Thursday, October 13, 2011

My favorite art inventory system

Over the past couple of years I've looked at and played with a lot of computer programs for keeping track of artwork.

Here are past blog posts on the subject:
Art Inventory Systems, here's what I've tried
and then this
Update on Art Inventory Systems

Alyson Stanfield has also written about this riveting subject on her great blog here.

I come to these systems with built-in bias. I prefer a FileMaker based system to an Access based system because I think it's a more powerful and smoother software to use. I'd worked for a nonprofit that used Filemaker and it's what I know. I also prefer a system without goofy graphics. I'm an artist. I care how things look. If I open up software every couple of days I would like it to be clean and simple and not ugly.

But computers evolve and the next direction is to the cloud. That is a system where software doesn't live on your computer but you access it via the internet. I operate on 3 devices: my iMac in my office, a little Macbook Air for travel (and I do move around a lot) and my iPhone. My art files are now in Dropbox so I can get access to them wherever I am. But my current art inventory system is software based, and on my iMac so unfortunately if I'm elsewhere I can't open it up.

This past month I've been trying out a new art inventory system: The Artwork Archive. For full disclosure, the developer contacted me and asked me to try it out. He was kind enough to give me a year for free so that I could really experiment. And because I have lots of opinions about things I sent him suggestions.

All the art inventory programs allow you to put images in and add prices and titles and information. I think nearly all track the provenance of the piece. But after that there's some fall-off. I think systems should track what you have in each gallery so you can pull that list up with a click - but not all of them do a good job at that. Most seem to do better at tracking shows that you put together, which is helpful when you do a lot of shows and fairs. Less helpful when your work is primarily in galleries.

Of the software I've seen I prefer eArtist, which I've been using (even though it doesn't have a good gallery inventory system), and GYST, because they seem to work hard at keeping it up to date.

But software is old school and I'm switching to the cloud. Over the next month I'll migrate my inventory to The Artwork Archive.

The Artwork Archive
Here's a snapshot of my experiment with The Artwork Archive. I entered paintings that were going to my last show to see how it worked and if it could export the kinds of lists I want. It did great. Below is an image of my inventory page so you can see how it looks:



It also generates a great consignment report for galleries or shows (a show is called a gallery, FYI, it worked fine.) It's easy to return work that was in the gallery to your inventory. It seems to do a good job at tracking contacts and sales. And a fun feature is 'reports'. Similar to your home financial system, it generates bar charts and pie charts of your inventory, sales, location and value. Cool.

21 comments:

Deborah Paris said...

Cool indeed. As you know, I am so old school I use a lined composition book and a ball point pen to inventory and keep track of everything. Maybe I'll skip right over the software and move directly to that Cloud...l

Indigene said...

I've just tried the trial offer of Artwork Archive, and I must say, it's a joy to work with and none of that clunkiness, of some of the other art inventory systems, although, I'm not sure how I'm feeling about a yearly fee, as opposed to a one time purchase.

Thanks for letting us know about this new art inventory system! :)

Lisa McShane said...

Thanks Deborah and Indigene - I do like it better. And it is still evolving so if you have ideas, you should email the developer via his website.

Anonymous said...

I really like the look of that inventory software platform. Looks pretty simple and clean.

Leah Virsik said...

Lisa, great posts about art inventory systems. Thanks! I wonder if you can also keep track of your mailing list with this software as well? I'll look into it. I've upgraded my computer OS and now, I either need to upgrade Filemaker Pro or look into another inventory management system.

Roxanne Steed said...

Thanks for this post. I had tried Artist Butler several years ago, but didn't continue with it, just found it cumbersome to use, and continued on with the notebook/blog/ etc. versions of keeping track of everything. Talk about cumbersome. I know there's a better way to gather & use the data I want- I think I'd like to give this one a try!

Debra Breton said...

Hi Lisa, thanks for all the informative links and input. It has been an exhaustive search for a good inventory program - have tried SO many and all seem to be lacking in one area or another. I've also come to the realization that I won't get one that does everything I need and that's okay, sigh. I'm intrigued with The Artwork Archive, are you still happy with it? Are the reports robust enough? Was importing the data easy enough -ie: import feature- sorry for all the questions and a big HUGE thanks for all the great information and research!!

Lisa McShane said...

HI Debra,
I'm so glad you found this helpful! Yes, I've been using Artwork Archive lately. I haven't spent the time to migrate all of my earlier works to it, but it's the only place I load my latest work. I do really like the formatting it does of a section of portfolio. In all, it's easy to upload (easier than others) and the cloud is the future of data storage.

Also, if you use more than one machine (I've got an iMac + a MacBook Air 11), it's then available equally on all which can be useful.

Bizznizzman said...

Looks like a great inventory system for any artist!
-Kyle

Ingrid Lee said...

Looks like a great product, I found out about it on twitter. Really happy to read your review. I think I'll give it a go, it seems to be exactly what I'm looking for, and it's really affordable.

Carole Andreen-Harris said...

Thanks for the great review of different software - very helpful as I've been looking for something lately!

My art business has been growing a lot in the past couple years and I need help juggling everything! I’m leery of spending the $$ and time unless I know it'll work.

I have one gallery, sell work myself, enter a lot of shows/competitions, do a lot of commissions (1/2+ my art income), have prints on Etsy and do the occasional Art Fair/Booth show… so I have a lot to manage.

I'm currently trying out some options - and will give Artwork Archive a try (like the cloud thing, too) along with another online one still in Beta - centerpoint.

Thanks for sharing your insight, it's helped a ton in my search!

Matthew Lee Studio said...

Thanks for suggesting Artwork Archive Lisa. I'm enjoying the trial so far. I like it better than any of the archive systems I tried.

I downloaded and worked with Art Tracker for a while. It's fairly logical and practical, but Artwork Archive is more user friendly to me, and graphically simple and clear. Art Tracker has a bold red home page, and graphics. It's got lots of practical features though, I still recommend trying it.

I tried Bento, but found it very limiting, and time consuming to set up. I couldn't find a way to create consignment sheets on Bento.

I tried Artist Butler, I got great technical support, but had trouble with downloading the software. That was when I was on a PC, now I'm on a mac. I've heard others speak well of AB.



Rick Chapman said...

Thanks Lisa for this series on inventory programs. I need to leave behind my Excel spreadsheet. All my works are digital prints so there's a number of items that go into the incurred cost: printing, framing, delivery charge, tax, etc. I've not seen how to get that value into any of these products. I like moving to the cloud but I am opposed to subscription based software. There's another option galleryManager that seems to do everything and is only $25 best I can tell. I'll give it a try and let you know.

liza myers said...

Thanks everyone. It's great to read all of your thoughts.

Abraham Mathew said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jamie said...

Thanks for relating your experience! I've been using the shoe box/ notebook method for 9 years (lost digital files for a few years of work when a computer broke) and just came across this software. I found your blog searching for reviews. I've been thinking about using this for a month now and figure I may as well give it a go. For other artists- the 'cloud' based aspect of this seems really helpful, like I said, I lost years of digital copies where the originals have sold & can no longer recall what those paintings look like! It helps to have such a back up. I'd like to hear updates, if possible, on how it's working for others...

alex said...

This is a great post. I would love to have your opinion on artcloud (www.artcld.com). It also has invoicing, client managment and some reporting in it.

Lisa McShane said...

Thanks all for your comments. If there's a systems someone has tried, please feel free to share the info with others via a comment.

I am still using Artwork Archive and have stopped using other systems. I'm happy with it and it is working well. My gallery definitely likes the report that arrives with my paintings.

Alex - I took a quick look at artcld.com and since it's significantly more expensive than Artwork Archive I'm unlikely to look further. It could be one that works well for galleries, but that's not me.

Darcy Grubaugh said...

This system seems perfect for your needs as an artist. It can provide you better access to your artwork inventory. But I think you also need a system that will also track your supplies and equipment. That way, you could also get a glimpse of your ROI versus other miscellaneous expenses. Thanks for sharing!

Darcy Grubaugh @ Quantum Buyers

Lisa McShane said...

Darcy - I couldn't agree more. I use Quickbooks for detailed tracking of supplies. I like to know how much I spend on frames, supports, brushes and paints.

Thanks for commenting.

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