Monday, March 19, 2012

KawaKon Review for Artists

Well, the weekend is over and I'm finally back! I figured it might be useful to share some information on how the weekend went for future artists and attendees who are on the fence about whether to attend next year.

I've been an artist at Kawa two years now and I have to admit my experience has been consistent so far.

Dealer/Artist Space: Good, bad, but not too ugly.

Vendors and artists are put into the same room, which can be both a blessing and a disaster. The artists are generally lumped together, although a few get stranded into "open spaces" between vendors or backed into corners. The good thing is the vendors will draw a lot of attendees into the shopping space. The bad thing is the artists are almost always overshadows by the gigantic vendor displays.

The table setup this year was also strange. The shape of the room was all sorts of wacked out and some tables ended up getting bumped so close together that one you couldn't even reach a few artists because a table was literally blocking them off. Of course, the hotel also misinformed KawaKon staff about the exact size of the space, which made things even more cramped. The room is also completed removed from the convention, like last year. You really have to go out of your way to get to the dealers/artists room. On the good side, the room is locked and secured each night so there's no need to take down each evening. With all the tiny jewelry I have, this is a blessing.

The hotel was very nice and the hotel staff are the best. I love the Sheraton.

Variety: My Shopping Paradise

For smaller conventions, KawaKon has a fantastic variety of artists and vendors. This might not seem so important until you hit a con where half the artists are making the same thing. They say they are first come first served but somehow always manage a good variety. There was amigurumi, plenty of print artists, jewelry, weapons, props, knick knacks, bodices and even a licensed masseuse (she's fantastic). A lot of the variety was likely due to the fact that KawaKon's programming is not your typical anime convention blurb. There were steampunk designers, comic-con and Ren-fair sellers. All sorts of great shopping and did I mention a masseuse?

Sales and Attendees: Slow and painful

I noticed last year that KawaKon had a snippier crowd attending. Not like everyone was a shrieking brat, but you get quite a few who are downright rude. It might have to do with a younger crowd. I'd say most attendees were 14 to 20. There was a lot of unnecessary commenting from quite a few bad apples. However, a majority of the crowd is just there to have a good time and they do.

With a younger crowd and the fact that this convention is followed by Anime St. Louis, there's less spending going on. A majority of the artists I talked to didn't break even last year and this year and most don't come back for a second time. Only 3 or 4 of the artists last year came back, myself included. I was also surprised by how many people said, "Will you be at ASTL? I'll buy from you there." or "I'm saving my money for ASTL." This may be bad thing if you are not planning on attending ASTL.

Staff Attitudes: You Have to be Kidding Me

Now this one is a biggie for me. There's nothing more frustrating than going to a convention where the staff are unprofessional. And this is what got me about KawaKon. Last year and this year I ran into a lot of problems with staff and volunteers being extremely rude to me, other artists, and attendees. I'm not saying it's all of them, but I got into a few rough spots with half a dozen staff and volunteers that really were unnecessary.

The email sent to artists (3 days before the convention, might I add), announced that the dealers and artists room would be open to the general public a.k.a. free to enter. We were having a conversation with a couple of guys interested in the survival bracelets at our table when a girl interrupted and told them they had to "get out" because they didn't have badges. I stopped her and explained to her about the email, which was confirmed. I don't blame her for not knowing. It's not necessarily her fault for not knowing every little detail, but the rudeness she presented was uncalled for. Several other times I was demanded to show my badge in the artist alley by different staff and volunteers for the same reason and I finally got fed up and stopped responding to them.

Saturday night, I was in the middle of a sale with a small group of kids. It was maybe 3 minutes past closing by they were literally holding my jewelry and pulling out their wallets when a staff member said, "I already called closing. You need to get out of here NOW." Really? REALLY? It's really not that hard to say, "Hey we're closed can you please wrap it up?"

Same night, as we were throwing a cloth over the table to cover up, another staff member snapped at us to hurry up and get out so hotel staff could close up. I thought she was hotel staff until I saw her con staff badge but I never saw her after that. She also only snapped at us and not the dozens of other artists and dealers still wrapping up. Ridiculous. I don't understand the power trip that some of the people go through, especially when they don't have their facts straight.

I would like to say that there were also tons of very nice, laid back staff members, especially the security guys. If only everyone could be like that.

So should you attend KawaKon2013? That's up to you. If you can do your own thing and understand that it's not a guaranteed money maker as well as get over some of the rude staff, it's fun to go. The convention itself is pretty different and neat. If you're just looking to rake in the cash, you might want to look elsewhere. The tables and artist badges are a bit pricey to risk not breaking even. It's a slower show than some so go for the fun.

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