Shipping that REALLY Big Piece

At some time or another, most artists will face the shipping dillema.
I ship plein air paintings to galleries and shows during the year but a large painting is a whole different animal.
I am currently preparing to ship the painting above "Whispers In the Wood" off to a buyer in Texas and thought it would be a good chance to talk about how I prepare a painting to travel the distance.
In the past, most of my large work sold out of a galleries to buyers responsible to take it away themselves.
Then ONCE, I learned a very hard lesson about trusting a gallery to prepare and ship a big painting sold to an out of state buyer.
This is not a rag on galleries but I realized then, that everyone has a different standard about what is "good enough".
Said painting arrived at the home of the excited buyer with 2 corners destroyed 6 inches into the painting. When I saw the damage, I felt literally sick, not to mention sick at heart. Damage like that could only happen if a box was THROWN off the truck.

Rule #1 - never use Fed Ex. They may be great for some things but not for my art. And by the way, that piece was insured BUT, I could only make the claim if I was willing to forgo getting back my art.
I passed on the insurance money, took back my painting and restored it;
no easy task.
Rule #2 - work over 30"gets crated in wood, no exceptions - and only ship UPS. I think at first this whole idea was so daunting I didn't even want to look at it but when I saw my hard work destroyed, I wised up quick. It was empowering.

The painting at the top of this post is 48" high by 36" wide.
I try to find, or buy a box that is at least 4 to 6 inches bigger all around. We have a U-Haul place in town and I like to buy, what they call a Mirror-Boxes designed for moving art. Two boxes can be cut at the ends and extended for longer work. The painting itself gets wrapped in several layers of bubble wrap (big bubbles not small bubbles) until it fits snuggly in the extended box. Every corner should have at least 2 inches of bubble between the painting and the box.
I then build a frame of one bys around the box so all corners are covered. It is all held together by wood screws. The drill bit shown below will be sent, via regular mail to the buyer separately, so they can use a drill to open the crate.And if you are wondering about the cost: 2 Mirror boxes were $12.50. Lumber, 1 x 4" and 1 x 6" was about $35.00 and misc wood screws and the bit brought the total to $51.57.
Once the piece is crated, I take it to UPS with the address; they weigh, measure and give a price that includes insurance that covers the price of the art. I won't ship yet though.
The UPS price together with my crating materials is then communicated to the buy who will add it to total price of the piece and hopefully, send me a check. Then I ship.
So my shipping costs for this painting were $185.00. YIKES!!
And I admit sometimes that is my response.
When I communicated the price to the buyer however, their response was both gracious and grateful, for caring enough to make sure the art got to them in good fashion.

To my mind, delivering and, personally installing a painting is the first and best option - but not always possible.

Here's a final tip straight from a UPS guy: drivers know what packages are worth the most by how much insurance has been paid. These get handled the most carefully.
Sigh. . . . . . in the end you get what you pay for.


Judith Greenwood said...

A great tutorial on shipping art! Thank you for taking the time to give us all some practical information on this serious subject.

Judith Greenwood

Judith Greenwood said...

And... I forgot to mention that this painting is absolutely gorgeous!!! One can feel the cold, the mystery. Stunning!!

Judith Greenwood

Gail Watford said...

Thank you for a very informative article! I have been wondering about shipping art but didn't know where to find the answers. It's great of you to share your experiences! By the way, another great painting...love your work, Coni!!!

Gail Watford

Sheri said...

Thanks for the info. BTW, the painting is one of my favorite!


Coni said...

Thanks - C