My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #701: Making Choices

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 05-14-2012 10:39 AM 1391 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 700: Everything's Working (that's scary!) Part 701 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 702: Up and Running »

Choices. We all have them and make hundreds of them every day. Some are automatic and simple (do I want cream or milk in my coffee) while others can be more difficult and have a lasting impact on our lives or businesses.

This is especially true if you have your own business. While it may seem to be really glamorous and ‘cool’ to be able to make all the decisions regarding your future, sometimes it can get taxing. Some decisions aren’t as easy to make as others and the right answer isn’t always apparent. And the consequences of those decisions can be something that will have an impact on you or your business for a long time to come.

For those of you who read fairly regularly, you know that I have been branching out into some new areas regarding my business. While making scroll sawing and woodworking patterns is something I love to do, with all the free pattern sites and sharing of pattern through networking, it is a difficult area to make a real living at exclusively. However, doing it at the level that Keith and I choose to do it requires a full time commitment – from both of us. I often wonder how I used to do this by myself (Oh – I wasn’t doing really well then!)

So in order to supplement our income from scroll sawing woodworking patterns, we each do additional things to fill in the gap. Keith is working on selling his pens and I am also designing and cutting decorative painting ‘kits’ where I provide the wood pieces and also the patterns for small projects. This allows both of us to still be creative and be involved in all aspects of the business.

However, these additional tasks naturally take away from our main objective – creating scroll saw patterns – and sometimes we have to pay the price in one area in order to advance in another.

I am thrilled that the painting kits are going so well. This is a traditionally slow season for the scroll saw business in general and this year is no exception. In looking at our records for the past several years, spring and summer seems to be the slowest time for us. People are tired of being cooped up all winter and with the additional outdoor chores and activities that the warm weather allows, many do not spend as much time in the shop. It is just a natural part of the business.

I thought this would be a great time to get some painting patterns and kits ‘out there’, as it would come at a time when things were sluggish anyway and I would be able to balance things out. I was really thrilled at the opportunity to be able to work in this area too, as I do love the painting aspect of creating as much as I do woodworking. I am also thrilled that my designs were so well-received and hope to continue to grow in that area. But something had to give.

My grandmother used to use the analogy that we are all like a pie. Where we spend our time is represented by a piece. The more we spend our time in something, the bigger the piece. The more we spread out our time to things, the smaller the pieces. But there is only one pie to give from and when it is gone, it is gone. Thus, we need to make choices.

I spent pretty much of the weekend cutting the kits. I am just about done and only have an hour or so to finish up. The 200 patterns I need are all printed out and ready to package up too. (Kudos again to my little Canon Pixma printer! It printed 200 patterns flawlessly!) As I look at the pile of patterns and the piles of wood pieces, I feel very accomplished and happy. The last three days were well spent and I know that not only the quantity of work is there, but the quality of it is good too. Here is a picture of the pile of waste sheets from my weekend’s cutting:

That stack beside my stool are the 1/8” thick boards that I used to cut the pieces from. Even though I stacked them a couple of layers high, it is still a lot of boards.

But yesterday Keith informed me that today our deadline for one of our catalogs was due. This was (already) for the catalog that comes out in late August or early September. I am sorry to say that I only have a couple of things to offer them as new items.

So what have I been doing?

I immediately felt like I somehow failed in that area. Last year, we had probably 25 or 30 new things for this same catalog. I know Keith feels the same because he said as much to me. We just aren’t working hard enough.

But realistically, we are doing what we need to do by diversifying into different areas of woodworking. There are very few people that are able to make a clear cut living by doing what we do. We knew that when we committed to our business. We are finding that it is not always clear which choices are the best for our business and which ones will ultimately not be a good use of our time. Only time will tell.

Do I regret branching out into the other areas? Absolutely not. I feel that in the long run it will only help the business stay solvent and prosperous. I look at the percentage that we need to give the catalog companies and there is part of me that would rather spend the time on my own site and my own distribution of my work. Little by little people are finding us and we are growing. We had our best year ever last fall. We hope to do even better this year and be able to top that with the addition of new patterns and kits.

I have a backup plan if I feel that I get too many of these kits ordered. I am just not ready to use it yet because frankly I still could use the income for myself. When things do get swamped though, there are others who I know I can depend on to cut these and ship them without me worrying about the precision or the quality. I just am not ready for that yet.

It is hard to feel bad about not having lots of new stuff to offer the wholesalers when the retail side of my business is still growing. Unfortunately, there is only one Sheila and one Keith and decisions have to be made as to where we will spend our time. Not knowing the outcome is part of the excitement and nature of the business. We knew that when we signed up.

So for now, we are just going to have to go on doing what we are doing. This deadline was a good checkpoint for us and a good chance for us to realize where our time was being spent. Not being able to contribute the amount of work to the catalog is not necessarily a bad thing. It just shows that we are working in other directions. However, it is certainly a reality check for us that we are collectively only one pie. We really need to decided who gets the biggest piece.

I hope you all have a great Monday.

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

8 comments so far

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2913 days

#1 posted 05-14-2012 12:38 PM

Thanks always for the post. I try to read most of them. As you knwo I have purchased some patterns from your site, and some from others, and gotten some free ones. I think the main difference is when I started out free was good enough and at “my challange level”. As I have gotten somewhat better I look for more and more challanging patterns. PLEASE keep producing some. I love most of your patterns. At the same time I understand making money. Have a great Monday.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2949 days

#2 posted 05-14-2012 12:52 PM

Thanks, Jerrell:
I do appreciate your comments a lot. I keep telling Keith that people will come back for our quality. I hope that we can offer something that the free patterns can’t. I think that people like you are a good example. It is good to have free stuff to get people going, but we both feel that our level of patterns is something that others won’t mind paying a bit for. I hope you have a great day too. :)


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

View patron's profile


13609 posts in 3370 days

#3 posted 05-14-2012 01:12 PM

hi sheila

haven’t been around to much lately
been reading some of your posts this morning here

this one today is very ‘on track’ for many of us
that do woodworking as a living

your posts are always helpful
and you thoughts and clarity
help to make some of these decisions easier

i guess do what makes you happy
is a good place to work from

after all we do have to enjoy out lives too
and work is a big part of that

1/3 sleep
1/3 work
1/3 living

so basically
work is 1/2 of our total awake life
if it is a bore then we are below 50 %
of overall satisfaction in our lives

not a good return for all the effort

thanks for helping us to think clearer

have a good day too

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2949 days

#4 posted 05-14-2012 01:27 PM

There are two paths that we can take in life, happiness and success. Sometimes, not always, they run side by side. Sometimes they are in completely opposite directions and that is when I believe we are most unhappy.

I am fortunate that I love what I do. I am also fortunate that I have found a way to make it work for me for the most part. I realize that my life choices are different from many. I don’t think I need a lot to make me happy. Food. Shelter. Security. I don’t need extravagant things or a huge bank account. Sure. It would be nice to not ever have to worry about money. If I had money I would just build a huge shop and offer lessons for woodworking of all kinds to anyone who wanted to join. Wouldn’t that be fun!

Truth be told, I would do stuff pretty much the same as I am now. I don’t ever see myself ‘retiring’ because what I do enriches my life so much, I wouldn’t be alive without it. It is part of me that can’t be separated.

I make many decisions with my heart, which isn’t always a good thing. But I am learning to make enough good decisions with my head so that my heart gets to make some now and then. Does that make any sense? I hope so.

Take care and thanks for your insight David. I always appreciate it very much. :)


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

View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2833 days

#5 posted 05-14-2012 01:57 PM

I am mesmarized by those yummy lookin pies!! I do have the utmost respect for you, Keith, and all those woodworkers out there that do this to earn a living. Myself, and probably lotsa others do this as a hobby, pasttime, or for just somethin to stay busy. I’m sure it is hard a lotta times, and ez some of the times. But,either way, it is something I know ya’ll have to stay with it. I appreciate all you bread-making woodworkers, and the hobbyists as well. Have a good day. Have a big-ole slice o that delicious lookin pie.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10123 posts in 4081 days

#6 posted 05-14-2012 04:05 PM

OOOps… Excuse me… LOL

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View MrsN's profile


986 posts in 3555 days

#7 posted 05-14-2012 04:41 PM

I love the quality of the patterns you make. The information in them is awesome, and knowing that there is a great person on the other end to help if I have a question is great.
I have bought patterns from other people and been disappointed in the quality of the pattern and the instructions that might be required. I never hesitate to try something different if you have made the pattern, because I know that it will be explained really well. I also am happy to recommend you to everyone I know because of the quality of your work and customer service.
Have fun in all of your directions, epically because I am rather enjoying your painting patterns.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2949 days

#8 posted 05-15-2012 09:31 AM

Thanks again! I like doing both too. It is hard to choose one over the other and I hope I never have to. :)


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

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