Hopefully you haven't already learned this the hard way, but if you make and sell pots, you can't afford to do a shoddy job on packing them for shipping. Early on in his career, Charlie Cummings, artist and proprietor of Charlie Cummings Gallery (www.claylink.com), shipped some pots to an exhibition and all of them arrived shattered. Once was all it took and now Charlie has a great system for packing work.
Today, in an excerpt from the March/April 2015 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Charlie shares his secrets to getting work from point A to point B in one piece. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.
There are many approaches to packing pots for shipping, but my current method has been very successful for my gallery and is recommended by major carriers. This system uses two layers of boxes as the first line of defense against damage, packing peanuts as void filler between both the inner and outer boxes and objects inside of the inner box to cushion against blows, and several layers of bubble wrap tightly secured around each piece to keep pots safe from both outside forces and striking against each other.
Don't get clay on your computer!
Every issue of Pottery Making Illustrated contains useful information on tools, glazes, supplies, and equipment (just like today's post from the March/April 2015, issue).
Plus, a magazine can handle a little clay dust, so you can take it into the studio without worry!
Bubble Wrapping the Work
Begin by preparing a clean workspace and gathering packing supplies (figure 1). Identify fragile areas such as handles, spouts, lips, or handbuilt additions that require extra padding. Fold two 12-inch sections of bubble wrap and use stretch wrap or blue painter’s tape to secure them over or around fragile sections (figure 2). I only use this method to protect thin, ribbon-like handles and small spouts. Avoid using packing tape directly on pots because it can leave an adhesive residue behind, and it mars bubble wrap, making it unsuitable for reuse.
Cover the entire pot with 3–5 layers of bubble wrap. Bubbles should face toward the surface of the pot. This compresses the air inside the bubbles and provides the best protection. I usually use one 3×1-foot section for a cup, two 4×1-foot pieces for medium sized pots, and many layers for large and expensive pots. Then use stretch wrap to secure the entire piece (figure 3).
Examine the wrapped pot. You should be able to apply a couple of pounds pressure to any point and not feel the surface of the pot. Sharp corners on the form may require additional padding.
Double Boxing with Packing Peanuts
Packing peanuts should cover all sides of the pot and fill the entire box (figure 4). Shipments with heavy work, multiple items, expensive pieces, or pieces that fill most of the box should always be double boxed. When I receive broken work, the most common cause is that multiple pots were packed without double boxing, and they were placed too near to the outside wall of the box.
Packing a box containing fragile items inside a larger box with a minimum 2–3 inches of foam peanuts on all sides of the inner box is the method recommended by the major package delivery companies (figure 5).
For more great functional insights from contemporary potters, be sure to download your free copy of Contemporary Pottery: Functional and Conceptual Considerations for Handmade Pottery.