Storing Artwork

By Jessica Molcan

What to do with your finished artwork

It’s the end of the semester and the “end of semester clean up” notices are papering the hallways. For those in painting and drawing, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do with all the pieces you create over the course of the semester. There are a few options, of course. Bring them all home to your cramped apartment and try to fit them on your walls, put them in storage, or ship them off to parents or buyers (we can hope). Here are a few tips for shipping or storing your artwork in a way that’ll keep it the safest.

Shipping Artwork

The most economical way to ship your canvas based works is to take them off their stretcher bars, roll them up and slide them in a cardboard tube. Wrap that tube in bubble wrap and slide it into a slightly larger PVC tube. Finally, tuck the stretcher bars inside, also wrapped in bubble wrap. It’s safe and not too expensive to ship. However, if you can’t take your painting off its stretcher bars, or it’s on panel, you’ll have to ship it otherwise. There are a few tools that you’ll need to get started: box cutter, packing tape, cardboard, and bubble wrap.

It’s unlikely that you’ll find boxes that perfectly fit your work. It’s much greener to grab some for free from Craigslist and use the cardboard to make it fit your work perfectly. Essentially, you want to protect the work, so wrapping it in bubble wrap is the first step. Brace the back and front with pieces of cardboard, secured it with tape. Finally, make a box to fit around the entire piece. Voila! Your piece will make it to its destination unharmed.

However, shipping costs can add up, and we are students on a budget. If you have a place to store your work, there are ways to store it that are archival and will prevent damage.

Storing Artwork

There are a few important things to remember when you store your work. First, you should never store your artwork near windows, doors, vents, or ceiling fans. Keep the work elevated off the floor by using bins or pallets, keeping space and cushion between the works. Three-dimensional works should be stored on padded shelving, with the heaviest work at the bottom.

It’s not ideal to stack artwork, but if you find you have to stack works, use cardboard barriers that are larger than the artworks. It is best to stack them front to front and back to back, and keep the stacks short. It is never a good idea to stack a painting that is not stretched on a frame, because an unframed painting is more vulnerable.

Finally, storing unmatted, loose art such as drawings, prints and illustrations; ideally should be kept in shallow drawers or cabinets. These areas have less chance of weight build up and scuffing of the work. Try to store similar sized pieces together with glassine or slip sheets in between them, and keep any acidic materials away from them.

Hopefully these tips will help you for an easy end of semester clean up!