I spent most of yesterday writing the pattern packet for the little boot ornaments. Writing one pattern doesn’t seem like it should take a full day, but I finished it around 9:30 at night. It turned out to be 18 pages long. That’s a lot for 12 ornaments. It is like a small book. But after looking at it, I don’t think it is too much. It is just what it needs to be. No more. No less. Here is the cover picture from it:
I find that creating painting pattern packets are many times more complex to write than the woodworking patterns. Perhaps it is because I don’t do painting patterns as often and each time I come back to doing one, it is a mini-learning experience all over again. I don’t think that it is a bad thing though, as by doing something that is unfamiliar to me, it seems that I take extra care with things.
Just because it is long however, doesn’t mean that it is complicated. I think the contrary is true. The entire pattern has 36 step-by-step photos in it (three for each boot) in addition to the basic supply list and also the cutting instructions for those who cut their own pieces. It is really quite comprehensive.
By walking the customer through the process using both photographs and brief instructions, I think it is easy to follow and understand. In my many years of teaching, I found that using as many visual aids as possible along with text make the learning process easy. Here is a sample of one of the pattern pages:
When I set things up this way and allow lots of space in between the written instructions, I think that the pattern is less likely to overwhelm the newer painter and far less intimidating.
In the past, I have worked with painting patterns that are almost all text. Many of the patterns I have worked with only offer one or two finished photos and the painter is pretty much on their own. While I do understand the reasoning for doing things this way, I also realize that with the luxury of digital photography and patterns, it doesn’t have to be that way.
On my own site, over 95% of my orders are sent digitally. That means that I email PDF files to my customers and they print out their own patterns or parts of patterns as necessary. In many cases, they only wind up printing out the line work and find the rest of the pattern doesn’t necessarily have to be a ‘hard copy’. This is especially true for woodworking where the instructions are sometimes routine and redundant.
This is a great thing for everyone I believe, because it allows me to really be explicit with the instructions that I give and also offer far more pictures than I would have done several years ago. The actual paper and ink cost when making a pattern is minimal – especially when one is printing only one copy – so even if there are many photographs, it doesn’t raise the cost of the pattern much at all.
I remember back in the days when I had to take pictures with film. Not only was there the cost of the film, but also I had to run to the store to process it. Even when I got the one hour developing it seemed like I had to wait a lifetime. Then, many times the pictures weren’t exactly what I wanted and I would have to start the process all over again, wasting both time and (lots) of money. Eventually I would give up and settle for the best of the bunch. Then I had to scan in the pictures and go from there, doing adjustments as necessary. It was a lot of time and extra money and the results weren’t very good.
Now I typically take a hundred or more pictures for each project that I am making which requires pictures. I have learned to be in the habit of taking pictures every step of the way in the process – especially the painting projects or the woodworking projects in which I am building something. I use different settings and lighting for the same shot, and when I am done, I usually am able to sort through and find something that works well for what I want to show and go from there. I then refine the pictures in Photoshop so that they look nice and professional and in the end I have a great looking pattern.
The cover picture for the pattern with the 12 boots was actually twelve separate pictures that I merged into one. This alone took me a couple of hours to do. I first had to remove the backgrounds from everything neatly and then I was able to overlap the boots so that they fit together closely for the cover. Otherwise there would have been square edges around them and the actual boot pictures would have to be very much smaller. By removing the background, this also eliminated the unsightly grey corners around the edges of the pictures and made a neater and more professional presentation. All this is important I feel, and does a lot for selling the pattern and making it look good. Besides the time it took, it cost no more to do things this way then if I had the 12 pictures square.
This isn’t always the best choice though. Some projects are more dimensional or have complex edges and are much more difficult to isolate from the background to remove it. For those photos it is best to leave them as is. Also, some things look just better on an interesting background, and it adds a festive theme to the projects. I felt however that these boots were busy and bright and putting them on anything but white would distract from the boots themselves and look too cluttered. The clean white background is what I feel is the best way to go.
All this stuff takes time. While it does slow me down a bit, in the end, I always feel that it is worth it. Once the pattern is finished, it doesn’t have to be attended to again and will sell for several years. I would rather have it done to the best of my ability from the beginning and be really proud of it for years to come. And I want my customers to see that I put my best effort into it and have fun doing the project without hassle.
So it was a good day yesterday. I accomplished a great deal and while I need to go over and proofread the pattern one more time, it is for the most part finished. I have an idea of what I want to work on today and I am going to get started on it this morning.
There are days when I don’t feel that I get a lot done. It is sometimes like I am spinning my wheels in the mud. But I have to remind myself that I am doing things that are important to making my patterns better, even if it may begin to seem mundane at times. It isn’t as glamorous for me to talk about constructing pattern packets as it is for me to show new items that I finished designing, but I know that there are lots of pattern makers that follow along and I am sure that they understand that these extra steps are something that I do to make my work stand out among the many pattern makers out there. After all, it isn’t only about the finished design. Each pattern is in my eyes a mini-lesson in which I am teaching someone to create. And I take that task very seriously.
“One of the great undiscovered joys of life comes from doing everything one attempts to the best of one’s ability. There is a special sense of satisfaction, a pride in surveying such a work, a work which is rounded, full, exact, complete in its parts, which the superficial person who leaves his or her work in a slovenly, slipshod, half-finished condition, can never know. It is this conscientious completeness which turns any work into art. The smallest task, well done, becomes a miracle of achievement.”- Og Mandino
I hope you all have a good day today.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"