Transporting your work around the world can be one of the most stressful aspects of working your business both in the UK and internationally.
This is an area where timing and research are absolutely vital.
There are a number of options but how you sending work will generally depend on two things
- How heavy / large is your work?
- How quickly do you need it to arrive?
These two factors will influence your options.
Large heavy items - Delivery in the UK
Look to companies who offer this service and gain some quotes. Need to factor in protecting appropriate packaging. Also factor in your own contacts, do you have a friend who can help you? And is this really cheaper option than a professional service?
If being sent overseas really do have to be sent by sea freight to be economical.
Remember that shipping companies use volumetric calculations to work out the price. This means that the costs are calculated either on the weight or volume – whichever is larger. Light but large or small and heavy – you will be priced accordingly. Bear this in mind when choosing your packaging.
- If you are considering sending large display items it might be more cost effective to source stand furniture in the host country. Think about clever solutions to this problem – you can hire many items from event organisers but perhaps you can borrow display items from a contact in the country or buy cheaply from a storage company nearby?
When sending your work, is it covered by insurance if going with a standard courier or postal service? What can you do to track your item? Make sure you have clearly labeled everything with destination as well as sender details.
Please refer to our resource on exporting documentation for sending overseas.
‘Your courier should be able to advise what paperwork you need to fill out for the particular country you're sending your work to, and filling this out clearly and accurately is vital to avoiding customs hold ups! But it's also vital to make sure that none of the materials in your work, or in your packaging are prohibited or limited for import in that country, for example some types of wood.’ Rebecca Gouldson, artist in metal
Sending overseas: Shipping
Slowest but most cost effective way to send large and bulky items. This option needs plenty of forward planning. Bear in mind that a shipment to Japan can easily take 21 days – and you will
also need to factor in the time the shipment takes to clear customs and get to and from the port. You will need to make contact with a freight forwarder. Ask around for recommendations of companies who have shipped to your destination.
‘Be prepared and plan well in advance as transporting any goods overseas is expensive, but if planned well you can reduce costs through shipping instead of freight; shipping goods with another maker or organisation and sharing the cost/crate.’ Ben Franklin, G4S International
If you are exhibiting, check whether the event organiser has a preferred agent. If so, try to use them as they are likely to get fast track entry in and out of a venue, which can be extremely beneficial if you have a short set-up time. Otherwise check to see if the company has a physical office or partner in the country you are shipping to – this can be invaluable in case of any issues on arrival.
Are there companies from the UK all sending work to the same event?
You could reduce costs by organising to use the same company and sharing a shipping container. It is likely that fragile and large sculptural work will need to be crated – see
packaging info for more detail.
Sending overseas: Airfreight
A quick but costly option; great if you need to send something across the world within a day or two, but airfreight can cost four times the cost of sending by sea or road/rail. Again freight forwarding services can help here for large items.
Couriers and postal services
Small packets and parcels can easily be sent by courier or postal services.
There are lots of options here so shop around. Decide if you want a courier to pick up from you or if you can take to a depot, which is often cheaper. If you are likely to be sending lots of small items (for example, if you are selling items globally online) think about open an account with a courier service such as UPS or DHL as you will get preferential pricing (based on the volume of items you send).
Top Tip: Use specialist art shippers if you have large, complex and high value artworks. They will have trained art handlers to manage the movement of your work.
Pack and Send
There are a number of companies offering a pack and send option. This can be a great option if you are time poor or inexperienced in sending work. These companies are focussed on securely packing and moving items that are particularly fragile, awkward or of high value across the world. You can choose whether the item goes by road, rail, sea or air and there are various levels of service and insurance available.
‘Make sure to ask for recommendations on the shipping companies, and check if there are any duties on the other side, since you want to avoid any unpleasant charges and for the work to be stuck in customs.’ Juli Bolanos-Durman