Help me ship (semi-) fine art!
February 15, 2019 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to start selling watercolors and pen-and-ink art on Etsy. But I realized that I don't know the best way to ship the stuff. Do you have any experience, advice, or suggestions?

Additional details: for now, everything on the horizon would be 9" x 12" or smaller. My gut tells me that rolling things into a tube would best be avoided, especially with the watercolors. Shipping from Minneapolis; no thoughts yet on whether international shipping would be on the table, so I guess that's another area I'd love advice in.
posted by the phlegmatic king to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hard plastic envelopes inside ridgid cardboard photo shipping envelopes. The plastic envelopes are cheap, purchased in bulk. They can be taped shut so they are waterproof. They just have to be sandwiched between stiff but light cardboard.

By bulk, I mean lots of fifty. If you try to get them local out of shipping outlets they can be 3-4$ apiece, much less in bulk.
posted by Oyéah at 8:54 AM on February 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Anything that can be folded in transit probably will be. So unless you're selling things framed, or 5"x7" or smaller that will fit in a small mailbox cubby with only slight bending like a greeting card, it will probably be an issue.

I've had art mailed to me in tubes from halfway across the planet, and the tube hasn't failed to protect the art, if that is your concern. If I were buying art from someone, especially originals and not prints, I'd appreciate having it as an option at least.

In my experience, even heavy watercolor paper can survive rolling far better than folding. Curling can be flattened, but creases are forever.
posted by monopas at 9:01 AM on February 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

I sandwich my painting between two slabs of foamboard and tape it all around. Usually I tape a business card to the top as well.
posted by mermaidcafe at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

The art should be put in a plastic sleeve with cardboard cut to size. Then cut two pieces of foam core board a bit larger than the art and sandwich it between the foam core pieces, securing with tape. Mail this in a padded envelope.
posted by ananci at 9:40 AM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I sell 8x10. I use a chipboard and the print inside a photo plastic bag. I wrap that in tissue paper with a note. I sandwich that between two more chipboards. I put that in a ridgid envelope. Anything ridgid counts as a package since it can’t go through the rollers. So you need appropriate size packaging like that for your prints. So far no one has complained of any damage from bends or water.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:53 AM on February 15, 2019

I work in the art world and pack/unpack fine art regularly. The recommendations above to create a rigid flat package are good. This guide goes into a little more more detail about cornering the work into the package. I'll add that it's important to leave a margin around the packaged work, so if someone slices open the package with a knife they won't cut the artwork. It's also helpful to label which side is the face. We do receive works rolled, and occasionally ship them that way, but for smaller works flat packing in a rigid package is a better option.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 10:41 AM on February 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

I have bought a couple of (semi)expensive art prints lately, and I think I'm yet to receive one that wasn't rolled into a (3 inch+ diameter?) tube. They have all had a thinnish (but thicker than tissue paper) piece of paper laid overtop of the print, and then had those two things rolled together and placed into the tube with crumpled up paper on top and below between the caps and the art in the middle.

I don't know if watercolours would be different than a print, but they all made it all the way up to canada in nice shape in their tubes.
posted by euphoria066 at 11:25 AM on February 15, 2019

I’ve shipped some art myself and also had it shipped to me!

For anything bigger (I’d say maybe 9x12 and higher) I’d roll it up and tube it. The shipping place I use has cardboard tubes with plastic inserts at the end that are perfect for this. I just got a 16x20” print in the mail that I ordered, came in just such a tube and in perfect condition. I once sent off a big 24x36” piece in a tube and it made it safe and sound!

For smaller stuff, you’re pretty safe sandwiching between sheets of cardboard and putting it in an appropriately sized envelope (padded if you want to be extra safe). I’ve sent off a few 5x7” paintings this way and never had an issue. I also just got a 5x7” print from a different artist and it was packaged this way! The guy at my local shipping place always writes DO NOT BEND on the envelopes for these.
posted by caitcadieux at 6:10 PM on February 15, 2019

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