Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shipping Work

With the holiday season quickly approaching many people will be shipping packages across the country and around the world. So whether you are shipping your own work, or gifts to family and friends, I thought I'd share what I've learned about preparing a package.

Having worked on the receiving end in galleries, I was able to see first hand how artwork of many shapes and sizes arrives to its destination. If you are an artist, how you pack your work reflects how you feel about your work. Sloppy packing seems to signify that you do not care. And if you don't care, why should the gallery? or the collector?

First, wrap each piece individually using bubble wrap, packing paper, newsprint, etc. I'm all for recycling newspaper, however, NEVER have the printed news pages against your work. The ink can rub off and damage the work. Protect the piece with tissue or other paper, and then cushion it with newspaper.

If you are wrapping something that has fragile limbs (teapot spout, mug handle, etc.), these should be wrapped and secured first. When the limb is secure, then the entire piece can be wrapped so that is is one solid piece.

Place wrapped work into a box, surrounding/floating the pieces in peanuts (ugh, the mess!) or similar packing material. For artists, always remember to include your business card(s) , any other promotional material, signed insurance/consignment forms, and a HAND WRITTEN note. If the gallery hasn't provided an inventory list, make one yourself to include with the package. Seal this box with packing tape. It should feel nice and solid, and you should hear nothing rattling around. This becomes your inner box. It then gets placed into a slightly larger box, and again surrounded/floated with peanuts or similar. (Often called the "box-in-a-box-with-peanut-float" method.) Top off the box with more peanuts.
Tape closed. Remember to thoroughly tape the bottom, as well as any opening on the sides. Again, it should feel nice and solid, and you should hear nothing rattling around.

If reusing boxes (which I always do), remove, cover, or mark through any previous shipping label. I have a FedEx account, so next, I measure and weigh the package myself (using a bathroom scale) and prepare my shipment information online. It's then ready for me to just drop off at my nearest FedEx location. (super easy!)

That's it. Usually, the hardest part is finding boxes the right size! I don't have much experience with shipping paintings/other 2D work or furniture/large sculpture needing crates. So, I'd love to hear your packing tips and advice! What have your shipping experiences been lately?

Happy Packing!


Michael Kline said...

Hi Meagan, Thanks for the packing 'demo'. I found it refreshing to see how you packed, really. Lately I've grown tired of packing and have gotten spoiled by selling my pots directly out of the studio. Your post reminded me of how I feel if I get pots returned from group shows in less than standard packing, i.e. dirty peanuts, tape stuck to pots, etc.

Also I wanted to ask you how you like FedEx vs. UPS vs. USPS? I find that's its easier to send small boxes, especially to residential addresses vis USPS, larger with UPS. Could you let me know how you like FedEx? I had trouble with pick- ups in the past with FedEx because I don't live in a city. Thanks again.

Meagan Chaney said...

Thanks Michael! I wish I lived in an area where I could sell directly out of my studio. So, until Ocala, FL becomes a booming art community, I will be shipping work.

I've had problems with return shipping from galleries as well. Once, I received a box back from a gallery that was barely taped and had peanuts falling out of it! It looked like it had been run over by a truck! The piece inside hadn't been wrapped, and it was a miracle it wasn't broken.

I started with FedEx because when I was living in Asheville. Their main drop off was a right around the corner from my studio so it made it easy. I've been very happy with them, so I haven't needed to work with UPS much.

You got me curious though, so I did quick quotes on,, and Entering identical info FedEx was $12.68 ($8.86 using my account#), UPS was $13.75, and was $14.55 for residential 2 day delivery of the same box. FedEx charges me $4 per box for a pick up, so I drive the 1/2 mile and drop them off for free. I only did a pick up once (before i knew the charge), but showed up on time.

Occasionally I use USPS for small packages. But FedEx (and UPS I think) doesn't charge for the first $100 of insurance, and I'm able to get easy online tracking #s, so I usually go with them.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Wish I could give you more of a comparison between the 3, or advise about pick-ups where you life.

Thanks Michael!

Bob said...

That's quite a routine to pack your items, but very necessary in order to keep them safe. While I don't have any suggestions to improve upon it, I may have a suggestion on where to get your boxes. I read on Jen Mecca's Pottery Blog about a company that sells used boxes online. You can order them online and they even ship to your home or office for free! They're called and they are definitely worth checking out if you need boxes and don't want to pay for new boxes. Check them out!

Meagan Chaney said...

WOW! FREE used boxes showing up at your door! That sounds too good to be true! Thanks for the tip Bob. I will definitely have to check that out.

Bob said...

Well, to clarify a bit, the boxes aren't free, but shipping to your door is. They even have moving kits that can tell you about how many boxes you'll need for your home or office with all the packing supplies included.

I pitched to my boss yesterday, since he mentioned that his brother is moving soon. That's the great thing about them, doesn't matter where you're at, if you're looking for boxes, they can get them to you.

Mallory said...

Hi. I'm a new potter from Asheville and just started selling on Etsy, sold my first piece Friday and I found your blog SOOO helpful on how to ship my mug! I love you work and actually mentioned it in my last blog. Really enjoying your writing, thanks for the advice!

Meagan Chaney said...

Hi Mallory! Congrats on your first ETSY sale! (I'm still trying to set up my shop, so you're way ahead of me.) So glad to hear that you've been stopping in to read my blog and that my shipping demo help!