My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #857: Experience

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-26-2012 12:01 PM 1466 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 856: A Bit Under the Weather Part 857 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 858: Choosing the Next Direction »

One of the hardest thing that I find to do is to look back at my older patterns. While part of me is very proud of the advancements I made in creating pattern packets, there is another part of me that looks back to when I was just starting out and wishing that I could do them all over again.

There have been so many advancements that I have made in the past fifteen plus years. I have different software, learned new skills and have spoken with many customers directly and learned of better ways to explain things so that everyone can fully understand the process needed to build the items that we are designing. It isn’t just drawing lines.

Since Jim Barry from Woodworkers Workshop became a distributor of our designs and patterns in August, we have been going through quite a few changes internally. In some ways I feel like I haven’t really been able to do design work because of all the organizing that has been required to share and distribute the files with Jim. But in the bigger picture, this has really been a great way to force us to clean house here and get all of our files and patterns in tip-top shape. It is really a good thing and it will ultimately make things better for everyone, including our customers.

We all know how quickly computer software advances. By the time we learn one program, it seems that they are on to a new and ‘improved’ version and we need to learn several new things all over again. While this is exciting and fun at times it can be somewhat frustrating trying to keep up with things. I found that I look for the features that I am using myself, and as long as those keep working fine, I am good to go – at least for a while.

But after several years of this, it is inevitable that at some point upgrading is necessary, and with upgrades come compatibility issues. While improvements may be a positive thing, the more changes there are from program to program, the higher chance that your documents won’t convert properly.

This happened with some of our older designs.

When I started using Adobe software, nearly fifteen years ago, I used a program called ‘Pagemaker’ which was the program used to integrate the text, line graphics and photographs into one place. Ultimately once our pattern packets were built in this program, we were able to convert them to the PDF files that we use for distribution.

Several years ago however, Adobe replaced Pagemaker with a program called ‘InDesign’ which basically did the same thing (plus some other features). While this was a good thing in the long run, for some reason the Pagemaker files don’t always behave properly when opened in InDesign. There are many ‘glitches’ and formatting errors that need to be addressed to make the files look proper. Sometimes it may be a small thing, but other times it would be more annoying (like in one file, it decided to place a space after every ‘i’ – even in the middle of a word!) You can imagine the time and picking it takes to work on these.

As we are giving patterns to Jim for distribution, we are for the most part going over them to see if they need to be ‘upgraded’. It is a difficult thing to decide where to draw the line, as our first inkling would be to just rewrite everything and start from scratch. But with approximately 500 patterns in our library, it would probably take both of us a year or so to do that. And that just isn’t possible. We need to keep moving ahead, as well as fixing some of the things that do need fixing and find a balance between the two.

I suppose I am rambling on here because I am really torn at what to do. On the one hand, many of these older patterns have served us well and are really good patterns. I also want to make it clear that there is nothing incorrect or wrong with them, they are just formatted a bit differently than what we are making today and perhaps I explained things a bit differently. They certainly have worked well for us in the past. We just feel that we have advanced and gotten better in recent years, and in comparison, we do see a difference.

I think that there comes a time when I have to stop looking back and move forward with these. While my early designs may not be presented in the format that I do now, they have served me well and have been a good stepping stone to where we are now in our designing. While any obvious errors or typos will be fixed and updated, I think that we need to stop the urge to dissect them and rebuild them. We need to move ahead to new things and trust that what brought us to where we are today is good and look to new things.

It is so hard to look at something we did years ago and feel the same way about it. While we know that we did our best back then, and were very proud of it, it is only natural that over the years we have advanced and gotten better in our craft. By comparison the early patterns may not be as good as today’s work, but I think that is part of the learning process and in itself shows just how much we advanced in what we do. And that is a good thing I think.

So I have come to the resolution that I will move on from here and stop looking over my shoulder. I’ll still be proud of those earlier designs, but I will know that there are even better things to come. And everyone will benefit from that.

“Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now.” – Denis Waitley

-- 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 Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2801 days

#1 posted 10-26-2012 12:49 PM

Well spoken, wise one. :)

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

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3523 days

#2 posted 10-26-2012 03:30 PM

good morning Sheila, A good write. I wrote a little book of stories a few years ago and wish I could rewrite each one… As for computer software, I am slow in learning so what i have done is keep my OLD working computer with the old programs and work on it when there is a need. I just got rid of my oldest computer last year that had a 750meg hard drive and it was actully a bit sad in that the computer worked great but it could not work with any program that was not at least near 20 years old. (I know…) As in woodworking I was surprised how well I liked my first projects and now I look back at them and why I didn’t do them better. (The learning thing.) Have a great day!

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Celticscroller's profile


1269 posts in 2070 days

#3 posted 10-26-2012 04:59 PM

Well said Sheila! Enjoy your day and the excitement of the journey forward.

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3112 days

#4 posted 10-26-2012 07:31 PM

I still looking more and more to the past …. LOL
but thats for another reason …... I want to learn from the old masters
while I restore my very old tools ... they don´t need any update just a tune up
since they was made when handtool making / development of the tool
was on the top of the curve …. only a few toolmakers today can match the old masters

one day though I will look at my next goal in the future and develop skills to get there :-)

have a great weekend

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2882 days

#5 posted 10-26-2012 08:39 PM

Well said and that is a reason a lot of us come to you first – consistency and accuracy.

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

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2917 days

#6 posted 10-26-2012 11:05 PM

Thank you all for the comments. I do believe that consistency and accuracy is important. Otherwise I wouldn’t have given this a second thought. I think that if there is anything that can greatly improve the patterns, we will tackle that. Otherwise, we will leave things as they are and work on future things. It is easy to get caught up in nit picking and while we want our patterns to be the best they can be, we want to move forward. Taking a little time when we have extra time or when we aren’t feeling creative to polish things up a bit wouldn’t hurt.

I appreciate all the support, as always.

Dennis – I can’t wait to see more of your tool restoration blogs. I think learning from the masters is a wonderful way to learn. You have a great weekend too. :)


-- 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

6855 posts in 3976 days

#7 posted 10-27-2012 08:31 AM

Hi Sheila;

Anyone that strives for perfection will always be improving, and with that, you can’t help but look back at earlier
attempts with a bit of trepidation. It kind of boils down to if you’re not feeling that, your not improving.

That said, I would resist the urge to go back and “fix” earlier results, simply to keep them all uniform. I would fix typos etc. if it were not too time consuming, but overall I would try to leave it alone and move forward. By spending the time to bring everything up to todays standards regarding format, would seem you will be going backwards.

In 5 years, when you’ve improved your system again, will you go back and fix everything you have now? That could become very time consuming.

Keep in mind this is coming from a guy that just spent the better part of a couple days redesigning the forms we use in one of our businesses, trying to speed up the system. This will definitely make them more efficient to use, but also to make them look more professional, regarding layout and style, which really won’t effect their efficiencey.

If these forms were for in house use only I might not have been as critical of them, but as they are forwarded on to other businesses, it’s important they look and function professionally. And in my defense, there’s a big difference between a couple days, and a year.

As hard as it is to let it go, that’s what I would TRY to do, if I were you.

Have fun,


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2917 days

#8 posted 10-27-2012 10:20 AM

Hi, Lee:
It seems that even though our businesses are so different, we frequently run across similar issues. I can totally understand what you are dealing with in regards to your forms. Computer programs advance, we learn, and we achieve some “ah ha!” moments where we can improve things and not only do we want to implement them from now on, but we look to update previous things that we have done.

While ideally that would be wonderful, I am seeing that it isn’t always practical to do so. Two words that Keith uses frequently – consistency and accuracy – have driven us to do this.

I really do agree with what most have suggested here – accuracy is the first consideration. As long as the patterns are accurate and work out well, it is probably best to move forward and not spend the time reworking older patterns that have had their run. It is so easy for one to get caught up on a loop of improvement and not have the time to move forward.

Thank you so much for all of your thoughts and advice. :)


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

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