A sharing of ideas, techniques, successes and failures in the volatile world of pottery and family life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Customized Pottery Packing for Craft Shows - Small Items

Since I started this blog I've struggled with sharing relevant info.  I'm not one to post for the sake of posting and my life's not interesting enough to use it as a journaling tool.  I want to share things that others will find helpful or insightful.  I want to leave a positive mark not just add to the cyber noise.  So what can I share?  My expertise is...  Well, not very expert.  I'm a pretty good potter but by no means a master.  I'm a wife of 21 years and a mom of almost 19 years and still looking for the instruction manuals.  Some days I feel like I've got less than nothing to contribute.

Today, however, is your lucky day!  I've been stewing on a problem for a few weeks now and solidified the resolution enough to give it a try yesterday.  It worked beautifully (well, not visually) and I'm hoping some of you will find it helpful.

I've been doing craft shows for a few years and I usually am on my own.  During my last show a few weeks ago my dad made the mistake of stopping by close to the end and found himself helping me pack up.  Lucky for me but I'm sure he'll time it better in the future. Now, for any of you who do the craft show circuit you know the bane of the process is setting up and breaking down.  Well, for potters, glass artists or anyone with fragile product the packing is slo-o-o-ow!  Have you ever moved?  Remember packing your dishes and glassware?  Every piece needs to be protected from breakage even if you're only going across town.  Now imagine having to do that every weekend.  YUCK!  I'd wrap every piece in newspaper and stack them carefully in the boxes.  I have the boxes labeled but at the end of a long day I'm not so careful whether I get everything in it's proper place.  Hence, I'm always one of the last crafters loading up my car at the end of the day.  DOUBLE DOG YUCK!  (and, yes, I used the word "hence"!)
The old packing hodge-podge

During our weekly phone call Dad and I were discussing possible solutions to my packing issue.  How can we make it quicker and still protect each piece and keep it organized? You've probably seen those fancy moving boxes with the cardboard dividers.  We were thinking along those lines.  Unfortunately, our pottery varies in size from spoon rests to large bowls and birdhouses and everything in between.  So I needed to customize.

The new Beautifulness!
Maybe I'm coming late to the game and you're sitting there shaking your head because this isn't as awesome of an idea as I think it is.  Too bad!  It's not often I impress myself and I'm still reveling in the prospect of leaving a show less than an hour after it ends.

In case you're mildly impressed and think this would help your craft show experience be less stressful I'm sharing my process.  Obviously, you'll be adapting to fit your own needs but you'll get the general idea and I'll be happy to help you out if you have questions or get stuck.  (And thank you, Mr. Huckle, for high school drafting class!)

Tools you'll need:
  • Graph paper or make your own
  • Calculator (maybe)
  • Pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Scissors (maybe)
  • Metal ruler or straight edge and ruler
  • Old cardboard box
  • Hot glue gun w/glue (maybe)
  • Recycled packing material
  • Snacks (optional)

Here are the steps:
The plan

The notched walls
Putting it together
Loading it up
  1. Measure the interior of the box/bin.  This bin's interior measures 20" wide x 14" deep x 5" high.
  2. Measure your items.  It's easier if you have similarly sized items to give you equal spacing.
  3. On the graph paper map out the plan.  This bin holds the spoon rests which need a space about 4 inches wide by 1 inch deep.  I have 30 spoon rests so my calculations gave me 2 rows of 14  and the extra 2 spoon rests will have to be relegated to another area. 
  4. Take your cardboard (I used a sneaker box for this grid but will need sturdier material for larger items), utility knife and metal ruler measure and cut the main pieces of your grid.  In the example I had 2 pieces 14" x 4" (side walls), 4 pieces 8 1/2" x 4" and 9 pieces 8" x 4" (cross walls).  You don't need cardboard on the outer sides.  My grid doesn't fill the whole bin so the 8 1/2" pieces are so I can fold the end to make a tab to glue to the outer side wall for stability.  If your grid fills the whole bin you only need inner walls and no tabs.
  5. Now you need to cut a notch for each intersection.  Each notch should only go up half way.  I cut one notch 4" from the end of each 8" & 8 1/2" piece and 13 notches 1" apart in one of the 14" side walls.
  6. Now you can slot everything together. 
  7. Line the bottom and outer walls of your bin/box with padding material.  (mine's recycled shipping material.)
  8. Insert your grid and load up your inventory!  For the left over space I've stacked some flat items with a sheet of thin foam or bubble wrap layered in between and 1 inch foam around the sides.  Not a scrap of newspaper to be found!
  9. Add another layer of padding on top (we don't want things hitting the lid when we can't avoid that pot hole!)
  10. Time how long it takes you to unload and load at your next show and report back to me.  I don't have another show until November and the suspense is killing me!
Next I'll be working on packing medium and large housewares and my birdhouses and banks.  Here's the link.


  1. Well, that's a great tutorial! I don't do shows anymore. Can't take the bending over to pack. I have to save my back for bending over the wheel. But if I did, I would so try that out! I love your birdhouses.

  2. I'm not a potter but I think this is a great idea!
    I do however participate in craft shows. My items aren't as fragile as yours (mixed media cards, collages, journals) but I still pack each piece carefully and separately. Nice tutorial!

  3. Sure makes sense to me! Your bird houses are awesome!*!
    I don't do too many shows, but I could use this idea using a smaller container!

  4. This is an awesome idea! I'm marking this post!!!
    I started selling etched glassware and I'm having a hard time packing it safely for shows as well. Thank you!

  5. WOW! I'm so glad all of you like my idea! My next show in Nov. 5 and I can't wait to see how much quicker I can unpack and pack up. Oh, yeah, and hopefully make lots of sales. I'll let you know.

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  8. Its a nice start of a day with reading this kind of quality article. Great work man.
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