My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #126: The Results

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-07-2010 01:48 PM 4561 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 125: My Own Self-Challenge Part 126 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 127: Scrollgirl's Day Off »

I laughed when I re-read yesterdays post last night! Not necessarily because it was humorous, but because my expectations couldn’t have been much further from reality. Even the other members of the ‘pink cloud club’ were probably laughing at me when they read it.

As I was sitting here at my computer, positively exhausted with my body aching from standing at the scroll saw for over six hours, I just shook my head and thought to myself “What in the world was I thinking?” I was stiff, dusty and tired, not only physically, but emotionally too. Some may not understand the emotional drain creating some projects can take from a person. I felt as if I had run a marathon.

Then I looked at the table next to me and I saw the fruit of my labour and I just smiled to myself and thought how there couldn’t be a better feeling in the world? I had achieved success.

Did you ever finish a project and just want to look at it for a while? Just take it in over and over?

What is “art” anyway? When it comes down to it, it is just stuff we like to look at. Usually it starts out as being something functional – like a cheese tray or a bread board. But at some point it evolves into something else and takes on a new function. Beauty.

Everyone has their own definition of what is beautiful. That is what makes this world go around. Some people like country or rustic, others like Renior or Monet. Others like Picasso. There is no right and wrong where beauty is concerned. As a teacher, we ourselves learn to respect others’ opinion of what is beautiful to them. We don’t have to agree with them, but we have to acknowledge that others have the right to deem something as beauty just as we do. We may not agree, but it isn’t ours to say or dictate.

With that being said, I will go on to say that I am really pleased with my project that I created yesterday. I can’t remember when I created something that I liked so much. The only other thing that I can even closely compare it to is my cheetah painting that I did several years ago. But never something that I scroll sawed. I don’t know why but this is my absolute favorite project to date.

It was also the most difficult. As I said yesterday, on appearance it looks as if it will be somewhat simple. Design-wise it isn’t hard. There are no thin lines that threaten to break or tricky curves that are hard to manipulate. It is simple and straight forward. Perhaps too straight forward.

I had said previously that it is far more difficult to cut a straight line on the scroll saw than curved edges. I believe that any one else who saws will agree with me. It just wasn’t made for straight lines. The blades are as thin as your hair and want to wander with the grain of the wood. As you become more familiar with the scroll saw, you learn which blades will work best for the particular species and thickness of wood. This is only a starting point, though. As you begin to cut, you will find that each individual piece can vary due to dryness, grain and other characteristics. Soon though, choosing becomes second nature and after a short time you will know when you are on the right track.

In cutting out this project, I began with a #2 blade. I felt it was the largest blade I could use in that I would be able to both follow the straight line and also achieve the sharp corners that I wanted to. I began cutting and trying to get the feel of things. I find with each project, there is a certain amount of time where you are testing the water as to the feel of the wood, blade, etc. and then eventually you fall into a rhythm and are in what I will all a comfort zone in finishing the project.

I tried to start out in an area that wouldn’t be as noticeable if I didn’t cut perfect. That was hard to do with this type of design. I choose the middle, with my reasoning being that if the cuts on the edges wavered it would be much more obvious. You can see from the picture that the section on the left (the long rectangle) isn’t quite as perfect as I would have liked. I was off to a rocky start:

From SLD333 Wright Inspired Candle Tray

Usually, also it only takes me a few cuts to get into that comfort zone that I mentioned before. I remember writing that my cutting of this tray would only take part of the day and I would have time to carve and work on my shoe in the afternoon. Although I began cutting by 9am or so, by noon I was only at this point:

From SLD333 Wright Inspired Candle Tray

There were several emails that came through and I had some issues with the wholesaler that I may discuss tomorrow and a phone call from a customer, but otherwise I was at the saw. I was having trouble getting a feel as to how to tackle each hole so that I would be able to follow it precisely. It wasn’t until I got to the above point when I really started feeling at ease with things. However, I never was able to fully relax, as I do on so many of my other projects. Each time I tried to sit down and saw – which I usually do – I felt that I couldn’t see things from the proper angle and it threw off my control. As a result, I remained standing the entire time I cut.

I had also tried to revert back to the smaller 2/0 blade, as it was difficult for me to get the sharp corners that I was used to, even with the only slightly larger blade. After less than one hole however, I went back to the 2, as there just wasn’t the control that I needed for the straight edges.

I finally figured out the best way to do the corners was to cut the longest straight line to the end, back track, round over to the adjacent line and go to that corner, back track and continue on in that manner until the middle section was removed. I could then come back from the opposite side and shave off the corner pieces. This had two potential dangers involved – making a mark where you entered back onto the line from the opposite direction and also overshooting the corner and making a nick past the cut. Every cut took full concentration and a very light but steady hand to accomplish.

From SLD333 Wright Inspired Candle Tray

That was the exhausting part. It was as if my body needed to be in high alert for the entire six plus hours. If I let my guard down even for a minute, the lines would waiver and I would need to ‘clean up’ areas that were even the slightest bit out of place.

So why go on, you may ask?

The exhilaration I felt as I continued on was incredible. It was like a drug. As I pushed on and saw the results, it fueled me to push further. As I reached the mid point, I knew that I would be able to accomplish this project and that it would be one of the nicest ones that I have ever done. The feelings of pride and accomplishment grew with every successful hole and even though it was still covered with dust and its pattern, I envisioned how it would be all polished and oiled and I just knew it would be good.

While I was cutting, I thought of all the things and people that I have come to know here. It was suggested to me that I should grade my projects according to difficulty with say one to five blades so others would be prepared when attempting to cut one of my patterns out. Although I don’t know how that would work with most projects, as most of us have different skill levels and what is difficult for some may be easy for other, there was no question in my mind that I would grade this project with five blades, the most difficult. Granted you can accomplish it without much difficulty, but if you want it to look GOOD, it will take a bit more than average effort and skill to do so. In all my years of scroll sawing, this is to date the most difficult thing I have attempted not only because of the skill level, but the necessary intense concentration to complete it.

I also thought a lot of Martyn and his precision cutting that he does on all of his projects he shares with us. I don’t know why that came to mind, but each time I see his work I am blown away at the amount of concentration and precision that is required for his accomplishments. Seeing his work has inspired me to try something like this in the first place. Although it is a different process entirely, it is the closest thing I can assimilate it to. So just as I had dedicated my Grizzly tray to my good friend Grizzman for its inspiration, I would like to dedicate this project to Martyn. It is something I would have never attempted had I not come to known him and seen his precise work.

When I peeled off the pattern and sanded and oiled the tray, it took on an even better life than I expected. The walnut was smooth and warm and to me it looked beautiful:

From SLD333 Wright Inspired Candle Tray

Are there errors or hiccups there? You bet. It isn’t perfect as if it was made with a machine, but it is darn good and I am extremely proud of it.

From SLD333 Wright Inspired Candle Tray

I wish you all could see it in person, as even these pictures don’t do it justice. I haven’t done the ‘charms’ yet for the holder, but I know exactly how they will be. I think I will do that today.

I was supposed to start another project today, but I don’t think I will. I may run to town to do some shopping or something completely different for a day. I may come home and work on my pond figures or even start my shoe. Needless to say, I didn’t work on my shoe yesterday (sorry, Jordan, if you are reading this!) By the time I was done with this it was 8:30pm and I was done for the day.

Am I resting on my laurels? Maybe just for today. I want to bask in the feeling of pride and accomplishment for a day without pressures or interferences from anything. This is my payday. No matter how many dollars I make off of the pattern of this project, nothing will even come close the good feelings I have today. This is why I push so hard some days even when I am tired. This is why I do what I do.

From SLD333 Wright Inspired Candle Tray

And I am going to thoroughly enjoy it!

I hope you all have a wonderful day! :D

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

9 comments so far

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 3896 days

#1 posted 10-07-2010 02:11 PM

Another phenomenal pattern, Sheila, and very well executed! I love it.

-- Robb

View Billinmich's profile


244 posts in 3693 days

#2 posted 10-07-2010 02:14 PM

looks good Sheila,I have a hard time cutting straight lines on the table saw.You better get started on your shoe or you’ll be getting detention and have to clean the chalk board.

-- Bill in Mich

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3265 days

#3 posted 10-07-2010 02:18 PM

darn girl…no wonder you were tired…thats a beauty…you did a wonderful job and sure you have the right to sit there and breath it in…i do that all the time after ive made something…its a part of you…and weather anyone else thinks its art is one thing, but the things we make are usually art to us…but you can be assured…many will love this one…you did martyn proud…and yourself…have a great day…maybe a slower day today…work out the stiffness…lol…grizzman

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

View lumberdustjohn's profile


1263 posts in 3128 days

#4 posted 10-07-2010 03:14 PM

Looks nice!
What a good feeling when it all works out.
Chill out and enjoy it.

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 2998 days

#5 posted 10-07-2010 03:26 PM

Thank you very much, Sheila. I am honoured. This is a beautiful piece of work. Look what you have acheived. You are quite right to be proud of it.

I never seem to notice how much concentration I am putting into something until afterwards. To me once I am focused on the work I am in a small bubble of existance where only what I am doing and how well I do it matters. All the day to day worries dissappear. Just me, the tools and the wood. I make mistakes, like everyone else. I rant, I curse and I swear at myself, the tools and the wood. Unlike the rest of my life, however, in the shop there is no ‘I can’t do this’ only ‘how am I going to do this’. If it can’t be done I can be satisfied with that because I know I have tried. If someone else can do it then they will have earned the reward. It makes up for the ‘if only’ and ‘I wish I hads’ that life is plagued with. At the end, in the workshop, there is the feeling of acheivement and, yes, I do go back in there to look at what I’ve done. Several times. As you have found. There is a feeling of ‘I did that and no-one can take that away from me’.

Thank you also for helping to turn around a rather shitty day. I now remember what I do all this for. Not the adulation just the feeling of ‘Yesss, I did it.’

I like the project difficulty grading idea too. Though I might use infinity symbols , if I can find one.

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

View woodbutcher's profile


592 posts in 4128 days

#6 posted 10-07-2010 04:10 PM

Congratulations on completeing a most difficult and challenging piece of work. Technically speaking, I can see what you were faced with, long straight kerfs. Even the short cuts in the triangles are difficult too keep from cutting to the outside of the lines and creating a ballooning effect. Did you print the pattern twice and attach it to both sides? I noticed that your relief holes were drilled from the back side, that is why I asked. The blade control is evident through out the the tray. You have every right to be proud of successfully completeing a most intricate piece of work. Keep on keeping on.
Ken McGinnis

-- woodbutcher north carolina

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 2980 days

#7 posted 10-07-2010 04:49 PM

Sheila, This is magnificent! I was intrigued when you posted the teaser and now I’m floored with this pattern. I don’t usually like/care for modern art but I would definitely make an exception in this case. You are allowed to wallow in the adulations you will receive for this lovely tray. Edith also said this is pretty, and she doesn’t say that very often. It has to be outstanding before she will say that.

Congratulations on a very fine Work of Art!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2850 days

#8 posted 10-07-2010 09:43 PM

Hi Sheila.

That pattern looks a lot like a desk set by Tiffany that was on Antiques Roadshow not too long ago.

Nice, but way too intricate for my skill levels. So far… ;)

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View BertFlores58's profile


1694 posts in 2884 days

#9 posted 10-07-2010 11:13 PM

This is the most beautiful twist you ever did in creating design. I still believe that geometrical design unveils the real capability of anyone who success in putting it in flesh. There was a challenge before, now it is an accomplishment. The beauty you defined is not even enough to describe because there are greater things that are along with it… inspiration… dedication… most special someone to move you… and many others…
You deserve to be happy about it. It is really an achievement.
You also deserve this phrases from Shiela… I do second it. I know you put so much effort in exposing all the qualities that you have to help us and had remain humble. All I can say is keep it going.

-- Bert

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