Art Prints Packaging | The Two Most Important Considerations in My Book
Packaging is quite a thing for me, hey.
I spent the longest time grappling with not wanting to do prints of my art because I felt like it would loose all heart and sentimentality. How I finally came around to doing the prints is a story for another time.
Now, when I get stuck into an aspect like packaging I have only 2 concerns:
1. Can I make it beautiful?
2. Can I make it kind?
1. What makes your packaging beautiful?
By beautiful, I mean it must be lovely to look at and to unwrap. I’m talking tactile, soft and crisp to the touch. But it must also be a pleasure for me to package. (a lot of consideration – and dare I say unnecessary bucks – go into the ‘customer experience’ – and I’m all for that stuff for the most part. However since the customer will experience what I experienced while creating or wrapping the item – the makers energy transfers – why not make the work beautiful for ourselves as far as we can first and foremost?)
2. What makes your packaging kind?
For kindness, I consider the cost – the cost for the environment and then the cost for my budget. So all my options for aesthetic choices come down to asking, “how did this item/ string/ ribbon/ paper get here and where will it go?
These are some of the environmental kindness questions I ask myself:
- Were toxic chemicals used in the dying or printing of this?
- Is there a film, veneer or a wax or a glue on it that makes it non-recyclable?
- Is it essential? (even if all your bits and bobs are on eco paper and eco ink and eco stickers – it’s still using resources at the place of creation, like water and electricity)
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how beautiful you make your packaging, for the most part it will probably be disposed of. I have found in the past that when there’s so much really expensive boxing and packaging, I feel guilty throwing it away and force myself to find a purpose for it. But that’s not a burden I want to place on my art buyers.
My art print packaging choices
Here’s what I chose in terms of product and process. I hope they help and inspire you to make the best considerations for your product.
1. Hand written thank you stickers
At this point I’ve chosen not to go the bulk-branding-stickers route just yet. Bulk stationary is higher in cost and likely higher in secondary resources and at this point I’m still small enough to get by, by being scrappy and hands-on.
Being tiny has its perks and I’m enjoying giving my stationary a handwritten attention to detail.
The stickers have a water soluble glue on them and they’re necessary to hold the paper wrapping together. I write the ‘thank you’ in a silver pen, and I’m okay with each one looking a little different.
2. Better plastic
Art prints need to be sold in such a way that the print itself doesn’t get tarnished or stained. I sell mine in compostable clear Good for The Ground sleeves. How lucky are we to be living in an emerging time were better options other than PET plastics are becoming available? Good for the Ground sleeves are made from PLA (Polylactic Acid), a polymer derived from starch.
3. Upcycled backingboard
Prints also need to be supported against something firm so that they don’t bend before being framed. I didn’t want to buy cardboard that would literally be tossed once it arrived at it’s home. I’ve gone the up-cycled route. The framing store The Framery, where I have some of my frames made, keep their off-cut pieces for me (they would ordinarily be discarded and recycled). Luckily my art is miniature so I can go this route.
So, all my prints that go out have varying colours backing board. I go with whatever I get. Some are grey, some rust red, some white, some plain brown. I also get some upcycled backboard from photographers who are tossing out their damaged board. I trim the water-damaged edges and bob’s your uncle.
Sure, in an ideal, aesthetics-only world, they’d all be black, I guess, if I wanted it to match my branding.
But I’ve chosen to release my brand’s identity from over-curation.
I like that my growing brand has room to breathe beyond the confines of colours and font and can define itself by its intention too.
4. Simple wrapping
For presentation and wrapping, I’ve gone with unbleached, white tissue paper (so yes, again the white leans off-white rather than crisp, which visually I would prefer but this falls into the above thinking). No bleaching, no inks, can be recycled or composted.
When all is said and done environmental kindness is the coolest colour.
5. Eco twine
I use eco twine to wrap the tissue paper. I almost went with black raffia but I decided that the length of twine, being long enough to be repurposed, would be more useful to the buyer if it was also sturdier. Twine can tie a great many things, curtains, plants, hair, dried herbs and flowers to name but a few and if not, I know it will definitely decompose.
6. Handwritten thank you notes on recycled paper
My little thank you note, along with the miniNature header on it, is handwritten on recycled paper. It takes a bit more time than if the headers were already printed, but each one feels like a practice in gratitude. Doing things the slower way is also part of my brand story now.
I hope that when you buy a miniNature print, you enjoy all these little eco aspects as much as I enjoyed putting my heart and thought into them.
And I also hope that you feel inspired to give love and thought to every aspect of what you make, even if that is ‘just the packaging’.
As I said before, for the longest time I felt like selling prints would lack authenticity, but I now see that I can put as much of myself into all these other aspects too.
In the end, Le Corbusier was right, form should always follow function first. The function of packaging is to keep the item safe, add a little beauty and then to slip quietly and kindly out of our lives, not, I believe, to do all the leg work of making your brand look and feel impressive.
Let your actual art do that.
Beautiful header image from Helena Hertz on Unsplash