Shipping Pottery? Read this!

When I first started selling pottery online, I was terrified to ship. I did have a few things break in transit and I learned a whole lot more about that process than I wanted to. Here are the tips I can give you on shipping your stuff! Lets do this in a Q&A Style…

  • How do you ship?
  • Where do you get your boxes?
  • Where do you get your packing supplies and what’s best to use?
  • How do you price your shipping?
  • Why don’t you include shipping charges in your prices?
  • Do you fool with shipping insurance?
  • How do you actually package the items so they don’t break in transit?

How do you ship?

I ship using USPS when I can, unless a customer specifically requests me to use something else. It’s local, it’s fairly inexpensive and it does the job.

Where do you get your boxes?

I get my boxes from USPS website. You can order “free supplies” from there, and they work great. I use Priority Mail Box 7 for larger items, like platters and vases. It’s 12x12x8 and can fit a lot in it. I use Priority Mail Box 4 for mugs and multiple small things like critters or spoon rests. Some of my small vases will fit cozily in here too. For orders with 2 mugs, I use a Medium Flat Rate box. Be sure that you fold the box the right way if you get the “dual-use” box otherwise it will not be flat rate and you may pay more in shipping. I also purchase boxes on Amazon for specific sizes – like 5x5x5 small shipping boxes for one critter or one spoon rest. I also purchased a large 4×4″ Wooden stamp and an ink pad from to use on my boxes when shipping. Custom boxes from the post office!

Where do you get your packing supplies and what’s best to use?

I, thankfully, get almost all of my shipping supplies from a couple of local stores that save me bags of packing paper, Ranpak (the white paper and cut up brown paper), bubble wrap and peanuts. Personally, I’ve found that I can ship mugs efficiently with almost no plastic. However, I do use peanuts when I’m shipping multiple mugs, or items that I feel like are extra fragile. The compostable peanuts do not work as good as the styrofoam ones. Once they are squished, they don’t bounce back and they can create gaps in the shipping box. For something close by that’ll make it in a couple of days this isn’t a big problem. I’d never ship international with compostable peanuts or paper.

How do you price your shipping?

Thankfully I let the algorithm do it! I do try and weigh my pieces and get a round-a-bout weight for mugs, platters, spoon rests, etc. And it took me a while to figure out shipping boxes and classes on WordPress, but I think I’ve got it sort of figured out now. There are a ton of tutorials that you can find on how to get it set up in whatever online storefront you are using. Etsy is pretty easy to set up, you just write in what size box you’ll ship in and weigh it. I know that a mug will ship at the 2lb weight, comfortably fit in a Priority mail box 4. I’ve shipped enough to know if I ship to the west coast, Alaska or Hawaii it’ll cost me about $15. Midwest, North East about $13, and around the south $10-12. Within the state I can usually get by with about $9. Once you know your items, you’ll get better at knowing what box size and weight to put in your listings.

Why don’t you include shipping charges in your prices?

This is part of why I moved most of my items away from Etsy. I don’t like charging people more than they’ll need to pay for shipping, and I also don’t like losing money for not charging enough. I was having to include a minimum of $15 to all of my prices to cover my shipping fees. Most of my shipping charges aren’t this much and I was tire of having to constantly refund $2 here and $3 there. It was a hassle and didn’t help my sales. I do add in a small percentage on my shipping fees that I charge on my website (rarely is it over $2) to cover the cost of insurance. You can refund buyers if they overpay on shipping by a lot. If the shipping is within $2, I don’t refund. Anything over $2, I return to the customer. That’s stated in my FAQ’s so hopefully people read that before buying!

Do you fool with shipping insurance?

ALWAYS. With Paypal and WooCommerce and USPS you get $50 worth of insurance automatically. Most of my items are already above that price, so I pay a couple of dollars to make sure that the entire purchase amount is covered. Shipping with USPS on Etsy automatically gives you $100 coverage. I’m not sure if sites like ShipStation offer added insurance or not. I’ve had to submit one claim and it was paid within a week.

How do you actually package the items so they don’t break in transit?

When I start to ship a package, I think about the space around the package. If it’s a mug, I want at least 1.5-2″ all around the mug on every side. This will be packed with either brown craft paper, peanuts or bubblewrap. If I’m shipping two mugs, I take cardboard and cut it to fit around the mug and pack it tightly. Sometimes on this I’ll use like a coke box, or cereal box. Just so it doesn’t bump into the other mug in the box during transit. I then package the rest with peanuts. I almost always lay down some packing paper first before peanuts, just to reduce the number of peanuts I’m using. I’d love to be plastic free, but I also make one of one things, and I really don’t need them breaking on their way. If I have to reship constantly, that’s not good for the environment either! I’ll try and make a short video on how I package a single mug vs double mug and make a post about it as well.

Hopefully this has been helpful for you! Let me know if you have a question I didn’t answer and I’ll answer it if I can!