By Libby Kyer
Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist - Volume 17, Issue 4
Using the internet as a problem solver is especially helpful when looking for hard-to-find supplies. As we get ready to take time off for the winter holiday season, shipping becomes a part of our lives, whether we want it to or not! There is never enough tape, wrapping paper or stamps for holiday gifts. We console ourselves that it’s a seasonal thing, and the recipients will love that we made the effort.
However, shipping fine art for exhibitions is another thing entirely. That process needs to work reliably to send and return your precious art. It has to be strong, flexible to accommodate several sizes of art, waterproof, and reusable. There are a lot of regulations imposed by exhibition sponsors, who are sure they never want to experience art packed in Styrofoam peanuts or even biodegradable potato starch peanuts again. Never.
So, what are your options? Actually, there are more than I had imagined. I searched under “fine art shipping materials,” “fine art packing materials,” and “fine art mailers” in Google. I got the best results with the first iteration. It’s generally worthwhile to try a number of different approaches in the search phrase, to be open to the most possibilities. I looked for materials suitable for artwork from 12x15” up to 36x42”, which should accommodate most of our artworks. Here’s what I found:
www.uline.com/BL_2356/Deluxe-Artwork-Shippers: Uline Deluxe Artwork Shippers are reusable boxes that have heavy-duty plastic-lined top and bottom internal panels to prevent punctures, and adjustable pads and openings to allow customized art support. Useful sizes run from $46 to $123 each.
www.masterpak-usa.com/: MasterPak Art Shipping Boxes offer three layers of configurable foam protection in a strong, humidity resistant corrugated container. They are reusable. Useful sizes run from $33.98 to $106.75.
www.airfloatsys.com/airfloat-products/airfloatstrongbox. html: Both carry Air Float’s Strongbox shipper. Equipped with 3 layers of foam, you can get them with punctureresistant hard plastic liners. The middle foam layer is easily customized by removing perforated squares to form an opening that snugly encases the artwork. They are reusable. Useful sizes run $31.50 to $107.50.
www.jerrysartarama.com/: The ezARTshipper is a different system than the previous three. It suspends artworks in a waterproof sealable polybag mounted on a rigid cardboard frame. That frame is then put into the outer shipping box. The artwork is protected by virtue of being “suspended” away from any edge of the outer box. Not reusable unless you provide really good repacking info! Sold in packs of 6, useful sizes run $129 to $179.
When you have selected a system, and need to ship, be sure to label all portions of the packing system with your name and contact number. Adhere reassembly instructions securely to the inside of the box. Provide a return label that fully covers the previous shipping label on the outside.
For all systems except the ezARTshipper, which has a sealable plastic envelope as part of its mounting system, you’ll want to enclose your artwork in a waterproof sealable polybag of some kind before packing, to protect against moisture mishaps.
You can find lots of options for decent prices at buy.com, amazon.com, uline.com, etc. Try Staples or Office Depot’s sites also.
Label the polybag with your name and contact information and include instructions for rebagging and resealing right on the bag.
Developing a “set” of labels that all look alike to use with shipping materials makes it easier for those unpacking your work to keep all the bits together. Use labels that don’t come off easily. The removable type of label has the unfortunate habit of being, well, removable. That’s not going to protect your shipping investment.
Finally, if you find the perfect system, let me know, so we can share it with our colleagues. It takes a village…