My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #369: Designing at a Variety of Levels

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 06-13-2011 12:53 PM 3842 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 368: Switching Gears Part 369 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 370: On to Something New (finally!) »

The day is just starting and already it looks to be a good one. Even though it is kind of gloomy out and raining, I feel good about it and I feel like I am going to accomplish a lot.

Sometimes when we do the most work, we don’t seem to have much to show for it – at least on the surface. Planning something out and sorting out the details frequently takes longer than making the projects themselves. At least for me it does.

I have a busy month ahead of me. The next few weeks will be spent working on projects for the early September catalog. Traditionally, that is one of the biggest in terms of mailings. It is the first big introduction of all the new holiday items that people would want to make to sell at upcoming craft shows. Many are returning to their shops at this time of year after summer breaks when the weather is too warm to work and summers’ activities take prescient over sawdust. It is definitely one of the biggest times of the year.

As I contemplate what I will be working on for these issues, I realize that the type of designing I do really depends on what time of year it is too. I am not speaking of the obvious holiday designs, but of the difficulty of the designs themselves.

As a designer, it is natural that I would want every item to be a masterpiece. When I first began submitting to magazines and working for wholesalers, I always pushed for a higher and higher level of design. That is fine and should be the way it is, but it comes to a point where there is a need to tone things down a bit so that what I design is more streamlined to make. There are levels of projects that are suitable for different applications and I need to be aware of that.

In thinking about it, I have broken it down to three levels basic levels of projects that are in demand.

First of all, there is a more basic level. These projects are those that are sought after by people who make them to resell. They need to be eye-catching and innovative, and stand out at craft fairs, but they shouldn’t be something that is extremely difficult or takes hours to make. Many of them are holiday themed or used for decorations, so they can’t be something that is needs to be sold for a great deal of money. The perfect project at this level is something that is quick to make, relatively inexpensive, and able to be produced in quantity.

The next level of project is one that will be made for gifts. This type of project can be a bit more involved, and also take a bit more time to create. Many of these are for personal gifts, so if completing one item took even a couple of days, that would be fine. I find that it is the hobbyist who does woodworking on the weekend and loves to give away their projects to friends and family. They don’t mind spending a little extra money or time on making things, as the goal is not monetary, but rather the satisfaction of creating something themselves to offer as a present.

The third level of projects is for the woodworker who creates simply for the joy of creating. They have no intention of selling their what they make, and find the biggest satisfaction in the challenge itself. To those woodworkers, the more detailed and intricate the project, the better. They seek out projects that are beautifully designed and are in no hurry whatsoever to finish them.

Most woodworkers are a mix of two or more of these types, I believe, and there is no set boundaries which define them. And some projects can also fit comfortably into more than one category, depending on many different factors. However, being aware of what my customers will be using the patterns for will help tremendously in deciding just how detailed to make a particular design.

Yesterday my partner Keith made a couple of mini- candle tray designs. These are smaller versions of the trays that I make for the large jar candles and will accommodate both votive candles and tea lights. As I watched him draw, I thought to myself how simple the design was. In my mind, it was almost too simple and lacked a certain amount of detail.

However, I usually keep my thoughts to myself on his designs unless asked, and this time was no different. I went along with my business and did my own thing and he continued to finish the drawing and proceeded to the saw to cut them out.

In a matter of a couple of hours, he was finished, and I was pleasantly surprised at how attractive the two trays were. They were beautiful in their design and simplicity, and looked far better in reality then they did on paper. I am happy for him, because I feel in my heart that they will be good sellers. In my own mind, I admitted to myself that yes, I was wrong.

One of the best things that I found about having a partner is the added dimension that he brings to the business. Working with someone not only adds to the output of the business, but more importantly it adds to the dimension of the business. It allows us to look at things from another ’s perspective first hand and inspires us in directions that we would not be able to explore on our own. Given the right formula, it is a wonderful thing for a company and an individual.

Keith’s simple, yet beautiful designs got me thinking about the days ahead and which direction I want my own designs to be in. Being aware of your audience is imperative if you are to be successful in selling to them. You need to be able to fill their needs, not just your own need to create, in order to be able to offer them something that they desire. It could make a huge difference in your business.

I appreciate having a partner such as Keith who brings so much to the business. It has done wonders to have a fresh set of eyes and ideas and has helped both directly and indirectly in so many aspects. If anything, it shows me another point of view on many things that I may not have considered in the past, and helps me expand my own thinking.

So with that in mind, I will continue to work on my designs for the upcoming catalog. I am going to try to do things at a variety of levels so that I can have something that will appeal to each of the types of customers I have. It is also much more fun for me as a designer to mix things up and do different things. It keeps me fresh and excited about what I do. And that, I believe , is a good thing.

Have a great Monday!

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

3 comments so far

View patron's profile


13611 posts in 3395 days

#1 posted 06-13-2011 01:31 PM

great insight sheila

the hardest part for me in my work

as i live alone

is the amazing joy i feel
when something is revealed along the way

and there is no one to share it with
sure the finished product is shown

but it’s the small visions and gifts
i receive that bring so much joy

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2896 days

#2 posted 06-13-2011 02:01 PM

Having someone you trust around sometimes is a great thing when it comes to scroll work. If it weren’t for my wife, Lisa, most of my projects would take many months and be so complicated that I’d probably be labeled a nut by all that seen them. She’s my stop light that tells me usually when enough is enough. She’s gotten good enough at that job that she doesn’t even have to say it anymore. I’ll be running my ideas her when I’ll get that look. Too much you say? She’ll just slightly move her head up and down in agreement.


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2974 days

#3 posted 06-13-2011 02:11 PM

Yes, I am very fortunate and attribute much successes that I may have to having someone here for feedback and insight that I may not be able to see myself. I, too have lived alone and during that time I was probably the least productive I had been in years. I have also been with others who have had no interest or understanding in what I do and if anything, it took the fire out of me. It is good to be able to work with someone close by. Be it as an active partner or a critic, or someone to bounce ideas off of. Our group here is good for that too, and I think we are all important to each other in those respects. It is far more than the “atta boy’s (girls) that we give to each other. It is the genuine insights and support.


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

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