Best get all this down before i forget the main points! This is for shipping art work from Canada–you’ll have to check your own country’s rules if you are elsewhere. And please, do some research: while i gleaned these tips from other artists, some facts may need checking–every situation is different. Please note, i may have missed something on a few points, but will clarify as i get more information.
I use Canada Post for letters and small packets going elsewhere, not just the States, and for items that are not going to shows, exhibits or conferences. They are more than adequate for sending articles from my small business in the form of fabrics etc to paid up customers. What did mystify and scare me was shipping Actual Art. For most of us in Canada that means shipping to the US. (Depending on time and information accessible, i’ll talk about other continents at a later point.)
NUMBER ONE: If shipping to the US, don’t go to Canada Post! Find A UPS Canada and ASK for help. Start the process by going online first and creating an account. It’s free and not complicated at all. (Tip: when signing the terms of agreement, it’s set up so you have to at least pretend to read it all by scrolling through–the box won’t let you check “read and agreed” until it thinks you’ve digested every word. Most of it is “proprietary” agreements about UPS materials and data, prohibition about sending no-no’s–check local laws regarding proscribed materials, etc.) Make sure you store your info somewhere: user name, password and account number.
NUMBER TWO: Even though we are talking about sending Actual Art, unless you are willing to pay outrageous fees and fill out 11tybajillion forms in duplicate, triplicate, quaziplicate and “twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back”, don’t send it as ART: Fill out the NAFTA Certificate of Origin form as “materials”! 300 beads from the Lost City of Snowlandia, cotton from Calamazoo, thread and widgets from Upper Slobovia…..You do not need (a) Tariff/Harmonized code(s) for this. (Again though, if you use particular materials like feathers, flora or fauna, check country prohibitions–i sent a piece of mail art that included paper with embedded flowers to Australia once that was held at Customs there for the recipient to pay 45AUS dollars to have irradiated—she declined and no blame to her, i wouldn’t have either!)
NUMBER THREE: Always check with the exhibitor about anything you need to know about shipping to their country–mention was made to me that one artist sending to Germany had to specify that the item was Not For Sale—if pieces are bought, item must return to sender then be sent to buyer–another ball of wax, but probably easier to deal with, but unfortunately also an added expense……(Take that into consideration too when initially pricing your work.) “Obtain documentation from the body organizing the exhibition, that the work will be for ‘educational purposes only, and not offered for sale’. If interest in purchasing is expressed, bring the piece home and then export it to the new purchaser, who may or may not have to pay import duties.” (from Linda Wallace)
I was also told that any paperwork that does state the value of an item for sale should be sent separately so as not to flag for value and customs fees–i’m still checking into this.
I’ve also gotten in touch with a few Canadian artists who exhibit internationally and sell widely, and am hoping they can share some insights as well–more on this as i hear from them.
(There’s a new category for this: “ARTSPEAK: shipping, shows and sealing wax”. Information you didn’t think you needed until you need it: the hard facts, the hard feelings, the correct and legal, the etiquette and the naked truths. Because i’m such an