Monday, December 23, 2013

Muddy Monday: It's Package Open(ing) Season

Today's post is a lighthearted look at every collector's worst nightmare: obscenely bad packing of a fragile item. Most experienced collectors have, at some time or another, received a box that makes their blood run cold. They recycle that which should stay in the recycle bin. They employ the unconventional. They modify that which should not be forced to conform...

This is an example of good packing that was mishandled by the carrier service.
Submitted by Diana Dubbeld

To start off, I'll share the one that made me think this needed to be a post. A friend of mine was in the midst of a household move, and she had international eBay boxes shipped to my studio, for safe arrival. When the box arrived, I immediately photographed it.

"This came for you, today. Box looks a bit dodgy."


Her reply is not fit for print, and I concurred. I told her she'd have to open it herself, I was tapping o-u-t. That's right, a scarce-color German porcelain horse was shipped overseas in a bent-and-broken-down vacuum cleaner box. I'd guess it was about 40% under the size that it should have been. To save weight, the box wasn't broken down in a symmetrical fashion. One flap was slightly loose in the tape department. It looked like someone kneed the box into shape. Yes, I mean, with their knee.

The inner box was slightly smaller than this, with nothing but newspaper wads and barely any clearance around the delicate, sticky-outy bits of the piece. Watching her open it was like watching a horror movie, but there was no Pause button!

Despite the long journey, the horse emerged unscathed. 

This sweet Adelaide donkey made "a run for The Border", as the old slogan goes. Plus 100 points for creative recycling? 

Submitted by Jessica Fry

We all know how much cats love cardboard boxes. Something tells me that ceramic cats have a slightly different relationship with them.

Submitted by Julie Harris

This next one reminds me of a Love H-1 Rearing Right horse that arrived with his free foreleg sticking out, through the cardboard box wall. It was as if the leg was waving "Hello!" at my husband, when he found the box on our doorstep. It was a single box, and the horse was pressure-fit inside. He was sure it would be destroyed, so he opened it to check it. It was fine, but only then did he tell me how it had arrived. He spared my heart the undue panic! But, that was a $12 horse....

Imagine paying a considerable sum, in the four digits, for a rare Hagen-Renaker on eBay, and then you receive this:

Submitted by Ed Alcorn

I know! Just pop the head through the inner box, that will hold it in place.

It makes one want to reach for the Pepto-Bismal... I feel ill.

Tifffany Tran shares stories:

I purchased a traditional scale clinky on eBay several years ago. How it survived the mail is a miracle to me. The box it was shipped in was big enough, true, however, the seller had only used two sheets of glossy advertising newspaper to wrap the horse. That's it. No foam, no bubble wrap, nothing else. The horse and the paper sheets were flopping around inside the box the entire time. Again, sheer miraculous luck it survived.
   Another time I purchased a larger-than-trad scale porcelain horse. The lady assured me she would pack it most carefully. When it arrived, the horse was in utter shambles - every part that one might expect to break had been broken at least once. Oh, the horse was packed with care - using nothing but tissue paper and a large flimsy shoe box wrapped in brown paper. When I confronted the seller about the packing she claimed that she had always packed things that way and nothing had ever broken in the mail before. Oi.

My own worst Goodwill Online experience was a crisp Hydrostone copy of a P.J. Mene horse. I looked forward to having it as a study model in my studio. The selling store location dropped it into a box, then closed it by pressing his ears through the top flaps to "hold" him in place. Like pegs! A couple wads of newspaper were kicking around in there with him, but he wasn't packed in any sense of the word. Despite his rebar armature cast into the plaster, he was just shards from the elbows down. Enlarge for detail, if you dare:

Fortunately, I only paid $5 + shipping for him.
Unfortunately, finding a replacement under $200 is impossible.

What does appropriate packing look like? For fragile items, it has a greater chance of survival if packed in soft foam. Styrofoam foam panels are too rigid, unless they are custom-molded styrofoam inserts for that exact product. The soft, flexible foam used for upholstery and shipping delicate computer components (although ceramics don't need the blue static-free stuff) is preferred for shipping ceramics.

This soft foam comes as either "eggcrate" or "convoluted" foam sheets, scored "pick-apart" sheets (as in gun cases), or flat foam sheets.

Convoluted or eggcrate foam

Flat foam sheets that have been cut to form.

These Okapi are shown here only a quarter of the way through the packing process. They got four more custom-cut layers of foam, then each box was sealed, and packed with Pelaspan (Styrofoam peanuts) in a larger outer box.

No matter what packing your ceramics arrive in, be sure to consider the temperatures. At this time of year, don't forget to let freshly-delivered clinky packages come up to room temp over a few hours, before you open them. Extreme cold temperatures can lead to temperature shock, when the warm room air hits the ceramic and abnormal stresses (such as unwrapping) are put to the cold ceramic.

May all your clinky gifts be well-packed, safe from carrier drops, and reflecting all the wonderful twinkling lights. Happy Holidays!

Thank you to all who submitted material for this post!

1 comment:

  1. I once had a girl mail me a vintage Stablemate (I'm mostly an OF plastic collector) in a padded mailer. How he arrived with four legs is still a mystery to me.

    I will confess, though, that my other pet peeve is people who wrap too well: I don't want to have to wrestle with a model and cut it out of the packaging because it's been mummified in packing tape! I've had horses arrive so bound up that I can't see where their body parts are and I can't get them out without scissors or razor blades. I dread that only slightly less than having them underpacked.