Monday, July 25, 2016

My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #1750: Making Do

Having limited means can completely shut some people down. For others, it serves as a challenge – not only to meet, but often to be completely conquered. For them, having less doesn’t mean giving up, but trying harder and often coming out of the situation even better than expected. It can be surprising what one can accomplish with a bit of determination. 

I grew up with limited means. My parents were divorced when I was very young (at a time when ‘divorce’ was neither common or readily accepted.) We moved in with my grandparents and lived with them for my young life. Because we had very little, I learned early in life that we took care of what we owned, fixed things when they were broken rather than replace them and respect the things that we had. While it may not have been an ideal situation all the time, looking back I feel as if it gave me a good base of appreciation and respect. Not only for 'things’, but for people as well. It is funny how some of these things that happened so long ago stick with us throughout our lives. 

Throughout this time, I never really felt 'poor’ or under privileged. Of course there were times when I noticed that others may have had nicer clothes or more 'things’ than I did, but I can honestly say that I didn’t dwell on it. We lived with my grandparents during my grammar school days and had a home like everyone else. We had responsibilities to do our certain chores each week to earn our quarter allowance. If we wanted something, we would save for it. During the holidays, myself and many of my friends would roam the neighborhood singing Christmas carols at people’s doors. They would give a nickle or a dime (maybe to get us to stop!) and at the end of the evening, we  would divide the extra money between us and use it for our gifts. It was a simple time. 

These memories came to mind yesterday as I was working in my new 'shop’. For the first time in my woodworking life, I have a designated  place to work. I am beside myself with happiness. 

As I think back to when I began scroll sawing in the late '90’s, I have never had what one would call a real shop. I always worked in a corner of the room somewhere, tucked between other things. In Chicago, there was the corner of the very packed garage. In the winter I had a small ceramic space heater and had to use gloves with the fingers cut out so my hands would not freeze. I was limited to working out there only a short while, as it would get to the point when my fingers wouldn’t move anymore they were so cold.  

In my first apartment, I sat on the closet floor. It was a larger, walk-in closet the size of a small room, but I had to drape  plastic all over my hanging clothes so that the dust would stay off of them. I couldn’t sand or route there. I had to go outside to the patio to do that. 

When I came to Canada, I worked in my kitchen. In the three places I lived here, I was fortunate to have an extra corner in the kitchen in which to scroll saw. Again – sanding and routing were harder, with my choices being outside or even in the bathroom, with all the towels removed. It was the easiest room to clean afterward and contain the dust. I made do. 

But yesterday, as I went upstairs to my 'little shop’ as I call it, I felt like a queen. I put on my cordless headphones and apron set up for work. The set up was minimal, as everything had its place. I have two large work tables, a place to scroll, sand and drill. I came down for lunch and all it required was a quick vacuum and taking off my apron. No longer did I have to clean all the counters and floors and chairs to have a quick meal. It was heaven! 

Within a couple of hours, I completed not only all of my orders, but extra pieces as well. I am trying to build up a little bit of stock now since I have the room to store extra wood. That way, I can work more efficiently and fill orders quicker when things get busy. I don’t have to stop each time something is ordered and make things one kit at a time. It will be much quicker, easier and more efficient. 

I realize that some may still consider my shop small. Compared to others’ work places, it probably is. But to me, who is used to working in the corners of the kitchen and on closet floors, it is huge. 

I got a great deal of work done yesterday in a short time. Not only was the process pleasant, but it was fun as well. 

My biggest accomplishment though was realizing that by moving, we have opened up an entire new world for ourselves. I never felt deprived while working in my other places. If anything, it taught me to use the resources provided and make them work the best way I could for me. I think that is a valuable lesson. It also makes me appreciate what I have now even more. 

Out of habit, I ran the vacuum after cutting every dozen of pieces or so. It only takes a couple of seconds, and when working in a small place, really helps keep things cleaner. When I was finished cutting, it took five minutes to clean my work space and put everything in its place. As I looked over my shoulder to leave my new little shop, it looked as nice and as clean as it did before I started. I smiled to myself and felt grateful. Not only for this small portion of my life, but for everything. 

I came downstairs to see Keith drawing a new design at his computer while watching one of his favorite shows. He mentioned how nice it was for me to be able to work and cut without having to cover him in dust or having to hear the noise of the saw and vacuum and tools only a few feet away. I am sure he is very grateful as well. 

We accomplished quite a bit over these past several years with our business. I am often asked how we were able to do it from such a small space. Whenever that occurred, it gave me a funny feeling. I suppose I never really thought about it – much like when I was a child and had to 'make do’ with what I had. We just do what is necessary with the means we have. Not only does that teach us how to adapt, but it also teaches us appreciation. I believe they are both good values which one needs to be successful. 

I am grateful for so much these days. Little by little we are making our new place our own. Today the rest of our furniture is arriving – the five large storage pieces I spoke about in previous posts. I am beyond excited! It will mean that the last of the boxes will find homes and I can really 'settle in’ and the real work can begin. Designing.

It is a wonderful start to the week and will begin a wonderful new chapter in my life. While I did well in my previous circumstances, I feel as if I will do even better here. I hope you all come along for the adventure. 

Happy Monday to you! 

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