Learning to “Breathe”

As we moved into the new year several weeks ago, I had come to the realization that it was time to reassess my businesses and reevaluate how I want to proceed with them. While the year 2020 was difficult for many, I found that I was busier than ever. I think I can attribute this to the fact that people have been forced to slow down a bit and spend more time at home. This raised a need for finding something to occupy their time and many have looked towards doing creative things such as decorating, home improvements, and crafts. Being a supplier of both crafting supplies and patterns, it seems to have contributed to a nice boost in sales.

I am by no means an expert on the subject, and I am only speaking from my own limited observations and how things have affected me directly, but I have noticed quite an uptick in interest in things like online classes and tutorials and online socialization in the form of art groups and forums. People are migrating to others with like interests, and I believe many are looking to escape the negativity of the world through art and creating. This is a great opportunity for those of us who “art” for a living, and I am happy to say that because of this expanded interest in the creative industry, my business is growing by leaps and bounds.

But with growth comes challenges. Especially when there are limitations on both time and manpower. After all, the role of being a ‘sole proprietor’ by definition means that we are required to wear many hats. Not only do we need to come up with the ideas, but we also need to develop them, advertise them, demonstrate them, and in some cases (as with my wood kits and surfaces) manufacture them, pack them and ship them. That can be quite a load!

I have had the good fortune of having a wonderful partner in Keith. Since he joined me nearly 12 years ago, he has pretty much taken over the “Sheila Landry Designs” scroll saw pattern business. Not only is he a top-notch designer, but his computer skills and administrative knowledge allows him to do many of the technological tasks involved with the businesses such as building and managing the websites and handling all of the ‘behind the scenes’ tasks which that involves. That is a great relief to me, as not only do I get to focus on the Tole Painting Designs aspect of the business, but I have the comfort of knowing that he is continuing the tradition of creating beautiful scroll saw designs on the Sheila Landry Designs website. While my own patterns are still available there, Keith has pretty much taken over the design aspect of that site for several years now, as all the newer designs are his. It has turned out to be a great partnership.

I had decided to take the end of last year ‘off’ for a couple of weeks of rest. It had been quite a while since I had any time off and I needed a chance to breath and do some creative things for myself. Since what was selling most for me at the Tole Painting Designs website was the wood kits, I felt that by the middle of December it would be impossible to get pieces to customers in time to paint things for Christmas gifts anyway. The shipping services had been swamped already with so many not being able to exchange gifts with family and friends in person, and besides the fact that mail volumes were rising exponentially, there were less employees processing things due to COVID19. The days of “Two-Day Delivery” seem to be gone forever. Or at least for the time being. So I thought it was an opportune time to take a break and enjoy my own holiday and family.

I resumed cutting orders after the first of the year, but I hadn’t anticipated the huge backlog that accumulated over those couple of weeks that I was on self-proclaimed leave. In the past, it would have scared the life out of me seeing the sheer numbers of items that people had ordered. But both before I took the leave and also during the time I was ‘away’, I told myself that for my own sanity, I needed to relax and ‘breath’ and just tackle things one order at a time when I returned to work.

And that is just what I did.

As someone who is conscientious and who has been trying to build her business for over 20 years, this wasn’t the easiest thing to do. For many years, as some around me seemed to be waiting for me to fail, I came into the habit of working hard until the work was done, and then looking for more to do to improve things and help the business grow. Somewhere along the process, I had convinced myself that if I didn’t work my hardest every waking moment and do my best, then if the business failed, it would be my own fault. But as I am a little older now and (hopefully!) wiser, I see that there are flaws in this mindset and that working long hours isn’t really the only thing that will make or break your business. It takes a combination of things including but not limited to quality, customer service, dedication, ability, and TIME.

By “time” I mean that things don’t just happen overnight. In my opinion, there is no such thing as ‘overnight success.’ Perhaps it may seem to be the case to others on the outside looking in, but those who are successful in what they do are the first to tell you that it doesn’t usually happen without many years of trial and error, learning and hard work. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take time for ourselves to not only rest our bodies and souls, but also to allow our own creativity to thrive. I think it is necessary even more so after we have achieved moderate success so that we can continue to grow and flourish both personally and professionally. It is essential to our well-being.

With that being said, I am looking into trying some new approaches to my business this year. While I have (finally) caught up on the orders that have come in since my sabbatical, I want to protect myself from falling into the same pattern that I was in just prior to my break. I was pretty much spending every waking moment cutting, packing, and shipping wood orders and it gave me very little time to do anything creative for myself or even my business. While it is very much appreciated, it needs to be reigned in and I need to allow time for my own creativity. Otherwise, I feel that everything will fail, including my own well-being.

For now, I am thinking of trying a few new things. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to change and adjust things as I see fit. But at least it is a starting point and I will feel that I am being proactive in protecting myself and also my customers from disappointment.

I am going to try to have only one ‘batch’ of cutting per week. This will probably take a couple of days with the volume of work that I am typically having come in. I will also take a day to pack and ship the orders. Those of you who have received packages from me realize that it takes a bit of time. I take a great deal of care in how I send my products. I want everyone to feel as if it is Christmas when they receive things from me. From the feedback that I get from my customers, I am doing OK in that department <smile>

That will leave me the rest of the days of the week to do the necessary office/book work and also for me to be creative and actually draw, paint, and embroider. There is something that just isn’t right in that I am an artist and making a living from being creative, yet many times weeks pass between times that I pick up a paintbrush, pastel crayon, or needle and thread. I really want to see this change and I want to be able to spend more time doing what I feel I do best – create! Whether it be for teaching or for my own personal satisfaction, I need to have more of it in my life.

Keith had gifted me a beautiful set of Sennelier Oil Pastels for my birthday in August and I have only been able to find the time to create three small paintings with them since then. This was one of the drawings I made with them – it is on Canson Mi-Teintes black pastel paper and is of my kitty Wolf Blitzer:

“Wolf Blitzer” Sennelier Oil Pastels on 9″ x 11″ Canson Mi-Teintes Black Pastel Paper

I was pretty pleased with it, as it was only my second attempt using oil pastels. I want to take the time to explore this medium more, as well as create with other types of art supplies such as soft pastels (I want to finish my Caracal that I had shown in the previous post), as well as more acrylic projects and patterns, more embroidery projects, watercolor paintings, and other types of artwork. I know it sounds ambitious, but if I can take things just one at a time and allow myself a little time each week for these types of things, it would really make a difference.

I also hope to post here more. I realize that I have said that often in the recent past, but this year, I really want it to become a habit. I feel that there is much to share with others regarding creativity. This is especially true now, when many of us are at home more often than usual. I know for myself that staying home doesn’t bother me at all because I have a constant line of communication open with my other creative colleagues, customers and friends. We need to support each other and offer positive things so we can lift each other up through these trying times. I believe that in my heart.

I would love to hear your thoughts on things. I think when I hear from you all, I know that you are reading and it encourages me to write more. I had many ask questions as to how I juggle so many aspects of my business and I am going to try to really make an effort to share more things with you here. But in order to talk about my creative life, I need to LIVE a creative life. And that means that I need to take time to BREATH!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time . . .

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Congratulations Sheila on taking care of yourself and your creativity. It is so important to take time for yourself and recharge your batteries. Even though I am retired life can get very busy and sometimes I find days can go by without me doing anything creative. Even though there were things that had to be done around the house I took a few hours this week to do some fun drawing.. it does recharge the batteries! Continued success to you Sheila and happy BREATHING!😉😉😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Anna. I always appreciate your comments. I so hope to get back in the habit of posting here. I like that morning communication with everyone. That is part of the plan, anyway. If I can get to being organized enough, it should allow me the time to do so. 🙂 Happy New Year to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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