“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – Charles Dickens
Many of us are familiar with the opening words from Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”. It remains one of the most famous quotes in literature, as it depicts the contradictions of the emotions that many of us go through in our everyday lives.
Whether we experience this on a grande scale or through minor events, there seldom passes a day in our lives where we do not experience both highs and lows. I believe that how we perceive these events and whether we choose to focus on the good things or the bad is a key to our personal happiness and well-being. For many times it is a matter of choice for us.
So why have I chosen to babble on today about something so deep and profound?
The other day I had an experience while designing that was an example of both the “best of times” and the “worst of times” and I thought it may be helpful for my creative followers to hear about it. So my story follows:
I have recently been designing a series of storefronts to display for Christmas called “North Star Village – Christmas in the City.” The series is the result of several years of planning. I wanted to create a long-term project for decorative painters to paint (using DecoArt Acrylic paint) that was detailed, beautiful, and fun to paint. Each of the buildings in the collection would be packaged as a separate pattern, as each piece would be packed with beautiful details. There would be overlay pieces for each store front and I even decided to create a stand-alone, complimentary ornament set which pulls the main elements from each building and allows those who may not want to do the building itself to still enjoy the project.
I also decided to have the wood pieces available in two sizes; small and large. This would further allow people to adapt the project to their specific needs.
The premier building was the toy store that I named, “Toys in the Attic.”
It quickly became one of my most popular patterns/kits to date and it I felt that I was on the right track and was so encouraged. As soon as things slowed down enough for me to get back to the design table, I began working on the second building; “The Enchanted Florist”.
After several weeks of drawing, cutting pieces, and finally painting, the prototype for my florist was ready to show:
I was really pleased with the result of this building, as it actually came to life looking much as I have imagined it in my mind. I was quite relieved.
Others thought so as well, as when I showed it in my “Let’s Paint (and CREATE!) With Sheila Landry” Facebook group, the feedback was wonderful. I have a long and growing list of those who want to order as soon as I have the pattern and kits ready to order. But there are a few more steps before that can happen.
Every designer has his/her own process that they follow when creating. I also have my own. When I am creating a pattern to paint, I usually have the need to paint it at least twice while creating the written instructions and kits. There is a rhyme and reason to my madness however, and this is kit is a good example as to why I do things the way I do.
The first time I paint something, I call it a ‘prototype.’ I try to figure the outside shape to cut the piece, if it is on a specific wood piece (as the florist is) and then I do my best to paint within the perimeters I have created for myself. Most of the time this works well, but often there are fine adjustments that need to be done along the way. For this reason, I don’t really like anyone to ‘pre-order’ kits and patterns unless I am sure I am near the finish. It is just too much pressure for myself.
For the North Star Village series, I start with the smaller buildings as my prototypes. I do this because it is more difficult to paint smaller pieces in detail, and it doesn’t allow me to over-detail a larger piece that someone may have difficulty painting when reduced to the smaller size. I can always add a little detail as I paint the larger piece, but the instructions and photos in the pattern will be written with the small pieces clearly in mind so that everything is ‘possible’ and can be accomplished. I hope that makes sense.
The finished florist pictured above is the smaller version of the two buildings. It allowed me to present it and get feedback from my followers, but I am not done yet.
With everything in place, it is now time for me to re-paint the project. Only this time I am painting the larger version. After having painted it once to my satisfaction, I no longer will change things. There is no more adjusting or back-and-forth or changing things altogether. (As a side note: I repainted the lettering on the sign twice, changed the colors of the trim around the windows, and changed the door, and had to paint the roof three times before I was satisfied when painting the prototype).
As I paint the project again, I now have the process quite organized in my head and take many step-by-step photos as I paint. The first shop had over 50 color photos in the pattern. This shop will have at least that. It allows me to reconstruct what I did in a way that makes sense and is easy for someone to follow and recreate. That is what I feel teaching through a pattern is.
Things were going along nicely for a while. But when I got to the part of transferring the lines for the door design, I noticed something was terribly wrong. After over a day of work, nothing seemed to line up. The lower windows were much shorter proportionally than they were on the original piece. Somehow, in all my many line drawings, something got distorted and the lower windows just didn’t fit.
If I were to keep this prototype, the deer would need to be significantly smaller. Not to mention that there would be too much space above the windows. There would be a visual gap that wouldn’t match the smaller building and force me to change everything. I was quite unhappy. It was the worst of times for sure from a designing point of view.
I considered sanding the windows and/or just painting over them again. But since there were several layers of paint and the colors were so intense, I knew the perfectionist in me wouldn’t have it looking like I knew it would look if I doctored it. So in the bin it will go.
The realization of the error occurred around dinnertime Sunday. This was after I spent most of Saturday and Sunday painting on it. The entire weekend’s work seemed to be for nothing. I consoled myself with a bowl of ice cream and did the smart thing: put it away for the evening.
On Monday, I looked at things with fresh eyes. I headed to the shop to cut myself another wood piece. I discarded ALL of the drawings that weren’t final versions, and I checked and double-checked the sizes. I discarded all the ‘extra’ overlay pieces that I thought I would get ahead by cutting early, so I wouldn’t accidentally use them or send them to a customer. I started with a clean slate and positive fattitude. And I focused.
By the end of the day, I have nearly caught up to where I was when I discovered the error. The new piece has the windows the proper size:
I no longer need to either cut off the reindeer’s antlers or feet, and I can move ahead knowing that I am doing things right. I also added the bottom channel that would sit in the stand and be hidden. That was another thing that I discovered that I did not do on this piece. I feel much better about things in general.
I feel pretty good about things today. I did so yesterday as well. With doing something that is this important to me (as are ALL my patterns and kits) I feel that I need to have things RIGHT. I am now able to hold my head up high when presenting this project, knowing that everything is OK.
I expect to only finish about four to six of these stores by the end of the year, even though I have at least 30 or more in mind. There have been many people who are anxious for the next store and wishing I could get them done faster. But I don’t see that happening.
As the village slowly grows, I believe it will gain popularity. I know that there are already those who may have missed the first building and are going to be jumping on board seeing the second. I can only imagine (knowing what is inside my head that is planned for this series) that it will gain popularity with each new addition. Since I also cut my kits and ship them, in addition to all the other wood, patterns, and kits I cut for other designers as well as my own patterns, it may be a bit slow to see this village grow. But I hope the wait will be worth it.
“It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. . . “
Those words could not be truer. But taking those ‘worst of times’ and using them to improve what we are doing and learning from them is something that makes them not only invaluable to the creating process, but also (dare I say?) welcome. They make us better.
I am grateful to have learned from this experience. I am excited to move forward.
Stay tuned. 🙂