I am the type of person that always tries to do the best work that I can do. I think for the most part this is a good thing and helps me grow as a designer and also as an artist. I have been scrollsawing now for almost 20 years and as time passes, I find myself still learning new techniques and skills. A clear example of this was when I went to New York this past spring and met with other scrollers of all levels. I felt that not only was I the teacher, but at times the student because there were several techniques and ideas that I found worked well for me.
We never stop learning.
One thing that I learned in particular was that some of the things that I take for granted when working on the scroll saw are difficult for some that are just beginning to learn. It is funny how once we learn something and it becomes part of our everyday practices, we sometimes forget that we didn’t always know what we do now and take some things for granted. For that reason, I think that teaching is a very good way to remind me just how far I have come.
When I design new projects, I try to create patterns for projects that are not only attractive, but also are a little challenging. I present each project as a mini-lesson, and I try to gear my instructions so that most levels of scroll sawyers will be able to complete the designs successfully and perhaps learn something new in the process. I do this for both my painting patterns and also my scroll saw patterns.
I like cutting out my own designs, and even though I have had many offers from others to do so for me to help me out, I have so far declined. Many times it isn’t until I am cutting the project that I find areas of the design that could use some refinement. I move a line here or remove something there and make the design more practical, stronger, and overall better. Even though this may lessen the number of patterns I produce, I think that cutting the designs myself allows me to familiarize myself completely with the process and correct any unforeseen problems that may arise. I know that many designers don’t cut their patterns at all, and in the past I have relied on Photoshop to produce a few of my plaques, but I only resort to that on occasion when I am really pressed for time and the designs are simple enough where I am fully confident that everything works well. The last thing I would want is for someone to invest the time and expense of making one of my projects only to have it fail because of a design flaw.
Besides, I truly enjoy the cutting process. I find it to be relaxing and fun and it was the whole reason that I got into this business in the first place. If I were to allow others to cut for me or bypass the cutting altogether, I don’t think I would enjoy my job as much at all. I love my new saw, and it makes a good thing even better. I find that my cutting sessions seem to end much too quickly most times because I tend to get lost in a world of cutting. When I complete one project, I always look forward to the next.
I worked on the frames for my songbird ornaments yesterday. I find it interesting that I have changed my mind so many times on what I want to do with these. Originally, I thought that I would like to make overlay frames that would be placed in front of them. Perhaps I would cut them to look like vines or branches. This way the birds would be looking out from the trees.
I also thought of adding a frame variation which would consist of holly leaves and berries. This way if they were to be used as Christmas ornaments, they would be festive and go with the season. But when I drew them up, I portrayed them sitting on different branches and trees (and even a cactus) and I thought it would be inappropriate to surround them all with holly leaves.
Also, after seeing how nice they came out, I found that I really didn’t want to do something too complicated to frame them. They were in themselves, quite detailed for their small size. I was so pleased at how they looked both natural and painted, that I felt by putting any type of complex frame around them would be overkill and take away from the birds themselves. (I only figures this out after trying several variations, both leaves and branches) In the end, I wasn’t happy with anything busy at all and I thought I would try something completely different – simple.
What I came up with was a simple oval that would be placed behind each ornament:
It seems odd to me that after struggling with so many different ideas, the one that I feel is the best is the simplest. I had even entertained the thought of having no frames at all, but the ornaments were far too delicate for that and by incorporating a hanger into their bodies or heads at the proper balance point, it would certainly make them too weak to hang and they would break.
The simple oval solved several of the problems that I was encountering. It would not only strengthen each ornament, but the oval would somewhat protect the protruding pieces from being bumped and cracked. The surrounding oval would act as a barrier from jarring and would add greatly to the overall durability. The ribbon or cord that would hang the ornament would be far enough away from the body or head of the bird that it would not interfere with the overall look of the ornament or distract from it as it would if it were directly attached. And finally, the clean oval would be appropriate for any time of the year, not just limiting the piece to the holidays. I could see people using these year round to hang in a window or on a wreath. It would be a wonderful summer piece I think.
I may wind up including in the pattern a small overlay piece that can be glued on the top of the oval if one wants to add a holiday flavor to the piece. But this will be completely optional and I think that they look just fine without any additional embellishments.
It may seem like I labored far too long on a detail such as the frame for these ornaments, but I feel that the time was well spent. Sometimes we have to travel down many different paths before we find the one we feel truly comfortable with and know in our hearts is the right one. When I was in the process of deciding which way to finish these ornaments, there were times when I was quite discouraged. Nothing seemed just right to me. Nothing that I tried matched the vision that I had in my head, yet the vision itself was still not completely clear to even me.
When I tried this simple frame, I knew I had found the answer. It seems that I was thinking too much and trying too hard and over complicating things. I wanted the birds themselves to be the focus, not the frames. And I am very pleased with the results. I hope you all like them too.
Have a wonderful and creative day!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"