Every day we are faced with hundreds of decisions to make. Most of them are simple and we don’t even notice we are making them. (What flavour of jelly you put on your toast, for example.) Some of them are more important and have lasting consequences. (While sitting in the eye doctor’s office and looking at a chart – “Which looks better to you? A or B?”) And others still may or may not have lasting impacts, but may eventually have a cumulative effect on you in the long run. (Should I have cream in my coffee because it really makes it yummy, or should I behave and have 1% milk?)
Without really realizing it, we are molding and shaping our lives through hundreds of these daily choices we make. Fortunately we have trained ourselves to do this without thinking for the most part. If we had to carefully think about and consider each and every decision that we come across during the day we would be exhausted before noon, and probably get little accomplished.
Every so often though, we do have to put thought into making a decision. While there are times when we are confident in ourselves and know that what are choices are will be beneficial to our overall being, there are others when there is more of a grey area and we aren’t certain of the path that we should follow.
Lately I have come across a situation like that with my business. While many designers struggle to keep coming up with fresh and new designs on a daily basis, most of the time I find the opposite true for myself – I have too many different ideas and don’t know which one to do first.
I know that is a good problem for a designer to have, but it can still raise my anxiety level as much as having a dry spell does. It kind of reminds me of playing roulette – which square do you bet on? Will the number you put your money on be the one that will pay off? Or will you choose wrong and invest your time and energy on red while you watch the little ball fall into the black space?
For me that analogy is pretty realistic. We all know the state of the economy and small businesses such as mine are very volatile at this point in time. I think the entire craft industry is and I am sure that many of you are aware of it. People who are struggling to pay their mortgages and keep their jobs just don’t want to spend their time or money on creating and crafting right now. The more people that struggle, the more people we lose as customers on both ends of the scale – those who buy patterns to create items themselves and also those who buy the finished items. This I believe not only affects the painting and crafting industry in general, but the woodworking and furniture industry as a whole. I have noticed that everyone is quite cautious from the designers all the way down the chain to the shops themselves that sell furniture and gift ware.
So how do we overcome this phenomenon?
I believe that one answer is to be flexible and diverse. It only makes sense to not ‘place all your eggs in one basket’ and depend on one avenue to make your living in this type of field. Even if it is as simple as having your finished goods in several different shops, it could help you avoid a disastrous meltdown if that shop were to drop your line of articles or go out of business. While diversification means a lot more work on your part, I believe that the extra time you spend in having several outlets is well invested.
I am going through some very difficult decisions business-wise right now. It seems that I have several deadlines looming from different sources that need consideration and subsequent action on my part. My usual juggling act includes doing work for the magazine, the wholesalers and my own site. It seems that those are my usual main responsibilities and over the years I am fairly good at dealing with those three efficiently.
But as my business grows (and I WANT it to grow) there are more things added to the mix. I have had the opportunity to write some articles for a well known company who makes some great woodworking tools and equipment. While this is not a paying position, it is great exposure for me and I would classify it under the category of ‘advertising’ for myself and my business. I also have the opportunity to work again with The Artist’s Club – the wholesaler that distributed my little skating pond scene last year. It seems that they were satisfied with the results of the sales and are open to considering anything new that I come up with for them to carry. Of course it isn’t a given (nothing is) but it gives me the opportunity to implement my designs and name into the decorative painting market – something that I love to do also – and keeps that avenue open for further development for my company in the future. I also saw this cool technique that can be applied to both woodworking and painting and I am awaiting delivery of my supplies so that I can play with it and see how I can use it in my design work for all of you to enjoy. I think it is something that will be fun and cool and while it may not be for everyone, it will appeal to lots of the people that I talk to on a daily basis.
And then there are the videos and further teaching of both woodworking and painting. There are several more lessons I would love to tack on to the series that is here on Lumberjocks. Based on questions I receive from customers, I think that they would be appreciated.
Many of you have probably guessed that I enjoy writing too. There are several articles that I want to write that I believe would be beneficial to woodworkers and painter alike. While writing this blog is like a mini-article some days, I feel that because of the positive feedback that I get from those who read it, people really do enjoy and appreciate the information that is shared through it.
So I am standing here at the crossroads today, trying to figure which direction to go. The roulette wheel is spinning and I am not sure whether to pick a black or a red square on which I will invest my time. The magazine deadline (for the moment) is met, and while I have another wholesale catalog deadline up in a few days, I don’t feel as if I will be able to make another quality pattern in time for the cut off. I would rather work in another direction right now and build up some excellent patterns to offer them for the next cut-off which will only be in a few months anyway. They do have quite an arsenal of my patterns available – many which just missed the last catalog cut-off or there wasn’t room for them, and I would rather be represented by good designs rather than shoddy ones that are done in a hurry. Quality not quantity and all of that.
I am leaning in the direction of the Artist’s Club for today. I have had good response from many painters who have visited my site and I would love to have more to offer them. Designing some new painting designs not only enhances the painting side of my site, but also adds to the woodworking side as it allows me to offer some surfaces for those who don’t cut their own wood. Also, many of my woodworking customers also paint or want to paint or have significant others who paint and enjoy these types of patterns too. (Oh – and I still have to develop the magnetic sheets in regards to the painting designs, too. I almost forgot about that!)
I think that this may be a good start for today anyway. While I will never be absolutely certain that something will be successful and sell and help my business, I am sure that by doing my best to cover many bases I am building security in the business as a whole. If one leg happens to fall on disaster, the more outlets that I have, the less the impact that one leg will be. In these precarious times, I think that is the way to go.
I hope you all have a great day today. May all your decisions be good ones. (I decided to have cream in the FIRST cup of coffee, and milk after that – a nice ‘treat’ and compromise!)
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"