Packing and shipping artwork can be confusing, frustrating and expensive to deal with. Thankfully, the guys at my local shipping store, Dan and Stu from Liberties Parcel in Northern Liberties Philadelphia, took some time to shed some light on the business of transporting art.
What is the biggest misconception most customers have about shipping?
Dan and Stu: Fragile and Do Not Bend stickers and labels. They help, but if you think something poorly packaged won’t break simply by writing ‘fragile’ on the box, you are mistaken. First, take the time to package an item properly for shipping. Then, place a few stickers as an additional alert.
Tell us some of the whackiest items you have ever had to ship.
Dan and Stu: Taxidermy by far: mounted rams heads, bobcats, and the occasional trophy fish. The more delicate items have been chandeliers, antiques, and doll houses. We have also custom packed and shipped a park bench, along with a vintage hotel bell hop cart, for a freight shipment. On a daily basis, we see some strange things come through the door.
What’s the toughest part about shipping paintings, glass objects or a fragile items such as pottery? Any tricks to packing these?
Dan and Stu: It all depends on the materials you have. The easiest guidelines for packaging anything fragile are listed below:
1. Securely and generously wrap the item in bubble wrap.
2. Find a carton that will allow that item to have a minimum of 2" of space surrounding it.
3. Surround the wrapped item in packing peanuts (DO NOT USE CRUMPLED PAPER) on all sides tightly.
4. Tape all exposed seams of the carton.
What is the worst way an artist could send a piece of art where it would almost certainly arrive broken?
Dan and Stu: Allowing any fragile item to bounce around inside the packaging or without ample padding surrounding it will almost certainly arrive damaged or broken.
how can artists accurately price out the cost of shipping and handling for their work?
Dan and Stu: There are 4 factors that will determine the cost of shipping an item:
You can call your local shipping stores with these 4 factors and they will be able to give you an accurate shipping quote, and if needed, a packaging quote (that would include materials such as bubble wrap and boxes).
Do you recommend a specific carrier? what are the pros and cons of each?
Dan and Stu: They are benefits to using USPS vs. FedEx/UPS:
-USPS will be the least expensive when shipping smaller and/or non-time sensitive shipments.
-FedEx/UPS will be less expensive when shipping larger and/or time sensitive shipments. FedEx and UPS will often times discount shipping to a commercial or business address, so make sure to clarify that in order to cut costs when possible.
Can you share any resources (links, guides) for readers who plan on packing their original artwork themselves?
Dan and Stu:
Packing paintings and framed photos for shipping by Agora Gallery:
A fun video packing pottery and putting it to the test with Sheila Corbitt:
What are the benefits of insuring artwork? How does it work?
Dan and Stu: Insuring artwork is almost a no-brainer; however, there are several variables to consider. FedEx and UPS offer $100 insurance with every shipment automatically where the USPS offers $50 protection with Priority Mail. Adding insurance is available from all carriers; however, certain carriers have exception lists. These lists are posted on the carrier websites. Important note: Only artwork that has been sold or professionally appraised can be insured for the invoiced amount if it fits within the carriers guidelines.
If you decide packing and shipping items yourself is way over your head, contact Stu and Dan at Liberties Parcel, which is located at 2nd and Brown in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, PA.