Fancy Freight. 1604 Washington Plaza West, Reston. 435-2861.
You've just bought a china vase to ship to Aunt Myrtle in Mineola and shudder to leave it with the heavy hand of a crating service. Instead, you happily discover the sensitive hand of Pat Jautz, whose Fancy Freight firm specializes in packing everything from "the most delicate to the ungainly" for shipping anywhere. Jautz's schooling in sculpture has given her a unique insight into the problems of packing. She treats each object as a sculptor forming a sculpture. "I start with the item and start building it up . . . to encase it like a cocoon and then construct the outer carton around it," she explains. Part of Jautz's secret is her improvisation with packing materials. "Sometimes when they open the box, they find interesting things inside," she laughs, referring to her use of odds and ends, like bunched-up paper towels, for insulation. Jautz prides herself on being able to pack just about anything for shipping, drawing on her experience with everything from stereos to tow bars (no pianos, please). Her crowning touch is gift wrapping, which costs from $1.10 to $5. She charges a minimum of $2 for packing, an average of $10 to $15, and will handle all shipping arrangements for an extra charge. Ship early for the holidays, she urges.