Thursday, August 16, 2012

Natsucon: Review for Artists

Natsucon was my debut several years ago and I gotta admit it has yet to fail me. As you read this review, keep in mind it is intended for artists and does not reflect a large portion of other events at the convention.

Dealer/Artist Space: Plenty of Hall to Go Around

Natsucon has always chosen to keep their artists in the hallway. Years past, it’s been wherever they could put artists but after a small planning disaster that left many artists upset about space last year, they opted to keep all the artists near the front lobby and registration area.

Of course, not having a locked room has both good and bad aplenty. On the good, you pretty much can set up and tear down whenever you want. Even though the convention schedule claims artist alley closed at X o’clock, most artists chose to remain open for at least another half hour to hour for those end of the day sales. Also, there is plenty of space between tables so you never have to walk around anyone else’s space or squeeze between tables. We were given 8’ tables which was nice. Being in the hallway is also nice because the traffic walks by constantly. That and I didn’t have to go anywhere to see all the cosplayers in line for the masquerade.

However, at $90, it was a little pricey for many and almost deterred me. And here comes the bad. With no lockup, you have to tear down every night. For me and all my little jewelry, it’s pretty much a small nightmare every time. Granted I’ve got it down to an art by now but it’s still very inconvenient. Also with all the artists stretched down a long corridor, it was difficult to see any artists around you, let alone chat with them.

Variety: You Can Find Anything

I think it’s safe to say that Natsucon features many “new” artists every year. Maybe not new to the art thing, just new to the area. I always meet the most people in this artist alley. This provides a decent variety of things to pick and choose from. Natsu features more craft and hobby artists than some of the larger conventions but it’s a pretty good variety. Plenty of plushies, amigurumi, jewelry (yay!), prints, bookmarks, Lolita, etc.

If you’re looking for more specialized things, perhaps this isn’t it. I’ve yet to see a dedicated comic artist or specialty artist (for example someone who sells anime props or BJD items) at this show. Perhaps in the future they will start appearing.  Anyway, even for print artists it was a great variety. There were so many different styles and types of work that I really enjoyed my window shopping.

Sales and Attendees: A Pleasant Surprise

Previous years of Natsu’s artist alley have yielded pretty good sales. Usually artists broke even and many made a bit of extra cash. This year pretty much blew my mind. We almost reached our Anime STL record from last year, easily making this the second best show I have ever done. I barely got the chance to leave my table without being called back by my table buddy for a question. It was the same for a lot of the other artists as well. There were so many people in front of tables I didn’t get to say hi to some people until the end of the weekend during tear down!

The attendees this year were fantastic, as usual. I think the timing of this convention is far enough departed from KawaKon and ASTL that people are missing the action and willing to spend a little more to enjoy themselves until the next con in the spring.

Staff Attitudes: Smooth Sailing

The staff were really great. The artist alley director stopped by a few times to see if we needed anything and even gave artists a cookie on Friday. I didn’t get a chance to explore much this time around (busy, busy!) so my interaction with staff was pretty minimal. I would like to note that all the Natsu staff are really level headed and don’t seem to have a power trip like other cons. Very easy to work with and that’s really important. Heck I didn’t even hear a single complaint from any of the attendees either and that’s rare!

I think the only scuffle I had was with a volunteer who was kind of a jerk but almost in a flirty way. I couldn’t even explain it. Well, that’s really got nothing to do with staff so moving on!

Organization was a little quirky because the preliminary schedule online (released just a few days before the convention) didn’t match the final schedule that was never uploaded. We ended up arrived 2 hours early on Saturday. Oh man was I tired. When I emailed with questions though, I got quick replies so that was really nice. Way better than waiting 2 weeks for an obscure answer.

If you’re looking at Natsucon, I’d say go for it. You’re taking a risk because of higher table prices but it’s been the most consistently growing convention I’ve been to. Each year seems to get bigger and better without losing any of the positive qualities in a convention. I’m very impressed.

Natsu was my very first convention so many years ago and sadly it will be my last in this area for a while since I’m leaving for the coast soon (unless I can convince the husband to let me come back for next year!) I will really miss the good things this convention has to offer but I’m sure that next year it will be bigger and better.

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