View Full Version : International Airline Travel With Homemade Pastels

09-06-2017, 12:03 PM
Hello all, I'm super excited to say that I'm heading to an art residency in Greece in about a month. Then, if Hurricane Irma doesn't wipe out Georgia, to the Albert Handell paint along workshop on St. Simon's Island. Woohoo!

I need to fill out my pastel collection, and am wondering if there will be any issues with security at airports/customs or the like if I bring my homemade pastels? They are big chunks with no labels. I'd like to make more, as that is the most cost effective way for me to add to my palette, and cost is definitely a factor.

I'm also interested in just purchasing professional grade soft pastels, similar to Unison and Great American and a new set of hard ones for underpainting. What are the latest suggestions?

Donna T
09-06-2017, 05:36 PM
You have some good reasons to be excited, Lisa! I have never flown with pastels but I found a good article for you by Richard McKinley (http://www.artistsnetwork.com/articles/art-demos-techniques/pastel-frequent-flyers-tips-for-navigating-air-travel-with-art-supplies). He advises labeling the contents of your pastel box as "chalk pastels" and I've seen others use "artist chalk pastels" just to make it clear what those colored sticks are for. Hopefully you will get a TSA agent who has seen sticks of pastel, I mean "artist chalk pastels" before, whether they have their paper labels on or not. Have you tried Mount Visions yet? They aren't as soft as Great Americans but to me they are similar in softness to Unisons and they can be broken into smaller pieces so you wouldn't need to bring whole sticks. Faber Castell Polychromos are a very good quality hard pastel that work well for underpainting.

09-06-2017, 06:27 PM
My only suggestion is to have a prepaid shipping box at the ready so that if they refuse to let you take your pastels you can ship them back to yourself rather than throwing them away. If you end up not needing it, just destroy the shipping label and throw the box away. You won't be charged for an internet generated UPS or FedEx label that is not used.

I would not try to carry them on personally, particularly if I had a large set that still fit in my carry on. It is unlikely that they will be pulled from your checked luggage, but you may want to allow sufficient time for that to happen so you can be notified by TSA and still have time to pack and ship them home so you won't miss your flight to Greece.

09-07-2017, 11:32 AM
Thank you both. Both suggestions are very helpful.

I'm thinking checked baggage is less likely to encounter problems than carry on, but if I end up over there with a lost bag, I'm stuck as my island residency is in the middle of the Agean Sea. Well, I have a month to figure it all out, and possibly ship my materials there ahead of time.

09-07-2017, 01:38 PM
I think you will be ok with pastels. label them just in case but they should just go quietly through the xrays with no problems.

I've traveled with oils before, those must be in checked luggage and labeled as "artist pigment in vegetable oil" with MSDS sheets but pastels (er, artist chalk *cringe*) shouldn't raise too much concern.

Congrats on that residency, how exciting!

09-13-2017, 11:09 PM
Thanks for the input! I have been working at making my own version of a pastel box to put in my carry on luggage. I managed to use a nice thrift store easel, a wooden box from Hobby Lobby foam and some miscellaneous hardware to put together a version for less than $35. I had some trouble putting holes in the foam for the pastels today and got really discouraged, but youtube came to my rescue, and tomorrow I'll try again. :) I'm so excited, the real version is about $500 with the tripod.

Donna T
09-14-2017, 09:41 AM
Wow, that sounds like an affordable solution, Lisa! I would love to see a photo of your new pastel box when you get it all finished.