Monday, March 31, 2014

Evillecon 2014: Review for Artists (+Extras)

I just got home from an innuendo and beef jerky filled trip to Evansville, IN with my best friend and her boyfriend for a second year at Evillecon. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it went for such a small show as well as the cool people I got to meet. This year I can back with the same expectations (and the same two table buddies!) and some new displays to try out. Good pizza, good times.

Evillecon 2014 was held at the Clarion Inn, just a few miles down the road from the Holiday Inn last year. It’s right outside the more bustling part of Evansville. At first glance, the Clarion is… not impressive, but I guess it’s not too shabby. We arrived after the convention opened so we rushed through the building to our setup. To get to the AA, you had to take a long hallway to the other end of the hotel. The tables were setup in the “Pavilion”, a recessed space in the center of the room that required stairs to reach. One ramp available, half the stairs blocked off for the autograph line. Concessions (real food) were also available in the same area.

Did I mention that, like the Holiday Inn, pool was in the same space and a lot of the room faced the pool area? Smelled like chlorine all weekend. Oh! And also like the Holiday, there was a giant glass ceiling that let in all the sun and burned us up when it was out.

It rained Saturday and the hotel put out at least 2 buckets in the middle of the floor to catch water dripping from the ceiling. :/ While the Clarion was adequate (seemed liked more space than the Holiday), I’d say the Holiday was nicer by a long shot.

Artist/Dealer Space
Dealer’s first. The dealer’s room had a pretty prime location. A small, locked room right next to the main events hall. And it kinda goes down from there. The dealer’s room was smaller than last year. It was pretty small last year but it was really cramped and HOT. Whew it was like a little oven.

Artists got that space in the Pavilion, AKA the pool lounge area. It was roomy. 8’ tables, decent amount space for the aisles. It did get confusing though, because tables were set up in a way that people were getting confused about where to walk. The end rows had their backs exposed to the room. That meant people were constantly walking behind me, accidentally tripping over my print display, trying to navigate around boxes when they could just walk around. The nice thing was the abundance of outlets for artists to use.

It was an open space, so that meant tear down each night. The side doors of the hotel were unlocked during con hours so that made moving in and out much easier.

I mentioned the glass ceiling. On Friday, it was sunny and the room was hot and humid from the pool. I was sweating until the sun went down. Saturday morning it rained and the sun stayed behind clouds all day and the room was pretty uncomfortably chilly. Sunday was finally comfortable with some sun and a big fan that drew air outside on the ceiling. But look how glaringly bright that sun is!

We did experience a noise issue. Not like a problem but it’s noteable. The artist next to me had speakers player techno/dance and to my right were the arcade machines where DDR was of course setup. I was suffering from any noise-induced migraines but it definitely made talking to other people harder. I found myself needing to shout or ask for people to repeat themselves quite a bit.

Variety & Shopping
Since Evillecon is a smallerish show, I wasn’t surprised to see quite a few young artists. And by young I don’t mean age, I just mean people who haven’t been doing it as long. There were just a few artists I recognized but many told me it was their first time to a show. This is definitely an amateur-dominant show. The last 3 shows I’ve hit have been bigger and artists are more established, so it was nice to see new blood in the mix.

So here’s the thing. Aside from my friends at AnimeGravy, I should never be the biggest print seller at a show. That’s the situation I found myself in. While there were quite a few artists selling print items, many had a pretty small portfolio (less than 10 prints) and didn’t stand out at all. Craft items, especially jewelry, were everywhere. Jewelry was so saturated that I think it hurt sales for everyone who primarily sells jewelry.

However, there was quite a bit of hidden talent and potential floating around despite the real lack in variety. I did a little trading and shopping for some very cool stuff. J I did notice that most people who bought prints from other artists didn’t have bags or sleeves for their items. Hm…

Sales felt so slow this year. I guess I keep comparing the last year, but last year I was so thankful I brought 2 people to help because it was bustling! We had a good start, making a handful of small sales while setting up. Throughout the weekend though, it had some very long down times. Like most smaller shows, the crowds really do come and go in waves as events and panels start and end. The AA would seriously be empty for an hour and suddenly a flood of people would come by for ten minutes, then empty again.

Money wise, I found myself making either tiny, 1-2 buttons sales, or big drops. I had one person come and get 20 prints in one shot. It’s very odd because it doesn’t feel like sales suck, but since a majority of sales of smaller, it’s like nickel and diming your weekend away.

In the end, we walked away a little better than last year, which made for a really good weekend. I don’t know how it happened because I spent a majority of the con sitting at an empty table.

I find that Evillecon has a good mix of families, usually with very young children, and teens. This made for a young shopping crowd, which means small dollar items and crafty things reign supreme. When we arrived on Friday, there was a line out the door for registration. Each morning was the same. Staff told me they doubled their registrants from last year by Saturday. That’s so exciting that this convention is growing so well!

I didn’t have any problems with attendees, most were polite, and not too crazy. I did have an issue with people walking under my display. My banner and prints are now displayed on a stand that sits on the floor behind my table. I moved it back so it blocked off the small walkspace behind my, hoping people would walk 3 feet to the left and walk around the palm tree there. Nope, they walked under my display. A few people almost knocked the whole thing over. So I pushed it up closer behind me to leave a small bit of room for people to pass. I still find people tripping of my tripods. Sigh, just couldn’t win.

So the staff are just downright great. I wrote Amy Bartley (Con chair) several emails, requesting all sorts of help and information from her over the few weeks before the con, she responded within the day. Every. Single. Time. She is just lovely. While in the artist alley, I had maybe a half dozen security and staff member stop by just to say hi and welcome me back, or ask me if I needed anything. How fantastic, amiright?

Unfortunately, this year is Amy’s last year with the convention but with their track record, I’m sure someone else super awesome will be promoted to take her place.

Final verdict:
This is a fantastic smaller show. I guess after this year, I really can’t fairly call it a “smaller” show. Anyway, it’s a great show for new artists to break into the AA as well as for seasoned veterans to help even out the playing field. It’s not a show you’ll go and blow out your inventory at, but it’s worth going to. All the hotel pickings in the area are pretty unimpressive, and some are downright seedy (keep reading for that particular story) , but a mediocre stay is nothing in the face of a great atmosphere.

Oh yeah, got yet another pic of me and the 501st. <3
The highlight of my weekend.

So my seedy motel story.

Due to some problems with room booking, I ended up with no room about a month and a half from the con. I called everybody and every hotel within 10 miles was booked up or really, really overpriced. We found out later that many of the places jacked up their prices for the con weekend. So anyway, the only place I could get a room was the Motel 6 right across the parking lot from the con hotel. I figured it was not gonna be so bad. Walking distance. 2 nights and I wouldn’t even be there much.

Holy @#$%.

We went to check in and I’m already horrified when I walk in and see the double window with bulletproof glass. The girl behind the counter was nice enough. We were asked to pay in advance so I paid cash and we got our room keys. We were asked if we wanted wifi and she wrote the password on the slip for me. We walked around the very creepy, drug-dealing, prostituting, murder building, to our room.

 The door opens and it’s clearly not a nonsmoking room. The state of IN doesn’t allow smoking in any commercial building and there was a little paper sign that said the building was nonsmoking since 2012. But seriously, it was smoke. The light switch didn’t work and there was this general feeling of STDs floating in the air. I was all, “We’ll make the best of it” and I went to put my bag on the floor when my foot stepped in a puddle. Not even like a puddle, it was a full lake on the floor. At the same time, my friend points out the gold nail polish on the tiny nightstand from some hooker chick painting her nails there. Classy.

I went straight back to the front office to just cancel my reservation and get my money back. I was only checked in for 5 minutes tops. The girl at the front desk called her manager to get approval for the refund but long story short, manager says NO. Because we cancelled after 6pm so we weren’t getting anything back at all. Even though we had just checked in and the room was just flat out ridiculous. The girl at the desk refunded me ONE night and we left.

Later I checked my reservation email and noticed that I was charged $50 MORE for the room than my reservation email stated. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!? I emailed corporate since it was too late to call and figured I’d call in the morning when their lines opened. No shit, I wake up to a response apologizing because that particular Motel 6 is independently owned. But they would forward my complaints to management. Awesome.

So we found a last minute booking at the Evansville Inn & Suites. Not gonna lie, all three of us were pretty sure they gave us a room that no one checked into and didn’t actually have an opening. But they not only gave us a room, they gave us an amazing nightly rate, and it included breakfast and dinner tickets. When we went to that breakfast the next morning, I was expecting cereal and muffins and a banana like all the other places. NOPE. Biscuits and gravy, waffles, OMG real hot food and it was amazing. This is where I’m booking my room every time I go back to Evansville. Customer service was outstanding.

That Motel 6 can suck it.

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