The Ins and Outs of Sending Art Out
… out of the country, that is.
Yesterday, two of my pieces (one of them a collaboration with Dreams by Machine) shipped off to New Zealand! Before participating in the World of Wearable Art show, I’d never sent anything overseas other than for a mail art project or for showing myself in random places in China and Korea (more on that in other posts coming soon).
The whole process is quite difficult and confusing. There are weird numbers involved in shipping merchandise overseas, and forms to fill out, and people speaking a different language.
I’ve come up with three tips so far:
1) Have as much information as you can about your shipment before contacting anyone. This includes:
-How much your shipment weighs (altogether). I did mine the rudimentary way- by standing on a scale alone, then standing on the scale with the package, and subtracting. In this case, having two packages involved a little more math, but all basic. You can handle it.
-Exact dimensions. For this year’s show, I had two packages, so I had to include dimensions of both. This will help the shippers know how to deal with what you’re dropping off. Make sure to specify INCHES if it’s small, since most of these freighting companies are used to truckloads of material showing up, not a little Hyundai Elantra with a box in the backseat and one in the trunk.
-Value. Note that for the US, any shipment with a declared value of over $2500 requires some kind of customs form (AES, an acronym which was never explained to me), which costs an extra $75 to fill out and file.
2) Work with a specific representative at a specific company.
Last year, I worked with a woman who was able to walk me through each step of each form in person in the office. I highly recommend working with Mainfreight, one of the sponsors of WOW, and its outgoing branch, Carotrans. While I’m not sure what Mainfreight’s services normally cost, since WOW allows us to have a flat shipping rate with Mainfreight, its customer service is impeccable. The representatives are almost always at their phones, are very helpful and efficient both on the phone and in person, and despite their huge contracts with multi-dimensional shippers, they spend time helping individuals get these paperwork things sorted.
This year I’m bouncing back and forth between the woman I worked with last year and another representative, and, as in all three-way communication, things are getting left out and the whole chain is becoming confusing. Choose a rep and stick with him/her!
3) Talk with people in the warehouse you’re dropping off/picking up at.
Though these people can appear a bit intimidating and unapproachable while driving forklifts at 40 mph and wearing hard hats, these are the people who will be actually touching your work. Making contact with them can be quite beneficial. Furthermore, they don’t often get to find out what’s inside the boxes they ship, so (in my experience) they love the opportunity to get to know what’s passing through the facility.
When I picked up my piece from last year, the person retrieving my box (who first brought out another artist’s piece- Santa Monica’s Amy Jean Boebel’s work) talked to me for a half hour about art, the show in New Zealand, and what was next for me. He called two of his colleagues over to watch me open the box (this piece didn’t fit in my car while in the box, but fit in the backseat unpacked).
And yesterday, while dropping off my two boxes, I found out that it’s better to have smaller, loose boxes (i.e. smaller than 3’x’3’x3′- which is pallet size) shrink-wrapped, and that this service costs extra. I became flustered looking for information on this, but the forklift driver (Donald- thanks man!) saw my worry, and, after I’d opted for sending sans shrink-wrap, told me he’d “throw some shrink wrap on it anyway; it’ll really bang around if not.” So I suppose this point may include a fourth- to make your shipment pallet-sized, but I’m not sure that’s necessary with people like Donald around.