How to ship your artwork
Creating art requires passion, guts and determination. Textile art in particular can be labour intensive and time-consuming. So after that investment of mind, body and soul, there are few things more worrying than sending your most recent work to a new home.
Art can be tricky to ship safely, as even the slightest damage can have a devastating impact. Intimidating as that may sound, a few simple precautions can take all the fear out of sending work by post. Shipping experts ParcelHero share their tips to make sending art through the post safer and less stressful.
In the guide below, we’re working on the assumption that the work to be shipped is for the wall and is a flat rectangular shape, but the ideas behind it can be modified to suit your needs. That said, the methods below may not be suitable for every type of art.
What you’ll need:
Acid free packaging paper
A plastic bag or bin bag
Insulating foam or bubble wrap
A Stanley knife or scissors
Double or triple corrugated cardboard
Wrap it up nice
Make sure that the art you’re sending is in great condition before you package it. Once you’re happy that your frame is clean and the art itself (or the glass, if applicable) is undamaged, pack your art in plenty of acid-free packaging paper to make sure that it is flawless when unwrapped.
By using acid-free paper, you can ensure that your work isn’t dirtied in transit. Tape down the edges with plenty of tape to ensure that it stays in place for the whole journey.
Corners are weak points of both frames and boxes, so you’ll need to protect them to ensure that your precious cargo arrives in touch. A new box should have nice, strong corners, but your frame probably won’t. To protect them, take some cardboard and wrap them around the corners of your frame. Be generous with your packing tape – the stronger your corners are, the stronger the whole package is.
Seal from damp and dust
Corners secured? Great. Now it’s a good idea to insulate your artwork from damp or dust. This is a relatively simple procedure. Take a clean plastic bag or bin bag, wrap the framed work or canvas and seal with packaging tape.
Plenty of filler
Next cut out artwork sized ‘slabs’ of insulating foam. These are readily available online and should be fairly affordable. Trace around the artwork and with a Stanley knife or scissors cut out two artwork sized blocks.
Next, make a sandwich with the foam as the bread and the artwork as the filling. For extra protection, cut thin strips for all 4 sides as well as the top and bottom.
Bubble wrap is a good alternative here if you can’t get your hands on foam. Next, seal the sandwich with plenty of packing tape so it’s nice and secure.
Pop in the documents
Place duplicate shipping labels, and if sending internationally outside the European Union, the required customs documents on top of the piece. These should have been generated as part of the courier booking process – all you need is a printer.
Add the outer packaging
We suggest that you use brand new, unaltered double or triple corrugated cardboard. Some old boxes look sturdy enough, but hidden structural problems are common and could be the difference between your art arriving in flawless condition or damaged. Of course, you may want to opt for a wooden crate if the piece is particularly fragile, but let’s work on the assumption you’re happy with cardboard.
Cutting out an appropriately sized piece of cardboard from a box side or a purchased sheet of cardboard, score where you need to bend it around the package to make life easier. Now package the item so the whole is securely enclosed in its cardboard. It might not look pretty but it will certainly do the job.
Seal and Label
Once your artwork is safely nestled in your package, you’ll need to properly seal your box. Whip out the trusty packing tape and wrap the box in three directions – think the union flag pattern. Feel free to use reinforced tape if you’re worried about the package bursting. The more tape you add, the sturdier your parcel will be.
Once it’s sealed, you can apply your shipping labels and your package is ready to go! Just make sure that you include all the paperwork that you need, especially if you’re shipping internationally.
Get in touch
Shipping art is sometimes very awkward – notoriously, there are a lot of problems with insurance. It’s best to get in contact with customer services to let them know what you are shipping, the type of packaging you’ve used and the value of the piece. As a general rule, couriers won’t carry art of exceptional value. By getting in touch with your shipping partner, you may be able to get this restriction lifted.
ParcelHero ships to 220 countries and offers a high quality, reliable service at a fraction of the cost of booking couriers directly. We only use the world’s leading couriers, including UPS, DHL and Fed Ex, ensuring our delivery services are of the highest quality, but without the premium price tag.
If you’ve enjoyed this article why not share it with your friends on Facebook using the button below?
6 comments on “How to ship your artwork”
An article on alternative hanging methods for work in shows would be helpful as well as advice on how to pack for shows would be wonderful. As someone who has installed shows and repacked them you might be shocked at the poor job many people do! Label, label, label!!!
I concur: label multiple times. I put the “official” sewn-on label on my textile art, but often write on the back of the art quilt itself, sometimes under the hanging sleeve, sometimes on the bottom or the facing.
Also, I usually do NOT recommend using dark plastic trash / bin bags, since folks can mistake them for trash. Instead, at least in the US you can buy CLEAR bags that are large enough for most work. That way, folks can SEE there is something interesting inside and not toss it out by accident.
If I have an art quilt that I will ship rolled, I make a “sausage” out of tissue paper for the core, roll the art quilt around that, then bag it in plastic; if needed, I use two of the clear bags, one on each end and overlapping. I purchase 6x6x48 inch “tube” boxes that I can cut down or nest together to achieve the desired length.
great article very useful tips, I agree about using a clear plastic bag and I have lost one of pieces that was suspected to be thrown out as it was in a black plastic bag or at least use a heavier type plastic rather than a garbage bag
Thank you, for this helpful article. I’ve so far tried my best to avoid shipping glazed and framed pieces of my felt work. Luckily all of my international customers have been happy to receive the felt unframed and then have it framed themselves. My work is quite large so once framed it’s very heavy with a large expanse of glazing.
A list of couriers who are happy to handle art work would be very welcome.
Never use dark trash bags. First, it gives the impression the art is not precious to you and secondly as a trash bag it could easily be thrown out by mistake. Clear plastic bags are available and send a much better message.
Also, most museums will not accept packages that use the foam peanuts for packing, the bubble wrap is always preferred. Personally, I place a shipping bill inside with the ship to and return shipping/contact information along with the name of the artwork and count of how many enclosed. My name and contact information is always on every piece of art.
Having worked in a museum I know the more information the better.
It’s good to know that I should use a wooden crate if the piece I’m shipping is fragile. I’m not sure if there’ll be a problem, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’d prefer to use the more secure method of shipping my art than risk the possibility of damage.