Crate Building and shipping

Building crates/ packing work for shipping:

 As students, you have access to not only a fabulous woodshop, but also the knowledge and expertise of the wood shop staff and professors.

Update: Check out this artist’s take on shipping

Shipping your work post 1, post 2, post 3

Building a crate Instructables

Packing and shipping art how to SAATCHI

Shipping and Crating GY*T

Caseworks crating and shipping


How to Pack and Crate Artwork / Paintings for Shipping

How to Safely Pack Paintings for Shipping

Shipping Art Glass Sculpture

Packing Up Ceramics

Things you may need:

  • Bubble wrap
  • Packing peanuts (and alternatives)
  • Boxes (lightweight vs heavy duty or double wall)
  • Tape (blue tape and packing tape
  • Sharpie
  • Instructions/ contents list
  • Ruler
  • Box cutter
  • Tissue paper or newsprint
  • Foam
  • ART!

Where do I get this stuff? 


Talas Book binding , Archival & Conservation Supplies

Pratt Plus

Global Industrial

The problem with Uline

Creating a crate or a box for your work that not only gets your artwork to its destination without breaking, but also can be used again for return shipping is vital. Often, your shipping container is the first contact a gallery will have with your work. If your box or crate looks unprofessional, that is the impression you will leave with the gallery- that you are not professional, thereby making them think twice about having you back. A beautifully boxed pice of artwork is a joy to work with as a gallery. Most galleries will pay for shipping one way, but require that the artist provides them with the materials in which to ship the work back. Your shipping container will be stored by the gallery and sent back to you as you sent it. If your shipping materials are shoddy, the impression you give the gallery is that you do not care about your work, allowing room in their minds to care less about your work. Spend the money on good materials, and do not cut corners.

When wrapping you work in bubble or otherwise, it is vital that your work floats inside the box. You should not be able to feel any hard edges through your packing material, and the work should not touch the walls of the box. This is important insulation whether you are shipping framed paintings or sculpture.

****Inside your crate or box, you should include instructions for hanging the work, and any hardware the gallery may need for hanging. (*if you have heavy work to hang, it is a good idea to ask the galley if their walls are plywood backed. If they are, you can send simple hanging hardware. If the walls are concrete or not plywood backed, send anchors specific to your hardware. ) It is best practice to send a list of works inside the box, plus written instructions for hanging. Make sure your piece is labelled in some way. If you are sending several works, it is best practice to create a word document or pdf with an image of each piece, its title and installation instructions. If your piece requires assemble, send this same type of document with images of the assembly process.****

On a personal note, as a gallerist and preparator, the more obvious and clear the artist makes it for me to unwrap, install, and ship back, the easier my job is. This makes me fall in love with that artist a little bit. I have even had artists put a little chocolate in the box with a personal note. This builds some incredible capital

A couple of tips:

Bubble wrap: Save your bubble wrap! When wrapping your work with bubble, use only blue tape or painters tape, or shrink wrap to hold the bubble together. This way, you and the gallery can reuse that material for years to come. If you use clear packing tape, your bubble wrap will be unusable again.

packing peanuts: These things are awful to work with. They get everywhere, they are terrible for the environment and they are a nightmare to clean up. However, the are sometimes necessary for packing. For instance, if you are double boxing your work (as you should if your work is at all fragile), peanuts are a necessary evil. If you find that you must use them, I like to use used grocery bags and stuff them with peanuts, and tie them off into little, self contained pods. The gallery will thank you for this practice.

double boxing: The practice of boxing your work, then floating that inside a well cushioned and slightly larger box. This practice create a shock absorption stymie should you box get dropped- which I guarantee it will if you are using a shipping company like UPS, FedEx or USPS.

foam: You may use rigid insulating foam (the pink or blue stuff) to line your outside box. Or, couch cushion foam which is softer, to use on your inside box as a layer between your work and the box itself.

newsprint or newspaper: While paper is a good packing material, it is heavy and therefore more expensive to ship. I strongly discourage you from using newspaper as the ink gets all over the hands, which if your gallerist is not careful, may be transferred onto your work.

Read through the above links and let me know if you have any other questions. I would be happy to give you more information!

Shipping companies:

FedEx, UPS, USPS: most artists when starting out use these companies. If you have given yourself enough time, the cheapest way to send work is by Gound transportation. Now, this means a lot more people will be handling your crate/box as it makes its way from truck to center to truck to truck to distribution center to truck on its journey to its final destination. If you have not left yourself enough time (minimum 2 weeks), you will have to send your work in some expedited manner (2-day, overnight, air). This is much more expensive and as you are in a hurry, the people handling your work will be in more of a hurry. Fewer people generally touch the work, but you must think about how gently the package will be handled. Write FRAGILE on all your boxes, and if you need the box to remain upright, indicate with arrows how important this is. I want to say here, that these makes are rarely paid attention to by shipping companies.

Freight/ Art Handlers: If your work is very large, you may have to put your work on a pallet and have a freight company pick it up. FedEx has this service, though there are a number of other companies that work locally, regionally and nationally. Art handlers are companies that pick up work on a truck (usually on a pallet), drive the work directly to the site and ensure the work makes it in the door of your destination. This is an expensive service. You have to pay hefty insurance on this service and usually only Museums work this way when borrowing work from one museum to another.

Shippers insurance: read the fine print! Not all shippers insure artwork. FedEx is best at actually paying insurance claims.

International Shipping: You may need to at some point in your life ship internationally. Check out this post from Art Business Info for Artists and trade tariff info for international shipping of art. Be sure you know how to classify your work! I suggest XXI 97-98 Works of Art, collector’s pieces and antiques. There are specific sections of this code for Paintings and drawings, prints, and original sculptures. It gets a little tricky when you are trying to ship pottery as pottery is often viewed as commodity for resale. Even ceramic statues are classified differently. Be careful how you classify this type of work as it can make a huge difference in the cost of tariffs!This is by no means a comprehensive place to discover all you need. However, it will arm you with the right questions to ask!

Storage: Whether you make big work or small, 3D or 2D, you will have to store work that in finished and waiting for exhibition. There are all kinds of ways people deal with this. Some artists throw their work away after it has sat out of circulation for a while. Others save everything. Many NYC artists drive Upstate and rent personal storage in less expensive areas. However you decide, always read the fine print and make sure your rent is paid on time. If you keep your work at home or in your studio, be sure to get renters insurance.


14 thoughts on “Crate Building and shipping

  1. Things I learned today:
    – The insurance policy’s around shipping an artwork and how the galleries handle insurance or damage claims
    – The packing peanuts in a bag trick, crazy help-full will remember that one

    My own experience:
    – The crates Ive made in the past, much like my work tends to be over built. Which is great my work is safe but means a forklift is generally needed to move and load which makes it difficult to move and ship.

  2. This is a timely assignment for me. Today I packed student ceramic work for our regional Scholastics Art Exhibit. I used clear plastic tape on bubble wrap and only one box. I hand delivered the work, so an outer box probably wasn’t necessary in this case. I’m going to try clear plastic wrap around the bubble wrap later this month when I pack ceramic work for Youth Art Month. I like the idea of not using tape at all.

  3. Things I learned:
    – The packaging is the first physical impression that the gallery will have of you, that’s definitely something that I will keep in mind.
    -Shipping insurance when moving your work, also something I had never considered but will be very important in the future.

    My experience:
    – I don’t have much experience in this field as I have only ever transported my own work. I have always struggled with how to pack it up but these are very helpful tips!

  4. Things I Learned:
    -The tips on packaging works with packing peanuts and not using news print because of the ink was something I never really considered, I will be sure to now however.
    My Own Experience:
    -Working with the Fosdick-Nelson Gallery this is a majority of what I do as far as art handling and install/deinstalling of works, so I have a good amount of experience with this topic! I really enjoyed the videos linked on methods to pack work, they were very helpful.

  5. The Shipping and Crating article by GY*T was really helpful. I had no idea there were so many risks involved in shipping artworks. Storing my art has made me aware of some of the risks in boxing and moving pieces. I was aware that double boxing works is important to provide enough of a barrier from wetness and impacts. It is interesting to learn the different layers required for correctly packing sculpture.

  6. It had not occurred to me that the shipping materials leave such a lasting impression, but it definitely makes sense. I keep so much packing material for any sort of shipping so now I understand how to use it more effectively.

    When shipping framed work, what is the best way to avoid cracking the glass? It’s a little different than a typical 3D piece so I was wondering if there were any tips specific to that?

  7. This reading provided really great instructions on how to pack a variety of mediums. I found the reviews on the different shipping companies, and the links for where to buy materials very helpful.

    For shipping something like a single print is it ok to ship similarly to how I received the paper, or should I go a little overboard?

    • You should go a little overboard. If someone has purchased your work, or if you are shipping to a gallery- it’s better to be safe than sorry. Plus, when you do this, you are communicating with the recipient that you care about your work. They will in turn treat your work carefully.

  8. I learned that packing is an art in itself. Packing your product well gives gallerists a good impression of you and keeps your work safe. I also learned that renter’s insurance is important in keeping my work protected.
    Question: Should shipping cost be part of the cost of a piece or should it be separate?

    • You can make shipping a part of your cost- just be sure to communicate that. It’s perfectly fine not to however. For ease of use in web sales, I suggest, packing up your 3 most common sizes of work (ie- small medium, large- or mug, print, sculpture)- take those to the post office and see how much it would cost to ship to several places- NYC, Florida, Midwest somewhere, and California). From there, take the average- and figure out how much it will cost you to ship on average for your various sizes. From there- you can add that into your cost- or simply state plus $7 shipping etc. on your checkout page. You will lose some money in some cases- and you will make some money in some cases. Check out Ayumi’s website . She does this in a really great way.

  9. Through this read and the egg packing assignment I learned that there is a lot more to shipping artwork than I thought. Making sure the work arrives unharmed takes as much time and effort as the creative process itself. If you are shipping something like a drawing or a print, should you mat it first or is it ok to roll it in a tube?

    • Yes- estimating shipping times is a challenge- and if you’re late- it gets really expensive. Glad to have this lesson learned in class rather than in your next exhibition! For drawings, it’s a matter of how you want the work presented. If you want the work matted and framed, you should send it that way. Very few galleries will do this for you. If you want to present your drawing raw- with magnets or tacks or the like, rolling is OK. Here though is the challenge. It’s important that you communicate with the gallery that you are sending it rolled- and ask them to roll it out and lay it flat before installing so the paper can relax. You leave your work at risk in this way (as you have no idea how clean or professional a space is.) I suggest sending the work- even if it’s not framed, packed flat between tissue and thick cardboard. I also suggest asking your professors. Joe Scheer might be a great resource for this kind of question as his work is predominately on paper.

  10. I leeI enjoyed learning about how to ship artwork. I learned the importance of making customized and simple packaging for your work. It appears more professional when shipping to galleries and protects the piece. It is also helpful to know that you can purchase insurance when shipping artwork.

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