Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Inventory Cards

On our furlough day before Thanksgiving, I cleaned my studio. I spend most of the rest of the weekend cleaning the house, playing, making a pinata and sewing a (not-yet-finished) puppet theater for my daughter. 

homemade cupcake piƱata and a hanging puppet theater (in progress)

The other thing I accomplished over the long holiday week and weekend was to get my studio inventory to a functional state.

my inventory box: portable, flexible, non-digital

I had originally planned to purchase a database program. That is, after a colleague laughed at my Microsoft Word table-with-a-tiny-thumbnail inventory method, I planned to get a database. But I wasn't sure where to begin to look for a database. Also, I keep thinking I will get a new computer, so I should somehow wait to get the database.

Regardless, indecision contributed to inaction and last week I determined that I needed something, immediately, to function for me as a list of what work is currently in which show and the dimensions of works I plan to enter in shows. Running out to the studio each time I am preparing an application to measure and check on pieces is silly.

My new method, as I mentioned previously is decidedly low tech. But after spending a good part of my afternoon writing assignments and presentations on the computer, using a kinetic, physical tool is my preference. I can add too, annotate, and quickly modify the information on the cards. I can stack them into groups according to size, show, medium, color, or whatever I need to do. Physically moving the cards also helps me think about what I need to do with the actual works. 
some of the finished works I have on hand, ready for shows

The new approach consists of index cards in a box. The cards each have one picture of a work and written info giving dimensions, year completed and cost. If the firing or medium is unusual (i.e. not low fire ceramic), I list that. I also list the shows the work is in or has been in. In some cases I identify a work as part of a set or installation or note that a work needs repair or I want to make changes in the surface or color.

After I got all the cards made (mostly, there are a few new works I haven't photographed yet), I grouped the cards together into useful categories and binder clipped them. I have a set of works currently in shows, a set of works I have tentatively promised to a show in January, a set of works that need repair, and a set of works that are ready to be entered in shows. This latter is the most important set of works because applying to shows is high on my priority list for this winter. Applying is harder, however, when I don't know what I have available and I have to go track down the stats on the work (run out to the clay studio and measure it or look it up in my awkward computer inventory document). 

work for shows, holiday shows, and installation stacks

I also have a set of works that have sold recently or were given away. I need them in my card database because I tend to forget they sold and try to find them in the studio. I have a few cards for works that are missing and I can't remember if they sold or are packed away. I will keep these cards clipped and available in case I discover any new works in boxes next time I clean or start to repair work.


One of the extra advantages of my new (portable) file system is that I can refer to it without going out to the studio. (I can also take it out to the studio with me to make updates.) I tend to forget how much work I have in the studio. When I have a show coming up, I get panicky, thinking I don't have anything to put in the show. I have to go to the studio and start counting works on shelves or actually group work together on a table. A clipped stack of index cards has a reassuring heft that tells me I do have work. I can enter that show. And I don't have to go out to the cold studio in December to check.

missing works: did someone buy them?

1 comment:

  1. This is bound to come in handy as I try to work out my own inventory style.


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