My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #150: Dealing With Change

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-31-2010 02:10 PM 4149 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 149: Skating Through Saturday on the Paintbrush of Life Part 150 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 151: More on Changes »

I heard some sad news the other day. Apparently there is another painting magazine that is going to cease to exist. As I was reading my facebook news feed which is a mixture of friends, family, woodworkers and painters, I caught the thread where the announcement was made by a very respected long-time author of many painting instruction books. My heart just sank.

She had also said that not only was their painting magazine going to fold, but the other craft type publications as well. I couldn’t help but wonder if woodworking and scroll sawing were very far behind.

I know there will always be woodworkers, but in the years since I have been involved in woodworking and the crafts industry in general, I have seen it take hit after hit and it is now only a fraction of the industry it used to be.

When I first met the people from the magazine that I work with, I was at a huge convention in Chicago. It was one that most have probably never seen the likes of, and may never be that way again. It was held at the Stevenson Convention Center, which is a huge complex in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb near the airport, and it typically lasted over a week’s time, with the first several days being dedicated to classes and lectures and seminars. From Thursday through Sunday was the trade show which was isle upon isle of new and wonderful products which included selling scroll saws, to selling beads, paints kits and anything you can imaging crafting could be. The center was so huge that it would take you literally two to three days to get through everything and there were demonstrations and make-it-take-it booths where you could try all type of new products.

You needed to be “in the industry” to even get in the door and it was so packed with people that there was barely room to walk in the aisles. I remember coming home with bags of literature and information of new products and later on when I was more established with the magazine as a designer I would come home with armfuls of actual samples to try and design with, as they didn’t want to have to take their wares back home with them. I was happy to lighten the load.

When I met the people from the magazine that I worked with, it was a large group of editors from the various magazines that All American published. There were representatives from the general crafts magazine, the painting magazines (there are two) and and the scroll sawing magazine as well as others and front office people and the owners and their families. I came home from that first show with a handful of business cards from editors of three magazines that were going to publish my work and several new friends. That was almost fifteen years ago.

Now the conventions are much smaller. The scrap booking industry has given the general craft industry a boost, but there is so much available that I wonder how they are doing right now. I have been out of the convention loop for the past several years since I moved here to Canada, but the shows are much smaller I hear and they have really toned things down. Even my own company only send a few of their necessary people anymore. The two major general craft shows – the one I mentioned and another one which was traditionally held in California – were combined into one show now I believe due to the escalating costs and shrinking attendance. So many magazines have gone under that it is frightening to someone like me who makes my living through the publishing industry.

I also hear that my own company is eliminating one of their two painting magazines. Since I have known them, they had two publications – one for beginner painters and one for more experienced. On the same thread that announced the end of the competitors’ magazine, someone mentioned that my own company would be combining the two magazines into a single publication. That leave it as the only magazine of its type both here and in Canada. There are a few ‘fine art’ type of painting magazines. but nothing else to represent the type of decorative painting that I am doing with my little skating set. Would it only be a matter of time before my own magazine would be eliminated?

I understand the reasons behind all of these happenings, and I can’t say yet whether it is necessarily a disaster. The cost of paper and printing is escalating. The cost of shipping is also going through the roof. Add that to the ever-growing development and availability of the internet and there are many factors that are obviously contributing to the decline of the printing industry. Oh – and people don’t have the dispensable income that they used to either.

I am following a blog right now of someone who is for the first time publishing a Kindle book. Until about two or three weeks ago I didn’t even know what Kindle was. I have since looked it up on Google and it looks like it would be something that I would like and be interested in learning more about. As I watch the step that he is taking to publish this book, I see that the process is something that makes publishing your own book quite accessible for just about anyone. The cost is minimal. The risk is minimal and the result can be very positive. It will be interesting to see how things work out for him and I am hoping that they do.

In our own woodworking industry, we realize that we are no longer bound to printed material as we were in the past in order to learn new techniques and educate ourselves and obtain new patterns. We now have the internet which offers forums such as this, as well as online patterns and educational videos. When I was growing up, we only had our weekly dose of Bob Vila and “This Old House” to teach us the basics of woodworking (if it did even that) and other than that, we needed to go to the library and look for some printed materials on techniques or take a shop class somewhere if they were even available. Now we are fortunate to have all sorts of information, tutorials and patterns available whenever we choose by just going to our home computer on our own time.

As for my own business, I can honestly say that one of the best things I did for my patterns is to make them available via PDF files. I find that approximately 90% of my customers prefer this method of purchasing patterns from me. They not only save the shipping costs, but they also get their patterns almost immediately. If they lose a file, it is simple for me to look up their order if I don’t remember and resend the item to them. It saves me the time to print and ship the order, as well as the cost of the paper and ink. I find that I am able to put more step-by-step color photos in my patterns, as I no longer worry that it will cost me an arm and leg to print these patterns in quantity. That keeps the cost of my patterns lower for the customers too. I think it is a good thing for everyone.

So is the change really bad? I think that like most people, I am uncomfortable with change. I like the feel of a tangible magazine in my hands. I like being able to sit in bed and read and take a book with me to the doctor’s office or out where I want to go where I can’t take a computer. But times are changing and like it or not, print is becoming more and more expensive and impractical in many instances.

I have many boxes of magazines and instruction books that I will always cherish, but I realize that in the next ten years or so the pile will probably not really grow. I also find most of my information here in a digital world and I enjoy the vast selection and convenience of obtaining information here on the computer. I hope that over time, I will prepare myself so that if one day I receive notice that the magazine I work for will no longer exist, I will be ready and diverse enough to still be able to sustain my business in other ways. Being prepared will be key to my survival.

So as I look into the future for my business, I realize that the one thing I can be certain of is that it will not remain the same if it is to be successful. I am preparing myself for the changes to come and I am keeping myself aware of what is happening around me in the industry. Preparation will be the key.

Although I am saddened by the fall of one of the last remaining painting magazines, I am grateful for the wake up call that it has sent me. With the capabilities of my new site and the advancement of technology, I feel that the opportunities will be there for those who want to embrace them. Things may even be better.

“Today is not yesterday: we ourselves change; how can our works and thoughts, if they are always to be the fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed is painful; yet ever needful; and if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope.”
Thomas Carlyle

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

7 comments so far

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2943 days

#1 posted 10-31-2010 02:37 PM

Hi Sheila,
I like your ideas on the above blogs. It is easy to realize that all the changes in this world that will make something obsolete or even to a dying thing. With the advances of technology, we need to think of what is next… trending …. towards speculations.

But I assume a different view towards woodworking. I still have the coping saw which sometimes I still need if I do what the scroll or jigsaw can do.. though only on a limited extent. Some of the LJ goes back to the old times using handplanes, handsaw and other processes like making groove by chisel. This is what I thought an everlasting pieces that can survive.

No one can tell… that old stuff will just vanish. Books was very precious in the old those days.. now replaced by internet. Digital camera from those with negatives films (was it SLR???) However, I still believe that we should know the basics… like the newspapers are still in the streets and selling but honestly.. I just hear news on radio and see it TV. Due to availability of other sources of news (I mentioned TV but you can include internet), then newspapers are no longer needed because basically the objective is for me to be updated with the news… This is why we should be objective in our targets what really the user wants…
Thanks for the your very informative blogs… keep it up.

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2941 days

#2 posted 10-31-2010 02:57 PM

I too, still enjoy many of the things you speak of Bert. I love reading through magazines. Even the ads catch my eye many times (you know – when you look at the ad for the awesome table saw next to the article you are reading. Who doesn’t like to dream?)

I am the type of person who will embrace technologies such as Kindle and then fight the urge try to download and print the same material – just in case. :) So what ‘trees have I saved’?

Nothing in this world is black and white. Most things fall in a gray area. Since I finished writing this blog just under an hour ago, I discovered an online painting site called “Tole Town” which gives online lessons and has hundreds of patterns and tutorials to work from if you subscribe. The cost is about $49 for an entire year. That is about what it cost for the 8 issues of the painting magazine that just went under. One of my favorite designers is teaching an online class there in a couple of weeks and I want to join. She lives all the way across Canada and I would love the opportunity to learn “with” her.

So I am caught in the middle of wanting to keep things as they are for security purposes and wanting to experience the new. Like everyone else.

I want to learn the timeless ways to build furniture also. And so many other things!

I think in the long run when looking at things and really thinking about it, we are very lucky and fortunate to have the choices we do and the opportunities that are laid before us. I often think of all my friends around the world whom I would have never met if it weren’t for technology. I am grateful that it is there for us to embrace.

You have a great day!


-- 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 3058 days

#3 posted 10-31-2010 05:40 PM

I remember the ‘old’ tool shows that my favourite tool supplier, Axminster, used to put on. Huge. Marquees everywhere. It took forever to get around. You came out with a bag full of things you didn’t realise you needed and an armful of literature. If you’d been really spendthrift an order for some large equipment. They had woodwork competitions with catagories for all abilities. It used to be held at one of the West country show-grounds. Now its just as packed as ever, but smaller. The audience for it must therefore have shrunk too. I’d be interested in the age demographics of your companies customers, Sheila, just vaguely that is. I have a nagging fear that not as many younger people are interested in woodwork as there used to be. I hope someone can prove me wrong. Otherwise there is, at best, a declining future in crafts.

A major reason to make things used to be that you couldn’t afford the manufactured item. With things, craft things, it now seems to be the other way around. I still get a great amount of joy out of designing and building stuff, myself. Just for the hell of it. I like to think I can encourage others to have a go.

When people ask me what I do in my spare time I say ‘I’m subverting society by making things’. These are usually the same people who, when they see something I’ve made, say ‘Where did you get that?’. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that you can make things yourself. I wonder why?

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

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3019 days

#4 posted 10-31-2010 07:54 PM

The biggest problem is that all media in general has failed to update their business model to the new world reality. In the past, the real customer was the advertiser. Magazines, Newspapers, TV, and Radio would make most of their money off of whatever advertising they could sell and the content was just something to attract advertising consumers. They would charge obscene amounts of money for even tiny advertising space. The money they made off of subscribers or retail sales of magazines was trivial. Even better for them that they were the only game in town. Now, for less than the price of one little 2” x 2” advertisement, someone can get a whole website professionally developed with unlimited size, unlimited pictures, video, audio. Whatever they want.

I used to buy woodworking magazines. Just how many times do they think we are going read the same content? They cycle through the same list of articles: of: build a workbench, make a box joint jig, make a router table, tune a band saw, tune a table saw, cut dovetails. Then we get the tool reviews. What? Am I going to go and buy a new set of tools every year based on their reviews? Get serious. Most are a once in a lifetime investment. How many chisel racks do they think we are going to build?

They better figure out a better way to do business and attract readers or they are doomed.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View SawTooth1953's profile


327 posts in 3327 days

#5 posted 10-31-2010 08:11 PM

The first woodworking show I went to was at the Odeum in Villa Park and it had more vendors and attendees than the last show I went to, which was in Rosemont. The Rosemont convention center has grown a lot and the parking garage is nearly a two block walk to the convention area and, even though it is in a covered walkway, that’s a long walk to carry purchases from the floor to your car… I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

The next couople of years they skipped Chicago altogether and held them in Milwaukee, which I missed only because the dates conflicted with other commitments I had. FYI, the woodworking show will be in Schaumberg this year at their convention center (Dec. 10-12)... 29 vendors are listed on the website… I intend to go at least one day. I’m already saving up to buy a bunch of things I didn’t know I needed. LOL

-- Spence in Skokie, IL

View Verna's profile


202 posts in 2795 days

#6 posted 10-31-2010 08:45 PM

While I love the feel of newspapers and magazines in my hand, I can only keep so much printed media. I admit to now having only an on-line subscription to the daily newspaper—it’s always delivered on time and I don’t have to recycle it. I admit that I’m more likely to surf the web for a woodworking answer rather than go to the library or buy a book.

But, while I don’t subscribe to all the 13 magazines that I subscribed to in the 80’s, I do still subscribe to the two scrollsaw magazines and to WOOD magazine—the three most informative for me. I’ll pick up newstand copies of other magazines when I see something that I don’t think has been covered in another magazine that is already in one of my bookcases.

I do like the idea of the PDF files for the patterns for scrolling, and PDF files for how-to for other woodworking. I can store those on computer media storage and know that I will have them. And, I can print them at my leisure—less clutter for my heirs to get rid of!!!

My brother and I always take a vacation day the Friday in January when the Woodworking Show comes to Indy. While we may or may not buy much, it’s a ritual that we don’t miss. We even took his one-year old grandson last year to make sure he was exposed to his Grandpa’s and Great Aunt’s passion!!! We go to every booth shopping and browsing. It is noticible that the show is less than half of what it was in the early 90’s when I first attended it.

So, while our woodworking has evolved with the evolution of technology, I feel we do have to embrace the new technology, to a certain extent. BUT we can still create the family heirlooms that we’re used to creating with our hands, with our tools. And, we’ll make make them so much better than what we can buy in the stores.

Excuse my ramblings…...a very good subject. Thanks, Scrollgirl.

-- Verna -- Indianapolis, IN

View sras's profile


4805 posts in 3150 days

#7 posted 11-01-2010 05:04 AM

A very thoughtful post Sheila – good to hear that you are working on adapting in anticipation of change rather than trying to catch up later. I get my years worth of FWW on DVD upgrades – which is good for them as I never had become a subscriber. Publishing your own book on scrolling sounds like a great adventure!
Another example is printing pictures – We used to go through a couple rolls of film per month until we got a digital camera. In the past nine years I doubt we have printed 20 picutes and we have taken around 10,000. They show up on our screen saver on the comuter in the kitchen

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

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