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Monday, February 24, 2014

Read this Before Traveling with Pastels!

'Southwest Dreaming'           2.5 x 3.5         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
 I knew it was coming.  As I watched my backpack go through the scanner at the security gate I just knew it would be flagged. It usually is.  Evidently a box of pastels looks just like a box of ammunition on the X-ray screen. I would say that my backpack with my pastel box is flagged for inspection about 95% of the times I go through security.

But this time I learned something new and it just may save me time in the future. 

The mini pastels I painted on my cruise

I really don't mind getting flagged at the security checkpoint. The agents are doing their job to keep travel safe. But it is sometimes a pain because security agents usually don't know about pastels. They might open your pastel box upside town. Imagine the mess of careless handling and repacking!  You are not allowed to handle your bag as it is being inspected and some agents even get huffy if you try to explain about handling the pastels. (I have learned this the hard way)

On this past trip I went through security at the cruise ship terminal and as usual my backpack was flagged for inspection. Curiously though the same bag went through airport security 4 times in January without being flagged. I think I figured out why and it will change the way I pack my pastels.

On the cruise I packed an extra box of Holbein hard pastels which I had carefully lined up in the box to make a better fit.  This was the box that security was most interested in!  This box looked like a box of bullets.  The 'messy' box of pastels where they were all different sizes and NOT lined up passed through without a problem. (the agent actually took each box put and ran it through X-ray separately so she wouldn't have to go through my entire backpack) See the photo below.

The top box was not as suspicious as the bottom right box
So from now on I will try to pack a bit differently. I always carry on my pastels. 
  • I will NOT line up my pastels perfectly. I will bring an assortment of shapes and sizes like the top box in the photo.
  • I am going to try to take the pastel kit with the boxes of pastels out of the backpack and put them through security in a separate bin. This way if it looks suspicious to the agent they will only need to inspect the pastel box and not the entire contents of my backpack. I'll let you know how this works after my next flight.
  • I will put a note on the box with handling instructions in case I get an agent who won't allow me to speak (it has happened!)
  • I usually don't put pastels in any checked bag but if I do I will double wrap them in bubble wrap in a large ziploc bag with handling instructions prominently displayed.

'Desert Dreams I'     2.5x3.5   pastel   $15 buy here

'Desert Dreams II'         2.5x3.5        pastel  $15 buy here

'Desert Dreams III'         2.5 x 3.5   pastel sold

'Desert Dreams IV'          2.5x3.5        pastel    $15  buy here

Today's post includes a few of the mini pastels I painted on my cruise. I will be posting more this week as well as listing them in my Etsy shop. They are available for purchase in my shop for $15 each. Visit my shop here


Michael Chesley Johnson PSA MPAC said...

Great tips, Karen! I've gone through airport security many times with my pastels and have never had my Heilman box opened - yet. The pastels in that aren't arranged like bullets in a bandelier, but randomly, so maybe that's why.

Karen said...

I think that may be the key! I would be interested in hearing from others on their experience with getting their boxes opened!

cindy michaud said...

I have been afraid of traveling with pastels so usually take oil or acrylic and check them with MSDS sheets on top. Thrilled to get these tips on traveling with pastel. May try next trip. thanks.

Nancy L. Vance said...

I had my Heilman opened while leaving Albuquerque last spring. They weren't all lined up or the same size. They were all very nice about it, but I told them expect many more pastel for the convention! lol

echo keller said...

I was traveling back from IAPS one year and had pastels in my carry on and my suitcase.The security man did not read what was printed on the box,but had to inspect the large size pastels by taking apart the plastic container. Once he saw them,he tried to close it up quickly,and it would not close,so he let me close it. When I arrived home,I found that my suitcase had been opened,and my box of pastels had been opened,and not closed securely! There was red and green pastel all over my clothing! The large size pastels were in tiny pieces.

Casey Klahn said...

Terrific mini pastels! Very simple and bright!

I like your ideas, esp. @ randomness and about separating the boxes from the bag. Not sure I can accomplish that, but I'll be thinking @ it.

A note: they aren't thinking they look like bullets. My military background informs me that a bomb can be a series of small plastics in a series. My sense is they look exactly like a bomb: a box of small, plastic-like rolls all in a neat series. It would be a huge riot to mistakenly put a bit of electrical cord in there, wouldn't it?

I get flagged about %70 of the time, and they almost always open the box, then. I am allowed to stand by to consult on the opening and closing, and only once did a tiny Roche pastel stick to the foam in the lid and I lost that stick at the inspection.

My worst event is the small puddle jumper that goes from Spokane to Seattle requires me to curb check the pastels that I usually carry on. The bags get handled by luggage apes, then.

Karen said...

Thanks for sharing your stories! I heard from a friend flying home from the last IAPS that many people had their boxes opened even though they knew people were coming from a pastel convention.

Casey thanks for clearing that up about the pastels looking like a bomb. The agent told me it looked like bullets but your description sounds more likely.

Pattie Wall said...

I have traveled with my oils, but never my pastels. I know they go through your check-in luggage and they have been known to touch my wet oil paintings. Thanks for the heads-up and I can definitely understand why they do what they do.Best idea to carry-on, after seeing that they open them in your check-in luggage and might not put them back together well enough to stay off of your clothes and belongings there. In the meantime I am saving all my little pastel boxes from the stores.

Adrianne Kinnear said...

I also travel with a Heilmann box (from Australia to Europe and IAPS) and it was only inspected once at Heathrow and I was allowed to demonstrate how to open it safely. I always remove it from my backpack and place it separately in a tray. It seems to help.

Anonymous said...

This piece of information, and your fabulous looking travel kit on a previous post, are so timely...and so helpful Karen! i'm heading to Cuba in a few weeks and will take your advice :)

robertsloan2art said...

This is a natural problem for security people and communications. Thanks for the pointers on packing them. I didn't realize any orderly packing would tend to look more like parts for a bomb.

I don't fly if I can help it. When I moved to San Francisco, I got waved through with a lot of assistance because I was in a wheelchair, but I was really nervous about my Dakota Traveller and what they might do to that looking through my carry on.

I also had to empty out all of my water brushes on account of their liquids problem. Those are usually what I keep in my vest pockets for take-along plein air on even the shortest trips out of the house, so I'd forgotten about them. Arrgh. I hate flying!