesterday’s project was much like this. I began with an overwhelming amount of reference photos and information and I wanted my project to be unique from them all. I spent a couple of hours minimum, sifting through elements that would help me draw what I was thinking and finally I just began to DRAW. Throughout the process, I changed this and changed that and if you look at what I had on the screen in the first hour and the final project, you wouldn’t believe that it was the same thing. But as I started to draw and change things it just started to flow and the outcome got better and better. The fog began to lift and the final vision of the project became clearer and clearer. In the end, I think it is a really cool design and I feel one of my better ones. Although I wouldn’t say it is a masterpiece, for what it is I think it came out very, very cool. I am excited about it and can’t wait to finish it and see the final result (which I NOW see very clearly in my head!)

Could it be that I finally reached that stage in my drawing that I have been striving to achieve for as long as I remember? Maybe just for this moment. I am sure it is not a hard and fast line and I am absolutely sure that there will be days when I will feel overwhelmed and lost. But with each success, it strengthens my confidence and kicks my drive up to high gear. Artistically, it is a new and exciting place to be. I am really glad to have taken the risk. I guess that is the lesson that I have learned today.

I finished my drawings near dinner time and I was so excited about the project that I wanted to get it cut last night. I did the set up and preparation of the wood and all the drilling (there is a lot of what I call ‘precision drilling’ in this piece) and that took quite a lot of time. I then even took an hour out and went for a walk in the woods, as it was a beautiful warm day and I had sat at the computer all day long. As eager as I was, I know that if I don’t balance my life I will burn out. The walk did wonders to refresh me and when I returned, I had intended to cut about half the piece and call it a night. When I reached the half way point, I was so pleased with the outcome I decided to continue on and wound up finishing all the cutting on the main piece.

Today will be spent on the finishing and the accessory pieces which go with it. There also need to be a couple minor adjustments on the drawings, which is typical for me. It is sunny and bright out and if all goes well, I may still be able to steal away an hour or so to go to the beach.

Yes, I am going to leave you hanging on what it is. I will hopefully have the pictures up by tomorrow and have everything done by then. I am on a good roll and may even have the instructions done by then. And I also have some ambitions of painting tonight after dinner. We will see.

Look at it this way, I will give you something to look forward to (hopefully) on “the dreaded Monday!”

Have a great day today and do something fun!

-- 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 BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3064 days

#1 posted 07-18-2010 05:04 PM

Sometimes the lines draw themselves. Other times you have to draw them out.. My best ideas come when I am in bed in that neither world, neither asleep nor awake. My mind wanders on what I have seen, what I have done and a theme or idea will suddenly take hold. They seem to set out of the air. Its as much as I can do to remember them or jot them down. I do this in my armchair after a shift at work as well. The ideas here are easier to capture. I can’t do design from scratch very well so this method is my main one. Then of course there are the inspirations that you can get from someone else’s work, which I find here.

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

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3332 days

#2 posted 07-18-2010 06:21 PM

i certainly agree with that we are able to draw off of each others inspiration..that is one reason why i love this site…i love hearing and seeing what inspiration has done for a certain person and then we see the project as it unfolds…all of us fuel each other..and sometimes when we have maybe reached a brick wall or just a hard spot…your blogs sheila do that i imagine for those who read it…a great source of watching you come to the final idea and then bang..a great project appears…...i think its real important to write them down when idea’s come..i think we loose to much from not doing that…im going to keep a book on my bedside table…and will write down the idea and thoughts…weather its wood working or idea’s to life’s problems..everyone have a great day…....grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View joey's profile


396 posts in 3932 days

#3 posted 07-18-2010 06:59 PM

I use to do the same thing when I was in art class trying to learn to paint, which I am still trying to do, but my Professor said I was letting myself get overwhelmed because I was trying to start with the finished painting in minds eye, which as a woodworker I have kind of been trained to do. He said it was blocking the creative process. Well I took his advise and started painting with a freer style and I really started enjoying painting for the first time rather than being disappointed my painting wasn’t matching my vision of them, plus other people started liking my painting. Now I do the same thing when I design furniture and I found that it helped a lot. I usually just start with free sketching until something excites me, then I will develop it from there.

I hope to start designing some of my own scroll saw work one of these day going to the Expo has excited me to take up the scroll saw again, that and carving seems to be my new passion in the woodworking fields. Since I have hurt myself and can’t be a full time cabinetmaker any more after 25 years of working in that field these still give me a lot of satisfaction, that and I will still build a small piece of furniture ever now and then which now I hope to add carvings and scroll saw to.

-- Joey~~Sabina, Ohio

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3046 days

#4 posted 07-19-2010 01:21 AM

Awww, Do we get a chance to win a million bucks too Howie? ;-)

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2948 days

#5 posted 07-19-2010 11:53 AM

Thank you all for your input. It is interesting to see how others’ designing processes work.

@Martyn and Grizz – I agree with you both. I don’t know what I would do without writing things down. I am a big fan of lists. I also keep a small notebook here at my desk and also next to my bed. There have been many times when I wake up and think of something or think of it just before I fall asleep. I keep one in my purse, too because who knows when an idea comes up. Seeing all the creativity here helps things too. It is wonderful to see the different styles and media that people work in.

@Joey – I think you hit it right on the head. There are times when you have a finished piece in mind, but some of my best work is when I just pick a starting point and go from there. I love being surprised by the outcome – especially when the result is better than I planned. Sometimes it is difficult to just let go and draw. The more I try it, the better I feel about it though. It is great to try new things.

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

View Gpops's profile


248 posts in 3473 days

#6 posted 07-19-2010 11:39 PM

Congratulations Scrollgirl you are now an artist. Seeing things in your head and solving the problems as they arise, as mistakes or why can’t I do this or that, surprises you with some of the best ideas in the world. I use this site for inspiration quite a lot. Damn there are really some talented and willing to share expertise people in this group! We each push each other to ever higher standards. You go girl…...... The only person, usually the hardest, you have to please is yourself.

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