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Old 04-15-2010, 02:39 PM
Greg Long's Avatar
Greg Long Greg Long is offline
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Art Packaging tips from Timelady...

This from Tina's Blog....
Artist question: packaging artwork
I recently received an email from a fellow artist online asking about my packaging for shipping paintings. This is a pretty common issue so I thought I'd answer (quite late, sorry!) on the blog to help other artists too.


"I was wondering if you mind revealing how you pack your paintings. [...] I haven't begun selling yet, but I'm clueless how to pack a painting for shipping. From what I've found online, it needs to be covered in a sheet of plastic (to protect from bubble wrap), then wrapped in bubble wrap, then boxed somehow. I found one blog posting by an artist who said he makes boxes out of foam core to put the painting in before it goes into a bigger box (although I'm wondering if bookmaking chipboard would be sturdier). Some of the premade boxes online are really pricey (http://www.airfloatsys.com), but some are cheaper (http://www.uline.com/). Your Etsy policies page also says you reuse shipping materials - does that mean found boxes for domestic shipping?

Does the size matter? Is a smaller package less likely to get damaged than a really big one?"



These are all important points! Before I start, I'm not an expert on these things. All my ways of doing things are from experience but they are also quite specific to shipping paintings on stretched canvas.


1. Bubblewrap
I too hear from a lot of artists that bubblewrap can damage paintings. It's the texture of it. I've even seen it happen just with work stored in galleries. What a lot of artists forget is that even with a cured painting the temperature fluxuations in shipping trucks, planes and vans can skyrocket! (Some USPS workers on Etsy say their trucks easily get over 100C inside, and not just in summer.) So many mediums, including oil and acrylic, will soften slightly in those temperatures. Bubblewrap pressed against the painting can then make indentations.
So a sheet of something somewhat firm, like plastic or glassine, will help. I actually don't use bubblewrap and opt for a foam wrap instead. (like Cellair foam wrap from VikingDirect) This is flat so that problem is avoided, plus I simply find a few layers of it are far more protective than bubblewrap. It can also be used as a barrier layer if you do want to use bubblewrap, or between faces of paintings stacked together.


2. Wrapping paintings
So I use foamwrap. My usual method of wrapping, of a 50x50cm/20"x20" canvas for example), is a layer of foam wrap around the painting. Then a piece of cardboard attached to the front, to protect against small impacts 'dinging' the surface. Then a few layers of more foam wrap. Then I put it in a sturdy cardboard box that is slightly larger than the canvas. Fill the gaps around with either leftover packing peanuts (if someone else shipped me something with them) or shredding paper (from my office shredder). Sometimes I get packages with those really cool plastic air pockets and I always keep those for packing paintings too!
My studio is across from Interlink Express's south London depot. I watch them load lorries all day. Oh the things I see. Now I'm not talking deliberate damage; I've never seen that, though you do hear stories. But things do fall off palettes. Entire palettes crash to the ground. Things fall off the lorries. There is no "fragile" here. They wrap and load in bulk. "Fragile" is a note mainly for items once they are local sorting and delivery routes, not for the major transport. Make sure your items are protected on the artwork face from impact, and the corners from impact. This is why I always use a box larger on all sizes than the artwork - room for oops before it hits the painting! This is why some people use hardwood boxes. (more on that later)


3. Recycled packaging
Yes, I reuse boxes. As much as possible. Very large boxes can often be "built" into new ones, and I usually have to do with with medium paintings (50cm up to 90cm in size, 20"-36"). You get better with practice! My top tip here is bike boxes. Nothing to do with being a cyclist, I just happen to have lived near bike shops and the boxes that bikes come in are perfect for paintings! They're not as long as a bike, just the frame without wheels. A long thin rectangle and 6"/10cm or so deep. You can cut off one end and overlap them to create larger boxes. Here in London business are required to recycle anyway, so they're usually more than happy to give you their boxes if you go in and ask. Other options are furniture stores, appliance stores, and mirror/frame shops.


4. Size
Yes, size matters. Because we're shipping flat items with one large side, that means the potential impact with that side increases with size. And of course that flat side IS the value! So if you need to protect with extra layers of card or board, do so! Yes, some artists will use hardboard layers too.

But more relevent is size with regards to shipping limits.

At some point something called dimensional weight seriously kicks in with all the shipping companies - both couriers and regular post offices. Basically this means they determine the weight based on the size, and not the actual weight. Why? Because packages take up space, and they pay for that space. A huge box on a palette could weight 30lbs. If you ship a 3lbs package in that space the company is losing a lot of potential earnings they could get from that space. So you might have a light package, but don't think it'll be cheap to send! The standard formula for most companies is:

Add: Length x Width x Height (inches) = Cubic size
Cubic Size divided by 194 = Dimensional weight
So a box that's 24"x24"x6" = 3456 cubic size, 3456/194 = 17.8lbs = 18lbs dimensional weight
But most companies have a point where this kicks in. UPS Ground for example only applies dimensional weight above 5184 cubic size. (For UPS Air shipments it's all sizes.)

And there's more. With most shippers there's also a maximum size. This is why I said "up to 90cm" in the section above. At this point almost no shippers you can book as an individual will take a larger package - I've tried DHL, UPS, Fedex, Post office, etc. In fact shipping a 120cm painting to the USA was a bit of a pivotal moment in my business. I had to find a way, but no one would do it.

In the end I found a logistics company. Art/antique specific in my case - HMC Logistics. These companies are listed online and in the phone books if you need to find one, and often they're based at airports. Their job is to actually ship huge consignments, full palettes. So they can handle larger items. Most of them can also pack the items! HMC actually comes to get my paintings, blankets them in their truck (which only has art in it, so they know what they're doing), take it to their building, make a crate for it, and fill the crate around the painting. They then book it along with a whole stack of items with a shipper like Fedex. Since none of the major shippers insure original art, HMC also has their own 3rd party insurance.

This might sound extreme and it is expensive, but I hit the point where I had no options. I literally was unable to pack a painting of that size myself, and no shipper would take it from me as a private individual. Fortunately my prices can work with this - when courier's maximum sizes kick in my paintings have reached a price of approximately £1500 (US$2300). Shipping is not the thing to skimp on!


5. Works on paper or loose canvas
Just a quick last section about paper and loose canvas. My main tip (and I've shipped paper drawings, paintings, pastels, photographs, prints for years too) is to use a tube if you can. Tubes are *extremely* strong, far more sturdy and safe than any flat package. There are even very wide diameter tubes for more fragile papers so they don't need to be rolled tightly. Buy a few very long tubes and you can cut them down into several, make your own cardboard "ends".

Almost everything on paper, barring pastels and charcoal, can be very safely rolled for short periods of time. With pastels and charcoal I've safely rolled them with a piece of glassine or tissue paper attached to the front of the image. With all paintings roll them with the image facing outward (otherwise if the paint cracks it's compressed and then the cracks "open" as it's unrolled, if rolled outward any cracks will "close" as it's unrolled - not that we want cracks of course, but they're rare if you use a proper width tube and only for a short period). Not only are tubes far far safer from damage but it's cheaper. At small sizes you fall into "small packet" rates and at large sizes you save hugely on dimensional weight.



That's all! Do you have any top tips? Artists or other businesses with shipping experience? Or maybe you're a shipping company and have suggestions? Please do comment! We artists need all the help we can get.
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Old 04-15-2010, 05:38 PM
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Bringer Bringer is offline
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Re: Art Packaging tips from Timelady...

Hi Greg,

Indeed I had a bad experience with bubblewrap.
I had this oil painting that had been varnished for about 2 months or so.
Then I kept it at home protected with bubblewrap (no problem here).
But one day I took it with me (was Summer) and during a warmer time of the day, I sat on a bench, under the sunlight.
Just because of less than an hour, the bubbles made marks on the varnish and I can tell that I could not disguise them.
Of course that if it were a automotive varnish I could sand and polish :-)
Fortunately I had let the paint dry well before varnishing and so the solution was to remove the varnish with turps and re-varnish (sp?).
Everything came out ok, fortunately.

Kind regards,

José
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Old 04-16-2010, 01:34 AM
webart webart is offline
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Re: Art Packaging tips from Timelady...

Wow. I had no ides that bubble wrap can cause so much damage to a painting. That's how I've been packing my matted watercolors, but no one has ever complained about any damage, but still, I think I'll be looking into that foam wrap. Can you buy that in office supply stores?
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Old 04-16-2010, 05:09 PM
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Re: Art Packaging tips from Timelady...

Quote:
Originally Posted by webart
Wow. I had no ides that bubble wrap can cause so much damage to a painting. That's how I've been packing my matted watercolors, but no one has ever complained about any damage, but still, I think I'll be looking into that foam wrap. Can you buy that in office supply stores?

Hi,

Note that what was affected was the varnish (damar in my case).
I don't know if it would affected a non-varnished work, nonetheless a sheet of glassine is better, I suppose.

José
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Old 05-12-2018, 10:34 AM
Harold Roth Harold Roth is offline
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Re: Art Packaging tips from Timelady...

I use first a layer of glassine, then cardboard, THEN bubblewrap. Re peanuts, I've run across plenty of competitions that do not allow peanuts to be used.
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Old 05-13-2018, 07:01 AM
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Re: Art Packaging tips from Timelady...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Long
This from Tina's Blog....
Artist question: packaging artwork
I recently received an email from a fellow artist online asking about my packaging for shipping paintings. This is a pretty common issue so I thought I'd answer (quite late, sorry!) on the blog to help other artists too.


"I was wondering if you mind revealing how you pack your paintings. [...] I haven't begun selling yet, but I'm clueless how to pack a painting for shipping. From what I've found online, it needs to be covered in a sheet of plastic (to protect from bubble wrap), then wrapped in bubble wrap, then boxed somehow. I found one blog posting by an artist who said he makes boxes out of foam core to put the painting in before it goes into a bigger box (although I'm wondering if bookmaking chipboard would be sturdier). Some of the premade boxes online are really pricey (http://www.airfloatsys.com), but some are cheaper (http://www.uline.com/). Your Etsy policies page also says you reuse shipping materials - does that mean found boxes for domestic shipping?

Does the size matter? Is a smaller package less likely to get damaged than a really big one?"



These are all important points! Before I start, I'm not an expert on these things. All my ways of doing things are from experience but they are also quite specific to shipping paintings on stretched canvas.


1. Bubblewrap
I too hear from a lot of artists that bubblewrap can damage paintings. It's the texture of it. I've even seen it happen just with work stored in galleries. What a lot of artists forget is that even with a cured painting the temperature fluxuations in shipping trucks, planes and vans can skyrocket! (Some USPS workers on Etsy say their trucks easily get over 100C inside, and not just in summer.) So many mediums, including oil and acrylic, will soften slightly in those temperatures. Bubblewrap pressed against the painting can then make indentations.
So a sheet of something somewhat firm, like plastic or glassine, will help. I actually don't use bubblewrap and opt for a foam wrap instead. (like Cellair foam wrap from VikingDirect) This is flat so that problem is avoided, plus I simply find a few layers of it are far more protective than bubblewrap. It can also be used as a barrier layer if you do want to use bubblewrap, or between faces of paintings stacked together.


2. Wrapping paintings
So I use foamwrap. My usual method of wrapping, of a 50x50cm/20"x20" canvas for example), is a layer of foam wrap around the painting. Then a piece of cardboard attached to the front, to protect against small impacts 'dinging' the surface. Then a few layers of more foam wrap. Then I put it in a sturdy cardboard box that is slightly larger than the canvas. Fill the gaps around with either leftover packing peanuts (if someone else shipped me something with them) or shredding paper (from my office shredder). Sometimes I get packages with those really cool plastic air pockets and I always keep those for packing paintings too!
My studio is across from Interlink Express's south London depot. I watch them load lorries all day. Oh the things I see. Now I'm not talking deliberate damage; I've never seen that, though you do hear stories. But things do fall off palettes. Entire palettes crash to the ground. Things fall off the lorries. There is no "fragile" here. They wrap and load in bulk. "Fragile" is a note mainly for items once they are local sorting and delivery routes, not for the major transport. Make sure your items are protected on the artwork face from impact, and the corners from impact. This is why I always use a box larger on all sizes than the artwork - room for oops before it hits the painting! This is why some people use hardwood boxes. (more on that later)


3. Recycled packaging
Yes, I reuse boxes. As much as possible. Very large boxes can often be "built" into new ones, and I usually have to do with with medium paintings (50cm up to 90cm in size, 20"-36"). You get better with practice! My top tip here is bike boxes. Nothing to do with being a cyclist, I just happen to have lived near bike shops and the boxes that bikes come in are perfect for paintings! They're not as long as a bike, just the frame without wheels. A long thin rectangle and 6"/10cm or so deep. You can cut off one end and overlap them to create larger boxes. Here in London business are required to recycle anyway, so they're usually more than happy to give you their boxes if you go in and ask. Other options are furniture stores, appliance stores, and mirror/frame shops.


4. Size
Yes, size matters. Because we're shipping flat items with one large side, that means the potential impact with that side increases with size. And of course that flat side IS the value! So if you need to protect with extra layers of card or board, do so! Yes, some artists will use hardboard layers too.

But more relevent is size with regards to shipping limits.

At some point something called dimensional weight seriously kicks in with all the shipping companies - both couriers and regular post offices. Basically this means they determine the weight based on the size, and not the actual weight. Why? Because packages take up space, and they pay for that space. A huge box on a palette could weight 30lbs. If you ship a 3lbs package in that space the company is losing a lot of potential earnings they could get from that space. So you might have a light package, but don't think it'll be cheap to send! The standard formula for most companies is:

Add: Length x Width x Height (inches) = Cubic size
Cubic Size divided by 194 = Dimensional weight
So a box that's 24"x24"x6" = 3456 cubic size, 3456/194 = 17.8lbs = 18lbs dimensional weight
But most companies have a point where this kicks in. UPS Ground for example only applies dimensional weight above 5184 cubic size. (For UPS Air shipments it's all sizes.)

And there's more. With most shippers there's also a maximum size. This is why I said "up to 90cm" in the section above. At this point almost no shippers you can book as an individual will take a larger package - I've tried DHL, UPS, Fedex, Post office, etc. In fact shipping a 120cm painting to the USA was a bit of a pivotal moment in my business. I had to find a way, but no one would do it.

In the end I found a logistics company. Art/antique specific in my case - HMC Logistics. These companies are listed online and in the phone books if you need to find one, and often they're based at airports. Their job is to actually ship huge consignments, full palettes. So they can handle larger items. Most of them can also pack the items! HMC actually comes to get my paintings, blankets them in their truck (which only has art in it, so they know what they're doing), take it to their building, make a crate for it, and fill the crate around the painting. They then book it along with a whole stack of items with a shipper like Fedex. Since none of the major shippers insure original art, HMC also has their own 3rd party insurance.

This might sound extreme and it is expensive, but I hit the point where I had no options. I literally was unable to pack a painting of that size myself, and no shipper would take it from me as a private individual. Fortunately my prices can work with this - when courier's maximum sizes kick in my paintings have reached a price of approximately £1500 (US$2300). Shipping is not the thing to skimp on!


5. Works on paper or loose canvas
Just a quick last section about paper and loose canvas. My main tip (and I've shipped paper drawings, paintings, pastels, photographs, prints for years too) is to use a tube if you can. Tubes are *extremely* strong, far more sturdy and safe than any flat package. There are even very wide diameter tubes for more fragile papers so they don't need to be rolled tightly. Buy a few very long tubes and you can cut them down into several, make your own cardboard "ends".

Almost everything on paper, barring pastels and charcoal, can be very safely rolled for short periods of time. With pastels and charcoal I've safely rolled them with a piece of glassine or tissue paper attached to the front of the image. With all paintings roll them with the image facing outward (otherwise if the paint cracks it's compressed and then the cracks "open" as it's unrolled, if rolled outward any cracks will "close" as it's unrolled - not that we want cracks of course, but they're rare if you use a proper width tube and only for a short period). Not only are tubes far far safer from damage but it's cheaper. At small sizes you fall into "small packet" rates and at large sizes you save hugely on dimensional weight.



That's all! Do you have any top tips? Artists or other businesses with shipping experience? Or maybe you're a shipping company and have suggestions? Please do comment! We artists need all the help we can get.
Wonderful post. Thanks so much.
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Old 06-16-2018, 12:58 PM
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Azure Wings Azure Wings is offline
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Re: Art Packaging tips from Timelady...

Great advice, Greg and Tina! Thank you!

Appreciatively,
Karen
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Old 07-17-2018, 08:07 AM
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Re: Art Packaging tips from Timelady...

Pass the cost of shipping materials to the buyer unless they want to take care of it themselves.
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