Sunday, June 16, 2013

Moving a Ceramic and other Art Studios

Some of you may know that I recently moved from Lexington KY to Western NY. I covered much of this - mostly the arrival part - in posts on my blog. What I did not go into before is the level of coordination and planning that went into the most critical part of the move: my ceramic studio.

My studio consists of, well, multiple studios:
1) The pottery studio: includes a few hundred pounds of clay, umpteen buckets of glazes, my spray booth and air compressor for spraying glazes, slab roller, pottery wheel, plaster batts and lots and lots of tools. I also have 2 large kilns, one electric and one gas, and a small kiln for metal clay and ceramics test firing. These items pretty much filled my 2 car garage.
2) The ceramic and metal clay bead studio was housed in an upstairs bonus room and included numerous small pint jars of glaze, tools for metal work, tools and numerous bins for storage of both bisque and glazed beads. It also included my shipping desk.
3) The jewelry and metal work studio includes lots of hammers, pliers, wire, sheet metal, patina, torches, soldering equipment, drilling and polishing tools, chain and stringing supplies, and my collection of beads beads beads (!).
3) The Illustration and painting studio consisted of easels and drafting board, lots and lots of paint, paint brushes, airbrushes and compressor, drawing flat file units and other tools and equipment.

All THIS, had to fit into one 26 foot truck!
Studios at KY Location

The most critical goal was to get the the ceramic and bead studios (items 1 and 2) moved as efficiently as possible to avoid any down time in my transition from KY to NY. We rented a large 26 foot truck specifically for this part of the move. My husband Don flew in from NY to help load it, then drive it to NY to temporary studio spaces we planned to use while waiting for a new studio building to be completed.

This was tricky because we did not have enough space in any single location for the entire ceramic studio. So we arranged to divide it up, with items to be off-loaded in 3 locations; some at our cabin, some at "Poppy's house" the farm house where Poppy lived before he passed away in March at the age of 92 - we are renting temporary space here for storage and to operate my kilns), and the sugar shack - where poppy used to make maple syrup. Since I was to remain behind in KY for an extra week to oversee the loading of a second truck of household items, it was important that I give Don instructions for his arrival in NY. I created a list:

Items to be off-loaded per the following:
1. To be off-loaded at the CABIN:
A)  BOXES Labeled:
L-shape desk
30x60 table
White drawer unit 
Drafting Stool
2. To be off-loaded at POPPY'S HOUSE:
B) BOXES Labeled:
3. To be stored in the SUGAR SHACK:
A)  BOXES Labeled:
"CLAY" (may not be labeled - you can tell by the weight!)
C) LARGE WIRE SHELVES: you can put the clay on these.
D) BOXES Labeled "air guns" or other misc. tools.
E) MISC. tools, carts, tables, large shelves, backdrops, etc.

You may notice here that nothing is mentioned about the household and personal items part of the move. They all went onto truck #2, which will be in storage for the summer.

Some tips: 
  • When dis-assembling furniture or other items with parts and screws, etc.: TAPE the extra parts to the dis-assembled furniture (such as to the underside of a table top).  Wrap the entire unit with all pieces, parts, etc., with a moving blanket or large moving plastic-wrap. The latter is wonderful! It is like using a giant roll of tape without the stickiness. It is very strong but stretches slightly to hold things snuggly together. Wrap it round several times - about 3 - 5 wraps.
  • Packing Paper - use LOTS of packing paper to wrap, cushion, and pad individual items. You can wrap up loose items that are in open boxes, bowls and trays with several sheets of paper - wrap each up into a bundle, tape to secure, then pack them into a box. This saves TONS of time. No need to try to organize and pack little individual items (like beads in a tray for example), just bundle the entire (tray) up with paper and tape! Mark each bundle "top" so that when you unpack it you know which open side is "up" to avoid having everything spill out.
  • For glass and ceramic beads: no way around this, add a bit of tissue into the top of each bead bin in your trays to avoid breakage during the move. Things get rattled around in a large truck so it is important to take this extra precaution. Nothing fancy needed - just tear off bits of tissue from a roll of paper towels or toilet paper - keep it simple.
  • LABEL everything!!! I cannot stress this enough. You may think you will remember what when into what box, but trust me, after moving across several states over 2 weeks time, you will not remember. Be as precise as time allows. Your future self will thank you! I am still a bit mad at my past self over not labeling several items well enough. For example: I had about 20 boxes labeled "Workbench". I really needed to add: "Metal", Hammers", "Pliers", "Patina", etc. You get the idea.
  • Finally: take time for breaks and REST whenever you can. Moving a large studio is a daunting process. I was fortunate to be able to hire moving help for much of it. Even with this help I was exhausted for days at a time.


So off Don went with the first truck to NY. The following week, after the second truck was loaded (this was a professional moving service so they drove the truck to a storage facility once it was ready to go), I took off with my dog Casey for the trip north. We made one overnight stop in Ohio at a hotel to rest; a hotel room with two double beds, Casey was in one and I was in the other. Then, arrival. SO wonderful to be finally here for GOOD. Casey was excited to arrive.


Thanks to Don, I was able to get my studio set up and was ready to work within a week!

I've been making lots of stuff, and photographing stuff I made while working in KY.

And now, I am planning the next phase: the construction of the new studio building HERE...

...and dreaming of new things to create... :)


  1. You have it down to a science! Good tip about taping hardware to disassembled furniture--you'd never know which went with which later! You have quite the extensive setup! A spray booth even! You must be so glad it's done and you're settling in. I've moved a lot (although with a minimal amount of stuff--nothing like you had to do), and to kind of double up on space and avoid having to use so much paper I wrapped a lot of stuff with my own clothing, bath towels and blankets and quilts and such. I shipped 24 boxes home on Amtrak once and almost everything was wrapped in my winter clothing (it was August) and blankets--no breakage! Socks in particular make excellent protective wrap for small breakable things.

    1. Great advice about using clothing and blankets to wrap things for moving. I've done that too - tho in this case there was simply not enough! lol. Being an air force brat, I am used to moving - but its never easy. Gotta try to laugh your way through it.

  2. Great tips! Love you photos, too - puts things into perspective that's for sure! The space for your new studio looks amazing - gorgeous green everywhere!!

  3. Wow. Karen - hats off to you for maintaining your sanity. I moved cross country twice in a year. ( Plans changed... sigh) and it was epic. That was before the kiln and all the glazes... I hope you are enjoying the calm and dreaming lots!

  4. I admire your organizational skills. Thanks for this post. I got to read about my two favorite things at once - beads and organizing.


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