Focus on Education: Packing Artwork

By Jay Staten, Publications Director

The Pampered Palette Juried Art Exhibition deadline is now just ten weeks away! The competition is open all painters, and awards will be given in categories from beginner to professional, and in oil, acrylic, watercolor, and colored pencil. Have you submitted your entries? Get all the details at decorativepainters.org or pamperedpalette.com.

We recently discussed best practices for photographic documentation of artwork. Once your piece has been selected, you’ll need to know how to ship your artwork safely.

We receive a lot of calls at SDP Headquarters on this subject, and, as you can imagine, we receive and ship a lot of artwork throughout the year. At times,  it seems to have been by sheer miracle that the package arrived to us safely.

We follow some specific rules for shipping artwork. Here is our checklist.
Make sure you know the package standards and size limitations before you ship.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN:

From SDP Exhibit Specialist: Take a photo of your artwork. This will come in very handy if the package is lost or you have to make an insurance claim.

FLAT ART (unframed):

  1. A flat pack or Print Pad is the best way to ship flat art. If you cannot locate these boxes, then use a sturdy piece of cardboard for the art (not corrugated cardboard).
  2. Protect the artwork with acid-free tissue paper or a plastic bag. Before purchasing your plastic bag, check the melting point if possible. Some bags can melt, becoming permanently attached to your artwork, while traveling in freight trucks with temperatures of over 120 degrees F.
  3. Place one or two layers of cardboard on each side of the art. These should be at least 1 inch larger on each dimension than the art. Hint: If I think the art may shift around between the layers of cardboard, I use a piece of triangular paper at each corner, taped down to one side of the cardboard.
  1. Tape the cardboard together. Make sure to tape all sides.
  2. Write your TO and FROM addresses on one side. This is a safety precaution in case the external box or label is damaged, or if Customs opens the box and does not put it back correctly.
  3. Pack all art in two layers for shipping. Place cardboard sandwich into a second flat shipping box. If you cannot find a flat box, you can create your own with a collapsed freight box. Make sure to tape all the slits shut. Tape everything closed.
  4. Label your box clearly. If possible, have the shipper place their label on the box.

FRAMED ART

  1. The best way to ship is to create a custom wood case, or to purchase an Airfloat (www.airfloatsys.com) container. It should be noted, though, that these are expensive methods meant for art that will be shipped a number of times. Mirror Pack boxes are a great alternative for short-term use. They can be found at most moving companies or storage companies and are reasonably priced. Remember to get two: one as close as possible to the actual size of the framed art, and one that will allow for 3 inches of packaging material around the first box. Remember, all art should be packed in two layers for shipping.
  2. You will need bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and a bedsheet or something else to wrap the actual art in before going into the first box. HINT: if your frame has glass, consider getting the removable film that can cover glass (available from hardware stores and moving stores). This will help prevent glass breakage, and if the glass does break, it will keep the glass together and prevent damage to the art. Blue painter’s tape also works.
  3. Wrap the framed art in a sheet (raw muslin from the fabric store also works).
  4. Place bubble wrap on each side of the framed art before placing in Box #1. Make sure to use enough bubble wrap so that the art fits tightly in the box.
  5. Write your TO and FROM on Box #1 before placing it in Box #2. Again, this is a safety precaution in case the outer box is damaged, or if it is opened during transit.
  6. Place a layer of packing peanuts on the bottom of Box #2. Put Box #1 into Box #2. Center it in the container, and pour packing peanuts around all sides and on top to ensure Box #1 stays in the center of Box #2. NOTE: When shipping using packing peanuts, make sure the recipient allows for them (some galleries and art shows will not take them). You can substitute more bubble wrap or packing air bags.
  7. Tape shut all edges.
  8. Make sure to label your box clearly. Better yet, have the shipping company place its label on the box.

3-D ART

  1. You will need 2 boxes again—Box #1 that will hold the art, and Box #2 that will allow for at least 3 inches of packing material around Box #1.
  2. You will also need bubble wrap and packaging peanuts.
  3. Measure the art. You want all of the art to fit securely in the box, but allow enough room around to pad it. If it is possible to disassemble the piece to make packing easier, do. Just make sure that you have instructions on assembling included in the package.
  4. It is best to wrap the art itself in a sheet, muslin cloth, or in a plastic bag (the kind that doesn’t melt when exposed to heat).
  5. Place a layer or two of bubble wrap at the bottom of Box #1. Place the art in the center of the box. Stuff more bubble wrap around the art to secure it. It should be well packed, with no rattling.
  6. Tape Box #1 closed. Make sure to tape all edges.
  7. Write your TO and FROM on Box #1 before placing it in Box #2. Again, this is a safety precaution in case the outer box is damaged, or if it is opened during transit.
  8. Place a layer of packing peanuts on the bottom of Box #2. Put Box #1 into Box #2. Center it in the container, and pour packing peanuts around all sides and on top to ensure Box #1 stays in the center of Box #2. NOTE: When shipping using packing peanuts, make sure the recipient allows for them (some galleries and art shows will not take them). You can substitute more bubble wrap and packing air bags.
  9. Tape shut all edges.

10. Make sure to label your box clearly. Better yet, have the shipping company place its label on the box.

PAPERWORK

Make certain that all necessary papers are included in your package. If shipping internationally, you will need customs documentation. If entering an art exhibition, you will need your entry forms, prices, titles, tags, and a check that covers fees for return shipment. Projects for The Decorative Painter need to include a printout of the article, all step-by-steps, pattern, contract, and author photo. All of these can be on a CD.

INSURANCE

Find out what the insurance limitations are on the package before buying additional insurance. It is a common misconception that just because you buy some value of insurance and the package is lost or damaged, you will receive that insurance amount, but in many cases this is not true. In case of loss or damage, the shipper will only pay out the standard fee unless you can prove that the artwork was worth the insured value. The only way to do that is to have the artwork appraised prior to shipping. Or for payment on the materials costs, you must have all your receipts, which, of course, can be very complicated in the art world. Before shipping, understand insurance and the risks you take with various shipping groups.

Remember: Always double-box your art. We have learned from experience that none of the shipping companies will pay for damage or loss without proof that the package was properly packed.

Advice from SDP Exhibit Specialist: Take digital photos as you pack. In case of damage or loss, this will prove that you did pack and label correctly.

TRACK YOUR PACKAGE

No matter which company you use to ship, make sure to get a tracking number. Supply it to the receiver and track your package online.

For forty years, SDP has been handling art from artists, designers, and teachers from around the world. Now it’s your turn! We can’t wait to see what you enter in the Pampered Palette Juried Art Exhibition—www.pamperedpalette.com or www.decorativepainters.org.