Thursday, September 13, 2012

Extraordinary Packages

After living abroad for any real length of time, the need to send and bring items from the US to Italy becomes necessary. We all have this story. My first special one was a box full of expensive watercolor paints that I sent myself from home to my new temporary home in Rome for my study year abroad. I had sent the box to my former Italian teacher to make sure that if it arrived earlier than me, there wouldn't be a problem receiving it. At that time, we sent via ship and it took 2/3 months for a package to get to its destination this way. We did it to save about 2/3 of the cost of express courrier. But I mistakenly declared on the mailing slip what I thought was the authentic value of the paints, which was a high value. Why was that a problem? Because when they got to Italy, the addressee had to pay taxes and handling fees based on that large sum of money. When she alluded to having paid something, she refused to let me know how much so I couldn't reimburse her. It was a typical Italian "host" gesture. And as a 20-year-old American, I had no idea how to insist or understand what the money paid could actually have been. I just didn't have the experience yet.

Then there was the time I needed to travel from Italy to the US with a wooden box with lighting and plexiglass slabs, 2 of which were filled with water. It was a sculpture/artist book that I was getting ready to present to US gallerists and collectors. It weighed a lot and required an excellent packaging job to make the flight in-tact and undamaged. It was also 2003. When I stopped over in Vienna, the Austrian police had me come out to their handling area on the other side of the airport, holding up the flight, while they made me unwrap everything to show them that it wasn't a bomb. It was a miracle that they believed I was an innocent American travelling with a strange sculpture and they also had the patience to help me carefully rewrap each piece of my sculpture, further holding up the flight, so that it could travel safely to its destination.

Fast forward to 2012. Recently a new art project has demanded another important package to get to Italy. This time it's large sheets of handmade paper with deckled edges. I had to figure out a way to package the paper so that it would travel and not damage its edges, which are one of the best parts about the handmade paper making process. I was able to accomplish this with the help of a UPS shipping shop. But I already had too much to carry to bring it to Italy myself. So my father was given the assignment of travelling with the package when he recently visited. In order to do that successfully, there was still one piece missing to the packaging process. A handle had to be attached to the large, fairly heavy and awkward package. UPS couldn't help us when I was in their shop and time ran out for my own stay in the US. I left without making a handle, which I had learned to make out of string as a person living in Venice. In that city, you must carry everything so you learn how to make handles for all kinds of boxes.

In the end my mother made a handle. But not just a handle. She made a sort of vest out of denim for the package and then inserted a real plastic handle into the sheath.

I didn't want to open the package until absolutely necessary because everything was so "safe" inside the denim wrap, tape and cardboard. So the package sat in its "clothes" for months. I only opened it 3 weeks ago to get to a drawing I wanted to hang on a wall - finally.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of my mother's masterpiece of practical creativity and sewing diligence which was that package before I cut it up. (I was in a rush that day.) Here are the outer remnants that still remain:

handmade denim outer structure for large package, including plastic handle, 12" ruler to show size

The important thing was that the package travelled beautifully.

Thanks Mother.

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful story! It is heartening to read about the A. police helping you with your sculpture. You are lucky too in having a clever mom. This is my first visit to your blog . . . I discovered it via expats in Italy. Carol