My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #397: Unexpected Success

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-11-2011 12:52 PM 4130 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 396: Productive Days are Good Part 397 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 398: Almost Routine »

It is odd how some days can begin by being just ‘ordinary’ days, but by the time the sun sets, they turn into something special. I love when that happens. It fills us with promise and hope on the not so good days when things don’t seem to be going exactly as we planned, and a sense of adventure in knowing that any day could turn into something special.

Yesterday was just like that.

It began ordinary enough. I did my blog here and my emails and all the morning house stuff that needs to be done every day. I wanted to put another dent in the skating pond figures so I spent a bit cutting out eight more sets. I like cutting them this way. I put on some great music and cut for an album or so and the time goes by very quickly. The whole experience is pleasant and while I am cutting, I am fresh and not fatigued at all and feel good about the accuracy.

I didn’t want this project to be a burden, and so far it isn’t. Seventy-two sets of detailed figures may sound a bit intimidating, but when it is done in an organized way with little pressure and in smaller batches, it is really enjoyable. As usual, I love having some great music in the background. Either I play it on the speakers, or I use my cordless headphones and I am cutting away in my own little world. The cordless headphones are one of the smartest investments I have recently made. They are comfortable and the music is transmitted right from my computer, which has a huge variety of music. I had over 500 cd’s when I moved to Nova Scotia and since then I have ripped all that music onto my hard drive and the collection has grown. I also have access to my partners large collection of music, as our computers are networked together so we can share everything. I have access to everything from classical to classic rock to rap and everything in between. Whatever the mood is, something fits. It really makes working on things like this (where you cut the same pattern over and over) a joy.

After I was done with the cutting for the day, I planned on working on my painting project. But the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day outside. It was just after noon and Keith and I decided we would take a ride and do some exploring. We love to just drive through the countryside, weaving through the back roads and along the coastal roads that were off the main highway. Since we stay home most of the cold and winter months, this is our time to get out and see the world. I really think that it is part of the reason that I don’t get ‘cabin fever’ like many do in the winter. I take advantage of the nice warmer months and have some adventures.

We took some pop and a few things for the drive, and also took his beautiful pens with us ‘just in case’ we found a place to show them. He has over 30 now and the case was full of beautiful designs. We had shown them to a local gift shop a couple weeks before, and the store owner liked them very much, but she already had a man who sold her turned pens that she was working with for years and didn’t want to have us compete with him. She was very positive though and took Keith’s business card and promised to call if things changed. Her attitude was very positive and supportive and I could tell she honestly liked them and would have taken them. And she said that she thought what he was charging for them was very reasonable. That was good.

So we went for our drive, meandering between the highway and the coast. We stopped and visited a nice antique shop that we had passed by many times before. On the outside it looked rather junky, but when we went in we were amazed at the amount of quality things that were on display. It kind of showed me how easy it was to misjudge something just by outer appearance.

As we worked our way toward Yarmouth, we arrived at a particular shop which Keith was planning to visit to inquire about the possibility of them selling his pens. It was another place that we had passed many times and never taken the time to stop in. It was located in a beautiful period house that was over 300 years old.

We were surprised because it was much more of what I would call a ‘gallery’ than a store. Apparently they only accepted hand crafted items done by local people. As we walked from one room to another, we were more and more impressed with the quality of the glass work, paintings, felted wool items, jewelry, pottery and yes, woodwork. There were some beautiful intarsia ornaments and some nice wood turnings and a few other fine pieces. Every piece in the shop was quality – and the prices did reflect that. The paintings ranged in price from about $150 to over $1000, which they certainly deserved. The other items were priced similarly, and it made us both feel good that there was a place where craftspeople were getting a fair price for their work. In the short time we were there, there were several customers, not only browsing, but actually purchasing items. One small group of three left with a large replica of a beautiful sailboat, carefully wrapped, with the mast peeking out of the paper. The gentleman who purchased it was practically beaming, and you could tell he was happy with is new acquisition.

Later on while we were talking with the owners in the back, another customer came to pick up a painting which was also carefully wrapped. There was plenty of action for a Sunday afternoon and it was a good indication that it was a healthy business.

We had been browsing around and looking at the place when the owner approached us and began chatting about one of the photographs we were admiring. He was personable and friendly and Keith mentioned that he had some pens he made and asked if he would be interested in seeing them. The owner said “Absolutely” and Keith went to the car to get his case. We had noticed two small and simple pens were on display near the jewelry and were wondering if this would be a deterrent as it was with the other shop. But those pens were nowhere near as beautiful as Keith’s. I know I am prejudiced, but I am just being honest.

When Keith opened his case to show the owner, you could see his jaw drop. I knew the minute he saw them, he liked them very much. He asked a lot of questions about the materials and the finishes and at one point, I believe he thought that Keith just bought them already turned and put them together like kits. He said “You mean YOU turn these?” and when Keith answered affirmatively, he asked “Where are the little lines you get from turning?” and we both smiled. They were pretty much flawless.

Here is where his being particular paid off. He priced each pen accordingly to the level and materials used in each kit. The lower end pens were still nice and certainly worth the money he asked of them, and the higher end titanium kits with the more expensive materials were also worth the prices he asked. There was no question at all.

All in all, we left nine pens there with them. They gave the option of buying outright or on consignment, and he chose to do the consignment. It was certainly a low risk shop, and they document everything that was left with them and gave him signed statements. They had been there for years and actually lived in the beautiful home and we felt secure that they were honorable people. By taking the pens on consignment, they took a bit less of a percentage meaning the mark up would be less and so would the selling price. Hopefully that will mean more sales.

It was a very good start for Keith selling his pens. The owners even invited him to participate in an art festival in which there is a studio tour and people are given a list of studios, galleries or houses to visit to see hand made items for sale. It was an honor to be asked and it attests to how much they thought of his work.

We went to a nice dinner to kind of celebrate his new venture, and then go back home in the early evening. I wound up working on my painting project until just before midnight, as I was also excited for Keith and not ready to settle down yet.

I am happy and excited about my new project too, as it is coming out cute and I can hopefully offer it to Artist’s Club for distribution later on. It is Halloween themed though and I realize that they won’t probably take it until 2012 if at all, but I will also be selling it on my site. It is a nice change of pace and it feels good to see it come together.

So all in all it was a great day. I am so pleased for Keith. His pens are beautiful and even I am amazed at how good he is in only a couple of short months. Here is a picture of one of his latest pens:

It is a Baron pen made of buckeye burl and green pearl acrylic. It is a roller ball pen and the hardware is gold titanium, which will last forever. The finish on it is just flawless and it is a pleasure to look at and hold. I am so very proud of all he has accomplished and can only imagine where it will lead for him.

The moral of today’s (long) post is that you never know what each day will bring. Even a seemingly ordinary day can turn into one of hope, promise and excitement at the blink of an eye.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau

Have a great Monday!

-- 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 William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#1 posted 07-11-2011 01:22 PM

Congratulations on your (meaning both of you) new adventures. I too have been amazed at how quickly he has taken to turning those pens. I am aware that there are others out there who may do the same level of work (even better in some cases). The difference though is that it seems like yesterday we heard about you two getting the lathe. So he is still rather new to it. The people I have seen who I would say do the same level or better work have been at it for a long time, years , and in some cases, decades.


View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3134 days

#2 posted 07-11-2011 03:53 PM

This pas Friday started just as you described – - – nothing planned, just a lot ideas swirling in my head. I started sorting through my scrap pile, just looking. I noticed a piece left over from making one of my canes. I am one of those that if I don’t see something inside a piece of wood, I’d put it down and do nothing with it. There was a spoon hiding in this piece. So I kept turning over and over in my hands and started to see a fork on the opposite end of the spoon and just for kicks, I twisted (mentally) the spoon against the fork – and I liked what I saw. I started working on it on my bandsaw to rough out the top view. Then drew the image on the side view and back to the bandsaw. Everything after that was pretty much chisels, gouges, round files of different courseness and sizes and a lot of sanding from 100 to 600. I went back to the twisted section and rounded it from it being square – I didn’t like that. I finally “finished” it (although do we ever consider a piece ‘finished’?) late Sun evening, took some pix and posted as “My Sporks”.
I don’t claim that I invented the spork . . . at first I wanted to call it a spoork, but it didn’t sound as good as a spork. Yes I power rough carved it at first, then it was pretty much by hand tools, and as I said . . . lots of sanding!
Thanx for sharing your inner thoughts, Sheila. I am happy that I am sharing some of your thoughts.

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2976 days

#3 posted 07-11-2011 04:09 PM

Thanks so much!
William – I am amazed at how good he is in only a few weeks. He is really really dedicated and talented and obviously picked up things very quickly. I love seeing people’s reactions when they see his work.

And LittlePaw – It is amazing where our inspiration comes from. Sometimes it is from a piece of wood that was was sleeping in our arsenal of lumber and one day decides ‘it’s my turn!’ I love when that happens!

Sheila :)

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

View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2671 days

#4 posted 07-11-2011 04:55 PM

Congradulation on your consignment of Keith’s pens . I hope it works out . Got to love them rides out and about discovering new places .

Shelia , might be a place you could sell your paintings. What you got to loose.

We were out camping and took a ride out in the booney’s got hungry found this little restaurant call “Speckle Hen ” was a old farm house , the parking lot was a dirt lot , walking up to the place there was chickens running loose in the yard that needed mowed. Mary didn’t like the ideal one of them following her. But they sure had some good home cooking . So just because the outside don’t look good don’t mean it is not a good shop .

Have a safe productive day will make you happy


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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3171 days

#5 posted 07-11-2011 05:55 PM

congrat´s Keith :-)
Sheila you are a great advertiser for keith´s ballpen :-)
and with right ….. it does look goooood … I´m saying this as a user of many pen´s
not as a turner I don´t think I ever will turn a pen if I get a lathe it will be used to make
new handles etc. for old tools :-)

have a great monday both of you :-)


View stevebuk's profile


57 posts in 2740 days

#6 posted 07-11-2011 10:03 PM

well done to both of you, i knew the pens would come good in the end.

Are you selling them on your website sheila, if not, why not…8-)

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3092 days

#7 posted 07-11-2011 10:32 PM

Good to see craftsmen and women can still get a decent price for their work in this world. I’m not usually an admirer of the turned pen but this example of Keith’s is exquisite.

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

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2976 days

#8 posted 07-12-2011 01:34 AM

Thank you very much everyone. I am sorry I didn’t reply right away but it was a busy day.

As I said, I am very proud of his work. And Martyn – it was very refreshing to see such a nice gallery that had actual buying customers. We have heard that even though the ferry to Maine has been discontinued, many businesses have been busier than ever. As you know that is a great sign in these times. The gallery owners seemed happy and not afraid to invest. As I said – they offered to buy outright.

And David – the gallery wasn’t the place that looked run down, it was a different antique store. This gallery was very well kept and charming. The house was over 350 years old, but kept up very well. I will take a picture next time. And yes. It may be a possibility for my paintings at a later date. But this was Keith’s day – I wanted to see him get his foot in the door first. I call look into that later on. :)


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

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