Packing and shipping frames for plein air events is always a challenge, especially when you are competing in a plein air invitational!

Packing and Shipping Frames for Plein Air Events and Travel
Suzie Greer Baker OPA

Along with your clothes and painting gear, you also have to bring many blank panels, canvases, and heavy frames.
Recently, I traveled for the first time to participate in Plein Air Maui. Packing and shipping frames and getting them safely to Maui was challenging. Plus it was compounded by the big shipping expense to send them halfway across the Pacific ocean.
Even the most efficient tactics for packing and shipping frames still had me spending anywhere from $175-$200 each way. That’s a pretty penny when you are trying to keep expenses under control and come out in the black.
I decided to investigate other options, starting with my airline’s baggage policy. By purchasing my airline ticket with a United credit card, I would be allowed one free checked bag. I could add a second checked bag for an extra of $35 each way. OK! That was already considerably cheaper than shipping a box!
But, I didn’t know if I could pack enough frames into a box while still meeting the airline requirements for checked bags. Plus, more importantly, would they arrive safely?
AirFloat System had just what I needed for packing and shipping frames. They sell a box with the outside dimensions just under the 62” linear limit of United Airlines! It is made of thick cardboard, with a handle, and puncture resistant plastic lining.
Even with the cost of the box factored in, I was still saving money over shipping. Plus, I’d have a great box to reuse in the future.
Packing and Shipping Frames for Plein Air Events and Travel - AirFloat System
StrongBox – Lined 2329L (500lb – with Carrying Handle) **StrongBox has offered a 25% on the 2329 box through June 18 Discount Code “baker”
My next problem – how to fit all the needed frames into the box?
Enter, JFM frames. Specifically, this frame. 1202 BG. With its low profile and styling, I was able to nest various sizes. JFM has generously offered a 12% discount on this popular frame until the end of June 2018 – just enter the Discount Code SUZIEB when you check out.
I also had JFM make two custom frames in a long, thin, format that I like to paint. These two 8×24” frames had a thin molding and fit side-by-side on the top layer.
Packing and Shipping Frames for Plein Air Events and Travel
Box Contents:

  • 9 Frames: (plus another 6×8” and 9×12” in my regular suitcase)
  • 2 – 16×20”
  • 2 – 24×8”
  • 1 – 14×18”
  • 1 – 10×12”
  • 1 – 8×10″
  • 1 – 6×8”
  • 1 – 5×7”
  • 1 or 2 panels for each frame
  • sheets of cardboard for separating frames in the rental car
  • point driver
  • screwdriver
  • blue tape
  • clear packing tape (for resealing box on the return trip)
  • box cutter
  • extra hanging wire
  • business cards
  • brochures
  • personal frame labels
  • bag with sharpies/frame touch up (rub-n-buff)
  • All packed and ready to go

When I checked-in my baggage at the airport, I informed the attendant that the box of frames was fragile. She added the appropriate stickers. She then walked the box to an area for baggage that needed special care in its handling.

Packing and Shipping Frames for Plein Air Events and Travel

The box and bags arrived safe-and-sound and were all loaded into my rented Jeep Patriot. By the way, anything with a hatchback makes for a ideal vehicle for plein air adventurers. I just bought my second minivan after my beloved, Toyota Sienna hit 200k miles!

Packing and Shipping Frames for Plein Air Events and Travel

My competition paintings at the Royal Lahaina Resort and (below) at the “Patriot Gallery” 😉

More tips to get the most out of packing your frames:

  • Leave on the protective corners
  • Wrapped all the edges in plastic (available in rolls at packing stores)
  • Prewire every frame (careful to cover exposed screws with cardboard so as not to scratch the surface of a frame nested next to it)Pre-label your frames and panels with your artist information to make assembling your paintings for turn-in an easier process

TSA checked my box both ways, evidenced by the flyers inserted into the box and the reapplication of tape. They even strapped it up after peeking inside on the return trip – a nice extra layer of protection.
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Do you have any packing tips? I’d love to hear about them. Artists helping Artists! That’s what it’s all about.
Guest artist/author: Suzie Greer Baker OPA • “I paint in oils and am motivated by color, immediacy of stroke, composition, the camaraderie of other artists, and ultimately the desire to evolve as an artist. I strive to create paintings that communicate truth without telling the whole story. “ – from Suzie Baker, Fine Artist.

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