My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #502: I Never Want to Know How to Milk a Cow

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-25-2011 12:35 PM 6135 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 501: New Projects In Progress Part 502 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 503: New Ornaments! »

No one said that just because we are self employed that we have to like every aspect of our jobs. As with any occupation, there is good and bad. I suppose the trick is to be able to do much more of the good stuff and keep the bad stuff to a minimum. I think for the most part, I am able to accomplish that. But sometimes you just can’t avoid doing stuff you don’t really like.

Some of you may remember way back in January when I teamed up with another designer who makes awesome painting patterns and created a surface that she would be able to paint on for a piece that she was publishing. It was a giant snowflake puzzle, based on my original snowflake candle tray design. She had seen the tray somewhere and had a great idea of making the center area a puzzle.

Her name is Monika Brint and I think she did a fantastic job of making a cute design. Her website is HERE if you want to see her other wonderful designs. Here is the finished piece:

Monika asked me if I would be willing to provide the surfaces and be listed as a source in the article for those who don’t cut their own wood and want to purchase the wood pieces. I naturally agreed to do so, as I thought it would help bring new customers to my business and also would be a way to make a little extra money on the side.

Long story short, I spent part of yesterday cutting out some of the snowflakes that were ordered.

I did not have fun.

When I got my new Excalibur 21” scroll saw, I was asked a couple of times by others why I didn’t go for the 30” saw. Having a bigger throat meant that I would be able to cut bigger pieces. In this world of people always having to have the biggest and best of everything, I will be the first to step up and say that I don’t need (or want) the biggest and bestest scroll saw. After cutting this 16” diameter piece for a couple of hours, I couldn’t imagine myself wanting to do anything bigger.

My good friend Cari and I used to have a saying between us.

“We never wanted to know how to milk a cow.”

What the heck does that have to do with anything you may wonder? We figured if we had a cow and knew how to milk it, it would open the possibility that someone, some day would ask us to do so. And that is one thing I can’t ever see myself wanting to do.

Now I am going to add to that list and say “I never want to own a 30” scroll saw.”

Now before all you guys and girls who make gigantic pieces start harassing me, let me say with there is nothing wrong with cutting bigger pieces – if that is what you enjoy doing. Truth be told that I see nothing wrong with cutting large items. As a matter of fact, I admire people who do it a great deal. I just don’t find any pleasure whatsoever in doing something like that myself.

I found yesterday that the couple of hours I spent cutting the snowflakes was the first time since I got my new saw in April that I really didn’t like what I was doing. It was cumbersome and heavy and my arms and wrists got tired and even though the cuts in the piece were very simple and basic I considered the entire job -well – a chore. I found every blade change a pain in the patoodie and even though I put on my favorite music to try to make an icky task more pleasant, when that final cut was finished, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed or sad as I usually am when I finish cutting – I was thrilled!

They say that in order to appreciate what you have you need to walk in someone else’s shoes once in a while and this was a very clear example of how effective that philosophy can be. I am not one to use absolute and extreme phrases, but I almost want to say that I will never enjoy doing pieces like that, and it will be rare before I get myself into something like that again.

Now I had a couple of ways to wriggle out of it. My partner Keith offered to cut it for me. So did Leldon. But me being my pigheaded self decided that I was going to be the one to do it. Why? I just don’t know. I suppose I still have the mentality that I need to do these types of things within my business. Oh, and I also wanted to earn the extra money to be honest. With Christmas coming up and all, the little bit of extra would be nice.

Do I regret taking this job on in the first place? Not at all. I think that it may be another branch that I can add to my business. Monika was a dream to work with and I have admired her designs for many years. Just being able to collaborate with her on a project was a treat and I hope to do it again some day.

I think that the most important lesson that I needed to learn in all of this is that taking on jobs such as this is sometimes necessary in order to help my business grow. However, I need to allow myself to let go on this type of work and sub-contract it out to others who are willing and able to do it (and may even ENJOY it!)

Thank goodness everyone in this world doesn’t think the same. Just because it isn’t my cup of tea, doesn’t mean that others don’t like doing this type of cutting. Just as all others don’t always enjoy cutting some of the small intricate pieces that I like doing so much. That is what makes the world so interesting.

So the moral of the story is that I need to learn to choose when to let go of things and allow others to help out. I may lose a little control here and there, but trying to do every single aspect of my business will only serve to limit how successful I can be. I am only one person. In this case, my time would be better spent designing I believe and the business will benefit from it far more than if I continued to take on jobs such as this for myself.

Lesson learned. :)

I see this as a crossroad in my businesses’ life. I need to make some important decisions on these types of things. I need to have trust in those who work with me and little by little let go of small jobs like this so I can concentrate on the big picture. Only then will I be able to continue to grow.

Today will be spent getting my materials to to the magazine for my calendar project and finishing up the new ornaments. I look forward to seeing them come to being and they are all cut and just need the embellishments and finishing touches. That is the part of my job I love to do and I am always thrilled to see them come to life.

I can’t wait to get started.

I hope you all have a great day too. Remember – it isn’t a ‘job’ when you are doing something you love.

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

5 comments so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6858 posts in 4001 days

#1 posted 10-25-2011 02:04 PM

Hi Sheila,

I know what you mean.

I spent most of this summer doing a project that no one should do by themselves, but with things being slow, and the money being right, I went ahead and did it anyway.

It was a major pain. A complete renovation of 4,000 square feet of commercial office space, including a couple hundred 10’ sheets of 5/8” sheetrock to be hung and taped. Hanging that sheetrock on days that were around 100 degrees was no fun. Insulating the walls wasn’t much fun either!

Funny what we’ll do for money.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2941 days

#2 posted 10-25-2011 03:07 PM

Once in a while it isn’t bad to do stuff like this Lee, but I think if we did it all the time, it would kill us! LOL Your project sounds really involved. Once I hung wallpaper for a large office. My son was just a little guy then and we really needed the money. A friend who was a contractor doing a job for this office offered me the job. I started work at 7pm after everyone was gone and we finished about 4 or 5 in the morning. It took about a week and I was the one doing the paper all on my own while the guys did other construction in the building. I would only get a couple hours of sleep before my son got up. It was tough but I lived to tell the story. You are right, we do some things we don’t want to sometimes just to survive. In this case, it wasn’t that bad, but I still have the utmost admiration for the scrollers who do the large stuff! :)

Have a great day! Sheila

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

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3107 days

#3 posted 10-25-2011 03:30 PM

Learning how to milk a cow is not very difficult, but it is the fact that you also have to feed it, clean up after
it, give it a large area to roam and milk it every AM & PM on schedule whether you want to or not. Not
attempting to invalidate your thread, just wanted to point out that sometimes taking on a job you do not
like can escalate into a whole world of I did not know I had to do that too. Not that I have ever made that
mitsake more than two or three times before I learned. I hope you continue to enjoy your job and share it
with us.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2943 days

#4 posted 10-25-2011 04:38 PM

Someone asking me to make a gunbox that can hold all his guns and its huge.. same size as the luggage … wants to be made of plywood as it is cheaper… yet the demand is much stronger… What a nice way?!!!

There are two ways why I do a job….
1) it is the call of opportunity and duty. This usually happen when someone is asking for my assistance
2) it is my pleasure to challenge my capability in doing the job. The usual way… starts from concept and design and ends with the reality…

The bottomline… HOBBY WORKS—Satisfy my heart and mind while OTHERS’ REQUESTED JOBS – Satisfy those receivers (clients in the world of business).

-- Bert

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3039 days

#5 posted 10-25-2011 08:43 PM

You are so very right in that some parts of your job really sucks and the parts we “kill” to do are never
1) big enough
2) last long enough
3) make enough for you!
4) fill your thing here…..........................
The parts you hate invariably last much longer than you want it to and you usually have to bust your butt to make any money! I know, I’ve been there and done that!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

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