Monday, January 14, 2008

Unpacking and Packing Instructions

...where I continue my campaign to ban packing peanuts.

Her Secrets Flocked Around Her Like Birds
11.5" x 11.5"
oil on paper on panel with pastel

I just sent a painting off to a show and even though it was just one painting and it seemed like anyone could have done it with no problem, I decided to make a sheet with unpacking and packing instructions. I learned my lesson back in the summer...

Here's a screen grab of the unpacking instructions:
I try to follow all the rules for successful packing:
- 2 boxes (painting wrapped well and snug in inner box, inner box snug inside sturdy outer box)
- no peanuts (I complain about peanuts all the time - even the environmentally friendly ones - they're a complete pain in the ass*)
- everything is loosely packed with minimal taping to avoid someone having to fight to get something open...
- I draw arrows and write "open here" to indicate where I want my box opened
- I write my name on all sides of the box

I like to pack the box and then unpack to make sure it's easy. I take photos of each step and then I create a simple document with the photos and easy to follow steps for each photo.

In this particular case, I was only shipping one painting, so I used a custom-made cardboard box that was lined with small bubble wrap. I put a piece of archival paper on top of the painting to protect it from the bubble wrap. It rattled around a little when I tested it, so I taped some bubble wrap to the sides and top just to make it a little more snug. Then I wrapped that inner box with large bubble wrap.

My outer box was actually a super sturdy, cow-spotted Gateway box (with a handle, even!) that I spied in the trash at my last job. It was the perfect size. I lined that box with some foam and then slid the bubble wrap-wrapped inner box inside. I placed more foam on top and a sheet of foam core for extra protection. I liked the handle, but decided to remove it in case it got hung on something in transit. I taped some cardboard over the hole for extra protection.

I'm in the middle of unpacking boxes now for a show. The artist's galleries are shipping his work to our local art center. I'm very disappointed in their packing! Well, they're actually packed really well, but not for re-use. I suppose galleries are used to shipping things out and not worrying about getting them back... Most of the paintings are wrapped with paper (which is good), but they're heavily taped (which makes it hard to remove without shredding the paper), then they're wrapped with bubble wrap (which is good), but then heavily taped again (same problem - I have to cut it and mangle the bubble wrap), then (God help me) the boxes are FILLED with peanuts. Today I worked for 2 hours and spent a good 30 minutes of that time wrangling peanuts...

*Enough with the peanuts. Seriously, people.

Sorry. Just had to vent!

Anyway, I can't say this enough - if you want your work to come back safe and sound, think about how easy it will be for someone (most likely an unpaid volunteer who might not have any experience handling artwork) to unpack it first and then re-pack it later. The more they have to wrestle with your tape, bubble wrap, peanuts, etc., the more likely it is that they will not re-pack it well.

As someone who has unpacked several national juried shows, I appreciate artists who send packing instructions. It might seem kind of OCD or anal-retentive, but it really makes life so much easier.

By the way, I shipped the above painting to Eastern Kentucky University for a show called Space, Life, Place. It will be on display January 23 - February 29, 2008

Now playing: Rachel's - The Last Light
via FoxyTunes


Nat said...

I totally agree with your post. Several years ago, a sent a painting in a box, but didn't completely tape down the liner on top, but left it as a flap. The person who packed it obviously thought it was okay to put the bubble wrap (bubble side) against the painting instead of the flap of glassine that was available. Of course after traveling this way in a completely packed box, the pressure created bubble marks all over the painting. After that, I've decided it's worth the effort to line cases properly with polyetheline foam and glassine and keep the packing as simple as possible.

kristy goggio said...

Any joiners for a Peanut-less Packing campaign

Julia said...

I'll join! I hate packing peanuts. However, my cats love them. Nothing is more gross than scooping up soggy peanuts. Do you include the picture with your packing instructions? That is a lot of time, but probably worth it!

Unknown said...

Hi Deanna,
the sad thing is that this all does not guarantee that people stick to the instructions i.e. do actually read them.
I am very careful with my packing also and do it similarly as you do but I had to face the fact that even a bright red arrow (or two!) plus "open only here" in bright red letters does not keep people from openening the box at the wrong end and slice open where it has been firmly glued and obviously not taped! Also I have often realized that people do not take the time (or cannot) to read instructions. So I skip this part in the meanwhile.
There has been even a case where my bubble wrap was simply used for someone else - they cut out the label of my name, which I had placed on the bubble wrap, and put it (the label) back into the box - apparently they thought it would be enough to ship the work back with the label inside but without the bubble wrap. And this was a (well known) art center!!There must have been a lot of guardian angels on that trip (overseas!) because my work arrived back home without a scratch. A true miracle although the work moved loosly inside the box of course because there was no bubble wrap any more.
You see - you can do the best you ever can think of - there is always something that did not come into your mind simply because humans are human and not everyone does take care of things as you would do.
So I always send some prayers with my babies when they leave my home - LOL!

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a haunting picture, I wish I was closer and could get to the exhibition to see it in real life!