Shipping Simplified with a System

A System

Ask an artist how they feel about packaging and shipping their artwork for exhibits and sales. Chances are the response won’t be a positive one.

This is one part of being an artist that most of us are not very fond of. It’s time consuming and it’s expensive.

This past year I’ve implemented systems across my art business to make it runner smoother. The packaging and shipping event, while still not my favorite part of being an artist, is now much simpler.

I have a written packaging and shipping process with step by step directions to follow, from purchasing supplies, to pricing shipping for customers, to packing steps, to shipping details. This means if a few months go by without shipping, I don’t have to remember the details.

Although the true purpose of the written system is that at any time I can hire someone to do the job for me.

The time when this will happen is when I will be busy, and I won’t have time to teach someone how to do the shipping. As a result, I might hold off hiring someone because I don’t have time to teach them. By building the system up front, I have it ready when it will be needed. Handing it over to someone new will be simple.

As a bonus, if you believe in the law of attraction, having this system in place and planning on hiring someone to use it, will bring about the need to do just that. I know I’m going to have so many sales and exhibits, I’m going to need help with shipping very soon.

Supplies

I need more space than a single blog post to go into the entire system but I believe the 1 thing in the system that has made my process less stressful is that I always have all the supplies I need on hand at all times.

Prior to this year, when I needed to ship artwork to a collector I had to scrounge around to find a box to recycle. Often I couldn’t find one so I’d have to buy one, which is an expensive when buying just 1 at a time. This lack of materials caused stress and I have no doubt some of the packages appeared quite unprofessional.

I needed to have supplies on hand so sales were a joyous event, with no stress. So I wrote down all of my requirements for containers such as:

1) Purpose: I ship to exhibits and to collectors – each has unique requirements – 1 needs reusable containers; the other needs professional, beautiful packaging.

2) Shape: The majority of my artwork is shipped rolled, in tubes of varying lengths. Smaller textile paintings are mounted on stretch canvas and are shipped flat.

3) Size: My artwork varies greatly in size from 3″ square to nearly 8 feet square.

Based on the above information, I was able to identify a handful of box sizes that I could use for shipping all my artwork as needed. Spending time to write it down and sort through the information helped to clarify that it wasn’t nearly as complicated as it felt.

I now keep every box size I use in stock in my basement. When I sell artwork, it takes just a few minutes to package it up. While maybe not as fun as making art, it’s easy.

Suppliers

These are the suppliers I use for my packaging needs:

  • Yazoomills: reusuable shipping tubes. I purchased tubes from them 15+ years ago and am still using them to ship my textile paintings to exhibits. The heavy duty ones are nearly indestructible and well worth the cost. It costs a bit more to ship with the heavier tubes but my artwork is worth the protection.
  • Uline: boxes for shipping artwork to collectors. These folks have pretty much any size box you might need at good prices. They’ve got tape and other packing supplies like bubble wrap also./li>
  • Clearbags: protective clear bags for artwork. Zillions of sizes for just about any size of artwork. They have other clever containers that can be used to create a professional presentation of your art for your collectors.
  • Home Depot: I use water pipe insulation tubes from the hardware store to roll my textile paintings onto before placing them into tubes for shipping. They are lighter than cardboard and cheaper than the foam swim noodles that many people use.
  • Office Depot: with their ubiquitous coupons, I find their packaging tape and sharpie markers to be very competitively priced.
  • United States Postal Service: Free boxes (I mostly use the flat rate boxes) for priority shipping. I use this most when shipping fabric to buyers and when the buyer requests priority shipping. I keep a supply of all sizes on hand, which I pick up when I’m at the post office.

Online Shipping

Another tip is to set up online accounts with your preferred shipper so you don’t have to stand inline at the shipping office. There is usually a discount for doing this also.

If you ship internationally through the US post office, you will often not be able to avoid that event but I keep the duty forms on hand so I can fill them out at home.

Instead of going to the main post office where lines are long and slow, I got to a near by hardware store with a postal substation instead. I try to go at off hours and rarely are there more than 2 or 3 people in line.

Wrap Up

If you need to ship your artwork out to the world, think big by being prepared for the event by having supplies on hand and a system in place to help the process go smoother. Then you can get back to the studio and make more art sooner.

Please share you shipping tips or packaging suppliers in the comments below.

 
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—lisa

Thinking Big about Art

7 Responses to “Shipping Simplified with a System”

  1. [...] 1) I wrote a blog post on makebigart.com – something I haven’t done in quite a while. If you need some tips to make packaging and shipping artwork easier, maybe my system can help: Shipping Simplified with a System. [...]

  2. Gail Bates says:

    Lisa, I like the idea of using pipe insulation for rolling the textile onto. What size diameter shipping tube do you recommend? Thanks for all the info– great article!

    • Lisa Call says:

      I use the 6″ diameter tubes. A little roomy so sometimes I have to add additional packing material.

  3. Mona Doering says:

    Thanks for sharing this great information. I’m new to the selling of artwork. In my due diligence for shipping my art I’ve received some good advice (pretty sure) from my shipping guy. FedEx tracking system is superior to any other. US Postal Service will insure packages but will almost never honor a claim. UPS and FedEx both have good claim services/processes. Use standard size boxes for cheapest rates. Cubes are better than tubes. Catchy, huh? They’re cheaper to ship and tend to get better treatment by package handlers. It would be great to get feedback from all of the more experienced art shippers out there. Thanks again, Lisa!

    PS My daughter has worked as a package loader for FedEx. She recommends attaching return name/address to the actual artwork in case contents and packaging get separated in the shipping process. The conveyor equipment can wreak havoc if conditions are right, you know?

    • Lisa Call says:

      Mona – very helpful, thank you.

      And yes – tubes can be easily damaged given the rough handling – which is why I got with the really heavy duty ones for those of us that make art that doesn’t fit into a cube.

  4. Thank you for writing this and I will read it thoroughly. Its so good to get advice from someone who is doing this. I was just accepted by Artful Home and am nervous about shipping. I’m sure that I will figure it out eventually but I hate not knowing what I am doing. I am really enjoying your blog and have written about it in my own blog. Thanks again!

  5. Indigene says:

    Absolutely good information! For me, UPS has been a godsend, when I’m shipping to collectors, and if they’re local (within 50 miles and a large art piece) I hand deliver, which allows extra bonding time with customers! For exhibits, this is great info. In the future, when I exhibit I would love to link this info to it if I may! I always give kudos and a link back to info I may use on my blog! I’m following you on twitter and FB. GREAT JOB and Happy New Year! This is a great start for my first week in the new year, thanks again for the info!