Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin Feed

Standardized Tests Measured Again

Pencil SharpeningCOMPLETEview.

Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin  was started when my children were entering high school as I became more acutely aware of the amount of time, energy and money focused on standardized testing.

Scan Test RESULTSThis awareness began when my son took his first STAR tests in elementary school. Standardized testing at the high school increased to include STAR test, SAT, ACT, AP tests along with the high school exit exam.

This list is not simply a number of tests.  The pressure on student performance affects teachers and school administrators which is reflected in the curriculum, not just by how much time is invested in the test, but how the teachers focus the content in the classroom to raise test scores. 

YikesTo spare you from further rant, let's just acknowledge that this is just the tip of the iceberg (or should I say "point of the pencil") when it comes to the impact of standardized testing on education.

Recently Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that stimulated more news coverage about standardized testing as "California Abandons Pencils and Outdated Standards in School Testing". The irony is that California is not abandoning test taking.  They are just investing more money in new and different ways to take tests.

Colleges and universities continue to debate the merit and efficacy of the SAT, ACT, GMAT, LSAT, while private enterprises like Princeton Review, lobby politicians and promote their tests, and test preparation services.  Today, press reports put the value of the testing market anywhere from $400 million to $700 million.

This is all while education experts acknowledge that memorizing information in the "AGE of the Internet" is not as important as creativity and problem solving, a key skill that the arts can teach.

This is why I invested five years in constructing Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin. The size of the bell curve of pencils (28' wide and 15' tall) was a reflection of the enormity of the issue.  Actually, I wish I could have made it bigger, but as it is, it is hard to find an exhibition space with a ceiling high enough for the curtain to hang.

So a question to all of you.
Do you think that the arts have a role in education?
If so, how can you make your voice heard? My way was to teach art in my children's classroom for the teacher. What are other ways to be heard?

How can the arts address issues relevant to educators?  
At initial exhibitions of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin it has been amazing that the math teacher's were excited by the bell curve of pencils. The bell curve is a mathematical principal to organize information. The bell curve of pencil's illustrated student performance on standardized tests, but it also showed the students that math AND ART can be beautiful, breathtaking and a powerful tool to express ideas.

My final request today:
Do you know of an exhibition space for this sculpture? The ceiling needs to be close to 15 feet tall and capable of holding the weight of the pencils. The heaviest stanine with the most pencils is only about 35lbs.

If you know of a suitable exhibition space, please let me know. If you know a curator's name, that would help.  But either way, that is all I need to contact the exhibition space.

Shipping for the installation is easy in five boxes.

Installation and de-installation only take four hours. There are three presentations that illustrate how easy this is to do.

Stay tuned for the final YouTube presentation.

De-Installation Without the Artist on Site

If you want your art or craft to travel the world, then unpacking, installation, de-installation, and repacking are crucial issues to anticipate before the artwork or craft leaves your studio.

De-Installation of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin

Most of us don't have staff who can travel with the artwork for repacking.

My artwork has to travel without me. Therefore I always include detailed Unpacking, Installation, De-Installation and repacking instructions with my artwork when it is shipped out. That is an important concept for every artist and maker who want their artwork to travel to new exhibition opportunities.

But for my very large work, Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, I realized that a more effective outreach demo for prospective exhibition locations was needed. That is why I created this presentation on YouTube:

With links to the installation and de-installation I am ready to demonstrate in a couple of minutes. Now the challenge is to find exhibition locations.

Packing up the pencils from the installation about education Pick Up Your Pencils, Begini
In this photo, my son and I are laying the pencils
in the custom made paper envelope designed for storage and shipping.

P.S. As anyone who has organized a show with tell you, repacking the work for return shipping is a nightmare. You can hear what French Thompson had to say in this interview with me, Harriete Estel Berman on Jay Whaley Metalsmith Bench Talk on Blog Talk Radio. (Listen while you work with this archived version.)

A previous ASK Harriete post - "Finding Exhibition Opportunities - Instructions for Unpacking, Assembly, Display, and Re-Packing" offered detailed examples for shipping Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.

Behind the Scenes, Design, Rolling Up, Packing UP Your Art and Craft for Shipping

Previous posts and SlideShare Presentations
have focused on designing your art or craft for shipping. I firmly believe that if we want our artwork to travel safely, securely and without breaking, or costing an arm and a leg, then artists and makers need to design their work for shipping.
Harriete Estel Berman rolling up pencils for safe shipping of artwork Pick Up Your Pencils Begin

Planning in advance during the design phase can improve the likelihood that your work will arrive safely and securely. This is not saying that the artist changes the art or craft in design, concept or aesthetic. What I am recommending is that thinking ahead will save you heartache, tears, storage space and shipping expenses.

My vision for the artwork Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin took five years to bring to fruition, yet, all along, I knew that if I wanted it to leave my studio, it had to pack up as compactly, store easily, and ship without problems.

Considerations included pedestrian problems like:

  • making sure the artwork arrives safely without damage (In this case, I couldn't even have a pencil point break - talk about challenges);
  • making sure the weight of the boxes are manageable for one person (usually me) to pick up and carry;
  • storage allowance will be as compact as possible;
  • installation and repacking are relatively easy for others to execute without me. (More about this soon.)

Here is a presentation about rolling up the artwork for safe shipping and compact storage. What do you think about the recommendations? Any suggestions, corrections or confusion?

Below are links to presentations about designing your work and packing for shipping. Principles in these lectures can be applied to shipping anything.
This is a large PDF with lots of pictures...give it time to download.

Custom Shipping Box /Design Your Work for Shipping
The 2012 PDS "Ins and Outs of Shipping (includes 9 presentations about shipping)

Please consider sharing by copying the link to the presentation or handouts and writing your own original content to avoid "duplicate content". A comment or review is all you need for improved SEO. Do not copy and distribute this information without permission from the author.

SlideShare for Exhibition Opportunities

During the past two weeks I dedicated special efforts to creating SlideShare presentations about my artwork Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.
Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin discusses the impact of standardized testing on education.by HThese efforts were way over due...the artwork has been finished for a while, but admittedly, I was confused about my objective for the Installation, and De-Installation presentations. How could I possibly squeeze in all the images and information in one presentation?

So instead of creating one presentation, I created several presentations each with a different objective.

My first goal was to make this 28 foot wide by 15 foot tall installation seem less intimidating to prospective exhibition locations.

Harriete Estel Berman Looking UP during installation of Pick Up Your Pencils, BeginiAll those exhibition venues, from big musuems to smaller non-profit spaces, are dealing with the impact of a weak economy, lower membership, and increasing expenses. They compensate by reducing expenses such as shipping and installation costs of exhibitions. The perception is that the bigger an installation, the more labor it takes and the more it costs.

An exhibition that fills the room (e.g. one that it is 28 feet wide and 15 feet tall) may look like it needs a moving van to ship. It occurred to me that perhaps this monument to #2 pencils, could cause curatorial staff to have serious budgetary concerns.

So this SlideShare presentation is an effort to dispel these concerns by talking about the pedestrian aspects of installing and exhibiting the artwork.

But then I realized that other audiences would really enjoy this short presentation.  Potentially a much bigger audience. Doesn't everyone these days love seeing the action behind the scenes?

Creating this SlideShare also means that I can share my artwork with a wider more diverse audience. What you think?

INSTALLATION Details for Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin is one of 30+ presentations that can be found on my SlideShare Harriete Estel Berman
Tomorrow's post is about designing your work for shipping.

P.S. My visit to SlideShare last week  to test their user interface was featured on the SlideShare Blog! TALK ABOUT sharing work with a new audience. 

Pencils Say A Lot

Pencils say Star Student, and Gain 51 point on the Star Test about standardized testing.

Hopefully, you've listened to the Seth Godin presentation in the last post. He makes some incredible points about education.  Quote . . .

"And when we put kids in the factory called "school", the thing we built to indoctrinate them into compliance, why are we surprised that the question is, ‘Will this be on the test?’"

Measuring Compliance by Harriete Estel Berman

Godin continues: "So if someone is making art, they don’t say, 'Can I do one less canvas this month?'  They don’t say, 'Can I write one less song this month?'  They don't say, 'Can I touch one fewer person?'  If it's art, they want to do more of it."

Education is a scary subject. You may not think so because it seems to be in the news all the time, but when personal becomes political, the system often seems to feel threatened. I've had institutions afraid to show this artwork about education. Why?

De Anza College Euphrat Museum of Art is showing
Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.
Pick UP Your Pencils, Begin is a gigantic bell curve 28' wide and 15' tall about the impact of standardized testing on our educational system. It showed in the following exhibit:

The Art of Education
October 22 - December 7, 2012

Euphrat Museum of ArtDeAnza College
21250 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014

The Art of Education exhibition will include the Pick UP Your Pencils, Begin by Visiting Artist Harriete Estel Berman. Additional work by De Anza & Foothill Art Faculty and Staff will highlight the diverse yet interconnected work of art faculty and staff and their educational philosophies.


This post was updated on June 22, 2022, to provide current links.

THINK-ing CRAFT Addresses Education

Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin is about the impact of standardized testing on education. It was shown at the DeAnza College Euphrat Museum of Art as part of the exhibition The Art of Education from October 22 - December 7, 2012.

The Art of Education exhibition included Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin by Visiting Artist Harriete Estel Berman. Additional work by De Anza & Foothill Art Faculty and Staff will highlight the diverse yet interconnected work of art faculty and staff and their educational philosophy.

Below is a phenomenal lecture by Seth Godin about the current educational system. Watch it! 
This video aligns with many of the concepts behind my artwork about education.

Pencil3GREENIn this video Seth Godin says:

"Some of you have a number two pencil.... the number two pencil is famous because Frederick J Kelly made it famous.

Back around World War I we had a problem because there was this huge influx of students because we expanded the school  day to include high school students. And there was this huge need to sort them all out. So he invented the standardized test. An abomination!

He gave it up ten years later when the emergency was over, but because he gave it up, because he called it out because he said the standardized test was too crude to be used.... he was ostracized and lost his job as the president  of a university because he dared to speak up against a system that was working."

THNKing CRAFT. What is the impact of standardized testing on education?


This post was updated on June 22, 2022, to provide current links.

Do you BELIEVE the arts have a voice in education?

ImaginecreativityI just heard the author Jonah Lehrer on n.p.r. radio last night. I hung onto every word. His book titled Imagine: How Creativity Works speaks to the messages in my installation Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin





Library Pencil from Harriete Estel Berman

The arts and crafts do have a value in education beyond just an art lesson, but the arts and hands-on learning can not be accessed with a number. There is no standardized test for teaching creativity and problem solving  - the very skills that Imagine: How Creativity Works is addressing. 

We live in a time where every class and subject is accessed for its contribution to the curriculum. The arts teach:

  • creativity,
  • problem-solving,
  • open-ended thinking,
  • skills of observation,
  • integration of left and right brain thinking,
  • visualizing three-dimensional construction,
  • and so much more.

Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin

What is the impact of standardized testing
on the school curriculum when everything must be tested and measured? What happens when the arts are squeezed into a one-hour slot, rushed, overscheduled, when there is no time to breathe or think? Think and advocate for the arts and creativity in education.


2 stanine installation of Pick Up Your Pencils, BeginMy objective with my installation Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin is to reach out to a larger audience about the value of the arts in education.



Do you know of an exhibition location in your school, university gallery, or local museum?

  • Dimensions of installation 15' height x 28' width.
  • Installation ships in five boxes.
  • Each box is small enough to be carried by one person. 
  • Boxes weigh approximately 32-35 lbs each.
  • Installation takes fours hours.
  • Hydraulic lift or scissors lift is necessary for installation.
  • Installation is possible with 3-4 people.
  • Exhibition rental $300. plus shipping and insurance.

Contact me

This post was updated on March 12, 2022, to provide current links.

Skill Set Needed to Run, Run, Run a Kickstarter Project?

After trying a KICKSTARTER project ....I've realized that there are specific skills needed to run a successful Kickstarter. PENCILbikeCoasterRED_72vertical.green

I found an article that I should have read before starting. It is a great guide for anyone considering their own Kickstarter.  

"7 Things to Consider BEFORE you Launch your Kickstarter Project" by Nathaniel Hansen.

Hansen says: "If you’re looking for Kickstarter advice, ... this article should answer any questions you might have about how to run an effective campaign." 

Hansen says he has helped projects "...featured all over the web, from Wired to CNN, spurred along by social media engines like Twitter and Facebook and an army of fans. Two projects are in the Kickstarter top 20, one is in the top 5 (most donated), and one recently earned a 2010 Kickstarter award."

Pencil Symposium students discussing standardized testingHe tells it like it is and I believe he is right. This article reveals that a great story is paramount, along with advocates & evangelists who will promote your project with an unceasing, unrelenting regularity to everyone you know with every possible vehicle asking for help through Facebook, Twitter, press releases, blogs, magazines, television, i.e. everything.

Testing Pencil from Autistic student taking a standardized testA Kickstarter campaign requires a HUGE INVESTMENT OF TIME and a lot of great writing with aggressive marketing.

It helps a lot if your project is aligned with the interests of the Kickstarter audience
(mostly young adults) who spend a lot of time online (such as gamers or zine fans). 

The audience for your Kickstarter project should be comfortable with social media. Arriving on Kickstarter for the first time in shock  -- like my father -- is not helpful.

Can you blog and write about your project constantly?

You will need either viral marketing to propel your project or a huge social network.

Does your Kickstarter project offer a reward with a retail value equal to the contribution to Kickstarter?

I jumped into Kickstarter with a noble goal and naive optimism.  Noble goals alone don't go very far on Kickstarter. 

This post was updated on March 12, 2022.

Flickr is a Tool for Kickstarter (is dead.)

Kickstarter is just like all the other social networking sites.
...each one has formatting tricks to learn. The HELP menu on Kickstarter is kind of confusing and not comprehensive.  It took me days to figure out how to add images to my "story". The secret was.....FLICKR in 2012. This had changed.

In the "story" option for your Kickstarter project, there is a place to insert an image, Update March 2022: Kickstarter now allows you to upload images directly to their site. You can learn more about this feature HERE.

 A lot of this post was deleted because time changes. The biggest problem these days is keeping up with current trends and technology.  

Doing a Kickstarter project the first time is a real challenge.  There is so much to learn to create a successful project but it seems there are people that do repeat Kickstarter projects (one person I found had founded 72 projects)! 

This post was updated on February 27 2023 

How to Get An Article About Your Work!

Getting an article about your work in a local newspaper, magazine or book is always a bit of luck and a good measure of preparation. From what I've seen, it takes three things, 1) a good "story," 2) great images, and 3) a personal letter to a writer or editor.

Press releases won't get it.
While press releases may be handy dandy, and you think that you are doing something, in my experience they are close to worthless, i.e. "busy work."  Sorry to bust the myth, but I've never seen the payoff.  Sure, I dutifully send them out, but press releases always seem generic and boring . . . and I don't know who picks up on them.

What got my latest article was the one and only thing I believe in... a personal letter (or email) to a person.  Sometimes you are reaching out to find a contact person.  You may not know them, yet, or haven't talked to them in years, but yes, the personal touch is the "key".   Sometimes you have to begin by just picking a name out of the newspaper, magazine, or website and start a personal communication.

To get a story, look for a writer or editor:

  1. give them one or two short paragraphs about why this is a great "story";
  2. tell them who, what, when, and where;
  3. add a few great photos, but only 2-3 small jpgs (less than 2 MB max);

Never use bulk emails.  This is the worst possible solution for trying to capture a writer or editor's attention. If you can't write to them one on one, why would they give you an extra minute?

I'd like to hear if anyone has any experience that they can offer in this regard. How do you get articles?


The above image is from the Palo Alto Weekly March 23, 2012 edition about my show at the Anita Seipp Gallery, Castilleja School. The article writer is Karla Kane, Editor  Rebecca Wallace, and the photographer is Veronica Weber. Download PaloAltoWeekly3.23.12PDF

This post was updated on March 12, 2022.

Reevaluating Life - Get $h!+ Done

Pencil Master My March 2012 experiment with Kickstarter was a real awakening, a roller coaster ride on the learning curves of two new worlds -- entering an unfamiliar social networking domain of the internet's long tail, and the world of documentary video production.

Harriete laughing at Reception3.22.124x6.72Combined with the unfolding exhibition of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, these events and revelations have caught me up in a whirlwind of thoughts and impressions.  After a 4+ year odyssey of fabrication, I am reflecting on a post from Chase Jarvis titled "Hit List: 13 Things Crucial For Your Success [In Any Field]".  I recommend reading every word.

Chase's #1 tip is "Get Shit Done".

For four years, I felt like I was limping along on the pencils. I couldn't work on it every day.  Shows came up that needed new works to be made.  Making work to sell gets in the way. Life gets in the way.  But I'd force myself to work on it every chance I could.

Interesting pencilsAnd I would torture myself as well.  Making a sculpture 28 feet wide and 15 feet tall from pencils is ridiculous! How will it look? Will it hang as planned? Will it ever get done? A combination of the simplest of art media - a pencil, a little thoughtful engineering, and tedious hours of assembly.  But the vision of a hand-crafted work to carry a message that the arts have a value and place in education AND that standardized testing has become overemphasized in education kept me going.

I naively started the Kickstarter project and already learned an enormous amount.  Each media and every social network has its own learning curve...so does Kickstarter. Reading the HELP menu doesn't adequately prepare you for what it takes to run a successful project on Kickstarter.

Harriete BEHIND installation3.22.124x6.72

Before you start a Kickstarter project be prepared with a lot of research, in advance. During the project, it requires a huge investment in developing momentum and visibility.

PS.  I hired a video editor yesterday! More information about making a documentary video in another post. 

This post was updated on March 12, 2022.

The Amazing Search for an Editor

Camera7745In the process of producing a video, I have to hire a lot of help.  A $5,000 grant from the Applied Materials Foundation through the Arts Council of Silicon Valley AMAT_Foundation_Logo_v3s certainly helped to pay for superb talent to videotape and produce a video of the Pencil Symposium. To satisfy the grant requirements, this segment must be completed by April 30. Yikes.

Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin close up image So this morning I placed a job offering online with BAVC.   I had no idea what to expect. I wanted to find an editor who is willing to work within the budget and continue working with me later on a more in-depth video.

AlarmclockgreenWOW!  Within a couple of hours, the response was overwhelming as a dozen people responded -- with some truly amazing candidates. The upside: lots of options for selecting an editor. The downside is more than seven hours spent on interviews and watching online videos.

Professional editors want to work on this project. Each of these editors had a commercial or corporate rate, but they are interested in working with artists on a creative project.
Even experienced editors
will charge less to share in the video objectives supporting the messages in  Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.  This is something to consider if you ever want to produce a video.

NebulaI am going to share an amazing video "Creating the Nebula". The video is on the Wired website. CLICK on the previous link and watch it. You won't believe this kinetic sculpture in the Hilton Anatole hotel lobby in Dallas, Texas.  Edited by Michael Lennon.  He edited this video (with two other editors) from 1,000 hours of footage. The video reveals the design and fabrication process. He is one of four top candidates.


This post was updated on March 11, 2022, to provide current links.

Wearing Rhinoceros Hide is the New Black

If you read the previous post on ASK Harriete, you know that I was working on making a video titled, Pencils Make a Point.

Camera man  David L. Brown and sound guy Stephen Longstreth  working  on technical difficultiesA KICKSTARTER project was launched to raise the $10,000 needed to cover the video production expenses. I already had 10 hours of raw video footage, and only need 5 hours more, to prepare for the editing, color correction, custom music, and seemingly endless other technical details.  Making a video is a gigantic amount of work and a whole new skill set.

Rhinoceros--ceratotherium-simumThis KICKSTARTER project is very scary.
  All or nothing is the structure on KICKSTARTER. If the funding goal is not reached no money changes hands and the pledges are never called.  I need some thick Rhino skin to withstand the tension.

25 days left to raise the money for the video!  In the meantime, each day (if I can) I will share professional obstacles, issues, and observations about 1) producing a video and 2) working with KICKSTARTER.

Recommendation to All Artists and Makers:
KICKSTARTER is not for the thin-skinned or faint of heart. Wearing rhinoceros hide is definitely the new black!


This post was updated on  February 27, 2023

What Will Happen Depends on You

My KICKSTARTER Project is LIVE and your help can make a difference!!!

Yes, your help can advocate for arts in education at any time.

This KICKSTARTER project was perhaps the most uncertain thing that I have ever done, but crowdsource funding is dependent on everyone helping a little to bring a big project to fruition. In this case, I was asking the arts community to support the making of a video.


The video Pencils Make a Point is about the impact of standardized testing on education and raises a voice for the arts in education.

Every contribution to this KICKSTARTER project will receive a reward. There were 11 different REWARDS for various levels from $10 to $2,500.

The goal was to raise $10,000 to cover the production of the 8-10 minute video. 

Envelope1920I also created more personal Rewards for larger contributions.  Descriptions of the rewards are also on KICKSTARTER.

If the $10,000 goal is not achieved on KICKSTARTER, no one is charged for their contribution. I also don't get any of the money. Poof! The project disappears. There were 26 days to bring this project to the goal.

_MG_7078improvedDuring the 30 day campaign on KICKSTARTER, I learned more through the experience of making a documentary video, working with online sites, and tips you can use yourself in professional development for your own work.

All of the donations go to funding the expenses. Producing a professional quality video such as camera operators, audio recording, video footage, editing, and music. Video is a very expensive medium usually costing $3,000 to $5,000 per minute. It is a team effort. No wonder Hollywood budgets are so huge!.

If you are interested in more information about the four-year project in creating the installation Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, the documentation is available on my website.
We're getting great support!!!!!!!!!.......

AMAT_Foundation_Logo_v3sSo far the project has had great success with a two-page article in American Craft and a grant for $5,000 from Applied Materials Foundation for the Arts Council of Silicon Valley. (More information about this in another post.)

Please become part of the success with your donation.

For twelve years I have shared my "lessons learned through experience" in the Professional Guidelines, the Professional Development Seminar, and ASK Harriete. My goal is to help others succeed in their professional careers bringing their work to a larger audience.

Can I ask for your help to give a voice to arts in education?



This post was update February 27, 2023 

How This Article in "American Craft" Came to Be.

Amercan Craft  Article  about Harriete Estel Berman sculpture from pencils about the impact of standardized tests on education

When I see something amazing happen for a fellow artist or maker, I wonder how it happened or what they did to make that happen.  Do you wonder the same thing?

Recently, my work was featured in American Craft Magazine -- two pages in the Craft in Action section about Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin. While there was an increment of good fortune, it was years of making, along with taking everyday actions that readers of ASK Harriete could implement for greater visibility for their work.

In this case, a quote of Louis Pasteur comes to mind, "Chance favors only the prepared mind."

Since I knew that this project was going to take several years, I started a page on my website very early in the project to document each stage.

Harriete Estel Berman web site about Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin

The website was updated frequently with pictures of work in progress.

Harriete Estel Berman drilling pencils for pencil sculpturecril Harrietedrilling

I also posted a link to this page on the home page of my website (shown below). The link was an eye-catching yellow of #2 pencils.

Harriete Estel Berman web site

While there are no guarantees for anything in life, the article in American Craft came about in part because of the ongoing four years of communicating each milestone of the project.  I took the time to give the project visibility on my website.

It seems Julie K. Hanus, Senior Editor of American Craft Magazine, is like many editors who "troll" the web for ideas, information, and new work whenever they have a chance. I heard the same comment from Marthe Le Van, Editor at Lark Books in the presentation she gave during the Professional Development Seminar.

The lesson learned here is that your website is a window to the world for people to see your work. While I use many other social networking platforms....your website is paramount.  Even though I would wonder how many people were looking at my website, all the work that I put into my website did matter after all!

Pencil  Point in pencil sculpture by Harriete Estel Berman

The article in American Craft happened because of hard work and my website!

Harriete sharpening pencils  for sculpture about educationr

My words of wisdom to everyone is that YOUR WEBSITE IS YOUR MOST VALUABLE TOOL to promote your work.

Learn how to update and maintain your website.

Update your website regularly.


This post was updated on February 16, 2022, to provide current links.


Finding Exhibition Opportunities - Instructions for Unpacking, Assembly, Display, and Re-Packing

Proper packing for an exhibition is more than just protecting the work until delivery.  Anticipating what the exhibition staff needs to properly unpack, assemble, display, and ultimately repack can earn you a reputation, good or bad, for subsequent exhibitions. 

Boxes When your work arrives at an exhibition packed professionally, it earns the respect of the exhibition staff.  You gain a reputation as a prepared and professional artist who knows what to do.

Good packing accompanied with instructions and reusable packing materials for repacking helps assure that your work will be returned in the same condition.

Pencil boxes HOLDS sculpture from pencils Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin In the previous post on ASK Harriete, these five boxes (right photo) were shown. They hold the sculpture titled, Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin. I didn't like the printing on the boxes. It is distracting and looks kind of cheap, in a very bad, NOT good WAY!

BoxesTAPEcovers images
RECOMMENDATION: If there is printing on the box, cover it with tape.

Use Gummed Kraft Tape.
Kraft_tapeThis is the tape that you make wet with a sponge. I have gummed kraft tape in brown and white. I use the brown color for brown cardboard boxes and white for white boxes.

Remember to weigh your boxes so you can estimate your shipping costs as accurately as possible for the exhibition sponsor. Are you ready with your shipping information?

Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin ships in five boxes; each box is 40" ht. x 12" x 12". Weight for each box: 26lbs., 26lbs., 30 lbs., 25 lbs., 23 lbs. 

Prepare Instructions for Unpacking, Assembly, Display, and RePacking. I glue this to the outside of the box, and/or inside the flap and always put a loose copy in the box. Below is an example for Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin

Unpacking, Assembly, Display and Packing instructions for artworkShipping

Here are some links to previous posts on packing.

Shipping Boxes for Art or Craft Should Include Instructions

Tips on Packing Your Art or Craft for Shipping to an Exhibition.

How To Ship Large Artwork? Asking ASK Harriete, the artist, a few questions.


Stay tuned for  these Upcoming Posts on ASK Harriete:

  • Is it ethical for a gallery to put consignment items in storage?
  • Behind the CaFE Curtain: Insights as a Juror Using CaFE
  • Behind the CaFE Curtain: Tips for Improving Your CaFE Juried Application

This post was updated on February 10, 2022.


Finding Exhibition Opportunities - Photos and Packing

A real-life example:

Pencil_stanineWEB I recently finished making Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, and am currently looking for an exhibition space. A previous post offered a few suggestions on how to find exhibitions spaces for your work. This post will show what I am doing step by step to find exhibition opportunities.

PencilsCenterPROGRESS72 First, photos of the finished work are needed.  In this case, because of the size of the work, I need to find a temporary space to install this large sculpture for photography. The artwork is 27 feet wide and 12 feet tall with an installation height minimum of 15 feet.  

A friend has volunteered a large gallery space but only for a weekend.  So, next weekend, my whole family will have to help install the work and take it down in a day and a half.

Great photos are essential to obtain an exhibition commitment.  This has been mentioned many times before (so I won't belabor that point in this post).  But here are some additional issues to resolve early: shipping and storage.

Shipping and storage are significant issues for both the artist and the exhibition sponsor.
I recommend making custom packing for one-of-a-kind work as soon as it is finished.  Your work can then be stored as needed and you are ready to ship safely as well.

For Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin I devised a simple method to protect the work with brown paper.  Each of the fifteen feet long stanines roll up into tight bundles. This protects the pencils while providing compact storage and shipping. Before I even started this project five years ago, I planned how it would ship. It was all part of the big plan. Always plan for shipping and storage while you make the work.
You can view every step of the packing process on my Facebook album or in a special Flickr set with step-by-step photos.  It may appear that the packing is simple. REALITY CHECK: It took two people working really hard for 6 and a half hours solid to get this done in one afternoon. We had to replicate this "envelope" for each of the nine stanines.
In the above photo, you can see Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin wrapped tightly in the brown paper in its individual box. It will be surrounded by bubble wrap and peanuts for shipping.

Yes, I know, there is empty space in the box but I want lots of cushioning (bubble wrap and peanuts) to surround my work and don't want the box to be too heavy. People will drop heavy boxes to the floor. I want gentle and careful handling to protect my work.

The pencils stanines are in these boxes. All nine stanines fit in five boxes!

I do not like the printing on the outside of these boxes but the dimensions were perfect. I will cover the writing with brown packing tape and my instruction sheets.  I still have hours of work to further prepare the boxes.

Many times exhibition sponsors want an estimate for shipping before making a commitment.  The artist should be ready to estimate the cost for shipping (especially if the exhibition sponsor is paying for shipping). Each box needs to be weighed.

In my exhibition proposal, I will be able to provide the exact number of boxes, dimensions of the boxes, and shipping weight. For example, Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin ships in five boxes, 40" x 12" x 12". Weighing the boxes is work for this morning.

Write Instructions for Unpacking, Display, Installation, Packing, and Shipping.
I know this seems like a lot of advanced work,
but all of this advanced preparation provides protection for your artwork and gives exhibition sponsors confidence in showing your work.

Sample Instructions for Unpacking, Display, Installation, Packing, and Shipping will be the next post on ASK Harriete.

Stay tuned.


This post was updated on February 10, 2022.

Make Work YOU WANT TO MAKE and then... THE WORK Will Find a SHOW

I have spent the afternoon reading Ask Harriete.  Oftentimes, I see a show I feel my work would fit into...due to the subject matter, title, etc., however, there is NOT enough time to create a piece and get it submitted in time.  After reading what you say in the Etsy Recycler's Guild interview of Harriete Estel Berman interview (from Etsy Recycler's Guild, I am surprised to see, that you most likely enter shows after the work is done. 

Or as you once told me, you shop the work around in order to find an exhibition space.  So, what can you offer to those of us who have the problem?  

Mary Anne Enriquez

Harriete Estel Berman standing near Measuring Compliance at the exhibition ManufracturedbstandingThis issue often causes artists and makers to feel overwhelmed.  Your schedule is already full and then an opportunity arises that would demand even more time. Who can just drop everything and start
                                                    something new?

Although I do make work for some shows (and will show some examples in the next post on ASK Harriete),  I prefer to make work that I want to make based on my long-term goals.

I recommend that all artists and makers make the work they want to make.


Measuring Compliance Poster
Measuring Compliance Poster
portrays sculpture by the same title.
Measuring Compliance © 2006
Recycled materials, 3rd-grade desk,
3rd-grade chair, banners, custom made
straight jacket, yardstick, rulers.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

It is the artist's or maker's responsibility to bring important or significant ideas to fruition without the dictates of a theme, exhibition, or invitation. Maybe these ideas are big, expensive, demanding, or even scary. So what if it takes a year or more to finish because you have to put it down, work on your day job, or do other artwork that makes money. Just keep working with the big goals in mind.

If you wait for a show invitation to start making something big or important, you may never get around to creating significant artwork. Too often, I have heard artists expressing disappointment that they didn't get invited to be part of a particular exhibition even though they had been thinking about making something that would have been "perfect" for the show.  Don't wait for a show to prompt the making . . .  start making.  By waiting to make something "for a show" ... they lost an opportunity.

The emphasis is on making work that is challenging, significant, and stands on its own . . .  not making work that fits into a show in a few weeks.   Make work that you will be proud of for a lifetime.  Sooner or later a show or some other opportunity will turn up that is right for your work -- not the other way around.

Alyssa Endo working on Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin HERE IS AN EXAMPLE:
I just finished the project Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.
It took the better part of five years. I often had to put it away until  I had time or help available to work on it.

Penci lBrotheres Pencils in Pick Up Your Pencils Begin by Harriete Estel Bermans582bellcurve

Most often, the bigger or high-risk projects aren't necessarily the ones that will sell, but they may become the "show stopper" that establishes your reputation years later.

Close up of Pencils fabrication Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin by Harriete Estel Berman Here is my real-life example.    The day before I finished Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, a major magazine emailed me about writing an article on a topic highly relevant to this work! Wow!!!!! They need photos of the installation, so now I need to find an exhibition space.

This wasn't magic. I have also been working on documenting the construction of this artwork, writing about it on my website, Facebook, blog, Crafthaus, and other social networking sites.

Website for Harriete Estel Berman The editor had become aware of this project from my website. I've had a link on my home page ever since I started the project.

Apparently, editors and writers spend some of their time "trolling"  the internet for ideas and new work. Marthe Le Van, editor for Lark Books talked about this during her presentation for the Professional Development Seminar. A lesson to all of us to keep making our work, documenting our progress, never give up...steady progress wins the race!

MAKE WORK YOU WANT TO MAKE and then... find an exhibition space.

Does anyone know of an exhibition space for Pick UP Your Pencils, Begin?

I'd love to hear your ideas! There are 3-4 weeks before the article goes to press.


You can see the documentation of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin on my website.

NEXT POSTS on ASK Harriete:

  • Is it fruitless to even think of creating something fast to get into a show?
  • How Do You Find Exhibition Opportunities For Finished Work?

This post was updated on February 9,  2022.