It seems that I frequently mention in my blogs here the importance of finding balance. I think for most of us, it is something that is an ongoing quest. We have our work and responsibilities to fulfill, and we have our home and family obligations. Sometimes that doesn't leave much time for ourselves.
I am fortunate in that I truly love what I do. The saying "If you love what you do, you don't work a day in your life" is usually applicable, but there are still times when I would like to do other similar, no pressure things that I can do 'just because' at my own pace and without a time line.
Keith always says he can't see a difference between me doing "work" and doing what I do in my leisure. I suppose I don't expect that of anyone. For only we painters and other creative people can tell the difference of creating for joy and creating for work. It is something that can't be seen and is more of an attitude that we feel inside when we are just doing something for the joy of it and no other reason. It is what we hope our customers feel all of the time. For them, this is their 'down time' and their time to relax. Part of my job as a designer is to make sure that when they are working on my projects – be it painting or woodworking – they are not only enjoying themselves, but also feeling a sense of pride for what they accomplished.
Designers are no different. We also need to feel that sense of peace and joy when we are creating. Sometimes, when we are under too many deadlines, those wonderful feelings are tinged with a bit of anxiousness or even pressure. While some thrive on pressure (I am one who admittedly works better with deadlines) others find that they take too much joy out of doing what they enjoy and don't last very long at all as a designer. For most of us, it has been a long road to become established and make designing work for us, and many just don't have that patience. There are very few quality designers that I know of that were successful right out of the gate. Maybe that is a good thing though, as it is a natural way to sort those who are only doing it for profit from those who truly love their craft. I don't know . . .
The longer I am in the business of designing, the more important having some 'down time' is to me. I am often asked how I keep coming up with new and fresh ideas for my projects, and I actually have a very long list of things I want to create in the future. This list has been growing over the years and I find that I am at a point where I think of new ideas much quicker than I can implement them. That is really a good thing, because it not only means that I will be busy working as long as I wish, but also that I can pick and choose which projects I want to do next. That allows me to filter out the so-so projects from the ones that I feel are the best. It helps the cause in the long run.
For the past several months, I have been sharing my progress on two major projects that I have been working on that were not my own designs. The long-term project is the "12 Days of Christmas" ornament set by Lynne Andrews. I have allotted myself a year or so to complete six full sets of these very detailed ornaments, and I am on track for that (kind of!). My other short-term project was the Cinderella Mice Tiara project designed by Peggy Harris. It was a project that I knew I had to make from the moment I saw it.
It has sometimes been difficult to find time to work on these, as I always have my own work looming. Those many nameless project that are yet to be are sitting in the corner of my head just waiting for me to get moving on them. Yet – I feel the need to switch gears and do other things. Things that I didn't have to think of. Things that I am guided through by other designers. It allows me to not only feed my need to create, but removes the pressure of creating my own designs or patterns. Even though you can't see the difference from the outside, it is much more relaxing to do. I like them for my 'down time'.
Some may think it is not good business for me to focus so much of my time on creating other people's work. But I realize that without this time when I get to relax that part of my brain, my own work would certainly suffer. I would certainly be more overwhelmed than I am and I have no doubt that I would 'burn out', as many designers do. While financially it may be better for me to spend my 'creating time' only on creating new designs of my own, I feel that by spending a portion of my time creating other's patterns allows me to rest and replenish my creative energy, while still accomplishing. Not to mention that I also learn a lot from doing many different techniques. I am surprised that many other designers don't do this as well, as I rarely see others create things that aren't their own design. I suppose we all do what works for us.
With that said, I spent Friday evening finishing up my Cinderella Mice tiara for my grand daughter, Willow's third birthday.
The above photo is just a snapshot from my painting table, and I plan to take some better photos before I send it off to Willow. You can't see the delicate sparkles on her dress, the pumpkins and the leaves.
I am very pleased at how it turned out and I hope it will be something she will keep for a long time. I plan to follow along with the series (Snow White mouse will be introduced next spring!) and keep painting them for her as long as Peggy designs them. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable project, and I learned quite a few new techniques making it.
With that under my belt, on Sunday Keith invited me to take a short day trip out to Briar Island and Digby Neck. That is the string of land to the west of Nova Scotia. We haven't taken a trip there in a couple of years. We needed to take two ferries to get to Briar Island, and it was just a perfect day. When we arrived there, it was probably already about 4pm. We had a late start, but there was still plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We sat on the rocks for a while and gazed out at the ocean:
There was a small lighthouse on an island between Long Island and Briar Island that was quiet and serene:
I am fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. I need to sometimes remind myself that I have to take time out to enjoy it, or the seasons will pass us by.
This year with moving we have really not had many 'day trips' through our area. There was part of me that felt a bit guilty taking the day to drive around when I have so much work in front of me. But each morning I notice that it stays dark a bit longer, the days are cooler and summer is nearly at an end. If we don't take time off to enjoy our beautiful surroundings, then what are we doing all of this for?
Life is short and time is precious. Two things that I am realizing more as I get older and each year passes more quickly than the previous one. I had planned on working all day Monday cutting orders (out of guilt for taking Sunday 'off') but instead I spent the day painting my "12 Days" ornaments. It was somewhat hard for me to justify taking two days off in a row, but I felt it was the thing to do.
The world didn't stop spinning and the orders are here and ready to go. I only need to finish two of them up today, and they should ship out tomorrow. That one day won't make a life and death difference. But the time off certainly made a difference to me.
I am sure that I will continue with finding a balance between work and play. At my age, I am already programmed to do things a certain way and in a certain time frame. I don't regret that at all, but I do feel that sometimes I have to learn to RELAX and be flexible so that I can take a breath and enjoy my life and step out of the 'work mode' for a bit. Otherwise life will just pass me by.
Enjoy your Tuesday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"