Six Tips for Storing Pottery From Your Gift Shop or Gallery

If you own a small art gallery or gift shop and you run out of display space in your shop, you inevitably may have to put some of your items into storage. Each type of item you store typically requires different techniques to keep it safe. Need to store some pottery? Here are some tips to ensure it doesn't get damaged or worn in commercial storage:

1. Dust the pottery before putting it into storage.

Ideally, before putting any of your pottery into storage, you need to ensure it is as dust free as possible. Dust can cause scratches on pottery -- essentially, if the dust is locked between the pottery and its packaging material, the dust may rub against the pottery as the packaging material moves, causing scratches. Use a microfibre cloth or duster to carefully remove dust.

2. Wrap pottery in muslin or acid-free paper.

Once it's clean, wrap each piece of pottery in a sheet of acid-free paper or muslin. Stay away from cheap paper or newsprint as it has acids which can cause your pottery to start to disintegrate or take on dyes from the paper. Instead, use archival-quality paper or cloth.

3. Cushion pottery with bubble wrap.

A thin sheet of paper or cloth protects your pottery from dust, debris and the fading effects of sunlight, but it does not protect it from breaking. To address that issue, wrap the pottery in bubble wrap. If you cover the entire item in bubble wrap, make sure to leave some gaps in the corners to allow for airflow.

4. Use cardboard or linen boxes.

If you put your pottery into a plastic container, it prevents air from getting to it, and that can trap condensation in the box. Unfortunately, the moisture from condensation may eventually ruin your pottery, as the moisture impregnates the porous pottery causing it to expand and contract in undesirable ways. To avoid that, make sure you use a container that can breathe.

5. Choose a climate controlled storage unit.

When choosing commercial storage for your pottery or other items in your shop's inventory, look for a climate-controlled storage unit. This protects your pottery from the effects of condensation, but it also protects it from salt. Some porous ceramics have soluble salts deep inside of them. If the humidity levels in the storage unit fluctuate too severely, the salts will dissolve and then re-crystalize. As they re-crystalize, they expand in size, and this can cause cracks or other damage to the pottery.

6. Plan for the elements in your area.

Finally, when setting up your storage unit, make sure you plan for the unique weather patterns or climate threats in your area. If you live in an area prone to floods, position all of the boxes of pottery off the ground on shelves to create a buffer if flood waters get into the storage unit. Alternatively, if you live in an area with earthquakes, you need to plan for that threat.

If you place boxes on high shelves, consider anchoring the shelves to the walls of the unit (with permission of the storage facility operator) and strapping the boxes to the walls. That way, if things start shaking, you increase the chances that your boxes won't fall and smash your pottery. Unfortunately, however, you cannot sidestep every disaster, and to make sure your assets are protected, at least from a financial perspective, contact your business insurance provider. Make sure that your inventory is covered by your policy even if it's stored off site, and if not, add extra coverage just in case.

Want more tips on storing pottery or other items in your shop's inventory? Contact a commercial storage expert.