We hear it every year at JordanCon:
“Oh, my god, I’d LOVE to own a print of that art, but I don’t have any space in my luggage…”
“I’m driving (or flying) a long way and it will just get destroyed on my way home…”
“I don’t even know how I would ship something like this…”
These are just a few of the many questions that people have when buying art, especially for the first time. Bringing art into your life is a sure-fire way to enliven your living space and bring you joy every day, and figuring out how to get that art home shouldn’t be the thing preventing you from buying that unique one-of-a-kind treasure that has spoken to you. Hopefully this guide will help answer your questions, or at least those specifically about how to get your art home…
Getting your Art Home
For those driving, taking artwork home with you is usually pretty easy. You normally aren’t as restricted as those that flew or took other forms of transportation, and finding a nice flat space to put your art is usually much easier. Rule of thumb, put it on the very top of all your luggage so that nothing can fall on it and damage it.
Another helpful hint. Always ask the artist if they have a box, bubble wrap, or other packaging that you can use to protect your art. Most artists brought that same art to the show protected in some way, and will gladly provide you with that packing material to ensure their art makes it to its new home in good shape.
Traveling by air can be more difficult to transport art home compared to those that drove. From luggage restrictions to customs inspections for international travelers, those traveling by air need to keep some things in mind to get their art home safely and in good condition. Some things to keep in mind:
- Are there particular rules and restrictions that will apply to your trip by your airline?
- Are there additional charges or fees?
- Definitely contact your airline if you have any questions as to what you can carry and plan accordingly.
Flying Option 1: Pack it Like a Pro
If you decide to transport art home in your luggage, there are a few options when packing your art.
Rolling the art: Unmatted and unframed prints can be carefully rolled and transported in tubes.
If you suspect that you might be wanting to buy some art before arriving at the convention, go ahead and buy some PVC pipe or a heavy cardboard tube and bring it with you in your luggage. Cut it to fit the longest length of your suitcase interior, so you are ready for the largest sized print possible that will fit.
- Allows you to transport prints larger than your suitcase’s dimensions when flat.
- Multiple prints can be rolled together.
- Re-usable, when you are ready to buy more prints!
- If you aren’t careful, you could crease the prints when rolling them.
- Does take up space in your luggage.
- PVC is heavy (heavy duty cardboard tubing is preferred)
Once you get home, just lay the rolled prints out on a flat surface and place some books on the edges to remove the curl to the paper.
Transporting it Flat: matted, framed, or smaller sized prints and originals
Another option if you are buying smaller sized prints or matted or framed prints or originals is to transport those items flat in your luggage. Using foam core or cardboard sheets, you can create a nice flat space to transport items without rolling them.
- Vey easy to obtain (ask some dealers, or maybe even the hotel)
- Ideal for originals (which we don’t recommend rolling!)
- Multiple prints can stacked together (if transporting multiple frames, put a shirt or other article of clothing between each frame. Also, put the frames back to back so that if they do scratch up against each other, they only scratch the back of the frames!)
- Re-usable, when you are ready to buy more!
- Restricted to the size of your luggage.
- Large prints can get damaged (especially the corners) depending on how the luggage is handled.
Since some suitcases have hardware on the bottom of them (extendable handles, etc.), I recommend sandwiching the art between 2 pieces of cardboard or foam core, with soft clothing on the top and bottom. This helps keep the art in the center of the suitcase, away from the suitcase hardware and further from the corners of the suitcase which can get damaged the easiest.
Flying Option 2: Ship it!
Rather than worrying about how to pack your art in your suitcase, you can instead mail it to yourself. While you don’t have the struggle and hassle of figuring out how to pack it in your suitcase, you do still have to keep some things in mind.
- Pack the art securely before entrusting it to a shipping company. I always recommend speaking to the artist, as they have much more experience transporting their art safely than you do. (Also, many artists might be willing to take your art home with them, and mail it to you once they get home!)
- Pay for insurance! One benefit of shipping the art is that you can insure it to cover damage, something you can’t do when transporting it home yourself. Filing a claim can be a hassle, so make sure you save your receipt from the purchase.
- If you are mailing the art internationally, you may have to pay customs or duties on the shipment.
There is a Fed-Ex Office, UPS Store, and USPS Post Office all within two miles of the JordanCon hotel; however, they may not be open on Sunday, so think about visiting them on Friday or Saturday to obtain packaging materials and/or pre-paid labels. USPS shipping rates are usually much cheaper than the other two options, especially internationally. UPS and Fed-Ex international rates are pretty expensive; however, USPS international shipping, while cheaper, can take between 2-3 weeks to arrive for standard First Class International Mail. So there’s definitely a trade-off between cost and speed.
I wasn’t expecting to buy art, now what do I do!?!
Cardboard tubes: Both the JordanCon Art Show and at least one vendor, Aradani Studios, usually have cardboard tubes for sale at their booth in the Dealer Hall. They are 3 inch diameter tubes that are 26 inches in length. These work well for prints up to 24 inches wide. The tubes also come with hard plastic caps to seal both ends for transportation/shipping.
What about Non-Flat Art?
What if you snag something super cool that isn’t a flat piece of art? Wrap, wrap, wrap. Using laundry (dirty or clean!) is a great way to cushion art in luggage. For ceramics or shaped leatherwork, stuff the interior with laundry for support and build outward, wrapping it securely. Make a nest in the center of your suitcase so that the fragile item is as far from the edges of your suitcase as possible. Alternatively, you can always put items you’re worried about in your carry-on instead of your checked baggage (providing they’re allowed according to carry-on baggage rules). But even in your carry-on, make sure to pack it securely. You never know if you might have to gate-check your carry-on, or some clumsy passenger knocks your carry-on around when storing their bags.