My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #388: Know When It's Time to Make Changes

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-02-2011 02:10 PM 4263 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 387: Why Am I So Unsettled? Part 388 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 389: Growing Pains »

When things aren’t going exactly how you want them to in your life, you have two choices. You can leave them the way they are or you can change them. Although I realize that we don’t always have the ability to change each and every situation, more times than not we do and for some reason or another we choose not to.

Change often brings discomfort, as most people like the sense of familiarity and the security that goes along with keeping things as they are, even if they are hurting themselves. Fear of the unknown has stifled mankind for ages. Even though one may not be happy in their current situation (job, relationship, other aspects of their lives) they choose the comfort of familiarity over changing things and venturing out into the unknown. I have been guilty of it myself in many situations, and I find it amazing how it creeps up on you when you don’t expect it.

I have also learned however, that once the changes are made and the risks are taken, the rewards can be great. How many times after we have made such decisions have things worked out for the better and we find ourselves saying “Now what took me so long to do that in the first place?”

Live and learn.

Lately, I have felt a bit of unrest with my business. Although it is growing and doing better than it was a year ago, there are still several little and not so little things about it that bother me. If you read my blog here daily, I have probably mentioned them here and there, but on their own, they are benign little annoyances and even you as an outsider don’t recognize them as to being as harmful as they are.

However, as they all start to add up, they do begin to eat away at my creative soul and bother me. I think that is just what was happening to me.

It is somewhat of a tricky game here blogging to you every day. In the beginning when I started writing, the purpose of doing so was to journal my business and therefore my life and sort things out each morning and give me a clear direction for the day ahead. I never would have thought that I would have met so many wonderful people through my writings (I never even thought anyone would read it!) and I truly feel that I have made a great number of friends from all over the world and have benefited greatly from your friendship, advice, suggestions and feedback. I like to hear how my positive outlook inspires others to also look at things from the pink cloud side of life and somehow makes life more positive for them. too. It keeps me writing every day.

When I express my grievances, I try to be as diplomatic as possible. I tend to generalize and don’t stoop to name calling and pointing fingers at specific people or companies. After all, I need to work with those companies and businesses in order to survive and it would be foolish to bite the proverbial hand that feeds. But sometimes things just need to be pointed out. I write this page daily so that those who aspire to do what I do can see some of the ups and downs of the business side of woodworking. It isn’t just draw pictures and take the checks to the bank. If it were that easy, everyone would do it.

As I said yesterday, I decided I needed a change and went to the beach. I have been here in Nova Scotia for over seven years now and Mavelette Beach is about a ten minute drive from my home and I have not once spent any amount of time there. I walked on it a couple of times (mostly in winter actually) but I hadn’t spent any quality time there enjoying it. I thought it was time.

I packed my travel bag with a small pillow, sunscreen, my notebook and pen, a diet Coke and some pretzels. My partner had other things to do so I decided to go myself. The day was warm and clear, with a cool breeze blowing.

Many people think that Canada is all polar bears and ice caps. Although we do have our cooler days and few really “hot” days, it can be quite pleasant and warm. I live a couple of kilometers from the ocean and it is amazing how driving even five minutes away from the sea the temperature is so much warmer. It was warm when I left, but I still brought a sweatshirt just in case.

I arrived at the beach just after noon. It was Canada Day so there were probably more people than usual there. However, growing up in Chicago where the beaches were always peppered with literally thousands of people, this was still quite private and pleasant. I found a spot near the dunes immediately and noticed that the tide was on its way out. When I initially sat down, the water was maybe fifty feet from me. Before long however, it was several hundred yards back.

(My new “office”)

From Mavilette Beach, July 1 2011

(Task at Hand)

From Mavilette Beach, July 1 2011

I settled in and wanted to get to work at the task at hand. The goal I had set for myself was to map out the scroll sawing class that I am to do here with an outline of what I wanted to teach. It was the perfect setting of quiet and no interruptions that I needed to do so and within an hour or so I completed it. That was one huge weight lifted from me.

After I was finished, I didn’t want to go home yet. The sun was warm and it was a good time to just think and sort things out. I watched, of all things, a young man actually surfing the small waves that were rolling in. Nova Scotia is not knows for its surfing, as the northern Atlantic waters are icy cold even in August. Only a few brave souls actually go in. But this guy was persistent and I found myself silently cheering for him as each time he paddled out and caught a wave, he successfully rode it into shore. Good for him.

(You can see him in the background)

From Mavilette Beach, July 1 2011

While sitting there and watching him, I though of my own business and how (much like that surfer) I needed persistence and tenacity to be successful. There were several times when he fell, but it didn’t daunt him at all. He just paddled back out and tried again – many times successful. I was happy for him when he had a good ride. I found myself smiling. It brought things into perspective to me that in order to be successful, we all need to not only be persistent, but we also need to fall sometimes. That is just the way. Falling is not failing. And the important thing is how we deal with the falls and how we change our behavior to avoid future falls. This is what will make or break our business.

Which brings me full circle to what I started this post saying. We have choices.

It strikes me odd that yesterday at this time I felt I had little to write about and was quite discouraged and right now I feel as I could write a book. I didn’t even get into any specifics here as to what I have discovered about things, and I am already writing one of the longest posts to date. I have so much I want to share with you about things and what I have figured out. I also have some new directions that I decided to go in that will either make or break my business. I feel I am ready to take the risk.

It is no fun feeling like you are being taken advantage of. I am finding that there is nothing that will suck the creativity out of me faster. I found that little by little, I have allowed not one, but several of the companies that I work with do so. I don’t think it is entirely my fault, as they are subtle in their actions. As I said, at times like this it isn’t one huge thing that opens your eyes, it is the delicate, small things that eat away with you little by little until one day you wake up and wonder how you allowed yourself to be put in the position you find yourself.

But that is the time you need to ask yourself the difficult questions. Do I want things to remain like this (or get worse?) Or do I change my own behavior and reactions and put an end to it now? Without change things will remain the same. It is up to me to initiate the change. Only then will I be truly happy.

Who would have thought a trip to the beach would be so beneficial? Those couple of hours there by myself allowed me to clear my head and think things through and come to some good decisions. I am fortunate to have such a wonderful “office” so close to me. I think it is a good example of what can happen when we don’t take the time for ourselves. We get stuck. These breaths of fresh air are essential to our well-being and emotional health, as well as our productivity.

I will leave you today with a final picture. You can always click on the title and go to my Picasa album to see all the pictures. There are many more that I uploaded there.

From Mavilette Beach, July 1 2011

I apologize for the length of this post. There is so much more I want to share and I will do so in subsequent posts. I know so many of you who struggle through the same things that I do with your creativity and woodworking and life in general. I think sharing these experiences is very important to all of us.

Thanks for indulging me today. And thanks to all the supportive comments and PM’s that I received yesterday. It was good to come home and know I have so many good friends in so many of you.

Have a great Saturday.

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

16 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4156 days

#1 posted 07-02-2011 03:13 PM

I’m only part way through the blog so will have to come back to it but I just have to say that you actually have three options
1. keep on doing what you are doing and grumbling about it
2. keep on doing what you are doing but change your attitude and perspective about it (ex. from, “I hate my job” to “I’m doing this to put food on the table and I am grateful for this job”)
3. change what you are doing.

ok.. gotta run
back later!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3032 days

#2 posted 07-02-2011 03:31 PM

Setting expectation levels can be important. I used to install large computer systems. If I had a system that I knew (all things going well) would take two days to install, I told the customer it would take four. No its not laziness. If things went well I’d give it to them in three days and they’d be happy. If things didn’t go well I had time built in the schedule for me to fix things at a reasonable pace. They’d still get their system by the four day deadline and still be happy. Imagine if I’d told them two days and delivered it in three, or four. Very unhappy customer and a lot of stress on me.

The customer shifts their deadline stress down to you. This is where the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ in deadline setting often appears. As the designer you have nowhere and no-one to shift your’s down to.Obviously I don’t know but I suspect you may have been a victim of your own success. Possibly delivering ahead of deadlines. Additionally the tendency for the customer is to always want more, quicker. If you don’t have your own built in buffer that comes out of you, literally. Mentally and, if you let it carry on and get to you, physically. I’ve been there. I don’t want anyone I know to go there. Its not a very nice place.

This may sound like instruction or even dictation. Its not. As with everything I comment on, people are perfectly free to ignore me. Either way, Sheila I hope you soon find your way out of the situation.

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

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2764 days

#3 posted 07-02-2011 03:56 PM

Good for you (getting away for a day). I know just what your talking about. I sometimes feel I’m being pulled in to many directions and everything is out of my control. At times like those I find that having a several hour drive to go to a monthly meeting, where I’m an attendee not a presenter, I have time to reflect, and redirect my priorities, and reassess the work before me. I usually return with a plan, feeling re-energized, back in control and knowing it’s time to say NO.

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2916 days

#4 posted 07-02-2011 04:00 PM

Martyn, I believe that you are pretty close to on track of what some of what is going on. It is multi-faceted, but one aspect of things is pretty much what you are talking about. I have been jumping higher for so long that it is normal to them and now they seem to raise the bar even more.

One observation that I have made is that even though I have many contacts with different people, companies, etc., each one thinks that they are my only concern. I have tried to make each one feel important, as they are, but sometimes by doing that, they think that they are my ONLY concern and deserve to be at the head of the list every time.

Everyone wants exclusives. Everyone wants ‘first rights’. Saying no means jeopardizing future work with them, which I need. It sometimes turns into a constant game of spinning ten plates and not letting any of them fall. It can be exhausting.

And in return, they keep cutting corners more and more at the designer’s expense. These past few weeks have had a series of “crunching” from both sides.

One example (which I only found out last night after I returned from my soothing day) was that a customer called “Company A” looking for one of my candle trays. They said that they didn’t like that “Company B” was charging too much for them and that “Company B” told them that “Company A” went out of business – which they did NOT. Unscrupulous to say the least.

I further found that “Company B” was selling most of my items for about $1 more per pattern – even though eight short months ago, they tried to give me $1 less for the wholesale price – saying they didn’t think they could sell them at my price. Apparently they could. They already get 60% of my price and then add another dollar to that means that they are getting about 75% of retail. Nice for them. Oh, and then they want to put time limits on stuff and have first run. (I don’t think so)

They keep taking and taking and one day I just won’t be here. After all, WE are the ones doing the work and have the ideas. But at this point, I still need their distribution to survive.

The answer – Self Sufficiency. Plain and simple. Not easy, but a place I need to invest my time.

Sorry for the rant. There are days when I just get fed up. Perhaps I have jumped through one hoop too many.

(breathing, breathing, breathing)

I think you are pretty bang on though. Realization that there is a problem is the first step. We’ll work from here. :)

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

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2916 days

#5 posted 07-02-2011 04:04 PM

And Dan – your message came as I was ranting above. That is exactly what I did – evaluate and figure out it is time to say NO. Sometimes you need to come out of the storm in order to see the rain.


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

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 4081 days

#6 posted 07-02-2011 04:31 PM

Good for you, Sheila. There is a big difference in ‘being cooperative’ and allowing yourself to be ‘walked on.’ If you truly ‘need them’ to survive (which, Surprise! you may find out is wrong-headed thinking if you actually dive off that high diving board) then being diplomatic with the changes is called for. And if they talk tough, call their bluff. No magazine can survive by piling more demands on their top contributors, and they know it, but they’ll push for all they can. If you start setting up to go independent, and diversify into paid teaching, writing for other magazines than your standard fare, and keeping up a running mail-list of clients for new offerings, you’ll have enough buffer to withstand their testy demands.

And, isn’t it interesting, you decided to take a day at the beach on a whim, and there, in the cold Atlantic waters of all places, was a beginning surfer, determined to get to his goal? Very serendipity!


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2916 days

#7 posted 07-02-2011 05:39 PM

I thought so too, Barb. I thought I was reading too much into it, but I found myself watching him try and try and try again and I thought it quite interesting. Makes you think, doesn’t it? :)

Thanks for allowing me to vent everyone!


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

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4156 days

#8 posted 07-02-2011 08:01 PM

“Who would have thought a trip to the beach would be so beneficial?” – I did, I did!! Connect with Nature, clear your head of all the “crap” (as I call it) and refocus on what your intentions are.

Set your “bottom lines”, know where your limits are re: compromising etc.

Sounds like you did all that – and more.
Congrats on a highly effective day!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2916 days

#9 posted 07-02-2011 08:19 PM

Thanks, Debbie! You all are so wise! :) It is good to have friends to help you find the way when you are lost! Discussing things really does help. I feel so much better with a plan!


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

View stevebuk's profile


57 posts in 2680 days

#10 posted 07-02-2011 11:17 PM

dont be bullied or railroaded where you dont want to go sheila, you are the boss and what you say goes.. Its far too easy for these companies to hold out hoops for you to jump through , but sometimes you have to decide which ones are worth it and they want you for you and what you can offer without tieing you down.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2838 days

#11 posted 07-02-2011 11:28 PM

Sheila, the type of designs that you create are just not my “thing”. However, I can see the quality of your work though. Here is what I have seen in one magazine. I won’t name the magazine as I’m sure you can figure it out. In the issues that have your work in them, your work is simply a cut above. If I didn’t read your blog every day, I probably would not be aware of any of this. As I do read it though, and know the amount of effort you put into your work, it seems that as a general rule, your work is the cream of the crop out of all the patterns in the issue.
The thing is though, your work is usually buried in the issue in between projects that I could probably draw and design myself, and I’m not a designer by no stretch of the imagination. The other patterns I see a lot are old ideas that may have some minutes details changed, but have been seen so many times that it just seems to be repetive. Or they seem to be copies of past designs. Then, to make matters worse, there are times that if I hadn’t already seen the project on Lumberjocks, I’d have to dig deep, search, and look for small print to even see that you are the designer.
I don’t know if this is customary or not, as there are only two scroll sawing magazines that I look at on a regular basis. If you just flip through either of those two mags though without having a little knowledge of how things work, you’d think that the mag has designers on staff and that all the patterns in it were designed by staff and owned by the magazine.
In my opinion, the mags should give designers more credit. Without the designers, they wouldn’t have a magazine, period. They can only rewrite so many articles on how to set up a scroll saw, square a blade, etc., etc., etc. From what I can see, the designers are the only ones bringing anything new to the table while the magazine makes a bulk of the profit from it. This is the exact reason, as I’ve said before, that if I want to order a pattern, I order straight from the designer when possible, not through a magazine or website that offers many designer’s works. That way, the designer gets the profits, not CEOs of some huge company.
I know I’m probably only saying what you already know. The big question though is what to do about it. I wish I had easy answers or great advice for you. I do not. I do not know enough about your business to offer much advice. I only know that from what I have noticed in the magazines, and knowing you, that you are not getting the respect you deserve.
I wish you all the best though. I hope you can figure out a way to turn things around. I know you put a lot into your work, and passion, or lack of, is what makes or breaks designs when dealing with artistic style work. I have to apologize though. I started out typing a numbered list of things I would demand of the suppliers and magazines to change if I were in your position. I made it up to number six when it struck me that I was wrong. I know nothing of doing the work that you do and have no business even suggesting to you what to do or how to handle it.
So with that said, I will leave it at, I wish you the best. In the end though, I am positive that you will pull through. I have already watched you ride out an economy that has put several designers that I know of out of business. So I have confidense that you too will get back on your board and keep going.
Have a good weekend, and get to the beach more often. It ought to be a sin to live that close to it and not enjoy it more.


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2916 days

#12 posted 07-03-2011 02:05 AM

Thanks to you both Steve and William. I am working on getting everything in order. I realize that I need to stand up for myself and I also need to count on my own abilities and have confidence enough in them so I can continue to do what I do. Otherwise I won’t be able to survive.


-- 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 3111 days

#13 posted 07-03-2011 03:27 AM

congrat´s with your new office :-)
and thank´s for the pictures good to see there still is someone who can enjoy the beach
almost forgotten how it can be. rain an windy with low temp. the last two month more or less
witch isn´t normal with so few sunny days

good for you that you got the eyeopener …........ now its time to find out how to get from A to D
without to drive thruogh B and C using the F and M rute

take care

View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2611 days

#14 posted 07-03-2011 03:36 AM

Sheila , sometimes you have to get away .
For me it is a walk in the woods sit down on a stump and watch the wild animals . it clears the mind and makes it easier to figure out the problem and how to correct it . Sometimes it takes more than once to get the direction I want to go . Do not be afraid to stand up for what you believe , You take alot pride in your work , and it shows. Trust in your heart don’t let others tell you how you are suppose to do things I now we do sometimes but they are more of a suggestion than telling you . Take care and don’t get stressed out

-- David ; "BE SAFE BE HAPPY" Brockport , NY

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2800 days

#15 posted 07-04-2011 02:56 PM

only one thing comes to mind
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can”

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

showing 1 through 15 of 16 comments

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