My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #217: Do I EVER Learn?

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 01-06-2011 02:05 PM 4705 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 216: Self-Confidence and Reaching Your Potential Part 217 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 218: Making Lemonade from a Snowflake »

I spent much of yesterday working on some custom type design work that I had promised a couple of people. I always say that I don’t want to get involved in production work, but somehow there is always a project or two that straggles into my life. The only way I accept these type of projects is on a “I will do it when I can” basis, but those of you who have been following me through this blog probably figured out that there is seldom a day when I sit here and scratch my head wondering what to do.

In any case, I once again have found myself committed to doing two totally separate projects and I wanted to get these odd jobs off the books, so to speak and I decided that now was a good time.

The first job is pretty straight forward and I don’t really mind doing it at all. It is a crest for a customer who does scroll sawing. I have done work for him in the past and he asked me if I would make a couple more designs up for him. He first approached me at a time when I was really struggling and I needed every penny I could and I was very grateful for the work. He treated me well, paid me promptly and the job involved drawing up plans in Illustrator, something that I love to do anyway. The pictures of what he requested were clear and easy to understand and it made the job easy and fun.

When he approached me just before Christmas with another request, I agreed to do it. Although I realize that I had set somewhat of a precedence for charging little for my time, I had appreciated his support in the past and decided that I will keep my rate the same. It would be very difficult for me to all of a sudden request a large jump in pay, and since his requests are few and far between, it wouldn’t hurt, I felt. I suppose that is one of the perks of being the boss – you get to set the rates you charge others.

I worked on the pattern for him and it only took me a couple of hours to complete. I only have to do the final layout on it today and it will be ready to go. Below is a picture of one of the other crests that he made from a previous pattern that I did for him. He does beautiful work. :)

The other job, I am sorry to say, isn’t going as smoothly.

I had another painting designer contact me regarding drawing up and cutting some surfaces for her to use in her design work. I have loved her work for several years, as she frequently has her designs published in one of the sister magazines from the company I work for. She loved my snowflake candle tray and asked me if I could modify it to make the inner diameter 8” wide and simplify the snowflake border so she could use it for one of her painting projects that she would be submitting for publication. I would not get paid for this work and provide her with one or two surfaces, but I would be mentioned in her published article and pattern to be the source for the wood.

Since I had admired her work for years, I was somewhat star struck and flattered that she even asked me to do it, and I agreed.

What the heck was I thinking???

Don’t I listen to myself? Don’t I read my own blogs? Haven’t I said over and over (and over) again that I don’t want to get into production work?

It is as if the ‘old Sheila’ (the one that is destine to be poor and work for nothing) took over me. I already have so much on my plate (including my OWN painting projects that I want to work on) and here I am doing something for someone else and I know in my heart I will never make a dime off of this venture. But commitment was commitment and I had agreed and she has a deadline so onward we must forge. (Maybe I”M the one that should be committed!)

The drawing and revisions went fine. They only took an hour or so and after a couple of back and forth emails, the design is what she wants. Good. Now comes the part of making a couple of them up to send to her.

It needs to be done on 1/4” MDF or plywood – neither which I stock. I live in a small town, remember and my pickin’s are slim. There is one place here, but it is traditionally overpriced. However, she needs this in her hands by next week so I have no choice.

I went over there yesterday and they had no MDF that I could use. It needed to be that thin because it is a puzzle and has both a base and over layer and they need to be glued together. Anything thicker would be too bulky. Also, it is about 15” in diameter so it will be quite large and heavy if I go to thick.

Long story short, the only choice they had was plywood with knotty pine on one side and birch on the other. Anything else they had was a cheap quality and you could see voids in the sides, which would be very unacceptable for this type of scroll work. I picked a sheet and had it cut into thirds so I could transport it home and store it (I had to buy the entire sheet). As my partner was loading it up in the car, I went in to pay.

The clerk ran up the order and my bill came to a whopping $60! OUCH! Now you all KNOW that I don’t mind spending $40 and more for a nice little piece of ebony or rosewood or something equally beautiful, but sixty bucks for a crummy piece of plywood seemed INSANE to me! But what could I do?? The sheet was already cut and I now owned it.

So today I will be cutting out these two snowflakes (which – by the way – I have to pay to ship to her too!) and licking my wounds. I am going to keep the remaining wood in storage so that if ever someone were to order one of her pieces, I will have it, but after figuring the cost of the wood and the time it takes to cut and assemble the piece, I am going to price it accordingly and I seriously doubt that there will be any ‘takers’. At least I hope not.

It is funny that I see this as such a bad decision on my part. In the past, I wouldn’t even have recognized it is such. So I am hoping that there is hope for me after all. Now the trick for me next time someone asks me is to remember this BEFORE I make the commitment. Then I will know that I am on my way!

I will button this up today and get it off the books. I will also look at it as a lesson learned. Hopefully, I will get a few orders from my site to balance the books out for me today. I am not going to beat myself up over this poor decision because I know better now and it won’t happen again. I’ll put some good music on while I am cutting and enjoy myself while doing it, knowing that I am learning a valuable lesson. I have read many stories from others here at LJ’s that have found themselves in similar situations, so I don’t feel that badly. At least I am in good company!

And it will be a great day! :D

-- 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 tdv's profile


1188 posts in 3093 days

#1 posted 01-06-2011 02:28 PM

That’s a beautiful crest. Regarding the pain in A** job wouldn’t it be reasonable to say to this lady ” The project is completed, & although I have designed & provided labour in exchange for goodwill , I assume you realise there will be a charge to cover the cost of materials as the supplier wouldn’t enter into the same contract? Charge her $30-40 if she baulks at that show her your receipt (at least it may lessen your blow)

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2943 days

#2 posted 01-06-2011 02:38 PM

Well, that would be difficult Trevor because I already said I would provide her with the surfaces free. When I did some painting for the magazines, there were several companies that would give me surfaces to use for projects free of charge, in exchange for listing ordering information linked to their company. It is customary to do this. If I would have found the MDF it wouldn’t have bothered me as much. Also, the price I gave was for the entire sheet. Her designs will only use a portion of the wood I had to buy. I only hope I can find something else to at least make back the money that I put out for it.

I could always designs something myself using it. :D


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

View rando1's profile


163 posts in 2947 days

#3 posted 01-06-2011 02:48 PM

Ms. Sheila. We all do this, don’t let it slow you down or distract from your beautiful skill and work. Always look to pay it forward. May not seem it now, but it will come back around to you. Stay focused.

-- Randon Riegsecker,

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3138 days

#4 posted 01-06-2011 03:53 PM

well even thow he makes beautyfull work youhave to tell him the prizes had gone up
a lot more than he used to pay
so tell him that from next time you will charge him the same as other costummers do

how thick is the plywood ….well maybee I have an idea you can build/design further on :-)

have a great day

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2861 days

#5 posted 01-06-2011 09:33 PM

Don’t you hate it when you have already lost your shirt BEFORE you incur the shipping costs. I did that once, and will never do it again. And just to make sure the customer would think twice about any bitching and moaning that he may feel like hurling in my direction for whatever readon I included MY INVOICES – for the materials, crating and shipping costs. I circled the grand total and wrote “my costs.” I made a grand total of 20 bucks on the deal. Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased with myself. BUT I also did not receive any negative feedback from the customer.

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18285 posts in 3699 days

#6 posted 01-07-2011 09:33 AM

It sucks!! Last spring I did a job that covered the costs of materials. Had bad info for the bid. Sorta makes up for the good jobs, don’t ya know?? :-)) I don’t feel so guilty about the ones that look like windfall profits ;-)) Edit: forgot to mention I worked 2 weeks of 10-12 hours days to boot! :-(( I hadn’t been working much. Felt good to get back, now to just make some money again ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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