Project Update: A Universal Feeling

It’s been an amazing 5 months of work on A Universal Feeling!  January through March were heavy on the initial creation of the six expressions of emotion. The last two months have been a heavy lift—with many volunteers—of creating the iterations of the masks in papier-mâché.

Throughout the making process, I also had to stagger the shipping process to ensure everyone would get their mask at the right time. The process began, naively enough, with heading to a local shipping franchise. And I learned some things.

Lesson 1: Shipping is calculated not only based on weight, but on dimensions. Nothing too surprising there. They have to account for how much space a thing takes up when sending it to destinations around the world.

Lesson 2:  Size matters. A roughly 12” cube package, weighing less than 1.5 pounds, will still be charged as weighing 8 pounds.  A little surprising.

Lesson 3:  Two identical packages traveling to different locations will be charged differently. Of course. But while the shipping cost may vary by a few dollars between domestic locations (say roughly $24 one way to Arizona and $33 one way to New York City) that shipping cost will explode when leaving the country… up to 10 times as much! One way! For the same exact object and service!

Lesson 4:  Learn where your research and budget have shortcomings. Strategize to fix.

Lesson 5:  Ask for help when you need it. It turns out I already know some people with experience with shipping art internationally. They can advise on how to find the right price.

Lesson 6: Membership has privileges. While investigating the benefits of creating an account with a shipping company, you may be informed that you will be eligible for discounts of up to 45% off!! Hello, affordability!

Lesson 7: Pay to Play. When the shipping company learns you may not be shipping at a predictable and consistent volume, but are instead working on a large art project, they may not actually follow through with setting up an account.

Lesson 8: When time is running short, you may need to bite the bullet. Those masks have got to get to the people, and a little thing like cost can’t get in the way. Just reshuffle that budget, take a pay cut, and make it happen.

Lesson 9:   Surprise is, by definition, surprising. Expect surprises anyway. Like when import taxes are charged despite begin the package being under a de minimis value. Or like when VAT charges are assessed because you have sent a “gift” even though you made it clear in customs paperwork that it was not a “gift”. Or like when you assume you have just prepaid to have a package sent a to  the person to whom you addressed it, there may be an office who informs you that you have essentially only paid to send it to the country (or if lucky, to the city) of the recipient and they will be expected to pay a “handling charge” to have it delivered to their house.

Lesson 10: Ask for help when you need it (reprise).

Lesson 11:  Remember that every experience is new information, and the wise person learns from it. And also, record all your experiences so that your future self knows what questions to ask when attempting a large international collaboration. 🙂

Lesson 12: Gratitude is key. There are so many wonderful collaborators, generous financial supporters, and emotionally supportive friends who keep this wheel turning with enthusiasm, curiosity and humor. Totally worth it.

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