My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #132: Three Cheers for Lists!

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-13-2010 01:48 PM 4370 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 131: Trying Not to be Overwhelmed Part 132 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 133: Enjoying the Small Successes »

Things turned out great yesterday. It was a very productive day and I accomplished far more than I expected. I took some of the advice that was offered and I made a list and just began checking things off one by one as I finished things. By the end of the day, I was able to lay my head on my pillow knowing that I did my best and with far less anxiety than I woke up with. What a great feeling!

After getting my regular house stuff finished, I made a list and prioritized what needed to be done. This did help take the worry out of the day. I found that much of the time, when I am feeling anxious it is because I am concerned that I am going to forget something. Just the simple task of writing things down helps me stop thinking about that and frees my mind up for the task at hand.

One of the first and foremost things I needed to do was to rework the line drawings for the skating pond figures so that I could get the estimate on the laser cutting. I usually draw my designs in a line that is .5 pt thick. This is ideal for scroll sawing. However, the laser needs a much finer line to follow, so I needed to convert everything to .072 pt to make it work. The process of converting the lines itself is very quick, but I also needed to clean up and close the paths and remove all the internal line work, as the laser is just going to cut the silhouettes. There were some small overlaps and areas where there were perhaps double lines or a stray point or two that were invisible to the naked eye, but the laser would ‘see’ and read. Some of the points were just remainders of lines and were themselves completely invisible except when they were highlighted and I wanted to get rid of them so I could offer clean and neat drawings. I discovered the information pallet in Adobe Illustrator which showed the number of open and closed paths, as well as the number of points each object contained and the total length of the lines. This was very helpful in doing this task, as I did achieve my goal of each object only consisting of one closed path.

The trees were another issue which I felt I needed to deal with. When I drew the trees, I made them very deep and bushy, as evergreen trees are supposed to look. However, when looking at the amount of minute details I had put into them, I realized that much of it was quite unnecessary. All of the trees will have Sno-Tex on them, just as the bridge does, so many of the weaving lines are to be covered over anyway. There are five tree pieces with this style of tree in all, and by simplifying the pattern slightly, it made a huge difference in the total length of the cutting line. In one tree alone, it went from eighty something inches to fifty something inches, saving much time (and money) when cutting, as the laser cutting fees are based on distance.

I converted an example to show you all what I mean:

From SLDP103 Skating Pond Figures

The tree on the left has a total length of 45.39 inches. The tree on the right has a total length of 71.16 inches. That means it would cost quite a bit more to have the piece on the right laser cut than the piece on the left. With the addition of the snow and painting, I don’t think that visually there would be very much difference at all. It isn’t as if the trees are the focal point of the scene. I believe the simplified version doesn’t compromise the integrity of the project at all, and will save me a substantial amount of cost. The trees are the most costly pieces by far, as the other pieces are actually quite simple in silhouette form.

It took me over four hours to finish working on the entire set. But even if I don’t wind up being able to afford the laser cutting, it will make things much better for me as far as my own cutting of the pieces, as it will also save me all of those inches (and time) if I were to hand cut them myself or hire someone else to do so.

I did get the estimate back from the gentleman last evening and he gave me a quote of about $30 per set prior to shipping and taxes. I am really undecided what I am going to do because of the ‘unknown’ factor as to how these will sell. I may wind up cutting them by hand, perhaps with the help of a couple of friends who will want to work for me doing them, but I need to get a feel for how many will be ordered. I can cut them three sets at a time by stacking the wood, but it will still probably take at least 3-4 hours. If it were on a limited basis, that would be fine, but it will take me away from designing and any of the other tasks that will help my business grow in the long term. Production work is NOT what I want to do.

I am going to keep looking and keep getting estimates, as I do have time on my side for a change. Nothing has to be decided today. I may cut myself another set just to see the actual time it will take and then too I will have a couple of sets here handy, but I will also be looking into hiring others to do it too. I just have to watch because I will need to pay them right away and my own ‘working capital’ isn’t where I am in a great position to do so. I am just getting on my own feet now and there is not a lot to spare at this time. We will just need to see how it goes.

After that, I started on the next tray. I received the figures from my main wholesaler yesterday morning for September and I was very happy with them. The candle trays (the first six) have done incredibly well – better than I could have imagined, and it showed me that business-wise this is what I need to continue to work on. There are as I had said, over 50 designs that I have listed and I need to keep producing them as long as they keep selling and before someone else jumps on the band wagon and starts doing their own. (Yes, that happens quite frequently in my business!) Someone had mentioned in a response somewhere that ‘quality not quantity’ should be foremost in my mind. I always think that way and hopefully you all can see that each and every design I do is with the same dedication and attention to details. I do believe I am capable of producing quality designs in a short period of time. I don’t see that changing.

I was pleased that the drawings went fairly well and I did finish it up at 9:30 last night. I didn’t expect to, as I was just going to start it and see where it went, but it flowed again quite well and I just didn’t want to stop until I finished. As a bonus, I now get to cut today – something I didn’t expect to do until tomorrow – and I can’t wait to see it finished. It is pretty I think, and no way as intimidating as the FLW tray so I don’t really see it taking all that long.

I did also finish up the pattern packets yesterday, including the new Wright Inspired tray that I presented here last week. I sent it to the wholesaler for the next catalog and I believe it did make the cut, as I hope this one does also. I am not absolutely sure on her dates, but I know they are soon. I believe though that in light of the good sales of the other trays, it will buy me a little extra time in getting more to her. We shall see.

So it is off to cutting for me! A wonderful way to spend the day. Hopefully by tomorrow I will have some new pictures for you. I can’t wait to get started!

I also really want to add another skater to the blog, as he is done and waiting to be presented. And I heard from the wood show in New York again that I need to send them another bio for their web site. Now that may be a bit more challenging than anything else today. They want a brief summary of my professional life. Yes, we can all chuckle over that. Somehow I feel that will be the biggest challenge of all!

Thank you for all the comments and support yesterday. You are all a great help to me in keeping my head clear and staying grounded and not letting my own anxieties get the best of me.

I wish everyone a happy ‘hump day’ and hope you all create something beautiful today!

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

8 comments so far

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2947 days

#1 posted 10-13-2010 01:53 PM

On a side note – I wanted to comment that I woke up this morning to the news that the first of the 33 coal miners in Chile have been brought to the surface and rescued. I know I don’t usually speak of news and politics, but I cannot tell you how much this wonderful news has touched me and has lifted my spirits. I don’t have live television or cable here, and get my news from reading the NY Times and Chicago Tribune, but I do try to keep up with reading and my heart just soared when I read the story this morning. What an incredibly great way to start the day!

You all have a great one too!

Sheila :D

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

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2916 days

#2 posted 10-13-2010 03:05 PM

Hi Sheila.

Here’s an idea I used to use for “production” of pieces like your skaters. Get a scroller that wants a couple of sets to make as gifts and make them an offer. You mentioned stacking three sets together for cutting. They stack cut three sets from your plans and with your materials, and one set is theirs to keep. This saves your working capital and provides the scroller way to get a great deal on some christmas gifts. If they want three sets as gifts, you end up with six sets for stock.

Another benefit is the fact that, as they are cutting your sets at the same time as their ow, you know they will be taking care to do a good job.

Not sure if this will work for you, but it’s worth a thought. It worked great for me in my days of selling leather craft at art and craft fairs.

The way I see it, if the laser cutting costs you $30 and saves you 3 to 4 hours, it’s a bargain, as doing it yourself means you are only “earning” $7.50 to $10.00 per hour. Surely your time is worth more than that.

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

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2947 days

#3 posted 10-13-2010 03:11 PM

I know, Tiny. I think like that too. I used to take the money up front because I had no choice – I had to eat and pay bills. I think it is good to do it like this because if I do get, say 200 sets ordered, there is nothing stopping me from using the laser services at some point when hand production is no longer a choice. It is good to have backup and I will price the sets accordingly when I do sell them. It would be nice to get to that point, but for now, I think it is smart not to invest too much and just have a couple of sets on hand for the initial orders to see where we will wind up. Conservative is best I think. Maybe I am learning after all!


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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3143 days

#4 posted 10-13-2010 03:20 PM

that was some great news you come with Sheila I didnĀ“t know nthey were so long with the process
had to read about it before I answered you :-)

you realy did accomplised alot yesterday :-)

about the list thing I have used them before with some success
speciel if you priotere things and make the most importen first all the times
and set time on how long you can use on every thing I discovered that the time
I used on some things nearly halfed with out giving me too much stress
but I allso had to cut off all the small exstra things that always try to sneak in and disturb
like freinds or some from other business and let them know they had to make an apointment
by doing that I realy get the office part of the business speeded up in to 6th gear instead of
crawling in the first gear and most of my stress allso seems to disapear :-)

have a great day yourself Sheila

take care

View Steven Davis's profile

Steven Davis

118 posts in 2942 days

#5 posted 10-13-2010 09:15 PM

Does Canada have options similar to the US Small Business Administration to help folks like you? Would it be possible/sensible to get a loan for a laser cutting tool so you could bring this “in-house”?

It sounds like you are getting to the next step with your business – best of luck!


-- Steven Davis - see me at

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2949 days

#6 posted 10-14-2010 01:28 AM

Hi Sheila, I am glad of the changes on todays blog.. the list on your priorities helped. Another way of being productive is by delegating work. I am very curious about laser cutting.. hairline… in this process, I have a suggestion thought that you can create a double design.. the waste or cut portion may become a positive or silhoette of the other piece… meaning cutting two in one design. As I can see, the WOW element is essential to the business.. point that into your goal…

I was also hearing over the radio while driving last nigth from office to home. The determination of those survivors is extra ordinary likewise the group effort of those rescuers..

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2947 days

#7 posted 10-14-2010 02:39 AM

I am also intrigued regarding the laser cutting. I would love to have a laser machine, but right now I think that would be taking too much on. I have long been struggling with myself in regards to painting patterns vs. woodworking patterns. When I first began my business, my focus was unclear as to which direction I wished to pursue. I love painting and it just seemed to go hand in hand with scroll sawing.

However, most painters don’t cut wood and most woodworkers don’t want to paint wood. In my several years experience, I have given in to that fact and have learned to respect these differences. It is still difficult some days however to have a clear line drawn between the two, as you can see with my skating pond set. I am not quite sure which market it will do the best in, but I suspect it will be the painters. In targeting them as potential buyers, I need to make the wood that many of them can’t cut themselves available. This drags me back into that gray area again.

As you all have seen, this complicates things a great deal for me. I am finally making headway in designing woodworking patterns and I have learned to shy away from production work, which doesn’t pay enough for me to make a living. However, I want to branch out at least a little bit into the painting market because it will open an entirely new customer base for me so that if scroll sawing doesn’t do well or declines, I have another avenue to pursue. With the advances I have made in my computer skills and my own ability to offer color packets and printing at a reasonable cost, I do wish to develop more patterns for painters. I just need to have a source for wood for specialized projects like this skating pond. The last thing I want to get into now is scroll sawing (hopefully) hundreds of sets of these by hand. I don’t want to make little or no profit either by paying near-retail prices myself to obtain the figures – thus the dilemma.

When I am unsure of things such as this, I found the best thing that I could do is take things very slowly and carefully think them through. Little by little the answers to all of these questions will help me make the best decision for myself and my business.

It helps when discussing things like this and hearing ideas from everyone. It helps me realize that there are options out there that I may not have thought of myself. I think over time and further evaluation, I will come to a good decision.

So for now I will just continue to explore the different options I have and do my homework. I am going to continue to obtain estimates from as many laser cutters as I can. Since most of the packets and kits will be shipped from the United States, I will also be able to look at companies from there. I have learned that that best way to do things is to not go over the border if I have to.

Also, to Steven – My business is still based in the United States. I didn’t give up my citizenship (and never will) and when I become a Canadian Citizen I will be dual. I am in the process of investigating whether it is best for me to keep my business in the US or bring it here to Canada. So far, my accountant thought it was in my best interest to keep it there. I agree, as I don’t really have the extra money and time to move it, which will be substantial. Either way I will be paying taxes in both countries so for now, I find it is best left where it is. Later on I will be able to spend the time necessary to investigate it further. Besides, my customer base has grown a lot this past year and I don’t need another disruption and I don’t want to look unstable to them. Especially not in this economy.

Thank you all again for the valuable input. I do consider all that you have to share and appreciate it very much.

Sheila :)

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

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3045 days

#8 posted 10-14-2010 06:00 AM

Interesting that a few less lines does not really detract from the design but makes a big difference in production runs! I hope you solve your problems and make headway.

Yes, I too have bee following the news about the miners in Chile and am happy they are rescued. I shudder to think of what the results would have been if the authorities had written them off and not even tried or attempted the rescue.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics