Friday, 24 May 2013

Packaging–an art in itself!

I always need to allow at least a whole day to pack up a piece of textile to send off to an exhibition. I’m rarely there to unpack and install myself so have to ensure that I give very clear and unambiguous instructions of how I would like my piece to be arranged/installed. I also have to give instructions on how to pack up to return the piece at the end of an exhibition as the ‘dismantling team’ are rarely the same people as the ‘setting up’ team. So here is what I did for my recent piece of work in the hope it might help if you ever find yourself in this position.

I have bought three ‘extra’ strength plastic boxes in different sizes so I have a choice for each piece needing to be transported. I record each stage of the packaging so that I can use the photos to help explain how I wish them to be packed up for the return trip. Each piece of (acid free) tissue paper, bubble wrap is labelled with my name, although in theory all packaging should be kept in my box after unpacking ready for re-packing.

Starting with the individual cylindrical shapes, I made temporary inside cylindrical supports and labelled each one with a number to indicate in which order they should be placed. The three mirror boards were numbered and little labels placed on them to show where each shapes should be placed.



Each mirror board was wrapped in Clingfilm to prevent scratching and each cylinder shape wrapped in tissue paper and numbered- -again.


To stop the mirror boards from crushing the cylindrical shapes as the box is moved around from place to place, I placed the cylinder shapes inside separate boxes and then placed these inside my plastic box.


packaging4  packaging5

Plenty of ‘cushion’ pockets and bubble wrap was used to stop these moving around inside the plastic box.

Forms completed, stamped address envelop enclosed for selection result, cheque written for submission fee, ‘artist’ statement written, lid taped down with strong brown packaging tape, labels stuck on all outside surfaces, strapped onto luggage trolley and off to the post office – a  15 minute walk away. More forms and decisions to make on which postal service to choose. I usually opt for the ‘express24’ Parcelforce with compensation cover and guarantee arrival time.  Home to open the bottle of wine!


  1. Packaging seems to be a real science

  2. Cheers, we are just about to open a bottle for a BBQ in the garden so will toast your success!! It was snowing here yesterday, today glorious sunshine! Here's to - what you hope for. judith

  3. I dont think you need to come on a museum packing course it looks like you should run one! Hope you get to post some pictures of it in situ.

  4. Wow, that's impressive organisation but needed I'm sure, even if it's just for your own piece of mind. Once arrived at opening night to find my garment displayed inside out because I'd chosen to expose the raw seams! Thought the buttons would be clear but no...

  5. Your story made me laugh Helen. I've also had a similar experience - hence my over-stated instructions these days. I sent two large triangles of stitched wire mesh as rolled shapes with a safety pin to hold them and then placed each one inside a card tube. The gallery in Glasgow displayed them as vertical cylindrical forms on a plinth!

  6. That's an amazing check list for packaging Sian, and so useful. I always find it a total nightmare when sending or transporting work anywhere. Even with a photo enclosed of how to display the piece and written instructions, exhibition staff seem to get it wrong. Thanks for this it's a great reminder of what's required.