Just before I left my salaried job to go full time as an artist in July 2020, I had one of those pivotal moments in the studio when you know something needs to change.
When the system breaks down
I was selecting and packing work to send to an exhibition at An Talla Solais in Ullapool. I needed about 6 pieces and had an idea in my mind which ones they should be, but I was struggling to find one charcoal in particular. I had the images I needed in my digital catalogue folder but just couldn’t find the actual artwork. Frustrated, I searched my studio for an hour or more, had some cups of tea while trying to remember it, looked in the house, sat and wondered and felt very annoyed at my own inefficiency. Eventually it dawned on me that I had actually sold it and it now lived in Manchester!
This made me see I was going to need a better system if I had any hope of keeping track of my work – after 10 years of making, my cobbled together process of documenting work was no longer up to the job. I realised that I would need a much more reliable and professional system to support my art making, ideally one which saved me time spent on the tedious admin tasks we have to do to sustain our practice.
I’d heard about Artwork Archive on this podcast and had thought ‘urghh I hate databases’ but this incident prompted me to take up the free trial option and I immediately saw it was what I needed to run my studio professionally.
Since then, this cloud based inventory system has made a huge positive difference to the admin and business side of my work as an artist, so I wanted to share something about my experience in case it can help you too. I’d like to make it clear that I’m not receiving any payment or other incentive for writing this – I can genuinely say it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made so I’m happy just to share my learning.
However, if you decide you’d like to use it yourself and subscribe using this link you will get $10 credit for your subscription and I will also get $10 for mine. We both win!
3 ways Artwork Archive has transformed my art business
It’s really easy to use
Artwork Archive is a system which has been designed specifically for visual thinkers, to manage visual information, so I find it to be laid out very intuitively. I can quickly enter new works, exhibitions and collectors and it’s easy to find the information I need.
It makes fiddly things simple
Using it speeds up processes that used to take up a lot of my time like tracking work, making labels, organising consignments, preparing invoices, tracking payments. These were all tasks I hated – now they are straightforward.
It works from anywhere with internet access
I love the fact that it’s cloud based (though you can download your data as back-up) and I don’t have to be at my desk to have my information to hand. It also has many features which facilitate sharing artwork images and documents. This has helped me interact professionally with galleries, my collectors and contacts, plus I can keep on top of the money side of things too.
How I used Artwork Archive for my exhibition
‘Turning Towards the Light’ is showing in Linlithgow Burgh Halls, a public gallery in Central Scotland. This beautiful historic building doesn’t have a dedicated member of staff in the gallery and their small Arts team have many commitments, so Artwork Archive’s features have really helped to maximise our resources.
Here’s how I’ve used it:
Making a new body of work
- Documenting individual works in progress
- Getting a quick overview of the whole body of work
- Keeping track of what stage artworks are at
- Documenting all aspects of finished works, including size, mediums, price
Preparing for exhibition
- Curating the show as a whole and selecting which works will be included
- Collaborating with the venue curator remotely via shared collections and documents
- Making a detailed list for my framer to ensure my framing needs were clear
- Creating a full consignment note for 40 works in less than 5 minutes!
- Making clear labels for use on packaging while work is transported
- Creating and printing artwork labels for the gallery wall, including QR codes linking directly to my inventory entry
- Embedding the catalogue into the exhibition page on my website
- Sharing ‘Private rooms’ with collectors prior to the opening event, sent via my Studio Newsletter to give them early access
- QR codes on artwork labels linking visitors to the online entry for the work and links to purchase it.
- Receiving purchase requests and creating invoices quickly and from anywhere – I did this while on a drawing trip to Derbyshire
- Keeping track of sold and available work
- Securely managing collectors’ personal information and noting contacts
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In summary, for this exhibition alone the system has saved me hours of desk work and helped me to present my work professionally and consistently
Will it work for you?
If you’re anything like me you’ll think carefully before investing in business systems – it’s so much easier to buy art materials.
It took me a while to take action but now I have it, I really wish I’d started using it earlier in my career. I don’t generally get excited about databases but for me it’s like having a super efficient assistant!
Subscribe using this link to get $10 towards your own Artwork Archive.