How to Handle Shipping

Almost all galleries ask for artists to be responsible for shipping and insuring their work to the gallery. Some galleries even require artists to pay for shipping to and from the gallery! Here are some tips to make sure your work arrives safely, and how to be sure you will be reimbursed in the event your work is damaged during transit.

How do you handle shipping?

In general do not use USPS for shipping art! Use companies such as UPS, FedEx, DHL or an art handler. Be sure to insure work for shipping for at least half of the retail price, if gallery does 50/50 consignment.

For UPS you would be assured insurance by declaring the package’s value. This will result in extra cost but only by a dollar or two.

It is always good to have documentation of the work and your packing job before you ship in case you have to make a claim. Also ask the gallery to send you images of the damaged work and packing materials to also support your claim. Contact your shipper immediately if you receive the bad news!

1. Soft Packing (Envelope and Cardboard)

Ceramics & Sculpture

  • Wrap items in bubble wrap. Secure smaller, more fragile extremities, in either tissue paper or extra little pieces of bubble wrap before wrapping the entire piece in bubble wrap.
  • The item should be submerged in packing peanuts or lots of crumpled paper with at least 2 inches of packing material between the object and box. If you have multiple items in one box, work must also be  spaced at least 2 inches apart from each other.
  • Double box! Box containing items must go in another box with at least 2 inches of packing peanuts or foam between them.
  • A wooden crate is not necessary for shipping ceramics if you use the double box standard. When insuring ceramic art, never use the word art in front of a commercial shipping provider. You can avoid unnecessary costs and receive normal insurance by calling, whatever the ceramic object may be, ceramic. 

Works on paper

  • Wrap a sheet of glassine around a drawing and tape glassine together.
  • Use a robust but lightweight form of support to avoid bending. Use two lightweight sheets of foamcore either side taped together. Sheets of corrugated card can also work.
  • Slip the package inside a plastic bag for waterproofing
  • Use a suitable envelope that is padded with bubble wrap lining or a waterproof envelope.
  • Make sure you fill/seal the envelope so that the inner package cannot move around. Movement is what damages corners and leads to packages coming apart.

It’s recommended to not ship artwork in frames to save costs and prevent easy damage (shattering glass). The only people who make money off of framed work are the framers, and your patron might choose to change the frame any way. Find other creative ways to display work or ship a work in a frame without glass. You could also discuss presentation options with the exhibition’s curator.

2. Hard Packing (Crate or Shipping Container)

  • Materials: 8 x 4 sheets of plywood, wood glue, screws, foam, palette (optional for larger work or moving multiple crates)
  • When building a crate it is important to consider how you will keep the object stationary inside the crate to keep it from moving during transit. One option is with foam, see here:
    Courtesy of Jesse McAfee, INDA ’08, crate builder extraordinaire!
    You can also bolt the object to the crate. See here a painting is secured by screwing a metal component into the canvas’ stretcher bars and attached to the crate :
Please share your expertise, and safe travels!
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