It has now been over twenty years since I first began scroll sawing. (I know! I don’t really FEEL like I am THAT OLD!) Even as I sat here to write that number down, I had to count a couple of times to make sure my number was correct. It seems like only yesterday when I hit the fifteen year mark, and now that the years have climbed into the twenties, it amazes me even more.
I remember those first days of cutting so well. My friend Cari had a wonderful father who was an engineer and he believed in teaching his children whatever they wanted to learn. Being with Cari nearly every day when our children were growing up, I was fortunate to learn from her dad as well. He loved to encourage us both and always made sure we had all the tools, etc. that we needed at our disposal, as well as his shop.
He was a great teacher because he gave us the means to learn, yet didn’t interfere. After showing us the basic functions and safety procedures, he stepped into the background and allowed us to experiment, explore and learn on our own. He was always nearby if we needed him, but for the most part, he encouraged us to do what we wanted and was a huge believer that experience was the best of teachers. Since Cari and I were both adventurous and creative, we often went in different directions using the same materials and tools, and not only did we learn for ourselves, but we also learned from each other. It was a great time in my life.
Having all those years of scrolling and woodworking under my belt has served me well. While Cari used her skills to create lovely things to sell at shops and through sales at her workplace and give as gifts, I more or less headed towards designing. To me, it never seemed that the available patterns suited my own taste. I found myself early on modifying patterns and making them more to my own taste and liking.
Soon I was using very little of the original designs and doing most of the drawing myself. Then in 1996 when Cari and I attended a craft trade show in the Chicago area, we met up with the folks at Creative Woodworks and Crafts magazine. The rest (as they say) is history.
Over the years with working for the magazine my skilled have improved a great deal. One thing about doing articles for the magazine is that you always want to put your absolute best foot forward. After all – you are reaching a number of people that is far greater than previously and it is natural that you want to show off your best skills.
As a designer, I tend to do the same. I always try to ‘outdo’ my previous designs and do my best there as well.
But there is a slight flaw in that way of thinking. While I want to do my best, I sometimes find that MY best is much too difficult for some of my customers. Especially those who are newer to scroll sawing.
My first realization of this came a couple of years ago when I was teaching. It had been several years since I directly taught students, as up until then, I had mainly been creating patterns for my site and the magazine. I realized that some of the skills that came second nature to me were a bit more difficult for someone who was newer to using the scroll saw. It was then that I also realized that in order to make some patterns that a newer sawyer could use, I needed to ‘tone down’ things, just a tad.
While that sounds like it would be something easy to do, that really isn’t the case. My competitive nature has me continually striving for perfection, and when I do something that I would consider ‘easy’, I sometimes feel as if I am slacking off. Keith understands this as well. His recent napkin holders were a bit easier to make than his filigree patterns, for instance. He expressed his concern to me when he was drawing them that they were ‘too plain’ and was worried that people wouldn’t like them.
But he cut them out and they looked beautiful, and since we introduced them, there has been a fantastic response. It taught us BOTH that people need a broader level of designs to work on. They need to walk before they can run.
It only makes sense.
So with that in mind, I am in the process of developing some easier patterns that will be geared for those newer to scroll sawing.
Both Keith and I have noticed that there is a good influx of new people, and we receive many questions from them on a daily basis. I also noticed that many times these people mention that some of our patterns are ‘just too hard’ for them to attempt, and while they liked the designs, they felt overwhelmed and intimidated by them. While they aspire to try them in the future, they just didn’t feel that their ability was at that point yet.
We do understand that.
I have decided to make the next several projects geared to this way of thinking. Yesterday, I began working on a new series of simple, yet (I think!) attractive patterns that will look awesome when finished, yet not be out of reach for a newer scroll sawyer. I haven’t thought of what I was going to call the series yet, but I am sure I will come up with a name in the next day or so. Below is a sample of one of the designs:
With these patterns, I want to introduce some basic skills that one can easily accomplish for this piece and also apply to other pieces they want to make as well. I hope that these patterns will be a bridge between what we consider “basic” cutting and elaborate fretwork. I hope they will close the gap between the two levels and help people transition from the ‘beginner’ to the ‘intermediate’ label in an enjoyable and satisfying way.
Why didn’t I think of this before?
I look at this type of designing to have its own type of challenge. In drawing the patterns, I need to step back and really think about what I am doing. I am not good at ‘holding back’ and my goal with the patterns is to make them look wonderful and attractive, yet be easy to accomplish and teach new skills in the process. I think I am up for it though.
So today will be a day of drawing and redrawing. I think that it will be a fun way to expand our line of work so that it reaches a larger audience and teaches others as well. I will certainly keep you all updated on my progress, and I welcome your comments and suggestions. It will be good to hear what others think as well.
Have a wonderful day today. I can’t believe that Friday is already upon us. It is calm and sunny and while it is still a bit cool, at least it not grey and snowy. Certainly it is a day to enjoy.
Have a great one!
For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return. – Leonardo da Vinci
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"