Not every day is sunshine and rainbows. While we try to make them all good, sometimes things just don’t work out like we planned.
I was very discouraged yesterday with my designing. It was one of those days when what I saw in my head didn’t translate to the actual project very well.
I spent the day playing around with the idea, only to have it look back at me as a mess. I had to try too hard to get things to work, which meant that if I was having that much difficulty, then so would most people that were trying to accomplish it also.
To me, the hallmark of a good design is something that is beautiful and interesting, yet also something that is able to be accomplished by anyone. One thing that I pride myself on is that by following my instructions, ANYONE (yes – even YOU!) can complete any one of my designs. That includes the painting designs. I can’t begin to tell you how many times at woodworking shows I talk to people who insist that they can’t paint, and if I am able to convince them to try one of my classes and patterns, they walk away knowing that they CAN. I have even convinced the most skeptical people of this (yes – many of them were men who thought they could never accomplish it!) It is part of being a teacher.
As a designer, I feel that each and every design I do should be able to be followed by everyone. Sometimes I am asked why I put the same instructions for prep, blade size, etc. into my packets. I realize that these first steps to sawing are pretty basic and most people should know them, but it is for those newer people who are just starting out that I continue to say the same thing over and over and over again. I look at each packet that I write as if it is the first and only packet that my customer has. I don’t ‘assume’ anything. I would rather err on giving too much information than not providing enough. And I believe because of that philosophy I have built a reputation for having an excellent grade of patterns that just about anyone can accomplish. I am very proud of that.
So yesterday when I was trying to get these designs from my head to the paper, I was a bit discouraged. Things just weren’t working out like I planned.
Right now I am working on one of my projects that are going to be featured in the holiday issue of Creative Woodworks and Crafts magazine. That is their big ornament issue, where they boast over 100 ornament patterns. While I love to make ornaments, I must admit that after working with the magazine for 15 years, it is sometimes a bit of a stretch to come up with something that hasn’t been done. While I have some ideas for two dimensional ornaments, this year I wanted to do something different.
A couple of months ago, I found this product that is called “MUD”. It is a texture paste that a fellow painter, Margot Clark developed (her website is www.margotclark.com) and it is really a cool product that I want to work more with.
Margot also works in glass work and ceramics and while there are several other texture products available on the market, what I like about Margot’s MUD is that it can be fired or not, and it is quite a bit more durable than any other texture paste that I have seen. It dries hard as a rock and can be painted or stained over and have the look of carved wood.
My idea here was to take some simply shaped wood ornaments and apply some of the past in a manner that anyone can do (painter or not!) and then antique them for a carved look. The process is simple and easy and I think that many woodworkers (not all – but many!) would love to try this cool technique to give some nice accents to their pieces.
In my head, I have an idea of just how I want them to look. I thought about doing a spray of holly leaves and maybe some flowers on the simple shapes, and then painting them a solid color and antiquing or gold leafing them. I think it would give the scrollers another option and would be a quick and easy way to make their ornaments look different and special.
The problem came in when I was trying to make my own designs completely different from Margot’s. As a designer, one of the worse things you can do is copy someone else’s original designs and claim it as your own. I thought that I would be able to ‘reinvent the wheel’ and come up with a different way to use the MUD which would still be as easy to do as Margot’s method and I am afraid I failed miserably.
The harder I tried, the more difficult it became. I got to the point where I, myself couldn’t re-create my own design over again, so how would I expect to teach anyone else to do it?? After playing with the MUD for several hours, I was ready to call it a day. I got myself to feeling stupid and discouraged and I felt like I couldn’t do a thing. I pulled out my book that I had of Margot’s designs and I decided to play around with her method just a bit. It was like the light bulb went back on again and within about half an hour I had some really cool looking flowers and leaves that I made with her products:
What you see here is just some of the ‘scribbling’ that I made using her method on poster board. I am telling you guys, that woman is a genius!
So I decided to get on the phone and I gave her a call to discuss what I was doing. Since I came to the conclusion that her way was the BEST way to do it, I knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to improve the wheel. But I still wanted to get word out and see what her thoughts were on teaching her method in my designs.
I am happy to say that Margot was wonderful to talk to! She was thrilled that I wanted to share her method with my own followers and use her techniques in my designs. That is what she wants to accomplish with her products. After speaking to her for a bit, I felt a million times better. I had never intended to claim her process as my own, and I had always planned on hooking up my customers/readers with her anyway, as I feel that this is a really cool method to add some ‘zing’ to many kinds of woodworking projects. Whether you only add one flower, or decorate an entire piece with them, I think that it is a great option for many who are looking for something new and fun to play with. (And it IS fun!)
So onward we go today. With a fresh perspective and a new direction. I am going to look upon this project as a collaboration between myself and a very talented painter and designer, and I feel that the results will benefit many both in the painting and the woodworking fields. I am happy again and I don’t feel like such a putz like I did yesterday when I was looking at the mess I created.
Sometimes it takes two heads to have a wonderful result. This for me is definitely one of those times. Combining my own woodworking experience with Margot’s great product will hopefully make a new project that will be a springboard to many woodworkers and painters alike. How wonderful is that??
Today I will spend the day playing some more, and hopefully by the end of the day, I will be well on my way to making a great set of ornaments for the article. I have a new vision in my head for what I am going to design and I do believe that this time it will be possible to make it come to life (and easy!) I am even going to try to get Keith or our friend Lee to give it a try just to show that “anyone can do it”. I promise to post the results here of their efforts. :)
Even though I have nothing physical in front of me that resulted from yesterday’s efforts, I don’t feel the day was wasted. I learned a lot, and that is something that is a valuable asset and even though it is not a tangible item, it is something that is well worth the time spent. I also feel I made a new friend in Margot. I have admired her work for many years, but seeing how her philosophy is much like my own in that teaching others to be creative is her passion, I feel really good about being involved with her and these products.
So it turned out to be a good day after all.
Have a beautiful Friday today! I hope you make the best of whatever the day brings you. It will make you a much happier person.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"