Monday, October 5, 2009

Create great crates

One of the readers of this blog e-mailed me to tell me that she had to crate twenty six paintings to be shipped for a show. She wanted to know if I could do a post on crating paintings. Here that is.

I sometimes use cardboard boxes to ship small paintings or those that I own, or those that are in a cheap frame. HOWEVER, if I am shipping something in a valuable frame, or that a client has paid for, or if I have a whole show full of gold frames, I use wooden crates. Here's how I make them, below you see a form my wife made for me. It is going to appear full sized if you click on it and you can print it out. You will probably want to replace the Stapleton Kearns logo with your own, or a picture of your art. This form is for designing crates, you just plug in the numbers, add them up and then take it to the lumberyard. You can let them cut the luan, (that's thin plywood ) for you, just hand them this sheet and they will know what size you want the two sheets to be.

When you get those pieces home you lay them on the floor and assemble the 1 by boards by screwing their corners together using drywall screws and your battery drill. Then you screw those to one of the sheets of plywood with a screw about every six inches. Now you have an open topped box into which goes the painting wrapped in bubble wrap. You may want to cover the face of the painting with waxed or plastic coated paper in case the bubble wrap wants to adhere to your new painting. I have heard of that happening.

Secure it with either the plastic strips you get for this purpose from a moving company, or use the wide plastic shipping tape on a roll and a gun. But you must be very careful with that tape. If you touch a gold frame with the tape it will pull the gold right off of it. After two layers of bubble wrap, I sometimes put the whole thing into a plastic bag, and then into the crate it goes.

You may also want to put in a sheet of paper on the top of the whole assembly that gives the price of the painting and its title, if that will be needed on the other end. Also you may want to write in big letters on that " Take all the tape off before opening the bubble wrap". That may keep their stupid intern from destroying your frame. Maybe not.

You may want to put several smaller paintings in one crate. But don't load the crate so much that it will be hard to carry.
Then you screw the top on (just like a coffin!) with your battery drill, again placing the screws about six inches apart.

It sounds like a big deal but actually crates are pretty quick to make and if you are shipping an entire show to a dealer they are always impressed when it comes in crated. Clients like it too, it certainly makes what you are shipping look valuable. And it looks very professional. I have been known to use woode crates just for the effect, when I wasn't really worried about the frame etc. I just wanted to be impressive. But it does provides good protection for something you REALLY don't want to have damaged.

Then I call ADCOM worldwide, sometimes I use FEDEX for a single package, but if I am shipping a group of crates for a show I use these guys. They are dependable and less expensive if you have a big shipment to put out. Whoever you use, make sure you tell them before they come to pick up your crates, the dimensions and sizes you are shipping. I think adcom will ship anything, but other carriers have specific size limits or oversize charges that may be exorbitant.

Good luck with your show, M


Mary Byrom said...

Many thanks Stape - all your expertise is very appreciated.

Philip Koch said...

I've made hundreds of crates over the years and have learned one important art fact:

One's paintings are always in the wrong city and will shortly need to be moved.

When I die the most likely cause will be one of my oversized crates (I just had to paint 6' paintings, didn't I) falling on me.

Unknown said...

Hi - Enjoy your blog. Just wanted to let you know that we make hand carved gilded frames and we always make crates and pack their artwork and/or frames and do the shipping for them if they wish. We charge our clients cost for the crating, packing and shipping. Check out our website We'd love to be of help. Good luck.

Gregory Becker said...

Good schematic.
I liked your question better Stape. A friend of mine once wrote a story of a poet who suffers a trajedy and relegates himself to a life of sitting by a river and writing the most beautiful poetry never read and tearing off each page of prose and letting it drift away in the current. That is where his story left off and I always loved that story.
So, here's where I am at...since people can feel something, no matter how they experience that feeling...Let's awaken it even more. Let's show them what they want most desperately to feel.
Why do we paint, write music or poetry...because we can. If they pretend they dont hear us when we shout them we'll whisper and they'll strain to hear. The artist will always win the day. said...

Hi Stapleton,
I have hung shows and have shipped for shows. I HATE TAPE!

A solution has been to use color stretch tape-I am sure you have seen it. It comes on a hand role and has cohesion (not adhesion)and you simple wrap it around the bubble wrap. It's colored so it's easy to find wrapped around bubble wrap and pull off.

Beside sticky tape pulling off frame finishes when it finds it's way there, it also rips up the bubble wrap and the material can't always be used again. Stretch Tape-good. One can get it easily enough at U-Line, on line.

Judy P. said...

Hello Stapleton- interesting reading about everyday chores artists run into, plus it's good-to-know stuff if ever I get to that stage. But your posts about the American artists remind me that the act of painting is really a very quiet thing, with an independent soul. I forget that a lot, since I am mired in the rudimentary stages. Question: if there is a style you love, do you try to paint towards that style while you are learning, or do you paint however you can manage that results in a 'capable' painting hopefully 'improved' from the previous one? What comes out the end of my brush now is certainly my own, and the best I can do at the moment, but I'm not sure of the direction.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You are welcome. Nice hat.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That and the gallery that swore they wouldn't, just threw away your crates.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Thanks, check out Yvonne's web site for framing out on the west coast.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Be careful down by that river, you know what happened to Narcissus.

The artists may win the day, but others will have a better portfolio.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's the stuff I was referring to, you can get it at mailboxes, or whatever they are calling themselves this week. Uline is a great resource.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am not sure it matters, perhaps do both. Just cover miles of canvas. That's the important thing.