Packing and Shipping

Right after I finished grad school, I decided I needed to refresh my 5-year plan. During school, it was just to do the best I could, work hard, and finish school. Once the end was in sight, I needed to make new goals. It’s so helpful to have some direction when you need to make choices. If you know what your priorities are, and consider which choice moves you in that trajectory, it’s clearer.

I discovered during grad school to my surprise I enjoyed teaching. It wasn’t the being-in-charge part, but the opportunity to be around people interested in the same things I was – to be in a community of people who wanted to learn about ceramics and personal expression. It was an interesting place to be. So, my 5 year plan was to
– keep paying my bills and student loans (and this meant a day job)
– keep making work and making it better (this required studio space) and showing it
– live someplace that had an art community so I could keep learning (galleries, museums, libraries)
– at the end of 5 years to be teaching someplace – probably in a community ed situation like a clay studio

All those things pointed toward a city life for a while. I needed someplace that had job opps for a day job, art opportunities for eventual teaching, art scene for me to take in, and access to supplies and studio.

I moved to Philly, answered an ad in the newpaper for a shipping person for a gallery, and was hired by Ruth and Rick Snyderman at Works Gallery (then on South Street). R & R were generous mentors and involved the gallery help in the business, and I’m very thankful for those experiences: bookkeeping, display, inventory, packing and shipping, sales, and I even got to curate a ceramics show. Thanks to this experience, I’m confident of my abilities with packing peanuts and bubble wrap. It was a good day job for an aspiring artist.

One of the major problems with packing is having the right materials. If you buy new bubble wrap, boxes, and peanuts, you have to add that to the cost of your work. I try hard to find free sources, and have a shed out by the chicken coop that is for packing and storage of packing materials. Ask people to save packing materials, chat up local businesses, etc. to find free materials. Space to store them is often an issue.

In your quest for thrift, DO REMEMBER that galleries re-use your packing materials, often to ship to customers. They REALLY don’t want dirty materials. Charlie Cummings of Charlie Cummings Gallery has shared his stories of what has shown up as packing materials – ew. No bugs, no melting and sticky degradable peanuts, etc. Think that your client may see your packing, and that your gallery person (who may never have met you) may form an opinion of your professional abilities colored by your packing. I separate the bio-degradable cornstarch packing peanuts. NOT good in humid climates, as over time the humidity makes them shrink. If they’re separate, I can use these up first and try to get rid of them while they’re still good.

Put an invoice/packing slip in the box. Microsoft has Word templates that you can customize and put in your logo, contact info, etc. to make a professional presentation. Invoices templates are here. You can learn about how to save and use something as a template here. Send an invoice to the gallery as well by e-mail so they know what’s coming (and will have something if the box copy is forgotten or lost.) The person unpacking will have to match the work to the inventory listed. Be kind. Label. I try to inventory my work first ( I keep a database of when it was made, title, size, where it is, price, and an i.d. number), and put my number on the invoice and on the bubble wrap if I think it will be confusing. Include pictures with numbers and sizes, list materials, specifiy if you’re giving retail or wholesale price. Help the gallery out. They will then LOVE you for facilitating their work.

Bubble wrap and tape so that all hard edges are cushioned. Put at least 2 inches between the bubble wrap and the sides/top/bottom of the box with packing peanuts or other cushion. Make SURE you have enough packing to make the contents snug. So many boxes have things that shift and get broken because there wasn’t enough packing material around the work, so it shifted in shipping and/or the box started to cave in.

Make SURE you take off all previous bar codes and destinations on the outside box. Tape the bottom well, as well as the top. Taping across the ends of the flaps also helps stabilize the box. I haven’t checked lately, but as far as I know, shipping companies will charge a base weight for oversize boxes. E.g. UPS would charge you for 25 pounds minimum if your box was over a certain size, even if it weighed less. So, shipping light things in several smaller boxes may be more thrifty than one jumbo box.

Most shipping companies will let you set up an account. Mine is charged to my credit card directly, so I can enter my shipping details online and print the label at home, and just do drop-off at the shipping place. Usually you get a discount from counter prices for having an account, and you can negotiate if you ship a lot to get a better discount.

i LOVE the feeling of dropping boxes off at the shipping counter. Ahhhh! I’ve done my part and now its on its way! Yay. UPS has store around cities in addtion to their own outlets. Fed Ex uses Kinkos (open 24-7 here, which is handy for early morn drop-off on the way to school) and Office Max in addition to their own outlets.

IAC Santa Fe

The International Academy of Ceramics had its biennial Assembly in Santa Fe last week. The last 2 were Shanghai and Paris, but sadly I was dealing with knee problems and not traveling. Very glad that with the help of my ace trainer, Kris Gibson, I’m able to bend my knees again and travel to my first IAC Assembly. It was a challenge to meet so many new people, and I learned many things and made new friends in clay. I was particularly taken by Rose Bean’s insights about being both a native American with a strong tradition and background as well as a university-trained artist (RISD MFA), and the pulls from those different directions. She was wonderfully articulate and candid, and her remarks were deeply thoughtful.

Museum shows offered much to see. One of my favorites was It’s About Time: 14,000 years of Art in New Mexico Art at the New Mexico Museum of Art. Nice use of information to place things in context. They had some pots from the anthropology museum that I suspect were not thought of as the best art, but more as examples of something cultural. But the works were a bit more rugged with charming hand quality, and seemed looser and more expressive than some of the works chosen as high art. Image below circa 925-1125 CE. Museum of Indian Arts & Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology.

Art of the Cup: Functional Comfort at the Ogden Museum

Last year’s Art of the Cup 2011 show at The Ogden Museum in NOLA is online, and still worth looking into. I hope they put this year’s up as well. My contributions for 2012 and opening announcement below.

Arbuckle - Sunflower Cup w Striped Top

Sunflower Cup w Striped Top

Arbuckle- Tankard: Wisteria

Tankard: Wisteria


September 6th 6 – 8 p.m.

Please join The Ogden Museum for the opening reception of
Art of the Cup: Functional Comfort 
Thursday, September 6th from 6 – 8 p.m. during Ogden After Hours at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Admission to Ogden After Hours, the Museum’s weekly concert series, is $10.

Prominently installed on the third floor of the Museum, this exhibition is always a favorite with our visitors. In fact, last year over 8,500 visitors viewed Art of the Cup: Functional Comfort

Curator: Elizabeth Bowie
Curator, Southern Craft & Design
Director of Retail Business Operations & Development

Ogden Museum of Southern Art, university of new orleans

Water, water everywhere

Lindsay Rogers was an established potter and resident at The Energy Exchange before returning to graduate school at University of Florida Ceramics. Tapped by Crimson Laurel Gallery, NC, to curate their fall cup show, Lindsay chose the subject of water, and invited a number of artists with diverse approaches to consider the topic and send works for the show, which will feature over 300 cups. Each artist is sending 5 cups.

There is a saying: if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail. Yep. The challenge of “water” flummoxed me for a bit. Water? Water? I don’t “do” water. But that’s the whole point: to be pushed out of my comfortable studio orbit in collision with an outside idea. It was a perplexing, but refreshing challenge that let me open some new windows.

In 2004 and 2008 I visited Jingdezhen, China, and was amazed by the clay activity there. Among other wonders (like HUGE porcelain vases, platters and tiles) there are shops that print and sell ceramic underglaze and overglaze decals. Since I couldn’t fit inexpensive kiln shelves, handmade bent bamboo chairs, or the large size Tang dynasty horse reproduction in my suitcase, I settled for coming home with lovely small horse and a roll of decal pages. (These are now available in the U.S. – one vendor is Chinese Clay Art .) One of the pages I brought back is a graphic image of a pink lotus with a green center – a water flower. From there, I looked at symbols for water, and thought about a drop-shaped cup form and a handle that was wavy. Once the cups were made, bisqued, glazed, decorated, fired, and decaled, it seemed some of them needed some bling, so I used a gold luster pen and added some touches. If you haven’t tried one of these, they’re like using a felt-tipped pen. Ferro’s pen is called Goldrush. So easy, so much control compared to a brush. Way too much fun for something expensive. Uncap. Draw on clean surface. The lines are varnish-brown looking. Fire to 017 = bright gold luster. Very easy to do line work, dots, text.

I shipped my cups this week for Source Materials: an Exhibition on Water and the Ceramic Cup, which will be up at Crimson Laurel in Bakersville, NC, Nov. 3rd – Dec. 31st. See the show link for a list of artists. I appreciated Lindsay’s humbling challenge, and it has me thinking of how to look farther afield in my studio. The Clean Creek iron experiments earlier this summer were a great start. This was the icing on the cake. Being uncomfortable and clueless is a starting place, an opportunity.