Shipping And Storing Artwork

Nothing deflates the euphoria of finishing a piece quite like having to get it ready to ship to an exhibition. But it does feel good to get that job done. Here’s how I prepared “Shoal” for shipping and storage.

Artwork by Donna Kallner prepared to ship for exhibition.

“Shoal” has been hanging in my dining room since it dried out from the two times we floated it to get pictures. But there’s always the chance of a homebrewed beer eruption there (rare, but possible). So today I built the shipping and storage container where it can live safely out of the way until it ships this summer.

The cardboard was salvaged from the box that contained an inversion table we bought to help alleviate Bill’s back pain.

Tools for building a shipping container.

The other tools and materials were:

  • a tape measure
  • 4 pieces of wood lath from a bundle we keep on hand
  • a dozuki saw (a hand saw that cuts on the pull stroke)
  • duct tape
  • old pattern tissue paper
  • a little bubble wrap
  • soft foam scraps
  • clear packaging tape

This piece has to travel from the first venue (which recently changed) to another venue and then either back to me or to a new home if it sells. So I reinforced the cardboard by cutting lath and duct taping it along the edges. I used the offcuts to make corner braces, which are also taped into place. There’s acid-free tissue paper between the piece and the cardboard.

Artwork by Donna Kallner packaged for shipping.

To keep the piece from sliding around, I used a bit of tape to stick down some soft foam scraps and filled one large void with a taped-down bubble wrap pad.  The bubble wrap (recycled) and foam scraps (from making a new dog bed) have been reused several times in packages shipped to exhibitions.

Artwork by Donna Kallner packaged for shipping.

The four corners of the bottom are marked, and I mark a reference photo for the packing slip so the next two people who package the piece don’t have to guess how it fits back in the container.

Preparing artwork to ship for exhibition.

I covered the piece with more acid-free tissue, and three strips of cardboard the length of the package, one of which is taped at the ends.

Preparing arwork to ship to exhibition.

I topped off the package with an other full sheet of cardboard and marked the bottom, so they don’t open it from lath-reinforced side. For now, the package is taped just enough to hold it together during storage — in case I’m compelled to peek at it again before it ships. When it’s time to ship, I’ll use clear packing tape around all the edges and to fully encircle the package length-wise and width-wise.

Instructions for unpacking and repacking artwork shipped for exhibition.

Next to the shipping label, I’ll tape a packing slip that contains unpacking and repacking instructions as well as my address and the addresses of the venues.

Back in another life, Bill and I had many occasions to pack and unpack whitewater canoes and kayaks shipped via common carrier freight. We learned a lot about packaging then that still comes in handy.

It helps that we have the space to store recycled packaging materials. If we didn’t and I had to pay for someone else for the materials and labor, I might balk at the price. Stuff like that always seems expensive — until you do it yourself.

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin