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Artists, and the Tyranny of Distance

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Wiki-Knowledge-article-icon Ah, "The Tyranny of Distance".  While many are the readers who are likely to have read, distant-australian-artists or at least heard of, Geoffrey Blainey's eponymous 1966 history book,  just as many may not be familiar with the book title's subjective, relative  meanings, or its nuances and varied, variable contexts.  And these can be many.  Yet the fulcrum upon which all these tyrannical propositions operate is the sum of  the difficulties and disadvantages posed by Australia's, geographical, long distances.   We could, for instance, in today's discussions about energy, posit that neither the Northern Territory, nor Western Australia, will ever able to cooperate  and economically participate in Australia's National  Energy Market.  And this is largely because the costs of interconnections and energy transmissions would be unaffordable and prohibitive, even for governments.

If we were to apply the same proposition to equity of health care, we might also opine that older Australians in country and remote areas, statistically and proportionately receive lesser quality of health care simply because rural hospitals cannot be easily, it at all, bypassed. Additionally, medical specialists aren't as often, or as available, as in city areas. Emergency and ambulance response times are also longer and fraught with more disruptions.

A common theme recurring while discussing the tyranny of distance this made Australians dubious and uncertain of their economic success and well being owing to their remoteness from mother England and as well as our other Anglophone, overseas neighbours such as the United States and Canada.

And while there's certainly a somewhat rhetorical  truth in this pithy statement, it nevertheless never does nothing towards addressing the problem, providing a solution, or conquering our distances.

Undesirable states of affairs,  such conundrums, or tyrannies, for that matter, can often be remedied by positive, collaborative social changes such as inventions and solutions.

Out past trade history provides and a notable example. Way back in the 1850's, Australia Felix's  pastoralists spawned vast and great beef, meat and mutton empires which found willing markets in Europe, Asia and the United States. Alas, it had no means of keeping these comestible cargoes from spoiling or rotting during the long sea voyages. Serendipitously, with necessity, being the mother of invention, refrigeration was invented. Problem solved, prosperity beckoned.

To put all this in a nutshell, it's hard,  expensive and time consuming to get anything done when the stuff do be done is far, far, far away from us !

And so it is in delivering parcels to artists living in remote locations!

Many artists find the picture frames for sale in our online store quite desirable, both in terms of price and in terms of quality.  By way of a pricing comparison, the ready-made picture frames and poster frames available here can be as much as 5 or 10 times cheaper than custom frames.  A good example of popular pictureframes is our excellent quality, 12"x18' black wood poster frame with clear glass shown below:

12x18-black-wooden-frame-with-clear-glassGranted, a custom frame is usually of better quality than ready-made picture frames, but as the difference is largely cosmetic, not readily visible, or evident, nor quickly discernible by the eye, it small wander that the majority of artists choose to buy off-the-shelf picture frames for their artwork.

Alas, many artists reside, dwell or work in somewhat, off-the-beaten track, country, rural or even remote locations. And here's the problem, because servicing Customer in these locations can be, and often is, awfully, frightfully expensive.

The subject of shipping costs is a scabrous one.  Many Customers are used to receiving relatively economical Australia Post parcels, however it is not generally known that statutory postal services to country, rural and even remote locations are cross-subisidized. A cross-subsidy is when funds or profits from other areas are used to cover a loss incurred in the supply of another service. In other words, the postage  paid by a sender to send a letter, satchel or parcel via Australia Post often may not reflect the true cost of sending an item.

Here's a quick example.  At the time of writing, to ship, post, or send, a  (500g) large letter, or satchel, via Australia Post, from Moorabbin 3189 to Thursday Island 4875, ( next door to Indonesia ) costs the sender a paltry, $6, see below:


The same 500 grams satchel or letter, priced through a well known Australian freight broker, yields vastly different and higher pricing. The lowest cost is about 26 times more expensive, with only  a few, of the many freight companies available, willing or able to provide a freight quotation, and as shown below:


This huge pricing disparity between shippers begs an important question,  what then, is the true cost of shipping an items from one postcode to the other ?  Is it really around $6?  Who on earth could or would deliver something, or anything for that matter, from Melbourne to Thursday Island, which is about 3,040 kilometres by air, and much father by road, for $6?

Common senses dictates that it is not humanly possible to do this for the price of a cappuccino and that the actual, true cost of  that delivery must be far higher.

Therein lies the rub. Many are the artists, painters, photographers, sculptors and other creative souls who live in remote, idyllic even, off-the-beaten track locations which can be very expensive to ship to.  When Customers order online on this site, they are presented with a Shipping Cost calculator which they can use to calculate the freight costs to all Australian postcodes.

Pricing is shown for all metropolitan and country postcodes, however if a delivery address is in the "bush" or in locations deemed and priced by the Couriers as "remote",  shipping to some of these places can cost as much as $100, even for a small, 5 kilograms parcel.

Occasionally someone will phone or email us complaining about shipping costs, particularly when it is a low-value order of around $30 which may generates a $100 shipping cost is it is to be shipped to some remote or far away town in,   say, the Western Australia outback, for instance

Unfortunately there's not much we can do about a high shipping cost.  If, for instance, a resident artist at, say, the local Art Centre in Bathurst Island, wants a pack a couple of 12"x18" black wooden picture frames , the freight cost will always be much more than the cost of the frames.

Several artists have proposed that we should use the Australia Post parcel service to send their orders to them. However this is not possible for a couple of very good reasons. Firstly, this particular shipping provider prohibits the sending of parcels containing glass in parcels owing to Occupational Health and Safety concerns.

Secondly, parcelled glass is uninsurable, therefore any breakages, damages or losses are borne by us, the sender.  And since nearly all the Customer orders we receive are for  picture frames with glass,  it would mean that we could not claim for almost anything  with Australia Post, thus making this proposition commercially unviable.

Another suggestion we are often offered is that we should change  the glazing of our picture frames from clear glass to Perspex, or with clear plastic glass sheets, and so avoid breakages.   Again this alternative is unworkable because by far the greater majority of Customers prefer clear glass, not plastic, and manufacturing frames with the latter would men losing most of our Customers.

As for locally supplied plastic material, this is not commercially viable since the plastic would end up costing more than the whole frame.  We have written before about the topic of Australian manufacturing being hopelessly and utterly uncompetitive compared to Asian imports, particularly  where homewares such photo frame and picture frames are concerned.

We conclude by observing that while choosing to live in faraway locations, where few people go, far from the madding crowds, if you will, may proffer certain lifestyle advantages and benefits,  these faraway locales can also bring disadvantages and drawbacks.

Thence the tyranny of distance. The destinations are far away, the roads are longer, everything takes more time to arrive and it is more expensive to ship, including our photo frames and picture frames.


1 thought on “Artists, and the Tyranny of Distance

  1. Sadly I confirm the main thrust of this post. It is darn super-expensive to get anything in out out of my small village of Kuranda near the heritage listed rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands. Even with the somewhat relatively cheaper Australia Post service it almost costs an arm and a leg to post a parcel with a small watercolour to, say, Sydney. And then one has to bear, endure and suffer the fawlty-towers cloned, erratic, hit-and-miss and often nightmarish, so-called delivery ( or mis-delivery) services of that shambolic organization.

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