An inventory is a complete list of items - such as all the wonderful, beautiful quilts you have made.
I started to keep one over a year ago when my SAQA mentor, Lisa Call, suggested I do so. We all know documentation is a good idea and that we should probably get around to it one day, but I felt it was too big. I had no idea where to start.
But, wanting to be a good mentee, I took the plunge, wrote up a very basic form and started filling it in. Every time I refer to it, I'm so glad I did.
What information should a quilt inventory have? Mine is pretty basic. I include an image, the name, size, date completed, artist statement, materials used, techniques, where it's been exhibited, awards won, date sold and price. I know other artists whose inventories are a lot more detailed, but at the very least an inventory should have an image, name, size and date completed.
There is plenty of software and apps around to keep inventories but I just made a table in a Word document. I can add an extra row whenever I finish another quilt. An Excel spreadsheet would work just as well, and I can't think now why I didn't use one, it would be handy to be able add more columns easily.
What do I use my inventory for? First off, it makes it really easy to check sizes without having to unroll a quilt and measure it (after finding the right quilt in amongst all the rolls and wrappings first!). It also helps me remember at a glance what quilts I have available if I'm considering entering a show or exhibition. My inventory helps me know how many quilts I've made in a year, or what date I made a particular one. The artist statement helps remind me what I was trying to achieve when making a particular piece and listing the techniques and materials reminds me of how I made it. I always think I'll remember, but time wears away those little details.
I can use it to feel good about my productivity if I'm feeling a bit slow - it's nice to look back and celebrate what I've done. And occasionally I glance through it to remind myself of what I wanted to try next. Seeing all the images together helps me remember what problem I wanted to solve.
Are you overwhelmed at the thought of trawling through all your quilts to add to an inventory? Then don't! Just start with the quilt you finished last and make a pledge to add every quilt you make from now on. Easy and no stress and it will get you in the habit. Then, every now and then when you are unrolling quilts for some other reason, measure a couple of older ones up and add them to your inventory. Grow it by little steps.
An inventory is such a valuable tool, even if you think you'll never enter shows or make enough work to worry about such a thing. I wish I had started mine at the very beginning of my quilt making career. So start one today, and, if you already keep one, tell me how you work yours, I'd love to learn from you.