Sunday, August 17, 2014

Safe and Sound

The thought of shipping any art is just scary. Once it's out of our studio and out of our hands, who knows what will happen on the journey to gallery, fair, framer, consultant, or collector. My husband (who worked for a large shipping company that shall not be named) had these wise words about any package you are going to send: "If you can't throw it across the room and stand on it, don't ship it." After seeing the shipping hub for myself and what a package must endure, I can say this is absolutely true!

So what's an artist to do about shipping? First and foremost, get insurance if you can afford it. Not all carriers will insure or even ship artwork. That means an outside insurance policy for sending art, like an inland marine policy. If insurance is out of the question financially, you will have to make the call yourself on how comfortable you are with the risk of shipping. The worst case scenario is that the piece is completely destroyed. Quick side note: we literally had a piece destroyed by a chain saw joke. The next question is what shipper to use. Most of us also cannot afford to use fine art shippers or have the work hand-carried to its destination. As of writing this post, I find that USPS and FedEx Express are currently our best options. Another option is to look into driving the work yourself.

Now on to the packing. Since Pele's focus is prints, these packing tips are for works on paper. Paintings, sculptures, framed work, or other types of art require a different approach. There are two ways to ship unframed prints: flat or rolled.

Flat Pack
  • This is your best option for smaller prints, extra heavy papers, collage pieces, and works that have a delicate surface or ink that may crack if rolled.
  • Protect prints with glassine and wrap in plastic. You want to have moisture barrier. Prints that are different sizes should be wrapped separately.
  • Cut packing material at least 5" larger than the dimensions of the largest print in each direction. The corners are vulnerable to crushing in a flat pack, so it's important that the prints are not close to the edges.
  • Packing material should include a minimum of four pieces of cardboard and a piece of sturdy board (thin plywood, Masonite, etc.). The board protects the entire package from bending in shipping. The larger the prints, the more vulnerable they are to bending. Use more packing materials for larger flat packs.
  • Create a sandwich with the prints in the middle. The prints should be secured to a piece of cardboard using painters tape or taped sturdy corners (folded pieces of card stock much like photo corners, allowing you to keep tape off of the art). Secured each wrapped print(s) separately.
  • Fully tape around the outer edges of the sandwich using strapping and/or packing tape.

Tube in a Tube
  • This is your best option for large prints.
  • You will pack a tube within a tube. The inner tube should not be smaller than 4" in diameter and 4" longer than the shortest dimension of the print to be shipped. Add another 2"-3" to the length and diameter of the outer tube.
  • Wrap the inner tube with glassine, and roll the print(s) face out around the outside of this tube. Make sure the edges of the prints are even and the prints are centered on the roll. Roll another sheet of glassine (6" longer than the tube in width) around the prints. Secure the ends by tucking the glassine into the ends of the tube.
  • Wrap a piece of painters tape tightly and completely around each end of the tube to keep the print(s) from sliding up and down on the tube. The tape should not be on top of print or on the edge of the print, but a 1/2" out from the edge of the print.
  • Wrap the entire inner tube in plastic or bubble wrap to protect from moisture.
  • Using bubble wrap, create sleeves or cushion the sides of the inside tube so it doesn't rattle around or hit the inside of the outer tube. Make sure you have a small amount of bubble wrap at the ends as well for cushioning.
  • Securely tape caps on the ends of the outer tube using strapping and/or packing tape.

1 comment:

  1. Everyone should be careful with shipping anything, and even more so with art. They can be quite delicate, depending on the materials used, and they may not be snuggly stored while on the move. While investing in quality protection for your artwork goes a long way, another factor is using these correctly to prevent breakages in transit. I hope every artist takes action on this matter. Thanks for sharing!

    Thelma Bowman @ Quality Strapping