Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This Needs Bubble Wrap

A few weeks ago, Curator of Collections Holly Young and I took a road trip to San Francisco to pick up a gorgeous collection of Maricopa pottery from an incredibly generous donor. The size of the collection and the shapes of the vessels meant that we couldn’t fly, so we drove from Phoenix. Having never been to San Francisco, Holly gave me a few extra hours to see Fisherman’s Wharf, and then we were off to work with the collection.

San Francisco’s Pier 39 and the seals

This collection is one-of-a kind. First, the collector personally knew many of the potters, which is rare; secondly, the size of the collection is quite large, more than 170 vessels. This kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday; in fact I’ve never transported a pottery collection let alone one with so many pieces, so honestly I was nervous. Holly and I had seen photos of many of the pieces in the collection, but we hadn’t seen all the pots, so we had to take our best guess at the supplies we needed. We took a bunch of boxes, modular trays, a large roll of thin polyethylene foam and an extra box of thick foam, tissue and a few scraps of bubble wrap for padding.

Some of the vessels before packing
Once we started packing, we realized that space wasn’t an issue but we were using way more thick foam than we’d planned. To my surprise, Holly uttered the words “this needs bubble wrap.” My jaw hit the floor, Holly HATES bubble wrap, with a passion; it’s a bad plastic, sticks to everything and left too long can leave marks on the surface of objects. But in this case, it provided the best stabilization for the pieces. To combat the negatives of bubble wrap, we were extra careful to wrap everything in archival polyethylene foam before padding the boxes.

Modular box with vessels before padding
Our host took us for a run to the office supply store and we picked up rolls of thick foam and bubble wrap. We took a much needed meal break and then got back to packing.

So why are we padding things like crazy? First off Maricopa pottery is very fragile, especially the long-necked vases which are incredibly tall (the largest piece in this collection stands at about 20 inches). We were worried about the types of movement that would happen on the drive to Phoenix, vertical movement caused by bumps in the road and the forward movement caused by sudden stops common in California traffic.

The collection took us a total of 8 hours to pack, after we were comfortable with the way everything fit in the boxes we had to figure out how to get it in the car. Luckily our host was a pro-packer and the boxes were arranged so well that everything stayed in perfect place the entire drive back to Phoenix.

Holly using bubble wrap
Lindsey “nerding out” with a wedding vase
Over the coming weeks the Collections crew will be busy unpacking, cataloging, photographing and finding a storage space for this collection. We’re all beyond excited to work with such beautiful pieces. The trip to pick up the collection was an all-around wonderful experience.

One of the long-necked vases packed
Stellar vehicular packing
Getting everything to fit just right was a big challenge but so much fun. I learned that sourdough bread really is better in San Francisco and that Ghirardelli gives out free samples. More importantly I learned a lot about packing and transporting, and that sometimes even bubble wrap has its place.

PS: Extra special thanks to our host for donating the collection and his help loading the car, as well as feeding us and putting us up for the night, and a shout-out to our fuzzy helpers Boomer and Buster.

Posted By Lindsey Vogel, Collections Aide


  1. I hope to see this collection on display sometime!

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