When arriving at a gallery ready to install work, don’t forget to bring a well-stocked toolkit. Being prepared for all circumstances can save valuable time and avoid the frustration of a last-minute trip to the hardware store.
The mechanics of exhibiting ceramic work vary widely based on factors like the scope of the show, venue, type of work, and installation expectations. Setting up pottery on pedestals in an established gallery will be a drastically different experience from installing wall-based sculpture in a non-traditional exhibition space. As the artist, you know your work and its requirements best, but it is generally good practice to be prepared when bringing work to a venue for display. The items below would be helpful to have along during a hands-on installation in the case of limited supplies or for the sake of efficiency. Keep these items together in a container for easy access and transport.
Tip: If possible, build up a set of installation-only supplies separate from your general-use tools. This grab-and-go kit will expedite your packing process and prevent the chance of you forgetting needed items.
The Basic Toolkit
variety of nails, screws, anchors, and hanging hooks
cordless drill and charged battery and/or a ratcheting screwdriver
various drill bits
paintbrushes—small synthetic and foam varieties for touching up pedestals and walls
utility knife with a sharp blade and/or scissors
blue painter’s tape—this incredibly versatile tape can be used as a temporary label, to assist in placement and leveling of work, to keep parts and pieces grouped together, et cetera
two-part epoxy and/or super glue (just in case)
a few lint-free shop paper towels
small container of spackle
sandpaper in a variety of grits or a sanding sponge
melamine cleaning sponge (like Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser)— dampen with water and these quickly remove scuffs from pedestals and walls if paint touch-ups aren’t an option
museum putty or poster tack—to keep pieces in place and relatively bump-proof
Installation and Delivery Tips
Good communication with gallery staff is critical for painless setup. Key points to note include the window of time that the gallery space will be open and accessible, who from the gallery will be on hand for questions or assistance, and what materials or gallery furniture will be provided.
If you are not installing the work yourself and instead are shipping or delivering pieces, be sure to include any necessary hardware and type out straightforward, step-by-step instructions for unpacking, installing, and repacking the work. Quick drawings or photos with notes can help clarify written instructions. Have a friend read through any instructions before delivery to ensure they make sense to someone less familiar with your piece. Include complete work information (name, title, materials, price) with the instructions affixed to the packaging. Be sure to clearly label all boxes and instructions with your name and contact information. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for gallery staff to present your work as intended.
the author Katie Reaver is interim editor of Ceramics Monthly.