My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #1516: Learning from our Disappointments

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 03-13-2015 01:12 PM 1598 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1515: FLOWERS!!!! Part 1516 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 1517: My Easter Tree »

I debated on writing today because I am not sure if I have anything very interesting to discuss today. After putting in some really long hours the past week or so, I think it is time for me to take a breath. I had to smile to myself when someone who placed an order put a note that said how anxious they were for the patterns. It really made me feel good to know that the hard work I invested was appreciated and people like the design. 

It isn't always like that. I am not mentioning this out of anger or disappointment, but because my goal here with my blog is to paint a realistic picture of what it entails to run and operate a small, home-based business. There are many good days, which I love to share, but there are also some times when things don't turn out as I expected, and I think it would not be a realistic representation if I didn't share the not so positive things as well. Fortunately, they don't seem to happen too often. But I don't think that many of you would think much of me if I only talked about the great things that happened and not the failures. Not everyone loves every pattern that I make. 

Creating patterns for others is like that. When you look at things logically, it just HAS to be. I have made patterns (recently, as a matter of fact) that haven't sold. I actually had a pattern last month that didn't sell even ONE copy. When I showed the project and posted it in my groups, it got lots of 'oohs' and 'aaahs' and I thought I had a winner. But when I posted it in the newsletter and put it on the site, nothing came of it. Not one sold as of yet.

This happened before recently as well. Just before Christmas I previewed a pattern in one of my painting groups and everyone was (I thought!) clamoring for it. I got several email messages from people who wanted it and since it was only partially done, I decided to make a list and told the interested people that I will email them as soon as it became available (in a few days). They readily agreed and I wound up with I think eighteen names on it. It made me work harder and was great motivation.

Long story short, I finished the project and posted the pattern on the site. I made the announcement in the group and put lots of pictures of the finished pieces and kits, which were (I thought) cute. I then sent out emails to the eighteen people and waited for the orders to roll in.

They just didn't come. I think that only one person actually followed through and ordered the pattern and a kit. I had cut several kits out in anticipation of the orders and they are still there in my bin. Every time I see them, I am reminded that nothing is a 'sure thing'. I think it is a valuable lesson.

Do I think that the project was ugly?  Or that people were just being 'nice'?  

I don't know.

I do know that there were eighteen people that took the time and energy to seek me out and write me in anticipation for the  pattern. It was a bit confusing.

I have thought about these things and tried to figure out what happened. Perhaps it was timing. Maybe the three days that  passed from when they first asked to when the patterns were done was cutting it too close. These were holiday pieces and while we were still several weeks away from the holiday, maybe they got filled in with something else.

It could have been that people were over extended. I know how December can be. (These were Christmas items) People make lists and by the time they get to the bottom, they may see that they don't have as much to invest in things as they thought. The bills from earlier purchases start rolling in and they see the direction they may be heading and may want to put on the brakes a bit.

Or maybe it was impulse. Maybe they were delighted by the first photos of the project and after thinking a bit on it, came to their senses and thought – "maybe next year."

It is hard to say.

But it was a good lesson for me and a great reminder that nothing is a "given."

We take risks when we design. Even when we think things are sure. I had a designer friend who was commissioned to do a piece for an organization. She was on her way to a show at the time and that was stated at the beginning, but the solicitors still wanted her work. When she returned from the show, she shuffled her schedule around and busted her hump to get the piece done as quickly as possible, putting her other work on hold. When she presented the finished project, the organization rejected it, saying it just wasn't what they wanted. They backed out of the deal.

She was devastated and I was livid on her behalf. I thought it was  pretty crappy of the organization to treat her that way. Her designs are darling and she definitely has her own style. I can pick her work out from a hundred pieces (and that is a GOOD thing!). I am sure the piece she did was of the same caliber as what I have become used to seeing from her. She always does quality work.

I suppose that is what prompted me to write this. It made me think of my own failure(s) mentioned above. As an artist and designer, we NEED to learn to NOT take these things personally. It is all part of the vocation we chose to follow.

To many, these disappointments could be the end for us. It may be the last straw for someone who is struggling to make things work. But for those of us who realize that everyone likes different things, it is just a mere hiccup in our road to success. It should be used as a lesson, and while it should be noted, it should not be treated with more importance than it deserves.

People are different. They like different things. I like different things than many people I know, but that is what makes me unique and makes my designs stand out from others'. Instead of looking at my differences as a curse, I have learned to embrace them and count on them to put me in a place where no one else has gone. My differences will make me successful. So will yours. 

I hope the next time things don't go just the way you like, you remember this and keep moving forward. Don't let these things hold you back. Be true to yourself and follow your heart. 

I suppose I DID find something to write about after all. Funny how that works. ;)

I plan on taking the weekend to get some things tied up around here. We had an incredibly busy day yesterday with our update. It was a thrill to see how many people liked our new designs. It made me feel as if I may be somewhat on the right track. For now, anyway.

I have lots of fun things to keep me busy this weekend:

     -I need to do a little sewing repair on my winter coat (It seems like a small thing, but I have been saying that for weeks! I need to just get it done!)

     -I need to work on our 'organizational project' that I began showing. (Yes – we are working on it. Keith is almost done building and there has been a  piece sitting in the middle of our bedroom for several weeks that I need to take time to paint. I promise a full blog or two on that result soon.)

     -I needed to do some baking and cooking. I made some pecan sandies yesterday and they are incredible!

     -I need to change my 'all season tree' to a spring theme. The polar theme is beautiful and may be my favorite, but it is time to change it.

     -I also have gifts to make, painting to do, classes to take and a myriad of other things that get put on the side when I am 'working'.

I suppose it looks like a long list, but it is all good. Call it "spring cleaning". Whatever it is, it will feel good to do.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Today is Friday the 13th, so I will show you a photo of my beautiful black kitty, Coco. The boys seem to get most of the press because Coco is much quieter and gentler than they are. 

She is a beautiful and gentle friend. 

I am off to have another cup of coffee and a cookie or two. It is going to be a beautiful weekend. Have a great one yourselves. 

Happy Friday!


(Coffee service by April Glader of Coffee Cat Pottery. She makes absolutely wonderful pieces!)

-- 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 kepy's profile


293 posts in 2882 days

#1 posted 03-13-2015 02:18 PM

I can understand your frustration. Back in August, a customer ordered 4 of the dog plaques I do (all different breeds) and needed one in Sept and the rest in Dec. I had to get the lumber (cherry plank) and got the one done in Sept and called to let her know it was ready. She was supposed to leave the money at a shop in town where I could deliver it the next day. When I got there, no money so I brought it back home. Did not hear anything until Feb when the shop owner called that she showed up so he gave her my number which never rang. I still have the one finished and the other three laid out to do. He called me the other day with another special order and we decided that no work until we see the money.
Dealing with the public can be extremely frustrating.
I ordered some carving patterns a while back that were downloadable. Kept waiting for the email with the patterns but never heard a thing. Waited several days and finally contacted the co to see what the holdup was. Was told that all I had to do was go to the site, log in and download the patterns. That was just miscommunication as I did not know.
Gee, I didn’t intend to write a blog also. LOL

-- Kepy

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3529 days

#2 posted 03-13-2015 07:06 PM

I never mind reading your stories too! It is nice to know I am not alone.

Yes – this happens all too often to people like us who sell their services and products. We are so eager to be accepted that we forget to use prudent business sense and do things like get deposits.

I also find that when I order from different sites, there are different rules that apply. For my site, we can program it to automatically email the patterns to customers. But we don’t do that yet – we email the patterns ourselves. That way we are sure to communicate directly with our customers and I can put a short personal message in each order. It gets busy sometimes and takes some time, but to me it is worth it and we will try to do it until we no longer can. Many of our customers are older and don’t like computers. This helps take the fear out of ordering digital patterns from us.

In any case, thank you for your thoughts. I am sorry it happened to you though. It is a learning process for most of us. :)


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

View Celticscroller's profile


1286 posts in 2682 days

#3 posted 03-13-2015 08:04 PM

Hi Sheila, it is frustrating when you put a lot of yourself into a design project and there are no bites. It doesn’t mean that some where down the road, those folks who wanted the patterns won’t order at a later date. Dealing with the public can be a challenge at times. I know when I had my custom sewing business it was a challenge to please some people. All in a day’s work :)
Enjoy the weekend – hopefully there will be some more melting of snow!

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3529 days

#4 posted 03-13-2015 08:44 PM

Thanks, Anna – I know you are right. :) I felt worse for my friend than I did with my own experience. After all – with working for the magazines for 17 years, you do learn to take things in stride. Editors are not always thrilled with what you do and some of them send them back for many (MANY!) changes. But it’s their magazine(s) and their vision and I realized that I was just along for the ride. I still feel that way when being published. The editors have the final say.

My friend is newer to this business and perhaps a little tender. It still is no excuse for making her jump through hoops just to turn her away. I kind of know which ones she was dealing with (I am 99% sure) and I doubt I will ever submit to them or agree to work with them. There are many GOOD people and companies to work with that respect designers and artists and appreciate what they do for their craft. It is all part of the journey. :)

I hope you have a nice weekend too. It is melting here, but they were calling for 10cm tomorrow. Now it is changed to mostly rain. But I will be busy inside all weekend doing some great miscellaneous things that will be fun. So it will be a good one no matter what.

Take care and have fun. I hope you get some warm weather too! :)


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

View Druid's profile


2163 posts in 3404 days

#5 posted 03-15-2015 10:13 AM

Well put Sheila. In my case, when I have been asked to “create” an item for someone, I have always been able to start off by stating that “it will be ready when it’s ready”. I will not rush a project just because the person asking for it did not plan ahead, or they figure that I can stop everything else just for them. I do not do this to be awkward or stubborn. Due to the nature of some of the commissioned items, I explain to the customer that I will not work on the item unless I can focus only on that piece as I am working. If I have had something negative happen during the day, I do not want to pass along that negative energy into my carving. So, work remains halted until I am ready to continue with only positive thoughts, and those are what I want the end user to “feel” when they first see and touch the item. Sure, some people find this approach to be a bit off, but it works well for me, and for the person receiving the item. I’m sure that many of us will pick up several pieces of wood when starting a project, and then settle on the piece that “feels” right, and use that one. I just want to have my items “feel” right, and if the customer doesn’t feel comfortable with that, then I recommend someone else.
As for Kepy’s remarks on payment, I have found that if the customer is serious, and I have given them an explanation as to the estimated materials and hours, there is usually no problem in getting a down payment that will at least cover the materials plus a bit of my time.
More snow??? Well, if the scientists are correct about no 2 snowflakes are identical, imagine how many snowflake scrollsaw patterns you have around your house?

Have a wonderful day.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3529 days

#6 posted 03-15-2015 02:31 PM

Thank you for your thoughts on this John. We have placed a statement on our site which reads as follows:

A note on custom requests: A good design often requires many hours of work. If you really feel you want to pursue having a custom design made (other than the custom word art product included on the site), our rates are $25 per hour and we require that you pre-pay a portion of the cost.

However, we find that people don’t tend to read things and we still get lots of requests to make special patterns for little or no cost. Our mailing list is now almost at the 5000 mark, and you can imagine how difficult it would be to create special patterns to each individual’s taste. We try to make patterns that will be loved by the majority of people, and we will do special orders for those who are willing to pay for our time and expertise.

I agree that if you don’t have the right mind set, what we create doesn’t usually meet our own expectations. Some people don’t understand the emotional connection to our work.

Have a great weekend, Sheila

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

View Druid's profile


2163 posts in 3404 days

#7 posted 03-15-2015 07:56 PM

I like your statement, and I think it accomplishes 2 important things.
1. It sets a reasonable baseline for you and a customer to work from when a custom item is being considered.
2. It also lets your customers know that you are willing to produce custom designs to suit their particular needs. (Many woodworkers forget to promote this aspect of their creativity.)
I think it’s a win-win scenario.

Hope you aren’t getting more snow . . . raining here, but snowdrops are blooming.


-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3529 days

#8 posted 03-15-2015 08:41 PM

We are getting a mix of snow and rain, but nothing is sticking. The forecast is for below freezing weather all week, but they have been known to be wrong. <grin> ;)

Have a great evening!


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

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics