We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheila Landry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sheila, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I often tell people that I was “born to create”. I believe that we are each put here on this Earth for a reason, and I feel in my heart that my reason for being here is to make things and teach others and share the joy of creating and doing something positive. I find a great deal of joy in sharing my creativity with others. This includes both teaching skills as well as providing tools and finished products to people.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am constantly in awe of the beauty and complexity of our world, and for some reason, I find a deep satisfaction in recreating through many types of media and art. I love to draw, paint, embroider, and do woodworking projects. I have even recently began creating some jewelry pieces using a combination of techniques and materials such as beads, wire, and stitchery. I love creating pieces by mixing ‘unexpected’ supplies together to create focal points and textures. I also enjoy learning to use different types of creative materials. I look at each type of media (acrylic paint, watercolor, oil pastel, thread, etc.) as a type of ‘language’ that we use to express our inner feelings and emotions through art. I have been ‘making things’ as long as I can remember. My first memory of creating was when I was about eight years old and living in Chicago. An elderly neighbor was sitting on her porch embroidering one day when I was walking by and I stopped to see what she was doing. She was kind enough to take the time to explain to me about embroidering and went so far as to give me a tea towel and thread and show me the stitches. Our ‘sessions’ were my first memory of learning a craft and I returned many times to sit on her step with her and embroider. It impacted me throughout my life. My first step into creating professionally occurred when I was a stay-at-home mom. The local school head craft fairs, and I began sewing and making home decorations from purchased patterns to sell there for extra money. This allowed me to be home with my children and still earn a small income (and justify the cost of doing more creating.) Soon I was making my own patterns and branched out to making collectable mohair teddy bears and participating in national, juried shows. When creating my bears, I desired different ‘props’ for them, such as carts, a wooden leg for my pirate bear, and other things that they could hold or that would create small vignettes with the particular pieces. This led me to learning how to use a scroll saw to cut my own wood pieces, and ultimately to painting, as I wanted to learn to paint the pieces I cut. I had done some painting as a teenager and always enjoyed art and painting. I had also taken an art course in university that I enjoyed very much. Because I lived in Chicago at the time, I was privileged to some of the national craft shows. It was there that I met with several editors from a group of craft-related magazines that liked my work and booked several projects in various magazines such as Craftworks, Paintworks, and Creative Woodworks and Crafts, which was a magazine dedicated mainly to scroll sawing and small woodworking projects. I became a contributing editor to Creative Woodworks and Crafts soon afterword and kept that position for nearly 20 years until the magazine folded. I had over 100 projects of mine published under my Sheila Landry Designs company name. I moved to Nova Scotia, Canada in 2004 and was able to continue my work with the magazine and grow my business. In 2009, I partnered up with Keith Fenton, who now has pretty much taken over the Sheila Landry Designs part of the business. After many years of primarily creating scrollsaw patterns, I was ready to branch out to develop my presence in the decorative painting world as both a designer and also as someone to provide wood pieces for those who paint. Many of the larger companies that cut wood for painters were going out of business and I saw a need for a company to work with new and established designers to offer wood pieces that were heirloom quality. Initially, I provided my painting patterns and wood pieces under the “Sheila Landry Designs” company name. But as my success grew, it became confusing to our customers so somewhere around 2017 we created a separate website – “Tole Painting Designs” and dedicated that to the painting and painting surface part of the business. About two years later, I discovered a lovely embroidery artist from South Africa (Di van Niekerk) and purchased a very involved embroidery kit from her. It renewed my love of embroidery, and I saw a need to provide kits and patterns for people here in North America. I opened my Etsy shop, “The Stitching Kitty”, in order to get my feet wet in that aspect of creating. As you can see, my businesses have headed in many directions. While my main focus has been on the Tole Painting Designs business, I have tried to develop The Stitching Kitty as much as time will permit, as well as advancing my skills in the many different media types used in painting. My biggest challenge is definitely “time.” I keep looking for that forty-eight hour day when I can accomplish everything that I wish to accomplish. My partner Keith has pretty much taken over the scroll saw pattern business, as I haven’t had much time to create new woodworking patterns, and he is also in charge of both of the main websites. Last summer he changed the platforms for both sites and rebuilt them from the ground up. It was a huge task, but we feel it was well-worth the effort as both sites have grown quite a bit since. This leaves me to my current challenge – managing my time with my growing wood business. Everything I do is hand-cut by me, and I also pack, ship, and do all the correspondence with my growing list of customers. I don’t really make enough to hire anyone to help, so it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the growing demand for my wood pieces. I feel my prices are just about where they should be, as I want to them to be fair to my customers. We were considering getting a laser cutter last year before COVID19 took over the world, but with the future a bit uncertain, we decided to hold off on that idea for now. It would be a large investment and we wanted to see which way the business would head in the ‘new’ environment. Fortunately, I think that it has done pretty well, as those who are home more seem to be looking for positive and productive ways to spend their time. While many have suffered, it seems that our businesses have grown a bit after the initial shock of the ‘lockdowns’ and restrictions. Now that the crafting industry has moved to things like online classes and Zoom, I think that there could be a decent uptick in the number of people who are making things. That is good for those of us who design. I am pretty optimistic about my future regarding my businesses. If the last year is any indication, I think my biggest challenge for 2021 will be deciding which direction is the best way to go to develop things and meet the growing needs of our customers.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Coming from Chicago to Nova Scotia was a huge change for me. I always loved the city of Chicago itself, and for several years in my late teens and early 20’s I worked at one of the ‘big banks’ in the heart of downtown. I loved the bustle of the city, but my favorite place was always Navy Pier. I loved the water and could spend hours sitting on one of the benches at the end of the pier and listening to live music and ‘people-watching’. It was wonderful to grow up in such a large and diverse city, as I was exposed to so many different ethnicities and learned to enjoy and respect the food, customs, and differences of a great variety of people. Now, living in Nova Scotia, I am in love with the quiet calm of the ocean. I live in a rural area of small fishing towns and villages and enjoy the cozy friendliness of small-town living. When visitors come, we spend most of our time on the rocky beaches, looking out at the beautiful ocean or taking walks through the many wooded trails and areas. It is truly a lovely place to live and reflect. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
From the time I was very young, I found great pleasure in ‘making things.’ I grew up on the south side of Chicago and one of my earliest memories of creating was from when I was about seven years old. We lived with my grandmother and a friend of hers down the street was sitting on her porch one hot summer day embroidering on a tea towel. Mrs. Kuba was friendly and waved to me and having nothing much else to do, I joined her on the step and asked her about what she was doing. I was fascinated. She was a kindly woman and I believe she enjoyed my interest. Soon she was headed inside to get me another towel and some colorful embroidery thread and she began teaching me the basic stitches. I so enjoyed it! I remember being so proud of myself when I went back home with my towel with the pretty design on it. It was the beginning of not only a friendship, but it awakened love and desire inside of me to create beautiful things. That afternoon on the step was just the beginning of a lifelong journey for me that is still in progress. Soon after that first taste of embroidery, I enrolled in a sewing class at the Chicago Park District and learned to make a simple dress. The park district offered many programs such as that and I spent the majority of my life taking tap, ballet, gymnastics, swimming lessons, and arts and crafts classes both during the summer months as well as after school. My parents were divorced and my mom was happy I had a safe place to go while she was working. We were not well off financially, but all the classes were free. As I look back some 50 years later, I wonder how many other lives those programs impacted in such a positive way. Not only did they teach me skills that would last a lifetime, but they also showed me the importance of sharing these skills and passing them to others through teaching and offering patterns, classes, and artwork.
Website: http://www.tolepaintingdesigns.com, http://www.thestitchingkitty.com, http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com
Other: My blog: https://sheilalandrydesigns.wordpress.com/
They are all my own photographs that I took.