Keeping track of inventory at galleries

Dear Orchid Members,

Curious to know how to track incoming and outgoing inventory from
galleries who work “sale or return”? I feel I am detailorientated my
end. I use excel to track the work. I include description, thumbnail
photo and whole sale price. Each document is dated and named to
include my name and gallery. This is sent to gallery with inventory
and I keep a copy. When work is sold I track it on excel sheet. Now
in my 5th year with some galleries I notice several pieces are not on
display. What happens next? How do I approach the gallery. Better
still, how could I avoid this from happening? I have thought about
requesting gallery to take photos of pieces on display every 12
months, then it is easier to track missing pieces than say 5 years
down the line. Or take the work out each year, check stock back in,
select new/old work, re-inventory, and start fresh. Love to hear
your thoughts!!!


Couldn’t you send a friendly e-mail to each gallery each month that
contains a greeting along with a list of your inventory that they
have in stock? You could ask them to check that your list matches
theirs. I get statements from suppliers each month, even when I
don’t buy anything. It sort of keeps them in my mind.You could also
include pics of new work or step by step pics of an interesting
project you’re doing or studio pics… This way the monthly e-mail
not only checks your inventory but also gives them a story to tell
customers about you when they sell your work.


...requesting gallery to take photos of pieces on display every 12
months, then it is easier to track missing pieces than say 5 years
down the line. 

you mean you leave anything in a gallery for more than a few months?
do you know about over exposure/customer resistance, which may
account for:

...with some galleries I notice several pieces are not on display. 

customers build up blind spots after seeing items more than a few
times - they no longer even see them on display.

how about putting the onus on the galleries for perhaps selling other
artists’ work because they know you’ll wait - and wait - and wait.
after 3 months send a correct-sized, self-addressed, return postage
paid, untaped/flat box to the gallery asking them to send back your
item[s]. include a form with a digital photo of your item[s] they had
in their gallery at the top for the gallery to fill in the date,
stock no. of item[s] not sold -, list the date[s] you left the
item[s] in their business, the selling price, etc. in future, include
a time limit and terminal date in the artist-gallery agreement/form.
if the gallery develops an attitude about the added info tell them
with your schedule it is in the interest of both parties that items
can be easily accounted for.

good luck -
think more now, regret less later.

I have in here in the past about artists who do this kind of keep in
touch emails with an offer to exchange stock after a certain period
of time. Seemed like a good business practice when I read it. You
may wish to check the archives for more details.

With galleries/shops etc I don’t put my jewellery on consignment! I
put it in on SALE OR RETURN (in original condition). When I visit if
the goods are not on the premises, aka on approval to their
customers, or have been damaged they are SOLD!

I learnt this the hard way about 30 years ago when a shop was
returning fashion resin jewellery broken as the customer had dropped
it, not my fault but I had to wear it. Drop a Ming vase in an
antique store and see how far you get!!!

If you do SALE OR RETURN and your goods are not on display you can
ask for them immediately or receive payment. Write the invoice on the
spot and give it to the gallery.


If they won’t do this look elsewhere, because if your designs are
good others will take them!

Stand up for your rights, you have built the workshop, outlaid the
material cost and made the piece. The gallery just puts it on display
and charges usually a premium and make as much profit as the maker.


I’m sure many of you do this much more that I do, but here’s my
experience. I never consign anything to any gallery I can’t visit in
person at least once a month. The appearance of a gallery being
reputable maybe only an appearance. I consigned a bunch of pieces to
a gallery a few years back. It was the oldest and most reputable
gallery in a town known for art galleries. When I went back three
months later. The owner said “I’m so glad to see you. I owe you X
amount of money.” (She had all my contact e-mail,
phone, address, everything. She could have contacted me.) I replied
GREAT! I need to know which pieces were sold so I can take them out
of my inventory. Do you mind if I do an inventory of what you have?
Fortunately we both had signed lists of what I had consigned to the
gallery. It turned out that she had sold many pieces she hadn’t
credited to me and owed me 3X dollars. Then she told me she couldn’t
pay me. I finally did get ever penny of my money, but it was
difficult and very distasteful.

A friend consigned works to another gallery in the same city. When
she went back to check, they had none of her pieces and said they
had never heard of her.

All I can say is keep careful paper work and get their signatures on
every bit of paper work you have. AND, paper work is no substitute
for frequent visits.


I physically travel to each of my galleries once a year, to
reconcile their physical inventory to my list - if I cannot make it,
I ask for a detailed (i.e. numbered w/ the stock numbers we have
agreed upon) account of what is actually on the shelves. Anything
missing they write me a check for, as it has been sold and not noted,
shoplifted or temporarily hidden by the resident packrat. (Not a joke

  • one NM gallery refuses to rat-proof their cases, and the little
    varmint likes my silk tags. I now use metal to attach tags to pieces,
    but if three bracelets reside under the kitchen floor for 8 months,
    unavailable for sale, why should I cover that?) Once paid, if the
    item shows up, the gallery restocks it as their property and doesn’t
    owe me further when it sells. I do have one gallery which does not
    track or keep an inventory of any sort, and doesn’t cover stolen
    items (usually a deal-breaker for me) and they send me a smart-phone
    photo of my display each month. We’ll see how that one goes. Hope
    this helps!

Sam Kaffine