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Shipping Hacks

All about shipping art (do not attempt without air conditioning in the summer.) 

The very first time I was commissioned to create a custom 48x48 canvas I was almost hyperventilating. Actually, I was. I remember my husband Kevin going to get my inhaler. I was so overcome with gratitude and excitement that someone would buy a piece of my art that large for their home, who cared about maintaining oxygen? What about shipping the art? Who cared. 

Every time I sell a painting I still cry. The first time I tried to sell my art I didn’t sell a single thing. This was around 2015-16. I put in so much work painting the art, photographing and creating an etsy store. I had no idea how Etsy worked and I remember feeling so just lost in the shuffle of millions of other artists. The emotional blow of not selling a single piece convinced me I needed to become a manager in a restaurant to do something positive with my life. Which I also failed at, but I failed beautifully. So even now years later it feels like every time I have a win I get overcome with emotion. It’ because it’s like all of those past failures come up to remind me to just keep it moving, and there's a reason it went the way it all went.. Every time I win I think about the aspects of myself that I called such a fucking loser with no talent for most of my life. They come up to be like hey - you were wrong - and that gets me all overcome with feelings and gratitude. 

In my excitement of this 48x48 I had a vague sense of how in the f will I ship something that big? I decided to get to that bridge when I crossed it. There are millions of youtube tutorials about how to build a box. Unfortunately for me, I’m more of a hustler than an instruction following learner - especially if we start getting into using rulers and measurements. I always say there are two types of people in this world - the person that has a level, measuring tape and stud finder. Then there is the person that digs out a nail, hopes for the best and hammers it into the wall. These two people tend to marry each other. Clearly I am the hopeful one, with a lot of random holes in the wall. Kevin and I cannot hang pictures on walls together. It is a mutual, unsaid understanding in our marriage. 

Anyway, Building a 50x50 box to ship a painting all the way to Texas in one piece - in July, with no air conditioning - is one of the hardest tasks I have ever put myself through. It took me 11 hours of sweat and tears. I used six entire rolls of tape. But in the end - the art arrived safely to my collector. The process was so bad though that I’ve learned ways to avoid ever having to do that again. 

  1. If the art is huge, always wrap the art separately from the day you build the box and ship it. Wrapping the canvas in glassine paper and bubble wrap if it is bigger than a 36x36 should be done in two parts, 1 part wrapping one art boxing,  just to maintain your sanity. Getting it wrapped and ready to box is a huge task (add in the art being covered in crushed glass which tears everything as mine so often is and does) and just when you’re done with that - the real hard stuff starts - building a box. So if you have to build a box, just split up wrapping and boxing the art. I have like a 4 hour maximum of how long I can work on wrapping and shipping a painting before I’m screaming at my dogs and scarfing a bag of cheetos to deal with my feelings. 
  2. Once you’ve built a box once & you’re like wow I’m never doing that shit again here are a few more options. -
    1. Order the canvas directly from blicks or Jerrys https://www.jerrysartarama. com/canvas-surfaces/stretched-canvas. Only order one at a time - it will come in the perfect sized box & once the canvas is finished you can just re pack it into the box it came in. This will save you on excessive taping and wrapping. 

  1. Uline - They aren’t that expensive but they make you pay for next day shipping so it’s a bit of a sticker shock once you check out. You can order custom boxes up to 26x26. They ship in increments of 10. They aren’t cheap - costs about $75-$100 but your time and sanity will be worth it - plus the boxes look very brand new and professional. I recommend these if you are doing a large series using smaller canvases. 

  1. Home Depot in the moving section - they have flat screen/ art moving boxes that go up to a 39x65 piece of art. These rock because they come with foam corners. All you have to do is secure & tape (heavy duty gray duct tape.) up the holes in the box and it’s a very protective, heavy duty box. These range from $15-$45 and are my go to. I paint the box with my brand and logo after it’s all taped up. I got one all the way to Australia with no issues. Pro Tip - Don’t drive a car that the box doesn’t fit in to buy the box. 

  1. Fedex Fedex Fedex. Just sign up for a regular fedex account. Since a great deal of the art I make doesn’t fit in any vehicle I currently own it is a miracle that they do free pick ups from my studio. All I do is create the label on my account, which has a credit card linked to it, print the label and they pick it up the next day. It’s important to note that the charge doesn’t go through until the package is picked up and scanned. So if you say accidentally make 8 shipping labels for the same painting, only the label that is scanned by the delivery person will be charged on your account. I use UPS with my shopify account as well but they charge $4 for a home pickup or I can pay the annex by my house $1 to drop it off there. I have never had an issue with either carrier. USPS on the other hand takes forever, the product gets beat to hell and lost in my experience so it’s massively cheaper but not worth the headache or a lost / damaged piece of art in the long run. 

  • All tape is not created equal. I remember standing in the WalMart office supplies section staring at packs of rolls of shipping tape, really confused about what made Duct tape like 8 dollars cheaper than scotch tape. I’ll tell you here so you don’t waste your money. I’m not sure what it is in the design of duct brand tape but you’ll tape up the box, wake up the next day and all of the tape is falling off the box, every time. It is thinner and constantly snags and catches on things and folds over. I’ve had fits of rage because of it so powerful that I almost stabbed myself with scissors by accident.  Just - avoid. Scotch heavy duty shipping tape is the only one that works. Do not accidentally buy “easy start” scotch packing tape because that stuff doesn’t stick to anything. Again - rage and emotional eating will ensue. Scotch heavy duty shipping tape - and fun duct tape with designs - that's it.

    1. Stamps and custom stencils are an awesome investment. I got this stencil of my logo here. 

    At first I thought that was extremely expensive. But it’s held up for a year. I want receiving a box of my art in the mail to be an event that is instantly recognizable. The stencil though is one of my favorite things I have for my branding. No matter how beat up the box looks you can paint over it and spray your logo on it and it’s good to go. Same with stamps to stamp canvases, stationary and letters.

    A full year and a half into shipping my art I still don’t have the greatest bottom line for what my shipping costs are - so go easy on yourself and know that it’s a process. I always include my shipping cost in the quoted price of the art. The most I have ever paid for shipping is around $350 - but on average ranges between $45-$100 depending on the art and where it is shipping domestically. Internationally on my shopify there is an international shipping fee that is added to the cost but I’ll write more on that in my fuck ups section. 

    Thanks for reading! Hope this helps. 

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