How do you find venues for your work? Asking ASK Harriete, the artist, a few questions
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How To Ship Large Artwork? Asking ASK Harriete, the artist, a few questions.

Several readers have asked how best to store and ship larger sculptures
In today's post, I will reveal how my work is designed for shipping. Storage is another problem that has no easy solution.

Right now a lot of artwork lives in closets, bedrooms, and in my studio.  Sometimes, the artwork is out on display at various exhibition spaces, but other times, like now, most of my work has come home to "rest." No easy answers for storage exist, but I do design and make my own interior shipping boxes for compact and flexible storage.

Hourglass Figure: The Scale of Torture
Recycled tin cans, battery motor, alum.
rivets, dial, screws.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
© 1994
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen 

All my artwork is designed during construction in anticipation of shipping. If possible I plan and design to disassemble fragile or delicate components from heavier parts. This principle is applied to smaller artwork as well. Below are some examples.

BermanObverse_front Obverse Obsession (shown to the left) disassembles into multiple parts which include the base, body, lid, and the sterling silver "kiss" on top. Even the delicate sterling silver kiss "flag" comes off as a separate piece. 

Each part fits into a custom-made interior shipping box. I cut foam to create recessed shapes lined or covered in flannel. The interior shipping box then slides inside a larger shipping box with space for packing peanuts between the two.

In the next photo,  you can see the inside of the base after it is disassembled. Assembly instructions are even written in letters from recycled tin cans. These instructions will never be lost (and of course, there are more detailed instructions for assembly and disassembly printed and glued to the interior shipping box.)


Obvob_kiss copyPP On the left, you can see the sterling silver kiss (that looks like it is aluminum foil). This kiss unscrews for easy cleaning (if it tarnishes) and for safe shipping. The sterling silver flag (labeled, SEDUCTION) has a little post that just pulls out and stores separately. 

Imagine trying to ship this chocolate pot without taking it apart. There would be real problems shipping a large heavy base along with a delicate sterling silver kiss and flag on top. Don't go there!!!! Plan ahead when constructing your work. 

Hourglass Figure: The 
Scale of Torture
Inside view of 
Hourglass Figure: The Scale of Torture
Inside the sculpture are assembly
instructions visible in this photo.
Recycled tin cans,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman © 1994
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

On the right, you can see another artwork, Hourglass Figure: The Scale of Torture, with the assembly instructions written inside the sculpture. These instructions, along with the elaborate details on the inside are not visible when on display.


PPGrass_SW The 9' x 9' Grass/gras installation is actually 36 separate panels measuring 18" x 18" square.  Each panel fits snugly inside its own interior shipping box. Two single panel boxes fit into a larger shipping box. There are 18 shipping boxes total. Storage is a real problem. Sometimes the boxes have to live in my living room or my children's bedrooms when it is not on display in an exhibition.

MeasuringCompliance The floor for Measuring Compliance (on the left) is about 10' x 14'.  This disassembles like a puzzle into manageable pieces, numbered, layered on top of one another with paper in between, and is reassembled on site. It travels with assembly instructions and a diagram.

The #2 pencil bell curve piece titled, Take Out Your Pencils, Begin is constructed in nine sections. Each section is three feet wide (the red section or "stanine" is visible to the right) and rolls up very easily into a large roll. Eventually, when it is done, each roll of pencils will get its own interior shipping box. To protect the pencils adequately, I will either roll layers and layers of bubble wrap around the pencils or find a tight-fitting interior shipping box. This will ship in a larger exterior shipping box.

Double boxing is my preferred method.  If damage occurs to your shipping box, the interior shipping box safely protects the artwork.

Words to the wise, save yourself future problems:

  • Design your work for shipping (from inception and during construction)
  • Custom design your interior shipping box and packing method.
  • Double box your work.
  • A Professional Guidelines topic on making a custom interior shipping box will be ready soon.


This post was updated on February 5, 2022, to provide current links.