So what about the DIY title? Well, sometimes you just have to do it yourself. I am referring to my painting being stuck at customs. After several days of letting the various channels sort things out, I wasn't happy with the results so I decided to see what I could learn and accomplish. I was determined to make something happen and after three hours on the phone yesterday morning I am happy to report that as I type this, my painting is now back on a truck heading down Interstate 81.
If you are curious as to what happened, I shall tell a bit of the saga. If you would rather, skip down and see the posies.
I started off with the UPS store owner in Ottawa as I shipped my painting from there. Officially, he is the shipper and he is the one who finalized the customs documents etc. that I filled out. He wasn't interested in helping me. So I started calling a 1 800 UPS number in Canada as well as the US. Their information wasn't much more detailed than what was showing on-line. It appeared that my painting was being held by customs "awaiting a special examination". No one could tell me what that might mean. The US representative told me that my Ottawa dude "had" to help me and it was up to him to contact customs on my behalf. I went back to him but I wasn't convinced that he was motivated to help me and at this point, I didn't want lame emails sent. I wanted action NOW. So I took matters into my own hands and I started my search to locate the phone number for the customs warehouse in Plattsburg New York. They don't publish these phone numbers as they don't want people like myself calling the warehouses directly. Thank goodness for my great long distance plan. After calling all over and telling my story for the umpteenth time, I finally was given the number for the warehouse!
At the warehouse I encountered a wonderful man named Mr. Lehman. He actually listened to my story. He was a bit perplexed as to why I was calling him directly but I was able to convince him that UPS was not interested in being my customs broker, at least not in a manner that was acceptable to me. Next, he did the unthinkable - he offered to search the warehouse to find my package. We had no corresponding numbers or codes but he went off anyway. I could have hugged and kissed him. When I called him back after fifteen minutes he happily reported that he had found a woman who knew what had happened and he could let me talk to her. Again, I could have kissed him. After more than two hours on the phone, I was now going to talk to an actual customs officer who was in the same warehouse as my painting and who had my paperwork in front of her! Yippee. Now it was time for the nitty gritty.
So here is the what happened... A 'formal entry team' randomly selected my package from the customs line up in order to check my paper work. They ended up disputing the value I placed on the painting. Apparently I had priced my art too low! Now let me interject that Canadian art work is exempt from duty and the value shouldn't be important. Add to this, the painting was entering the country for the sole purpose of an exhibition following which it was being shipped back to the original owner in Canada. I included pages of documents in the shipment that testified to these facts. The painting was for exhibit only and not for sale. I had even included the International Harmonized Code that was developed so goods could more freely between industrialized countries. Ha! Since they had determined that I wasn't being completely honest in my paperwork, my painting was on hold and would eventually be sent to another building where the UPS broker would then have to start communicating with me to obtain new documents from me here in Ottawa before the painting would be released. This was going to take weeks. She kept insisting that this was what was going to have to happen. I kept her talking. Short of hanging up on me, I was determined that she would give me a better option.
I finally found out that they had determined that my painting was valued at $1800.00. I told her this wasn't correct and I kept asking questions. Finally she revealed that someone had "looked on-line". You mean all of this was because someone came up with a number from a website that wasn't even mine?!? I told her to look at my website as I didn't even have prices on my gallery page where the Chard painting appears. Finally after much discussion of my limited options this wonderful lady relented. She even came around to the point that she agreed to physically take my package to the place where it would be cleared and she would sign off on it herself as the new documents required my signature! Hallelujah!!! And that is what she did. After almost a week in customs, (and other than my conversation there would have been no end in sight), my painting was finally released from hold and it entered back into the system. It went onto a truck last night and is in-transit now. A lot may happen yet to derail things but at least now I have a chance of my painting making it to Atlanta in time.
Time for a peony break...
To be really clear, the CPSA International Exhibition does allow paintings to be for sale. When I submitted my digital files for jurying, I had to declare whether or not the paintings being viewed would be for sale. As less than 10% of the paintings sell I decided to list the painting as Not For Sale as it would make it easier to set up the return shipping from here before the painting went.
So why is the exhibition so important? Actually it isn't, with one big exception - one cannot get CPSA signature status from being juried in alone. The painting actually has to hang in the exhibition. Also, you need to be accepted into the International Exhibition three times over a 10 year period. With over 700 entries and only 120 painting being chosen, the competition is stiff and the odds are stacked against you. I was accepted last year (and my painting made it to Seattle!) and I don't want to forfeit this acceptance by having my painting stuck in customs due to some wonky bean counting! If I go down, as it were, it won't be without a fight. The exhibition rule is that the final date for receiving our paintings is Wednesday. No late paintings are accepted. Now it is time for UPS to do what they do best - quickly and efficiently ship packages across the continent. Right now I am just glad my painting has cleared and is on a truck.
On that cautiously optimist note, here is another peony. I have several peony plants and they are all at their peak right now. Absolutely gorgeous. My rose work in progress is almost finished and I shall have a final image next week. Tomorrow I teach again. Where did the week go? Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for all of your concern and well wishes regarding my shipping woes. I appreciate it!