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Posts from the ‘Plan’ Category

Databases for creative people

Late last night I started to  read Alyson B Stanfield’s book I’d Rather be in the Studio in which she mentions starting a database of work and contacts.

id rather be in the studio

This is something I have had on the to do someday list for some time so, newly inspired, I decided to research how best to achieve this. The SAQA Yahoo group was first port of call for recommendations and many other people said they were interested in how to keep a quilt database. so here, are my findings.

Disclaimer. This is not a full test of every programme out there. It is a good example of how a barrister’s mind works though… take on a ‘brief ( a problem) in the morning. go deep, deep, deep into the details until you have  the problem solved, call it a day, move on. repeat the next day.

I was looking for three criteria:

1. Reasonable cost ( preferably no more than £100-£120

2. Suitable for the needs of an artist and writer and something I would grow into over the years.

3. Usable across all my devices – iMac, iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. I only use Windows at work where I also have the iPhone and iPad and should not be doing my art stuff anyway so I did not pay much attention to Windows, sorry.

Bento was the programme most mentioned that existing users loved but that is no longer available. It was made by the makers of Filemaker Pro, which , as it was used by Alyson Stanfield was the first one I looked at. It costs £286.00. Yikes! I do believe in buying good quality tools, an this does have functionality for iPad, so if I had had to pay that to get what I needed, I would have done but I was certainly encouraged to shop around. Not least because this programme apparently needs some setting up and whilst I like messing about with programmes its not the best use of my time.

I then found a number of specialist art programmes.

Flick! is an Australian programme that costs US$29.95 and looks from their  site to have a very clean and pleasing aesthetic.


However it is not available for mobile devices. The same problem afflicted E Artist (US$125 and Working Artist (US$139) which, worse, was not even available for Mac. It looked very much that mobiles and databases did not mix nicely. Having accepted ( with gritted teeth and a lot of grumbling) that I would have to forgo the mobile apps I was taken with GYST.  I was not taken with the full name which is Getting Your Sh*t Together, which whilst actually accurately describing the task I was trying to accomplish was not a name I really wanted to say when telling people what programme I used!



Image from

That aside GYST offers two programmes a Basic and a full bells and whistles Pro version for £45.85 and £85.40 respectively. Now we are talking. The full version has artists inventories, mailing databases and other features including a bibliography which attracted me a lot. That allows you to save a PDF and text version of your articles in the database. Very handy. It also comes with over 200 web links and other information for artists on a whole manner of things from carting up art to writing your resume. The Basic version does not have the bibliography or the information resources and fewer bells. You can compare the two versions here .  I liked this programme was dedicated to artists and needed little setting up for that purpose. I did download the trial version of this one thinking it would be the one. however, I then found that much of the bells and whistles is in fact on the site for their services tab or resources link. I recommend even if you don’t want a database you take a look at the resources section anyway. Its great! So that would have made me go back and compare with Flick! and probably choose between the two.

Except really, it bothered me that neither had mobile capacity. so I carried on hunting and came up with two possibilities. Both required me to lose the dedicated art related pre-formatting. The first is HanDBase  (what is with the irritating names of these things?) With this programme you can buy just for one platform or can buy apps for each of iPhone/iTouch, iPad and iMac (or indeed the windows/android equivalent) and then buy an add on with the iMac programme that allows you to synch the programmes. Yeah!! Thats synch manually over wifi rather than iCloud. Not so Yeah but yeah-ish I suppose. Cost was £6.99 for the mobile apps and  US$14.99 for the iMacand add on. If money is really tight you can just buy the iPhone app and use that on the iPad magnified so save buying two mobile apps. (No I don’t why it was in different currencies but it was!) Still. Good prices. The databases allow you to add in photos so whilst its not as pretty as Fick! it would do the practical job. and I do still like the look of it. It is owned by the people behind Palm Pilots so they know their mobile stuff. They do say that the Mac app is a ‘work in progress and will have extra features added in the future.’

The second one is TapForms when I was researching I found this app on a review which said that it had iCloud Synch. YEAH!! AT last. Oh but no desktop facility. Ah well. Non starter then. but then in the course of writing this review I went to the website itself to get you the link and found… its available for Mac! Oh listen to those angels sing in my studio! You can even integrate with Dropbox and add photos. I held my breath. what was the cost? iPad/Phone £6.99 iMac £20.99.  Big smile. wait, there must be a downside…

Umm, not quite so pretty maybe

tpaforms mac

iMac version

tapforms ios

Iphone version

and more importantly its not art orientated.

But it synchs with iCloud!!

So, I would say it depends what your priorities are.  If iCloud had not been a criteria I would probably have gone with Flick! or GYST without prevarication. But for me the mobile features were also important. so, as GYST offers a thirty day free demo I have downloaded that and also bought the iPad version of TapForms and began to play. Within five minutes I was able to tell GYST is vastly superior even without iCloud. Tapforms was clunky, its big icons and menus got in the way, it was ugly,  old fashioned, you could see hardly anything. It was in my view, ugh! GYST has so much functionality its not true. It was much clear how to add information right from the start and there is lots more to explore. It is a system that will last you growing into a real art business should you need that and probably would prompt you to record information you will need later but would not think to record by yourself. However, I want to play more but I also need to go and sit in the lounge with my husband and watch TV and I can’t take it with me as I could TapForms. Major downside.

I could buy a Macbook Air of course  :)

UPDATE: I also downloaded a free demo of Flick! Instantly you can see it is a simpler pared down programme. It lacks many of the features and available fields of information that the basic version of GYST has. That could actually be good if you want something very clear and straightforward but I think it is something easily outgrown. I showed my husband ( who cares not very much about this unless I pay the £289 price and he gets no dinner!) and even he with less than a minute on each one saw that GYST is the higher quality programme.

One issue I had with GYST though is that I wanted to be able to do a database for an exhibition I am helping to organise. I want to log the participants their quilts details, when it has all been sent back etc. In GYST you do not create databases, only records within them so you are stuck with one Artworks category for everything. At first I thought this was a real limitation but very quickly just from playing realised its not. What you can do is make an entry for the exhibition quilts as if they were your own and fill in the Loaned From box. You can make a category for the exhibition and then you search for the exhibition by category and you will only see those quilts.  Its the combination of customisable category lists and  the powerful search function that separates out the artworks database into as many lists as you like whilst allowing one entry to facilitate one quilt to appear in many lists.

GYST Pro also has a calendar and a planning (tasks) function so if you want all your art business together you can do that.

So,  less than 23 hours after I decided I needed a database I have found mine!

I will post some more on it when I have it set up with screen shots. ( And will email then asking when the iPad app is coming!)

What are you using? Do you have any recommendations or comments on the products I mentioned? Please leave a comment and help other readers if you have.

Three goal setting tips for optimists and multi-potentialites


January diary

I love the New Year period and the tradition of starting new projects and framing fresh goals. Its almost as good as New Pencil Case September.  Yet, sometimes I get bogged down in the sheer number of goals I want to set. I think this is a particular problem for two classes of people:

  • Optimists.  Who tend to wildly overestimate the available time  available and under estimate the time a goal will take
  • Multi-potentialites. This is a great term I learned last year from Emily Wapnick over at  According to wikipedia it means “An educational and psychological term referring to a pattern found among intellectually gifted individuals. [Multipotentialites] generally have diverse interests across numerous domains and may be capable of success in many endeavors or professions, they are confronted with unique decisions as a result of these choices.”  Many interests naturally leads to many goals.

If you are an optimistic multi-potentialite, as I am, you are, basically sunk when it comes to the R  for Realistic part of SMART goal setting. Each goal may be specific , measurable, actionable, time bound and, individually, perfectly achievable but in combination with the other forty three on your list, maybe less realistic. Having struggled with that again this year, here are the three lessons I have learned:

1. Distinguish between habits and goals

A habit is a repeated action, something you do ritualistically. A goal is a destination, a result that is achieved in incremental stages over a period of time.  A habit – like say, practice yoga every day – is something that can be implemented immediately.  A goal  – gain a Yoga teachers certificate and open a studio for example – requires you to work towards it.

I am not saying do not instil new good habits. Of course not and indeed they can help you reach your goals. We are all better performers in whatever field if we have good eating and exercise habits for example.  However, it is possible to ‘over -goalise’ habits. For example, I started to say that I would do twenty minutes of yoga each morning with three longer classes a week , once at the gym, two on video. Then I realised that was not only unrealistically rigid it was actually  negating the objective I was trying to achieve. Yoga brings me great mental peace and relaxation as well as physical toning.  It is the linking of mind and body and the fact that yoga is non-competitive and responsive that makes it so special.  Setting targets and timetables actually went against that. What I need to do is to establish a pattern on sitting on my mat, of allowing myself time to indulge each day. My body and my available time will then tell me what is needed. Some days it will be a quick and energetic flow practice. Other days it will be an hour long relax-with-my -head-on-a-bolster session. To simply establish a habit of ‘doing yoga’ is both sufficient and necessary to meet the aim.

2. Count the cost.

Time is like money – it needs to be budgeted and can only be spent once. Work out with some realism how much time you have and how much time each goal will take to achieve. Time recording your activities can help you to learn over time how long things actually take to complete. Then, when you calculate that you need only fifty-nine hours a day you can start to decide which goals are the priority.  Count other costs too – you might be able  find the time to make art for five hours a night after work but at what cost to your family relationships? You may be able to train for a marathon but if you have arthritic knees at what cost to your long-term health?

Also, count the cost of NOT achieving a particular goal is a great way to prioritise between many exciting options. What are the stakes if you don’t do this? How does the thought of never doing that one thing  really make you feel deep down? Indifference or a slight twinge of regret means it can be ditched. if tats hard don’t ditch it, put it on a ‘maybe’ list for next year’s consideration. True sadness means it is a keeper. However, be careful with feelings of relief which require deeper analysis. Relief can mean that the goal was never really your own but one you felt obliged by other people to take on. Or, it can be a masking emotion which is hiding fear. Which brings me to…

3. Go towards the fear.

In a crowd of goals it is easy not to pay that much attention to the one that scares you to even think about. Yet, that’s probably the one with the highest stakes, the one that incorporates so many of your real deep down desires and dreams that the fear of failure makes you want to ignore it. That’s the one to prioritise.  I heard a great quote recently on a This American Life Podcast:

“Great things happen when people reach for things just out of their grasp.”

If something has to give let it be the goal that is more of the same, that is the safe one, that is the next natural step. Focus on the one that requires a leap, requires bravery, requires faith. For that is where the great things will happen.


Budgeting the Malden way.

I'll swap you something today:

You go first. I have been reading many blog posts recently about how people struggle to manage money and would appreciate some budgeting advice. Now, there are many things I am utterly rubbish at (hockey, washing up and finding my glasses being but three). However, thanks to the good teaching of my mother when I was a child, and a career spent dividing other peoples assets after their divorce , money management is something I get straight As at. So In collaboration with Alison Reeves's copyreading skills, I have plans to put together an ebook. So I would like you ask you: what do you want to know about budgeting? What do you struggle with and what do you want more knowledge about? What do you know that you think I should pass on as an essential? If you prefer email me in private rather than leaving a comment.

And in return I'll give you a sneak preview of an essential tool of mine…

To manage money well I firmly believe you have to know how you spend and on what. My old perfectly good system was to collect receipts in my purse and sort them out every now and again. But when I rediscovered filofaxes and saw that they could be used as wallets I upgraded the system to a wallet that included paper so I could jot down as I spent. Much, more efficient.

I have been using the pocket Chameleon as shown above. It works well but the financial pages are a little small for my liking. As part of tracking I like to note what I bought and often what category of spending it fell into. So today I took delivery of a compact Malden zip to try out. I think it is right that this model is not widely available the UK but is about to be rolled out with the new catalogue due soon.

Its longer but, compared to my stuffed pocket, is slimmer.

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Kanban planning in a filofax

Kanban is a Japanese organisational card system developed by Toyota to control the logistical chain of production’. But I suggest we skip that bit and let me talk about how applying washi tape to its basic principles results in a simple, attractive and effective planning tool.

I get Enthusiasms. There is so much I want to do and learn in life that I get pushed and pulled in all directions. Even if I focus on one activity – say art quilting – I have too many ideas to do all at once. Even though I have pretty good time management skills and cram a lot into a day, I cannot do everything all at once. But I refuse to give up on good ideas and dreams. Which results in one of two issues happening. Usually both at the same time!

Either I start things straight away but then I can’t get back to them and my head is full of unfinished things with no end sight. Or I don’t start them because i now I don’t haven’t time and my head is full of trying to hold on to my excitement and the details of the ideas so I can start them in the future. Not good. So, when I bought yet another filofax I decided to set up a Project Management Centre. I will post more on that later when it is fully set up but one key feature was to have a visual overview of how much I had on the go and at what stage those projects were at.

My first attempt was to draw colour coded lines on a Horizontal Year Planner. BIg Fat Fail! Way too many lines all competing. And this is not even finished. But doing it gave me an idea. A Kanban system.

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Regency Compact set up

This week my Regency compact filofax was in use for the first time despite the fact that I bought it back in October and was saving it eagerly for New Year. Of course my avaricious nature intervened and by New Year I had also bought the Crimson Malden and the TK Maxx Non-Filofax and I realised that their capaciousness made me wonder whether the Compact would work after all. So, it has come on holiday with me where I need less forward planning power and am more conscious of the weight in my handbag.

It looks elegant in a rustic style cafe.

Inside is my solution to the one pen loop problem. A Leuchturm penloop and a Flex penloop hold the Triplus Fineliners I use for colourcoded entries. The front sheet has a photo of my Gran who passed away in October. I had been debating about whether to buy this rather expensive binder for a little while and in the end I bought it the day she died, as a tribute to her and to cheer myself a little. I know that sounds like a poor excuse but she was a woman who would buy quality and as my sister said when she saw the elegant Regency, ” Its very Gran.” I don't need a physical reminder to remember her but its nice to have a tangible even if tangential link to her. Pockets hold Cavellini Paris sticky notes.

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Five Tips to Tame your To Do Lists

I bet you have made a to do list or two in your time. They can be a very helpful planning tool. They can also be a mamouth, unwieldly, pressurising reminder of how far behind you are.

Here are Five tips to help you Tame your To Do Lists and make them work for you.

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How to do and have it all… Just not at the same time.

It' s that New Year Feeling again when the slate feels clean and I get the urge to write on it everything in the world that I might possibly want to do next year. The good thing about that is that no one will ever accuse me of not living life to the full. The bad thing is that I get frazzled from trying to cram everything in and tired from staying up 'just another half hour'. And worse, as the year goes on I get down on myself for not achieving very much because I naturally have a forward looking gaze and so focus on what I still would like to do rather than what I have already achieved.

This is a problem because it is not just in one area of life in which I have a wish list longer than Heathrow's runway. There are multiple areas in which I want to learn and excel and cram in expereinces. I have so many books/ magazine/ websites I want to read, so many tasks to do, so many places to go. It's a problem.

But, there are few time management problems that cannot be alleviated by the clever use of a Filofax. So I have made three small tweaks to my planner system this year.

Focus Topics

First, I have introduced the concept of Focus Topics.

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