Making a database of your artworks

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If you are just starting out on your art journey this will be fairly easy to achieve so long as you get into the practice of being organised right from the start. I have tried a few different ways in the past with different numbering systems, using online record keeping organisations etc., but in the end decided I wanted to keep it all in house.

I know it is unlikely that the big archiving companies will go under, but they might, and all my data could either go with them or be sold on to someone else who could then charge me a premium price to get MY information back. So having used them, I have come back to sorting it out myself.

If you have been following me for a while you will probably have gleaned this information in bits and pieces, but it occurred to me that having it all in one blog might (hopefully) be more useful to you.

So, having created your masterpiece, sign it – believe me I have forgotten loads of times. My advice is to then photograph every piece of artwork you produce and keep a copy of that photo on your computer, preferably with all the details of the work contained in the file name. Just today, Mr. S asked me for the names of some images he is getting made into greeting cards for me. I have all the information on the database, and I have the photos. However, I forgot to put the details in the file names so now I have to go to where the works are currently being exhibited, in the next town (Leatherhead), to get the information for him to send off to the card company. Grr, silly me.

Print out a copy of the photo for attaching to the outside of the wrapping on your artwork. Each piece should be numbered, and details of the work kept on your computer as to size, medium, name of work, date of completion and price. This information should be on a database, which you back up, and also kept with the artwork. If you get into the habit of doing this right from the beginning, it will make your life easier in the long term.

As I say, I have tried lots of different systems and as I have my husband helping me, from time to time he makes changes in the way information is logged. He is an engineer with a very different mindset to me and he is anal about how things should be done, i.e. it must be done his way.

When I started numbering my works, I simply started with 1001. Starting with 1 is not a good idea, because it makes you look like a beginner, and even 1001 was a bit obvious in hindsight, but at least I knew not to start with 1.

I used to keep what I called my green bible. This was a lever arch file with sheets of A4 paper printed with a space to stick a photo of the artwork, the details about the work, price etc., and each sheet contained details for two pieces of work. As works sold, I couldn’t easily move sheets to the back of the file as I had to wait for the second piece recorded on that sheet to sell before I could move it to the sold pile.

So, as I said above, I took the logging system into a professional database for a couple of years and stuck with the old numbering system but when I decided to bring it all back in house my husband set up the database on his computer and decided that each year should start with a new number. I didn’t realise he was doing this for a while, by which time it was too late to change it again but starting as he has with 2201 is, in my opinion, rather obvious and not very helpful.

I want to know how many works I have produced overall which means that I must take a copy of the database, which is on an Excel spreadsheet, and run the numbers down the side so that I can see where I am really at. Had  I been asked, I would have continued with the numbering system as was and added /22, for the year 2022, after the number when the years changed, e.g. 1862/22. Maybe one day if I have time to kill, I will change it to suit me!

So, all this information about my artworks is contained in a spreadsheet operated by my husband and he uses that to create adhesive labels for my work. He prints out three, one of which is stuck to the back of the artwork. I paint over this label with medium to stop it from coming off and the corners from curling.

A second label is stuck to a white card which is attached to the side of the artwork, e.g. on the wall next to it or sometimes Blu Tacked to the back so that the information is readable to people viewing it at an exhibition (see illustration). The last label is attached to a coloured index card which is placed in number order in a box for easy access. To the back of this card, I attach a photo of the artwork. Sometimes I take the whole box of cards and sometimes just those relating to the work(s) I am exhibiting come with me to a show.

If I have two exhibitions on at once (it has happened) it is easy enough to separate the cards to take to the different shows so that when the work sells, I can add information about the purchaser to the back of the card. This information is then used to add them to my database, newsletter, or blog, depending on their interest, their permission to use their information and so that I can send them a Christmas card and details of exhibitions I am taking part in.

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