Pro Talk: Shipping Artwork with Dan and Stu

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.


Dan and Stu help Lentil ship Chris P. Bacon a birthday gift.

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.  
Don't rely on stickers to protect your precious cargo on the journey to it's final destination!

Don’t rely solely on stickers to protect your precious cargo on the journey to it’s final destination!

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.
Enzo helps out at the store by licking stamps.

Enzo helps out at the store by licking stamps.

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.

Why yes, that is moi painting the winter window scene at Liberties Parcel a few years back!


Carol McDonough and the Journey of the Green Man

As a kid, I loved rolling out clay on the oversized wooden tables of my Aunt Carol’s light-filled art studio. From the Swamp Studio of Columbus to the spacious countryside of Rutland, Ohio, Carol McDonough’s ceramic and glass pieces are absolutely breathtaking.

Tell us how you got started in art. What made you pursue ceramics?

Carol: I became fascinated with astronomy pictures in high school, and I convinced my Dad to build me a darkroom in the basement- I spent many happy hours in there. That’s also when I started selling my work- my Mom was one of my first customers. I sold her pictures of my baby brother Mark for $5!

A young Carol works diligently in clay.

A young Carol works diligently in her clay studio.

I dropped out of photography school at Ohio University to get married. Eventually, we pursued my husband’s life long dream of living in the country. I thought about how an artist could make it in the middle of nowhere; before I had ever laid my hands on a piece of clay, I picked pottery! Six weeks into throwing 101 I still couldn’t center the clay– uh oh! It all worked out OK though, and I learned the importance of hard work and putting in the time to improve skills.

How has living in the countryside of Southern Ohio impacted your work?

Carol: Prior to living in Rutland, my work had an “Art Deco” feel, and my business name was “Swamp Studio” because whenever it rained, water seeped up through the floor of my basement studio!


Carol’s Art Deco pieces, prior to moving to the farm

Carol's Art Deco pieces, prior to moving to the country. Please write her for details!

A promotional postcard from the Swamp Studio days. Please write her for details!

Once we moved to the countryside, my business name changed to “C McDonough Designs,” and my work got more organic as I was inspired by the rolling hills, woodlands and lush green pastures of the countryside. I am an avid gardener and I have developed a line of garden pottery for my own needs including bird feeders, bird houses and planters. I learned how to make and install tile for our 100-year old farmhouse, using my kitchen and bathroom as a testing ground. Have you noticed this pattern? I was selling pics to my Mom, now I’m selling tile to my husband!

This little bird helps out with Research and Development for Carol’s handmade feeders!

The cats on the farm “testing” Carol’s kittie food bowls

Tell us a little bit about your Green Man.

Carol: The Green Man is an ancient symbol of man’s connection to nature. The process for making my green men and women are basic hand building techniques. Each face is individually hand formed and up to 36 real leaves (Sacred Oak, Bacchus, Paw Paw Sun) are pressed into clay slabs, cut out and attached.

Carol’s “Green Man”

Any secrets you’d like to share with us on your process?

Carol: Check out how I make a Green Man on my blog.

Describe your dream art studio.

Carol: My dream art studio is mine now with free heat and more windows! I might get an upgrade when Jay (my husband) retires.

The Perfect Art Studio: Mother Nature’s finest leaves included!

What advice do you have for artists that want to take their storefront online?

Carol: One of the first things I did on Etsy was check out page 12,346 to see what was there. Some of the most atrocious photos ever seen, out of focus, busy backgrounds, dark, yikes!!! You have a sixteenth of the screen and about a nano second to grab the attention of your potential customer. Once they click on your item you need four more good photos with close ups, the backside of the piece, and a great description and background story. Give it some time, work on it regularly, look at what others are doing.

Natural lighting and attention to detail make this closeup of “Bacchus” a great example of The Perfect Shot; you can practically taste the grapes!

Are You involved with any online storefronts besides Etsy?

Carol: I have another online store with Storenvy. The site is like Etsy but San Francisco based. It is a little more edgy and you can have a custom store for free, but I have had many more Etsy sales.

A more esoteric work, Carol’s Silica-based life-form fish has been making the rounds in the Ohio art loop

Is any of your art currently on display? If so, where, when and for how long?

Carol: I currently have a sculpture in the Athens Voices show at the Dairy Barn Art Center and five sculptures at the Multicultural Center at Ohio University as part of the Women of Appalachia Show. I am waiting to hear if this is my year to get into the Ohio Designer Craftsmen Best of 2015 Show!!

Can’t make it to Ohio for either event? Check out Carol’s Etsy shop from the comfort of, well, wherever you are right now. Want more info on how to run your Etsy page? Check out my breakdown of Etsy analytics and how it can help you reach your customer base. Psst! There are Etsy coupons at the bottom of that blog 🙂

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