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Published Dec 10, 2019

Shipping and packing ceramics can be a stressful endeavor—if you under-pack the piece it might break! If you over-pack the piece, you'll end up spending a lot of unnecessary money on supplies. So how do you ensure that your piece will arrive safely and in the most cost-effective way? Believe it or not, but pool noodles might be the answer you're looking for!

In this tip, excerpted from the Ceramics Monthly archive, Susan Gaible utilizes recycled pool noodles to protect pottery while in transit. Take it away, Susan!  –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor


Early last year, our good friend and artist Adam Jefferson walked into the studios at Shockoe Bottom Clay (shockoebottomclay.com) in Richmond, Virginia, with a bag of recycled packaging materials and swimming-pool noodles. We laughed—swimming noodles? Now his tip is part of our procedure for packing ceramics to mail out to all of our gallery customers.

Yes, swimming-pool noodles, those hollow foam tubes the kids use all summer long, are a great tool for packing. They are inexpensive and stand up to the most rigorous handling, protecting ceramic objects from compression within the package. We like to collect discarded foam noodles at the end of the summer or you can find them at the local discount store for under $1. This is how it works:

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On a clean, flat surface, gather swimming noodles, an X-Acto knife or utility blade, and shrink wrap. Cut each noodle into 2–3 inch wide sections (1). Split each section open (from an O shape to a C shape) using the knife (2). Gently place noodle pieces over rims, handles, and decorations on ceramic vessels (3).

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1-4 Photos: Packing Seth Guzovksy’s jar with swimming-pool noodles.

Secure the noodles by wrapping them with shrink wrap (4). The shrink wrap prevents the padding from shifting during shipment and creates additional air pockets that will help protect the ceramic piece if it encounters sudden compression. We prefer to use shrink wrap as opposed to packing tape because it is quick to apply, less expensive ($0.006 per foot versus $0.07 per foot), and keeps everything in place without adhesive.

Now you are ready to place the vessel in a strong box filled with foam or other shock-absorbing material. Happy packing!

**First published in 2019.