My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #1348: Embracing Failure

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-01-2014 12:51 PM 1379 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1347: A Perfect World - Panel 11 Part 1348 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 1349: Swamped! :) »

No one  likes to fail. I don't think anyone in their right mind would go into something or try something with the hope of failing. It just wouldn't make sense. 

Yet – like it or not, failure is a real part of our everyday lives, and try as we may, failing from time to time is something that is usually unavoidable. 

Failure is an important part of the learning process. Many scholars and scientists know that without experiencing some form of failure, it is nearly impossible to learn something new. Failing at something not only drives us to try again, but also helps us rule out what may not work in a particular situation. Because of this, I believe it is a very valuable tool in the learning process. 

Most of us view failing as a negative thing. We hear of some type of failure and we immediately associate it with misfortune or sadness.

But what if we chose to look at it in the opposite sense? What if we detached all of those negative feelings we have toward failure and embrace it as a wonderfully positive part of the learning process and use it to our advantage? Wouldn't that be incredible?

We all know that experience is one of the best teachers. While we can learn from watching others and hearing about their plights and theories, nothing hits home harder than going through things first hand and trying things ourselves. While I can learn from watching videos of others painting, it isn't until I pick up a paint brush and try the technique myself that I am able to really understand the process and all that it entails. The small nuances of feel, texture and performance of pushing the paint with the brush are unable to be experienced by merely standing on the sidelines and watching another artist paint. No matter how detailed the explanation is, until we try the technique ourselves, we may never fully understand. 

But in those trials, there is bound to be failure. We are more than likely to not get things perfectly right the first time and it may take many attempts and hours of practice until we feel completely comfortable with what we are trying to accomplish. But that is OK. That is what learning is all about. 

I have been writing and blogging here with you all for over four years now. I post nearly every day and I invite you all to share not only my successes, but my failures as well. If  you don't read every day and just look at the projects and patterns that I create, I expect it does look pretty simple.

I think of a design. I draw it. I create it. 

From the outside it looks pretty easy.

Naturally we like to show our best work, and put our best foot forward. That is just part of human nature, I believe. But even though I show what I accomplish every day, I also like to share with you my failures. Not because I am particularly proud of them, but because I don't look at them as a negative thing and I believe that they are very functional in the learning process. It really IS alright to fail. I think it is pretty much expected. I honestly think that something is wrong when people expect to walk into something completely new and NOT expect a few bumps in the road along the way. While we may not be PROUD of our failures, I also feel that they are nothing to be ashamed of either. They are a functional and necessary part of the learning process and help us in more ways than we even realize.

With that said, I had a bit of a 'failure' yesterday.  

As I looked again at my "A Perfect World" embroidery Panel 11, I just didn't feel right about it.  It is funny, but posting pictures of my work here on the computer kind of puts it in a new light for me and I usually can get a different perspective. I dont' know if it is because I usually do so in the morning, allowing some time to pass between when I complete it and when I look at it again or just because it is usually magnified on the screen and bigger than life. In any case, I saw my cosmos flower and I really didn't "LIKE" it anymore. I couldn't put my finger on it. It looked a bit ragged and less-refined than the rest of the sampler. I had the growing feeling that I needed to rip it out and do it over. And once it began, it was difficult to suppress.

I thought about it throughout the day. I had followed the instructions to the letter, but I just hadn't liked the result. That meant that I would need to replace the part of the design with my own interpretation of the flower, and go off on my own.

Pretty scary.

This was my first attempt of this type of embroidery. The piece was one I proclaimed my "learning piece" and would be the equivalent to a college course in Ribbon Embroidery and Stumpwork. I have some more ideas as to what I want to design using this method, but I feel that I must complete my "course" of this sampler which includes over 60 different techniques. I wasn't sure I was ready to spread my wings  just yet.

Yet . . . it bothered me so much, I had to do something.

I researched photos of cosmos so I knew where I was heading.  A typical one looks like this:

I then thought of all the stitches I learned and read about and figured out how I would approach the 're-do'.  I was nervous, but I picked up my seam ripper from my friend Roger and went to work, pulling out the first flower which represented several hours of time.

It took me nearly three hours to do the first flower, but in the end, I think I am much happier.  The reworked flower is the one on the far right:

Instead of the loose petals with the interfacing showing, I created petals that were folded under so that only the pretty ribbon edge showed. It took a great deal of time to free-embroider the tiny vein lines on the petals, but I do believe it was worth it. Things looked much neater and the flowers looked more in line with the rest of the piece:

I think it was a good solution.

As I said, it took me nearly three hours to accomplish this. But this piece was going along so well and I didn't want to have something that I was not comfortable with looking back at me. I would have obsessed on it too much and with the already hundreds of hours that I have into this piece (I began it in March and it won't be done until autumn, I believe) I thought that the extra 10 or so hours to re-do the flowers was worth it.

I am happy with the new flower. And I really learned a lot from this failure. While I can't say I was "happy" that I failed, I think that it was something that was necessary for me to learn and in the end, I will be better because of it.

I hope you all remember that when you fail at something. It is easy to look at others' work with envy, thinking how easy things come to them. I often hear that people think that things come "easy" to me. But that is only because they see the final product. If they only saw the process and the many, many failures that I have experienced in my travels, they would understand the truth. Nothing comes easy. It is a matter of how hard we want to work for it.

I think this applies to many things in life.

I have learned to embrace my failures instead of loath them. For without them, I wouldn't be the person I am or have the skills that I possess.

It is all a matter of perspective.

I wish you all a wonderful Tuesday!

Happy Canada Day to my host country! Thank you, Canada for giving me a second place to call "home".  

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

5 comments so far

View S4S's profile


2118 posts in 3134 days

#1 posted 07-01-2014 04:37 PM

”I think of a design . I draw it . I create it ”

...........what wonderful words to hear . I think when one embraces failures and carries on in spite of

of them , one not only advances her art, but also avoids a thing to be feared later on…....Regrets and
apathy . I really enjoyed all your thoughts on this topic . Have a wonderful creative time today !

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3373 days

#2 posted 07-01-2014 04:59 PM

Thank you kindly, Moment. I am glad you understand. I believe there are those of us who do this for profit (this creative thing – whatever that entails!) and those of us who do it for love or creating. While I am fortunate enough to make a small living at doing something I love, I do believe my first priority is the creative process. (Besides – I am Chicago born and raised! It takes a lot to discourage us! We are a tough lot!) ;)

Thank you for sharing with me today. :)


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

View Celticscroller's profile


1281 posts in 2526 days

#3 posted 07-02-2014 03:33 AM

You are right Sheila, the flower does look better – well worth the time spent. Sometimes creating is a series of challenges and problems which need solutions but we always find the solution! It’s all part of the process.
Hope you had a great Canada Day. It was a beautiful hot sunny day here.

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3367 posts in 4165 days

#4 posted 07-03-2014 05:29 AM


YES! YES! YES! YOU NAILED IT! The effort was well worth it. It really looks perfect.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3373 days

#5 posted 07-03-2014 12:17 PM

Thank you both! I did feel it looks better and although I haven’t (at this moment) had time to do the other two, when I do I know I will feel much better about the whole thing.

Anna – I did have a great day. We visited with Keith’s mom and had a great dinner. Then the avalanche hit and I am working on lots of wood orders. It is all goo though. I hope you had a great day and are having a wonderful week. It was overcast this morning, but it looks as if the sun it trying hard to peek through.

Take care and thanks for stopping by! :D


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

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