Running with the Turtles

“I don’t mind running with the turtles.”

-Sondra Faye

Just as I was feeling overwhelmed and like I hadn’t accomplished much for the week, I spotted this quote online. How’s that for serendipity?

We’ve all heard the quote, “Slow and steady wins the race.” but there are parts of that idea that I don’t really think are appropriate for my situation.

In the first place, I am not in a race. As a designer of woodworking and craft patterns, I have always thought that the quality of my work output is far more important than the number of patterns. Both my partner and I have seen colleagues in both the woodworking and decorative painting field product pattern after pattern in a short period of time. It is quite intimidating at times. Especially when my own patterns are quite more detailed than those of many of my counterparts. On the not-so-confident days, I tend to feel like there is something wrong with me and that I am slacking because I feel that others do ‘so much more’ than I do. Where do they find the time?

Usually, when the mood passes and I come to my senses I realize a few things:

  • I don’t want to be like everyone else. Part of my success – especially in the field of art – is my own method of creating and having my own style. This is to my advantage. It is what makes me unique and hopefully, what brings my own customers and followers back to me time and time again.
  • My own personal vision is that I am able to make projects and patterns for every level of painter. That means that the instructions require a little more detail. While some projects may be more complicated than others, I want to be able to show even new people that anything is possible if it is broken down into small baby steps. I have taught many who thought that they would never be able to accomplish the project using this method, and I feel that it changes their idea of success not only for that project but for future projects as well.
  • I don’t like the idea of looking at my fellow designers as ‘competitors’. I prefer to look at them as colleagues. I believe in my heart that we all have something positive to bring to the table. Teaching art isn’t like a pie. We don’t run out of pieces or fill up on eating too much pie. Neither do our customers and followers. I think that as long as we make it interesting and have something to offer them that they feel is worth learning, they will be happy to support us and follow us. There really is no limit as to how many ways we (or they!) can create. Why should we look at things as if there is?

So if I look at things from a point of view that is much kinder to me and follows my own principles, I think I am doing OK. If it takes being a turtle then so be it. I kind of like turtles, anyway.

The past week was quite full. As a result, it seemed to go by very quickly. Besides the long-term project that I was working on, it was only a few days ago that I spent the day writing out a blog post here (the cougar one in graphite/carbon pencils) and spending the day catching up on social media. That really took me out for an entire day.

Then there was another day that I had to do desk work and straighten out some things regarding the business. And (of course) I needed to cut, pack, and ship all of my orders. While that goes without saying, it usually takes a couple of days per week at least. Then my daily walks with my sweetie, the housework, and the regular customer service. All these things are part of not only a functioning business but a functioning life. Everything we do isn’t always tangible. Most of it, in fact, is not.

I think that is probably the biggest problem we put on ourselves. We feel that unless we ‘see’ the results of our spent time, we have failed in producing. Some of us are very hard on ourselves in that respect. But if we think about it, those non-tangible tasks that occupy both our minds and our time are probably the most important things we are doing for ourselves. We need to respect them and give them the credit they deserve. And we never should apologize because of them.

So what did I accomplish this week? In a word – lots!

On Sunday I had a nice dinner for my mother-in-law for mother’s day. We hadn’t seen her for a while and she brought her ‘world-famous’ potato salad and a pie and we had a lovely barbeque. That was nice.

At the beginning of the week, I had a couple of shop days and cut, packed, and shipped my orders. That pretty much goes without saying. It has been slower lately, but I am not complaining. The extra time I have has been spent doing some additional design work and some general organization of the business – both physically and emotionally. After all – thinking through those projects is most of the work, I believe. It takes me a lot longer to plan things out than it does to actually implement them. That is part of why things go pretty smoothly most of the time.

I spent the end of the week working on my new building for my North Star Village series. The next building up is “The Golden Palette” art shop is the fifth store in the series and I really have been enjoying seeing it come to life:

I actually finished painting the larger piece this week. This was a great accomplishment. My process for designing and creating the patterns for these buildings is as follows:

  • I paint the small piece first – proportioned to the small-sized buildings in the series. This is a trial and error exercise of adding and subtracting features and details. Sometimes things have to change as I go along as I see my vision come to life.
  • I then scan the finished small piece into my scanner and trace over all of the components of the design. This will ensure that the pattern matches the wood pieces exactly and everything is consistent. I know people hate when the photos of the finished project don’t match the pattern and/or things don’t line up correctly. This way, too, the lines for the pattern are crisp and clean and in vector format.
  • Once the drawing is complete, I enlarge it proportionally to make the larger version of the building and I re-paint the larger version, but this time in an order that makes sense and that I document all along the way with lots (and LOTS!) of photos. That is the point I am at right now.
  • Next, I will paint the stands for BOTH the sizes at the same time (for consistency) and also add on some of the Christmas decorations, like lights. I like to do this when both pieces are basically done.
  • I will then glue on the overlay pieces and add the Sno-Tex snow to make it look complete. The stands will get Sno-Tex, too, which is why they need to be painted and assembled before this step.
  • When everything is ready, I take the final presentation photos for the promos and patterns.
  • Next, I start sorting through the hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of photos that I took along the way. Since I took them in order of repainting the larger building, this is a great visual guide for me to see every step I took in painting the complex building. I pick the best photos for the pattern, and crop and adjust them so that they are pattern-worthy. There are typically about 60-75 in each of these patterns.
  • Finally, I write the pattern, using the photos, which are now in “figure order” as a kind of storyboard to help me through the process. It really isn’t difficult at this point, yet it is a bit time-consuming. I use my design software to integrate the text, photos, and graphics into the file which will produce the PDF pattern.

As you can see, it can be a long process. Especially when there is a complicated subject with lots of details like these buildings. But I really love the result and so do my customers. I don’t think I could ever do things any other way.

When I think about it, I am pretty proud of my process and the results it brings. I think about how long some of my woodworking patterns have been around and I realize that years from now, I will still have customers that will be enjoying my patterns and creating projects from them. It is actually quite humbling.

In the evenings, I have been trying to ‘quit’ work by dinnertime. Even though I have the urge to push on through, one of the promises that I made to myself this year was that I was going to stop working on my ‘work-work’ by supper – especially if I put in a full day. I don’t want to become burned out and feel overwhelmed like I have in the past. I need time to do some ‘fun creating’ in the evenings – or nothing at all if I have house things to do or am tired.

Here is part of an embroidery project that I am working on at night:

I chose it because it was easy to pick up and work on for just a few minutes, or a few hours at once. I won’t tell you what it is just yet, as it will probably take me many months (or even a year) to complete. It is just something that I can do to relax at night when my head is tired and I want something to do while watching a show or listening to a podcast or music. Remember: it’s all about the journey. 😉

So that is it for today. I thought I would just post a little update for everyone to see what I am up to. While it may not be as full of information as my other blog posts, I have been trying to get into the habit of posting each weekend, and sometimes we just have to take small steps. Another thing I read this week somewhere in “internetland” was that in order to help you develop new habits, you should start with only two minutes or so of time on the task in the beginning. I can see the point in that, as thinking on a grand scale tends to overwhelm us and we aren’t as likely to follow through and keep things up. It makes sense.

So this is my equivalency of a ‘two-minute’ blog. Even though it took a bit longer than two minutes, by my standards it was much shorter than usual.

I like the phrase “Running with the turtles”. I may keep that as a mantra. We can have more than one mantra – right? There is something to be said for taking things slowly and enjoying the journey. And I do feel that more often than not, the results are much nicer, too.

Thanks for reading about my design process. I hope you enjoyed it. I am going to go run with some more turtles this afternoon because the sun is shining and the beach is calling and I could use a nice walk with my sweetie.

Until next time . . .

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Vera says:

    Turtles are amazing creatures! I think running with turtles would be great fun!

    Your pattens are amazing. They really are a recipe for success for everyone that has a desire to paint. I am spoiled by them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All I can do is try – right? I think my years of teaching through my magazine writing job taught me well. Now there is no other way to do them for me. I am so glad you like them. I always appreciate your support.


  2. Yup, run with the turtles. I like the way you think about your projects.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Andrew. Being appreciated makes me feel it is all worth it. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love that mantra! Your process is very unique and a great teaching tool for your customers. I have always enjoyed your way of producing pattens. Even a rookie painter or woodworker can follow them with success. keep running with the turtles! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am a firm believer in “if you are going to do something, do it properly.” I always feel good about the outcome and I forget the tiredness of the process. So that is good. Thank you always for your support and cheerleading. You are very much appreciated. 🙂


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