The passion and creativity that you surround yourself in and exert every day into your business will help you tackle even the most logistical problems that you will have to confront.
It’s March 18th and the pink sky dances as the sun is coming down on a cold Orangeville, Ontario evening. We’ve been working all day; I’m tired, hungry and trying to calculate how many hours of sunlight I have left before the night creeps in. We’re in the middle of the forest, loading sections of a large-scale sculpture that’ll be exhibited in Union Station in a matter of days.
It’s by far my largest project that I have been working on out of a friend’s garage and workshop on a large property. I stare at the tree line in the distance then turn my sight towards the workshop behind me. My technician, looking just as tired as me, looks down at a series of prefabricated wooden modules. I inhale then exhale deeply, I can see my breath.
“How long are the modules again?” I ask.
“Fourteen feet,” he responds.
“And how long is the truck again?”
So why don’t the modules fit? I went over all the details and looked at the specs of the truck and there it was hidden in plain sight. 13 feet box, 2 feet mothers cabin. Right then and there, I learned the mothers cabin is the area above a truck’s cabin head. Now how are we going to get this to Toronto? How could we make such a mistake? With the sun setting and time winding down, I began to think of the mess I was in when it suddenly dawned on me: we are not in the art business, we are in the logistics business.
This was a monumental artistic undertaking, literally. Just two months before (working on this same project), my studio coordinator daringly placed an order for 2400 train porter hats to come in from Albany, New York. Seemingly a bizarre order, the supplier initially didn’t respond because they thought a prank was being pulled on them, like we were phoning in a fake pizza delivery. We communicated that the order was time sensitive and that a lot was depending on their timeliness. Staring down the barrel of the COVID-19 lockdown and unforeseen border restrictions, I waited 9 long days with minimal to no response from the supplier or the shipping company. It was torture. I felt like my work was in jeopardy and more importantly that I was about to let people down.
I woke up with calls and emails from curators and coordinators inquiring on status updates, and I relayed any worthwhile information I had. Yet, just as it appeared all hope was lost, a phone call from a soft spoken employee confirming my order let me sleep easy for the first time in a week.
So what could be learned from all this? Do all great artists and their studios have to go through this or was this just the problem of an emerging artist? I did some research and the answer was simple. It’s a universal issue.
Crating, packaging, shipping and warehousing are the key logistical considerations for any artist or creator to consider after the creation of something. There’s a harmonious balance of things that have to go right to complete a project, and through a few crash courses, I can now list the most important things you can do to help you avoid some pitfalls:
- Identify your timeline then cut it down by 1/4: Of course, you need to know the hard deadlines of your deliverables, but if you plan to have it done early, you’ll be better off. Something is bound to go wrong, so you need to have the cushion to make sure you can deliver on time. Look at it like you’re setting your clock 10 minutes ahead.
- Measure twice order once: When dealing with any physical product, knowing your dimensions are critical. In the case of logistics: time, space and weight is money. Know exactly what you need to transport your product, or you risk overpaying for it in the long run.
- Proper packaging matters: Spend the extra money if you have to, but nothing matters more than what you are seeking to deliver. You owe it to yourself and those you work with that everything arrives as expected. Don’t let your hard work go to waste.
- Communication is key: It’s all about the relationship you develop with the team handling your logistics. They understand deadlines and communicating your specific needs will allow them to make suggestions that’ll help you deliver your work. If you keep the lines of communication open, they will be more open and accountable to you. Treat them well and they will treat you well.
- You need experience and professionalism: Everyone has an uncle or cousin that can help them deliver on a job. You have to remember that your logistics team (big or small) is an extension of your work and your business. It’s important that you find professionals who treat it as such.
- Research: Make sure you thoroughly do your research on who’s handling your work. Make sure they have the resources and necessary equipment to handle your order. Not all companies are created equal.
- Follow Up: Keep track of your work and inventory on what has been delivered. If you’re not meeting the work being delivered at the location, ask for a quality check. Anything with your name on it is a representation of you.
Back to the modulars that were too large to fit into the truck, it turns out fitting them on an angle was the only option. I learned then that it’s equally as important to be as creative in your solutions as you are in your professional practice. Delivering your work is like conducting an orchestra, and you alone are the conductor waving your baton around. The secret to having a beautiful symphony is having the right musicians that can deliver your work the way you want it.
About the Author
Jordan Sook is a contemporary mixed media artist who works and resides in Toronto, Canada. Beginning his artistic career in 2015, he has since exhibited work throughout Canada in various shows, notably Union Station, Toronto (2021), Vancouver Convention Centre, Vancouver (2020) and The MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie (2017). His body of work ranges from acrylic paintings to sculptures and installations of recontextualized themes in pop culture. Sook’s distinctive personal style emanates youth and playfulness through colour, line, and form. His body of work invites us to view the world from a subjective innocence, as we experience a recollection of joyfulness and optimism relating to human infancy. Sook looks to change the landscape of Canadian art and broaden the framework and understanding of Black art as a whole.
Sook’s latest installation titled Harvest (2021) was held at the Toronto Media Arts Centre. The work explores sustainable placemaking, representation, and the future of media arts and technology among the creative space.