My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #744: Thoughts From the Pink Cloud

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 06-26-2012 12:22 PM 1658 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 743: One Step Forward . . . Part 744 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 745: Recovery »

I woke up this morning knowing that by the time today is over, all the boxes will be packed full of the pattern kits that we have been working so hard on this past week and a half. That is a good feeling.

Somehow this job seemed to take longer than that. Not because it was any more difficult, but I think it was because in between cutting and packing boxes, I was also writing up the pattern packets. Most nights I wouldn’t even begin that part until after spending the day cutting. By that time, I was rather tired and should have been spending the time winding down instead of gearing up and being sharp enough to write instructions. I have already decided that I will try not to allow myself to be in that position again if I can help it. The next time, if I am not ready I will wait until the following catalog deadline and let the cards fall as they may. I think that is a healthier way to do things.

I love hearing how some people view designers. Not only scroll saw pattern designers, but all designers in general. It appears that many people look upon us as if we are doing this on the side as an afterthought and have little regard for what it takes to create a good design.

I bring this subject up because in the midst of the past week of working the long hours that I have worked, I came across a post on one of the forums that stood out to me. It was posted in the form of a ‘want ad’ where someone was seeking the services of a designer to design scroll saw patterns so that he could make the projects and sell them for a profit at shows and to shops. The ad clearly stated what ‘criteria’ was required of all who ‘applied’ for the job. Everything was stated in a very professional manner, and very up front.

The requirements included:
- Quality work.
- Timely service.
- Specific finished size of pieces.
- A request to send samples of work first before a commitment was made.

This all sounded reasonable to me. And professional. It sounded like the person was serious about finding a good, quality designer.

Then the kicker came in:

The ‘starting pay’ would be $10 per pattern.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

I thought – “Wow!”

Then I thought it was a joke.

But it wasn’t and as I re-read the post, it became clear to me that the poster was dead serious. I just sat here and shook my head.

After I got over the shock of what I just read, my first inkling was to post a caustic or sarcastic response. But those of you who know me know that I am not like that. I decided to do what I usually do and just watch and see what came of the offer, and stay out of it.

I suppose by writing about it here today, you figured out that I still think about it. In fact, I surprise myself at how much it bothered me. After all, I spend a bit of time online and I have grown what I believe is quite a thick skin to things that are said on the internet and I usually don’t allow them to get to me. But I think the combination of my own exhaustion from working so hard the past weeks and trying to go above and beyond to make a good product and then seeing how designers in general are viewed (and artists too, for that matter – are you reading Martyn?) really made me feel kind of bad. There are just times when we feel as if we are continually fighting an uphill battle.

I am not only speaking for myself, but for the many, many designers and artists that I know that are struggling to market their talents and get a fair price for them. And get the respect they deserve for their time, education and talent. I know of very few (if any) designers that are getting rich from their talents. The ones that are making it are in that position only because of a pure, deep love of what they do and endless hours spent on creating. This includes not only the designers, pattern makers, and artists, but also the people who buy the patterns and spend the many hours creating the beautiful things that they make. We all know the true artisans are those who do it for love, not for the money. I have yet to meet a successful crafts person who is in that field for the money. It is because of their love of beauty and creativity that they continue, and unfortunately at times they tend to undersell their talents because they love what they do so much that they compromise themselves in order to continue. This has set a dangerous precedence among artists of all nature and as a result of that, they devalue not only themselves, but their talents too.

I realize that this has been going on since the beginning of time, but it still doesn’t mean that it is right. Why, I wonder, does liking what you do mean that you have to undersell yourself to be successful? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t your work be valued more because of your love of what you are doing, which usually leads to better workmanship and quality? Maybe in a perfect world (or on a pink cloud) that is how it is.

To me, $10 for a custom pattern is insulting. Especially given the aforementioned criteria. Even at a low wage of $20 per hour (which I don’t think is insane considering the cost of education and learning the computer programs, equipment and program cost, and all the other things that should be considered) that $10 per pattern would mean that you needed to crank out a custom pattern in 30 minutes or less to even realize that wage. Any designer who has had any experience at all will tell you that meeting that criteria would be impossible.

We pay doctors for their education. Lawyers, too. Mechanics for our car earn a decent wage. Why is it that our services as a designer or artist don’t qualify for a fair price? Not a ‘getting rich’ price. Just fair. I wanted to ask the poster if he would be willing to work for the wages he is offering at the criteria he suggests. I suspect not.

I tried my best to ignore this post and not make my blog here a platform for me to rant. But heck, I work hard and I know a lot of wonderfully talented people (designers and artists and crafters alike) and it sickens me when I see how they are continually demoralized by people who don’t give them credit for the talents, education and work that they put into their love of creating. I think they are worth much more than they sometimes give themselves credit for. There are many wonderful designers that even give their designs away for free. They are wonderfully talented and by their own choice they are in the position to offer their services because of their love of creating. I have a great deal of respect for them and think that they help make our industry grown and help people who otherwise not be able to afford patterns.

But putting this out there and offering so little for services is something that is very sad. It exemplifies how some look on us as designers, artists and craftspeople. And I had to mention it.

I will get off of my soap box now, as I had my say. While I know that I will not change anything with my rant, I hope that in the end, I will awaken your awareness to this issue.

I am going to spend my day packaging up my patterns and kits, knowing in my heart that I did the best job I could in creating them and grateful that the time and care I put into them will be appreciated by many.

Have a wonderful day.

No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. – Oscar Wilde

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

11 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3360 days

#1 posted 06-26-2012 12:59 PM

dont have time to read this yet, gotta go see the doc, getting new shot in the ole back , thats been helping the grizzman have a life…so wish me well folks, send me your hugs sheila…ill comment after i get back and will let you know how things went…glad your project is over , ill chat with you soon…off we goooooooo!!

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Scroller47's profile


26 posts in 2282 days

#2 posted 06-26-2012 01:05 PM

Thanks for sharing. Until I started trying to do some patterns using a tutorial on another web site I don’t think I realized how much time and effort goes into making a pattern. It was not easy work, at least not for me. I wouldn’t do it for $10 an hour.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3043 days

#3 posted 06-26-2012 02:05 PM

I would design a pattern for $10—- if that $10 was a royalty payment! :)

I think a lot of non-creative types assume that we can just “draw up” things really quickly and swiftly, without any energy (emotional or physical) and perhaps even that it is just like “doodling”.

I have been known to spend the better part of an entire week doing a design for my carvings… it’s exhausting enough that I enjoy buying premade ones and playing with them because I don’t want to design everything, all the time!

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3093 days

#4 posted 06-26-2012 03:28 PM

Yes I am reading, Sheila. I don’t know what to think about this problem any more. I took my Snakes and Ladders box in to work to show a friend. A small crowd gathered. All were agreed that it was good and clever. Someone, thinking they were being generous, offered me £100 for it. As I said at the time it took me, design and build, about 150 hours to make that box. So I told him, thank you but I’m not working for £0.66 an hour for anyone. I’d rather burn it. I can make another.

I did a trade with another of the Guys at work. He is an artist. I made a Zee style box for a dice game he plays and he did me a painting. That is fair. With the exception of one person, who paid me a fair price for a box recently, most want the Moon on a stick and begrudge paying just the price of the stick.

I don’t ‘have a name’ like the Lindleys of this world, who would get £1000 for a veneered union flag box. I won’t ever make any decent money at this game. My vain hope is that in leaving my work to my wife, Sue she may be able to get something like a fair price for them when I’m gone.

I may sound pessimistic and glum. I prefer to say pragmatic.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2977 days

#5 posted 06-26-2012 04:24 PM

Bob – I hope that things go well at the doc. I hope to talk to you in the next couple of days just to catch up! :)

John and Lis – I know that you both appreciate the time and effort that goes into a making a good design. It isn’t just something that “happens” without effort. I think anyone who ever had a poor pattern would understand that and how important careful planning is. It is the patterns that people don’t have to think twice about that are the best. They are the ones that are done properly and take time to put together.

Martyn – I thought of you when I read this because you came to mind when I read the original post. I know that you have been offered ridiculously low sums of money for your beautiful boxes and it makes me angry. I also have been low-balled for some of my paintings and it isn’t a good feeling. I have seen many fine creative people give up because when someone offers so little for what they make, they begin to believe that their creations are not worth anything either.

I also have done trades with different people and those are some of my favorite pieces. I believe that other artists do appreciate what goes into creating things and I really enjoy having some wonderful hand made pieces.

I would rather give my pieces to someone who appreciates it than get paid less than what it is worth. That is why I don’t sell in shops anymore. I see the way that Keith is treated with his pens and I am very happy that I made that choice.

Thanks for the input everyone. Sheila

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

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6860 posts in 4036 days

#6 posted 06-26-2012 05:11 PM

Hi Sheila;

Your rant reminded me of a client of mine. This is going back thirty years or so, but it still makes me nuts to think about. This client was a doctor. He asked me to meet him at a building in center city Philadelphia. He said it needed to be renovated. So, we met at this place around 9:00 A.M. This was a four story building with 9 apartments in it. We went unit by unit discussing the existing conditions and potential design changes. This would be a major gut and rebuild from the basement to the roof.

After going through the entire building, which took about four hours, we were completing our conversation out in front of the building. Final thoughts on what he thought should be done to the exterior of this historic building.
What he said next almost floored me. He asked to to go ahead and draw something up, meaning blueprints, and give him a price on the proposed work. If it was reasonable enough, he would go ahead and buy the building.

I can’t repeat what I told him, but it boiled down to what I thought about him wasting my time on a building he didn’t even own, and I would do as he requested for $100.00 an hour, if he would include the four hours I just spent with him.

You know, he got really angry with me. Wanted to know who I thought I was. After calling him every name in the book, I left him standing there.

So, thank you for reminding me about that! LOL

I have had many times over the years where I wondered if someone could really be that ignorant of somebody else’s time and knowledge. Most times I do as you did. Just shake my head and do a slow boil on the inside.

Well, glad to hear your on the final stages of your project.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2979 days

#7 posted 06-27-2012 01:47 AM

Qte from Sheila … “I would rather give my pieces to someone who appreciates it than get paid less than what it is worth.”
The business world is the root cause why most of the designers (the best ones) are never heard but just from special friends. Copying, making a little changes and fabricating at low quality that could be sold for cheaper price are the regrets of designers… just like all of us believes that it is better to waste your work than be priced low. What we really believe is the value of our work should be priceless.

Last week (Saturday and Sunday), Abe, 9 year old daughter of Brenda (my wife’s cousin) spending two weeks with us. They are from California. Abe is fond of Hello Kitty. To my own way, I made miniature bed, dining set, and a refrigator out of wood for her Hello Kitty collection. She was really happy but I was even more happier upon hearing my wife Agnes explained to Abe… “Those miniatures cannot be found anywhere and it is priceless because they are made and designed OUT OF LOVE!. This explain why we should be priceless. We work for love but not for business.

Keep it going.

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2977 days

#8 posted 06-27-2012 02:14 AM

Hi, Lee – I certainly do understand why you were quite upset with your client. I am glad that you called him on his disregard for your time and I think he had a lot of nerve to be the one to be angry. If someone wasted his time like that, I am sure they would have heard about it. That’s what gets to me – people who think their own time is more valuable than others.

As I packed the kits today, I peeked in on my email a couple of times and I watched the conversation developing from the original post that teed me off. The responses ranged from some who thought that $20 an hour was “outlandish” to others who thought that $20 was “quite reasonable” for creative work. The conversation moved to how they could do it themselves using the free software and tutorials available online.

I thought to myself “knock yourselves out” and honestly wish them well. If they want to invest the time it takes to learn the process – more power to them.

As John said earlier in the replies – there is a bit more involved than meets the eye. I think that is true for most things in this world. Lots of us (myself included) see things and think “I can do that!” But when we try it for ourselves, more so than not it isn’t always as easy as we first thought. It can be a very humbling experience.

Bert – I can see why Abe will cherish the Hello Kitty items you made her. Not only are they made with skill, but they are made with love and are a wonderful tie to you and her visit with you. That will be a priceless gift she will cherish.

I AM fortunate that I am able to make my living doing something I love. If it weren’t for my wonderful customers’ stories and friends that I have made through my business, I am sure that I wouldn’t be doing it. I hear so much positive feedback from my customers, and I love to see pictures and read stories of how they used my patterns and made their own heirlooms. That drives me more than any amount of money ever could.

I always say that if I ever won the lottery or came into some money, I would still be doing exactly what I am doing now – except offering my patterns for free. It is fun to dream sometimes and Keith and I talk of what we would do with extra money and one of the things that is the top of the list would be to create a huge shop/learning center where people could come and learn to make things. It would be so much fun and it would be a place to share our craft with others and learn from them too. Even if it only exists on the pink cloud, it is fun to think about.

In the mean time, I do the best job I can and offer things at a fair price to my customers. I think they know I try my best and I am pleased that with all the free stuff available, they still come to us to buy patterns. That says a lot and shows me my effort isn’t wasted.

Thank you all for the great support again. As always, it helps so much for us to have friends that truly appreciate us for what we do.

Take care, Sheila

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

View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4080 days

#9 posted 06-27-2012 03:53 AM

Many years ago while in the Navy, I had the privilidge of building a display coffee table for a shipmate who was retiring. We were on an island with no resources so I had to mail order the wood from Constantine and Sons in New York. At the time I think it cost somewhere around $75.00 for the wood and shipping. I spent about 40 hours fussing and fretting to make sure that I did the best job I could do for a deserving guy who had given 30 years in Navy service. I was not paid for my labor and certainly didn’t want any pay. A collection among a number of shipmates covered the wood and shipping.

When the table was presented at the retirement party I was deluged with requests to build one for them. Not one person had a clue what was involved and the true cost of custom building something like that. I really didn’t want to get into filling a bunch of orders for something that I really did out of friendship and respect for someone. When one woman pushed and pushed for a price I finally told her it would be $275. That was $75 for the wood and $200 for 40 hours labor. She went absolutely ballistic and called me greedy for trying to take advantage of her with such an absorbitant price. I really didn’t want to built it for her anyway but that was a true education in what people are willing to pay for your efforts.

I’ve never been in the woodworking business, I’ve just done it as a hobby for just about 40 years now. I enjoy it tremendously and that experience cured me of ever wanting to sell any of my projects. Today I build shaker furniture and lots of shaker boxes that end up as gifts 99.9% of the time and the rest I keep lol. In reality I would rather give it away than haggle with those who don’t have a clue.

My point in all of this is I admire all of you who have the patience to put up with the total BS and lack of respect for the products that you spend so much time on, by people who want to buy your efforts for pennies. I know that’s the way it is, it’s human nature. Not the good part of human nature. God bless you Sheila and all the rest of you who have make a living and put up with that from a few (I hope not many) of your customers. Good Luck.

-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3243 posts in 3769 days

#10 posted 06-27-2012 05:48 AM


I think you should respond to that request for a designer and let him know you could handle his request for designs—that you could agree to $10 per copy in quantities of 10,000 and up! Then you could go on to explain that your minimum quantity of any one design is 1,000 copies but the price would have to increase to $20 per copy! Maybe that could cause him to wake up!

We, too, give away our work because no one comprehends American custom-made vs. MADE IN CHINA. When someone asks either of us to make something, if we don’t know them well enough to give it as a gift, we just say “no” rather than have them think we are trying to price-gouge.

One of the only ways a person can get paid a decent wage for art (if you don’t have a famous name) is by having corporate clients. When I free-lanced graphic design 30 years ago, I could charge $35 an hour. The only woodworking project for which I was ever paid (less than 10 years ago) came out to about $2.00 per hour! I set the price myself before doing the project, knowing that I wouldn’t make an hourly wage, but grateful to have the lumber cost covered and get paid for learning some new skills. Since then I’ve amassed a large enough to-do list for our own needs that I no longer consider outside work. We would rather live frugally on the money we saved for retirement than accept the stress of ungrateful customers.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2977 days

#11 posted 06-27-2012 11:02 AM

Some people just aren’t ever going to understand, L/W. As I looked in on the conversation yesterday and saw the replies, there was a definite division of those who looked at the request as ‘reasonable’ and those who thought it was appalling that someone would ask for $20 an hour. (And remember – that is assuming that they could crank out a QUALITY pattern in a matter of 1/2 an hour!) The older I get (or more experienced, or both) the more I see that there is just no reasoning with people like that. The best thing I could do is RUN away from it and not be tempted to do the job.

When I first moved to Canada, I had some dear friends who did my printing for me. Since shipping was a large cost in time and money, I left my large photocopier there and they printed my orders and got them mailed out (this was when my wholesale companies still had me doing my own printing.) Before they took on the task, the husband (who is also a good friend) used to constantly kid me because I had a “shipping and handling” charge on the patterns. The charge was modest, but he said that the “handling” charge was just a way for me to make more money. He didn’t say this in a mean manner, but as a kidding one and we would have some spirited discussions as to what the “handling” part entailed (printing time, packaging, re-sending if lost, time to go to the post office, etc.)

After a while of them printing and shipping the order, he began to understand the amount of time and energy it took to get the orders ready to go out the door, ship them and have them in the customer’s hands. He actually told me that I wasn’t charging enough.

I have learned that until we do the others’ job, I refrain from passing judgment. While someone who is experienced can make something look “easy”, usually it is only because of years of training and learning skills that they are able to do so. My job looks easy to many, but it is only through experience that I can make it do so. The older I get, the more relaxed I get about not worrying so much if others want cheaper or free. I know when Keith and I send out patterns that they are complete and tested patterns. There may be an error in there once in a while, but if there is, it isn’t because we didn’t proof read as well as send it out to be checked and usually it is a minor one because of this.

Our customers know the difference between good and poor patterns and they don’t mind paying for them. We try to keep our pattern prices as low as we can and in comparing to what is out there, I do think we succeed.

Keith worries more than me about how many free patterns are available and how that effects our business. It isn’t that I am arrogant, or I don’t care, but I do feel that all I can do is offer the best products I can and people will feel they are worth it and buy them. I can’t and won’t compete with “free” and I can’t and won’t under value my services just to keep working. There is no way to stay in business like that and I have seen too many fall before me to know that just doesn’t work.

We live in modest means. We don’t spend what we don’t have. I am proud of that. I would rather have less and do a job I love than stress myself out by having loads of debt and having to make “x” amount. Besides, I don’t think I can work any more hours than I do. They just aren’t there. If I want more out of life (a big, fancy house, vacations, etc.) I would have to find a different vocation. But I am truly happy with what I have.

I know this isn’t the life for everyone. But it suits me fine. But if I sold myself short and didn’t request a fair wage for my work, I would be in debt and out of business before you could blink an eye. And the bottom line is that I would hate to see anyone else – especially someone with talent – sell themselves short too.

Thank you again for your thoughts, L/W

:) Sheila

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

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