Shipping Pottery for Intact Delivery
Welcome to Kiln Goddess' Clay Pit of Pottery Shipping
So you want to make sure your pottery arrives at its destination intact, safe, and in one piece. Buyers of my pottery compliment me on my packing and I have never had a broken pot yet so to help other potters forgo the heart break of hearing their heartmade creations are just a pile of shards rattling around in a cardboard box I decided to pass a bit of my packing and shipping knowledge on.
Which Shipping Agent Should You Use?
USPS, UPS, FedEx?
I use USPS. I've had good luck with them. My local post office is manned with helpful friendly clerks that ask a bevy of questions and slap my boxes with a bright orange sticker that says 'fragile.' It seems to work.
Of course for just as many stories of successful deliveries from one courier there are nightmare stories too so use who you've had good luck with but remember: If you send your item internationally UPS and FedEx will charge your customer a 'brokerage' fee for getting their package across the border and thru customs. So save your international customers a big wad of cash and send it USPS.
Shipping Courier's Websites
Now that I have my courier decided on now I can pack my babies up so I can estimate shipping. First I need a box or 2.
If your ceramic item is smaller you might decide that those Priority Mail flat rate boxes are the way to go, I know I sure like them if they are big enough. But sadly the largest priority flat rate box(12” x 12” x 5-1/2”) is just not that big and rarely can accommodate my work. I also almost always double box medium to larger items so these flat rate boxes will not work for all but my smallest creations.
You can order boxes from many different companies on the web if you choose to go with new boxes, most need a minimum order and send the boxes in bulk, I just don't have the space to store all those different size boxes I need in bulk plus there is so many perfectly good boxes waiting to be reused from most retail stores that I instead of order boxes, just collect boxes when i go shopping that are of the sizes I need to pack pottery.
I collect a lot of square and cube size boxes to accommodate bowls. Square flatish boxes are great for plates. Rectangular flatish boxes great for platters and garden masks. Tall square boxes are good for vases.
Now remember before i said i usually double box? Yep, so i need 2 boxes for most of my items I send. The first box needs to be about about 4 inches larger than your item to have room for bubble wrap in each dimension (i.e. 4 inches taller, 4 inches wider, and 4 inches longer). The second box needs to be 4 inches larger than the first box in all dimensions.
The boxes need to be sturdy, corrugated, no tears, dents, or water damage. Also make sure the boxes don't have an unsavory odor(perhaps avoid boxes cigarettes or dog food were packed in). Also watch what logos are on the sides of those reusable boxes, I avoid the boxes that has shipped depends, ladies' hygiene items, condoms etc., no one wants those kind of boxes delivered to their doorstep.
Boxes on Amazon
If you need a box in a certain size someone somewhere likely has it. Here are a few choices from amazon.
Packing Your Fragile Item
Bubble Wrap is Your Friend
I worked at a pack and ship place for a short while and gleaned all i could about how to pack for successful delivery. Your box will not be handled with kid gloves by your courier, instead it will be tossed, and stacked, and piled, and dropped, maybe even ran over by a mail truck so you need to pack well. So lets start wrapping your ceramic creation.
First lets look over our item. Any corners? rims? delicate protrusions? Yes? Well those places will need a bit of extra padding. So get some bubble wrap, big bubbles, little bubbles...I don't care, I use whatever I have. Now I wrap the object in 2 layers of wrap, tape it all up so the item can not escape the wrapping. Now lets give it a look see...check out those places that you thought might need extra protection. If you can still feel the object inside the wrap instead of the bubbles that surround the item it needs more cushioning so tape more wrap to those places you still feel the item poking thru. Now if you dropped it from a 2 inch fall do you think it will bounce a little? If it does its good and ready for the next step if you know that the item will go thunk instead of bounce...more bubbles are needed.
Now get your box. Does the size of your item required double boxing? USPS won't honor their insurance if your breakable isn't double boxed. So I am going to assume will we double box. So get your inner box, this box should be 2 inches larger on all side than the object (before bubbling). Make sure the bottom of box is taped securely. Place your wrapped item in the box, see how it fits...too much room? Well then we need packing peanuts.
Packing peanuts come in different colors and shapes...it doesn't seem to matter. Some peanuts are styrofoam, some are starch based and are biodegradable, doesn't seem to matter. So fill the extra space in your inner box with peanuts. make sure the peanuts surround the item on all side including under the item so lift it out of the box too and get some under there. Heap the peanuts slightly in the box and add you business card or what ever now and close box flaps. Tape the box securely. I like to make sure there is a strap of tape going all around the box for better security. The box might bow out a little from the heaped peanuts...that's ok.
Now get your outer box. Put 2 inches of packing peanuts in the bottom of the outer box and place the taped up inner box centered on top of the peanuts. Now pour more peanuts in the box making sure peanuts flow down the sides of the inner box . Now start stuffing the side by pressing down the peanuts that lay in between the inner box and outer box sides. Keep adding more peanuts til the sides won't stuff anymore. Now pour enough peanuts on top of the inner box that it heaps up a little and close the flaps of the outer box. The outer box might bow out a little... that's ok. Tape up that box I usually make sure at least 2 straps of tape goes around the package so it is secure.
Now your box is packed and near ready to send. Make your labels, mine are handwritten. I write clearly and I tape them to the top of the package. I make sure the tape completely covers the handwritten label so the ink will not get wet, I use permanent markers in case it does get wet. Now it is ready to mail.
Courier Packaging Guidelines
Well its always good to give a gander at what that actual courier you are using says about says about packing so here are a couple of links.
Shipping Stuff on Amazon - Things Needed for Pottery's Safe Arrival
Bubble wrap, packing peanuts and strong tape are all key ingredients to getting your pots to their destination safely.
Most courier have a online way of estimating prices but you need to provide a little info to them first before they can figure the price for you. You will need a ruler and a postage scale. Postage scale are available from Walmart, office supply store, even the post office but honestly i found the best prices online. I got mine off of Ebay.
There are lots of options to decide on and to choose from when picking a scale, digital, battery operated, how much weight will it weigh, will it remember weights, is the output readable when weighing large boxes, etc. My scale weighs up to 55 pounds, is digital, has a removable readout plate so it is readable when weighing large boxes, it doesn't have a battery but it does remember up to 5 weights.
So find the right scale for your work and weigh your item. Now measure your box in all direction length, width, and height. Your courier's rate calculator will need all these numbers. For shipping within the U.S. you will also likely need a zip code. If you are estimating an auction or etsy listing you don't know exactly know where it will go so use a zip code farthest from you. I use Honolulu for my zip cause it is in the farthest zone away but my postal clerk said an Alaska city would work just as well for me too. I only up to now shipped domestically not out of country so I can only give you advice about shipping within the 50 states. So input these numbers when asked in your shipping calculator and now you have a shipping estimate. Don't forget to include delivery confirmation and insurance in your estimate btw.
Postage Scales on eBay
I bought my scale on ebay. It's a great scale and very affordable. I got a scale that would weigh up to 55 pounds so I could ship larger item out if needed. Here is some scales available on Ebay.
How Others Pack their Pots - Links on Packing Pottery That I Found Around the Web
- Great Box for Shipping Pottery!
A blog entry describing a successful boxing system used for sending ball mill canisters.
- How We Pack Pottery
Another potter and their packing system.
- Shipping Art Pottery - Avoiding Unnecessary Damage and Frustration
While not a potter, this business packs art pottery all the time and has written a blog entry about successful packing.
Great Books on Amazon
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