Thursday, March 11, 2010

Software. Why Software?

Because software is what I do.

Well, really, databases are what I do. I don't make software that writes music or plays games or even lets you write a book. Databases are a kind of software that takes bits of information and organizes them. Then the database shows you the information in forms you can understand.

The operative word there is organization. That is, I think in terms of organizing information and presenting information every moment when I work with my clients. So, early on in my most recent revival of beading enthusiasm, I finished a piece, a necklace with some old beads collected years ago, and some new, wonderful beads I'd found in Mendocino. Well, Fort Bragg, actually. The Rubyiat store there. Looks like I missed their main store in Mendo itself. Oh well, next time.

But I digress. I found myself wondering how much the finished piece cost for materials. I realized that for the older beads I'd collected, the costs had vanished in the mists of time. The newer beads I remembered, but also realized that as I bought more and more beads (a clear intention even then) it wouldn't have to get very darn misty before the per-strand costs left my memory. Then there was the per-bead cost.

I was finding out that even if you buy a whole strand, generally in a necklace you're using between 6 to 12 of any one bead, sometimes just one or two. (As a beader, I find myself wishing humans had more necks. Or one larger one.) So you need to know the per-bead price to figure it out accurately. But once you've broken a strand, you no longer have the total number of beads, and cannot figure out the per bead cost.

My first plan was to keep the prices in the containers with the beads, and add them up when finishing a piece. But the sudden proliferation of pieces of paper in my containers, the need to keep them with the proper beads while working, opening & closing the containers, and then going back and adding them all up at the end...not so much fun. I also found a need to add a somewhat amorphous "additional costs" to each piece. This covered an estimate for older beads I no longer remembered the price of, stringing materials, cheap clasps, needles consumed in the process, glue, etc. It all costs. I couldn't keep this with the piece, because then I might lose the records.

At this point I threw up my (figurative) hands and said what my clients must say right before they call me. "I need a database!" Luckily, I can do this, because I certainly couldn't afford my own prices to build me one.

I'm going to post a few pictures of the current state of the software, which I have been working on here and there, as I could get a bit of spare time, for a little less than a year. It helps me track my beads, my seed beads separately, the finished pieces, and other things. Please add any comments or questions you might have, because the final goal, when this software has grown enough, is to sell it to beaders like me. Home beaders who want to sell somewhat professionally, or who just want to know how much something they make cost in materials, but don't want to spend a lot on software to do that.

Picture one is the listing of bead inventory. It's a (very) small part of my actual inventory shown. I have a lot more beads than that! Obviously some of the older beads don't have prices. The ones that do, calculate the per-bead price for me, a major feature for the math impaired like me. I just have to enter the price of the whole strand or total beads purchased, and then count the beads (I can figure that one out, generally) and I have per-bead costs.

Picture two, to the right, is of my seed-bead take-with report. I wanted something on a single page, sorted by size and code, that I could tuck in my purse, so I wouldn't purchase duplicates. Even starting out, I found myself liking the same colors over and over and buying them more than once. It also lets me see where I do want to buy more of a particular bead, for a project that may need more than I have. I keep more info of each seed bead, but there's just enough here to fit the maximum number on the one-page list.

Next up, picture 3, is of the screen where I record all the beads used in a finished piece. It's easy to choose each bead used and have the program calculate what that cost, from the inventory list. I can add my additional costs, and even the time spent, and if I want, a per-hour charge. However, I'm finding this isn't like database work. I'm never going to make a decent per-hour wage at this. I have to price my pieces more like art.

However, on a business basis, I really need to make sure at the very least my material costs are covered. Just because I can finish a simple strung necklace or bracelet in half an hour doesn't mean that I'll make a profit at a low price to the customer. Those beads may have cost me $50 ore more!

Last picture today, is a little bead history screen. When I look at a particular bead, it tells me what pieces that bead was used in. It's interesting but not particularly useful at this point, but I like it. It's the data geek in me.

But isn't it a real pain to enter all that information to get going? Actually, it's fun. I'll talk about that in another post, soon.

I'll be posting more pictures as we go along and the software develops. I really want this software to succeed. I want to make it available to beaders at a reasonable cost, probably less than $20.


  1. Hi, I love your posts about organizing and especially your database. That will be the next frontier for me. Thanks for sending in your tips - I'm adding your blog to my must-reads.

    Cathy Jakicic
    BeadStyle magazine

  2. Wow, Cathy, I'm so happy to hear that you enjoy the posts and the blog!

  3. A great blog site!! I've never really perused blog sites before, and now I'm glad I did. Full of great ideas and advice. Now I'll have to get busy and RE-organize what I thought were my organized beads. The software sounds great too.

  4. Great blog, I'll be happy to know when your database is available! I want to know finish, transparent or opaque, size, all the gory details that no other bead work software lets you enter. The title "description" does not cut it for me, I want details on the beads and to be able to sort them by color, finish etc. I added you to my must read!

  5. Finish! That is a GREAT suggestion. I've been entering Opaque or trans or silver lined or AB in the color field, and I already have size and shape fields. More flexibility is good, though.