Prepping Sculpture for Shipment

On Monday I wrote about our recent sale of a major sculpture piece, Flight Time, by Gary Lee Price. Many of you asked about the logistics of shipping a sculpture like this, so I thought it would be fun to document the process.

Due to the size of the sculpture and past experience, I’ve decided to ship this piece via North American Van Lines’ blanket wrap service. While potentially a little bit more expensive than normal freight, the blanket wrap service eliminates the need to have huge crates made and it makes the unloading process easier for the client. With the blanket wrap, the client doesn’t have to figure out where to put crates when the delivery arrives,  doesn’t have to unload them, and doesn’t have to figure out how to dispose of the crates when they’re finished.

North American shows up at the gallery, carefully loads the sculpture onto their truck, blanket wraps it and straps it down. When they arrive at the client’s home they help them place the sculpture on the installation location.

I called North American to get a quote earlier in the week. I fully expected the shipment to run a couple of thousand dollars, so I was pleasantly surprised when the agent called back and told me that it would only cost $1173.78 to get the sculpture from Scottsdale to our client in Maryland. This was great news since I agreed to cover shipping costs as part of the negotiation.

The pick up is scheduled for tomorrow, so today we worked on cleaning the sculptures and prepping them for shipment.

The sculptures have been on display just outside our window for several years now, and though we clean them regularly, they definitely needed some extra TLC before heading out to their new home.  Because it is still ridiculously hot here (101 projected today) we got an early start.

The first part of the process was to get a template of the base of the sculpture. I provide this template to the client so that they can more easily anchor the sculptures. The sculptures have 3/4″ brass nuts welded into the base. When creating a permanent installation, you can put long bolts into the nuts, and then sink the bolts in quick-set cement.

I create the template by tilting the sculptures back and then scraping a pencil into the nuts, building up some graphite in the threads.

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We then lower the sculpture onto craft paper and gently tap the base with a mallet.

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This causes the graphite to fall out of the nuts and onto the paper, letting us know exactly where the nuts are. Before lifting the sculpture back up, we trace the base (being careful not to mark up the bronze).

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Here is what the graphite circles look like:

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Finishing up the template:

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Now we’re ready to clean. Cleaning the bronzes isn’t complicated, it just takes some work. First we spray them down to get rid of the dust and dirt.

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Then we soap and scrub with a mild detergent and a brush.

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After scrubbing and towel drying, we apply a coat of Johnson’s Paste Wax to bring up the luster of the patina and to add a layer of protection.

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The wax is brushed on with a disposable brush, allowed to dry and then buffed out.

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And now the sculptures are clean, polished and ready to ship.

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Tomorrow I’ll share photos of the packing and loading process.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

16 Comments

  1. Very interesting to see the process for prepping and shipping large pieces. Is there pricing based mostly on size? or weight? Bronze is kind of heavy no?

  2. Dear Jason,
    I’ve been following your blog for about a year now, and recommending it to others in the little co-op gallery in Baltimore that I belong to. I’m excited to see that your sculptures are coming to MARYLAND!!!! Can you share their final destination (or if someone’s home, the city)? It would be wonderful to actually see them in person, if they are in a public space. Many of the topics that you discuss are rather “no-brainers” but sadly, our members do not do! It is many times like herding cats to keep our gallery running from day to day (our members are required to sit/work at the gallery once a month – we have no employees, per se). But I am glad that you talk about them because I can point out, for instance, when I get “rolled eyes” for mentioning thank you notes – that it can really make a difference in future sales! Please keep those discussions coming!!!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this process. Yes, the weather was fierce with the humidity and temperature to do this procedure today. The process of cleaning and paste wax finish was enlightening. I think you will miss those dear children, Jason. I’m glad to know they will travel safely. ~Hazel Stone, Phoenix, AZ

  4. That’s a really good price on shipping! I’ll have to remember that. It cost $2500 to get 4 sculptures from Ojai CA to Florida last year with a private art shipper.
    Glad to see your process in prepping the bronzes for their trip.

  5. That’s so interesting Jason! Thanks so much for sharing and showing photos of every step of the process. I’m looking forward to seeing photos of the shipper actually packing the pieces up. They’re charming sculptures and I’m sure the new owner is going to be delighted with them.

  6. Jason,

    Very interesting, and thanks for sharing the steps you followed to prepare and “ship” such a wonderful sculpture. In comparison, this makes shipping large paintings seem relatively easy.

  7. Very interesting even though it is not applicable to my scope at this time. However, I like being informed because I have far ranging conversations with all types of customers and gallery owners.

  8. I’m a member of a few sculpture groups, and am always bugging large-works people for this kind of information. Sometimes I get verbal descriptions- but as a visual artist, if I can’t SEE it, I sometimes don’t get it. These photos work so well for me! Can’t wait for the next installment. Thanks.

  9. Timely article for me. Dealing with the headache of procuring the best shipping provider for a 17×20 framed watercolor commission to a client in Hawaii. Found a private company run locally with no bad reviews at a third less than UPS. SAw photos of how they prep the materials and it is the correct procedure, unlike UPS and their lousy Styrofoam peanuts!

  10. as an artist with an inquiring mind…and who knows other artists… its good to have this information in ones back pocket… . Thankyou for the visuals.

    Janice

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