Advice & Secrets: Shipping Your Art

I am starting a new category on my blog now called, Advice & Secrets,  which will be like little tips and tricks of mine passed along to you. You can take them or leave them, but if they happen to work for you, GREAT! <— That’s what I’m hoping for!

Why am I saving you all the research and homework that I have done over years and years of trial and error, grief and bumbling? Because I’m nice. Is that so hard to believe? Of course it isn’t! I must have some kind of ulterior motive.

Well, I do. But it’s a little one.

First of all, I want you to trust me. Feeding you this information might show you that I know some things. It might make you see that I have experience, and that I am worthy.

Now why would I want that?

Well, because I would like to teach privately. Maybe I haven’t announced that before, so that’s why no one knows that about me, but I would like to take in a couple, or a few students that are interested in the kind of things I have to offer. (So if that pertains to you, contact me.)

Anyway, back to what I was going on about.

I figured I’d start us out with the most boring subject of all! Shipping Your Art,  only because I have been asked about it a LOT. You should probably ask a few artists what they do because the more info and consensus you get, the better. Some people swear by their shippers, their cardboard or box source, and I’m not here to tell you that those sources suck. I’m here to tell you about my  happiness. So there is my disclaimer.

Okay, for the most part, I ship domestic, because when shipping internationally, I become highly dysfunctional. I’m serious. I become overwhelmed with the custom rules and knowing the difference between the “insurance” value, and the “sales” value (because, of course, the person on the receiving end would prefer you to lie to escape having to pay all the extra fees at Customs). So I choke. I prefer to avoid it, honestly. I prefer it to be handled correctly when possible.

I use UPS. Now, a lot of people are afraid of UPS. I don’t know why. I’ve just heard of some people being scared, either because they have had their own nightmare experience, or they have heard of someone’s brother’s mother’s cousin’s nightmare experience. Yes, every shipping company might lose you stuff, might break your stuff, might damage it, and might damage it until it is unrecognizable or until it disintegrates into itty bity microplasma. It has been know to happen! Even by the trusted, governmental USPS. This is why you must always insure it. And, you want to insure it with the place that is easiest to file a claim with, and that’s UPS.

A lot of people swear by FedEx, but last I checked, FedEx won’t allow you to insure art over some certain amount, and I think that amount was really low, like $500, where UPS will allow up to $50K (Domestic) and $5000 (Internationally), otherwise, you have to get a third party to insure it for more, in which case you will need a third party insurance carrier. UPS uses UPS Capital for that thar, but I have never had the need, so I don’t know what that whole rigamaroll is like…

Obviously, I have not yet shipped artwork (internationally) that I had to insure over $5000. That doesn’t mean I haven’t shipped $20,000+ worth of art before. I just haven’t shipped ONE piece of art that retailed  for more  than $10k. You can ship in a few different boxes to avoid insurance discrepancies. Not that you couldn’t think that up on your own.

The worst and hardest to file a claim with is the United States Postal Service, and then, next in line I think it’s FedEx. I’ve heard they can take up to 90 days before they will pay you on the claim. Personally, I have been using UPS for 20+ years (and I ship a LOT) and I have had only one damaged item, which had a glass frame (and now I only use plexi). The breakage completely destroyed that very, very, very cool and desirable piece of art forever! They paid on the claim within three weeks in full.


As for boxes and supplies, I make my own boxes. It’s the cheapest possible way to go. I’ve been doing it so long, it’s not as big of a pain in the ass as it sounds, but it is  kinda a pain in the ass. Sometimes I get lazy and buy the Mirror Packs from Box Bros. or Box City in Pasadena (when I’m in a rush or lazy), otherwise, I get everything  I need from Paper Mart, who deliver the NEXT DAY! If you buy from there in larger quantity, you will save more than half than if you bought your stuff from a Box Bros., or a place like that.

I buy their large cardboard sheets at 36 x 72 and make custom, double boxes. I realize this is not for everyone. It is very time consuming and sweat inducing. Lotta bending, even if you have a great, big cutting table like I do! Why I wind up on the floor a lot, I do not know!

I also use plastic wrap, then  foam wrap, THEN  bubble wrap. I’m pretty thorough like that. If you wrap your paintings directly in bubble wrap – like the small bubbles – it might leave little bubble marks on your painting – just sayin’.

So that’s the cheap way to go.

If I don’t want to do any of this, and I have a bit more money to spare, and a lot LESS time to deal with, say an exhibit I need to ship out of state (a solo show or a group show), I will use my good friends at Craters & Freighters. They will come to your house and take the work, package it and ship it for you. You don’t even need to wrap it! They specialize in art and they are affordable (compared to other art shippers, that is – like LA Packing, which many artists swear by). LA Packing is highly reputable. It is certainly the “go-to” company for all fine art handling of any sort. I will tell you that, and I will tell you that they are definitely trustworthy. If I had the extra money, I would use them myself, but they are expensive and you are paying for their longtime, highfalutin reputation (albeit well-earned). <–More disclaimer.

I have never had any problems with Craters & Freighters. I have kept their crates and reused them. They are made well. They also use UPS. I don’t know who LA Packing uses. You might want to check their website.

Another option, but this is only if you’re shipping times are very flexible…

There is a guy that does delivery back and forth from the east and west coasts, and it would be especially easy if you live in or around Southern and/or Northern California – and especially easy if your delivery goes to NY or vise versa.

His name is Shlomo and he is the nicest guy you’ll ever deal with. His company is Artisan Shipping, and it is the absolute, most economical way to do any sort of shipping. It’s one of my very valuable, and secret resources that I am passing on.  (Note 3/7: His site might be down. I suggest calling him.)

I have used him/his services a few times and it has worked for me and my pocketbook, specifically working for me once because one of my shows that was in NYC was scheduled with plenty  of notice so I could schedule Shlomo’s pick up from my studio since he does the route only once a month – to the west and back  to the east. He does this every month, except for one (or two?) out of the year and I forgot which month that was, so you’d have to check. Call him and find out: 917-613-0338.

So that’s it. That’s all I know on this subject, so if you happen to ask me about shipping, or boxes, or bubble wrap… of, I get the LARGE bubble bubble wrap btw, now I can refer you to this page and I will actually save time… maybe.

Okay, remember that I love you!

2 thoughts on “Advice & Secrets: Shipping Your Art

  1. Scarlett March 7, 2014 / 5:27 pm

    Carol, I’ve *known* you for quite a while now and I’m amazed at how giving you’ve consistently been to artists. Good karma to you!

  2. Heather Lowe March 7, 2014 / 10:20 pm

    Fed Ex stinks for me…UPS has been ok. I really like the idea plastic wrap first, foam, bubble wrap later. My friend in N.Y, told me to pack it in a box and then another box and I used that once.
    THANKS for all the tips and so detailed–what should I expect from Carol Es… you would be a great and entertaining teacher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.