Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rant: Print Displays

In this article, I’m going to address my opinion on a topic that’s been discussed several times by other artists. I’ve seen quite a few non-print artists complaining about print artists who use backdrop or “walls” of prints behind their tables. In all my years doing artist alleys, I have never thought of this as a problem, even before I sold print items. It seemed like the natural order of the alley for print artists to want to display prints to attract crowds. I've never heard of print artists complaining about crafters with giant setups soooooo. Ok. I’ll write my response to each claim I’ve remembered to write down.

In truth, I find this all very petty. As someone who’s been on both sides of crafting and prints, I don’t think it’s fair to target print artists who use backdrops appropriately.

1.       It’s distracting customers away from my table because it’s so big/colorful/etc.

If an artist is using their allotted space and not encroaching on others, it’s none of your business how they setup as long as it’s safe. I’m excluding loud music, lights, or legitimately drawing customers from your table by calling to them. That last one deserves a punch in the teeth.

I believe that part of the artist alley is reliant on how much capital and organization you’re willing to put in. Sure, it’s tough to afford nicer displays at first, but you start somewhere and build up. That seems logical. To be upset that someone else’s display is more eye catching or bigger than yours is just immature. Save up, plan, and make yours bigger and better.

2.       The display is too tall, therefore unsafe, obnoxious, confusing customers about who’s table is who’s.

If a display is legitimately too tall and looks like it’s going to topple over, that’s a problem. This can be brought to the attention of staff. I’ve definitely seen print artists who build 15’ tall displays without additional support and the whole damn thing waves at the slightest bump.

My backdrop has a max height of 10’ and it holds all my display prints just fine. I use photography sandbags to keep the legs seated and unless you crash into it at a running speed, it’s not coming down. If a tall display is obnoxious despite being safe and within a certain space, please refer to #1.

As for confusion about table separation, I can’t really say much for that. Many customers seem to have a hard time differentiating tables unless there’s a gap between tables. :/ Section off your area with displays or signs. You’re an artist, be creative! At craft shows, one piece of advice I hear a lot is “Your booth is your world.” Make your table your space. This requires coordination and money so pay up or put up.

3.       A customer can decide whether or not they like the style with a few prints so there don’t need to be a wall of them.

Bull. Shit. Even my portfolio is drastically different as you flip through. While some print artists clearly only draw in one style, most of us like to experiment and explore. Not to mention that skills get better over time. To summarize an artist’s style based on a handful of product is pretty ignorant of the artistic process. To say that a few prints will do the trick for most people is like saying a plush artist can just lay out a handful of plush and people will decide whether or not they like the skill and design.

I think it’s common knowledge a lot of people will NOT flip through binders or dig through bins or spin your display to look at every single item until they find the perfect one. Most people look, turn a few pages and move on. So what’s wrong with trying to squeeze as much variety into your display as possible? I’ve had people come over and buy one print from me without ever looking through the rest of my things, just because they “saw X from over there!”

This comment was probably the most ignorant of the ones I’ve seen, aside from flat out “I hate print artists” crap.

4.       It’s unfair because craft artists can’t display as big and will get swamped amid print artists who have giant displays.

I call bullshit on artists who say things like, “I sell jewelry. I can’t make my display too big or else people won’t be able to see the tiny piece!” Honestly, if that’s your opinion and you’re sticking to it, just suck it and shut up. There are plenty of ways for people who sell tiny objects to gain attention, it’s just not as obvious. Take good photos of your items and create your own backdrop of samples! Put your best pieces on your banners to draw the crowd in! When someone sees a super cool galaxy swirl pendant on a photo, they’ll come over just to ask you if you’re selling the photograph or if you actually have pendants at the table.

I’d like to mention a few craft artists who sell all sorts of stuff figure out ways to full their vertical space so well they outshine print artists around them! Selling plushies? Build a gridwall display behind your table to show off your stock. Selling charms? Put up large photos of your best sellers or commissions to show off your skill.

5.       The backdrops take up too much space behind tables (assuming there is no designated booth style space).

This is a touchy subject. The backdrops really can be space suckers, but so can tubs of bags and plushies. When space is at a premium, I’ll scoot my display as close to the table as I can without them draping over my head. This normally gives me about 2’ of space behind my table. If this isn’t enough, the staff probably need to redesign the alley because I think 2’ is a minimum for most of us to put our boxes and chairs, at least.

If someone’s display is in your way, do the logical thing as ask them to scoot it in. I’ve seen whole aisles blocked by cases and cases of plushies or grid cubes that extend in the hall. This comment doesn’t need to apply just to backdrops. As a community, we all have a responsibility to only use the space that is given to us and to be respectful of others. Unhappy about something? Have the balls to speak up. It usually ends with an, “Oops, didn’t realize that was in your space. Let me move it.”

Most other comments are just reiterations of the above so I’ll leave them out. For years I considered the AA community to be pretty chill with a few exceptions. Usually those “exceptions” didn’t last long. They either got too frustrated or found themselves unwelcome in many alleys. 

Recently after joining AANI on Facebook, I’ve been seeing a lot more trifling and petty hate popping up. I don’t know if it’s some underlying thing that people are suddenly feeling comfortable expressing, or if a few misguided individuals are blowing things up. While it’s a great source that’s mostly supportive and informative, I’ve started to grow weary of reading some of the posts and comments because it’s asking for drama. Again, it’s like 1% of the people. Or more like 1/10th of a %.

I want to support artist growth, inviting in the new and curious, but I think that our human negativities don’t belong in the alley. I may dislike something, but it doesn’t come out in a generalized attack on a group. That’s called hate and it’s uncalled for. It poisons our artist alleys.

If you’ve held or voiced any of the statements I’ve addressed, don’t take it personally. As crafters and artists, we should not be segregating ourselves over jealousy, insecurity, or misunderstanding. If there’s something you’re unhappy about, talk to the artist or talk to the staff. If it’s legitimate, like a safety concern or violation of alley policies, it will hopefully be dealt with professionally by the event coordinators. If it’s just an opinion that bruises your ego, don’t deal with it using negativity. You’re only making yourself more upset and potentially looking like an ignorant jackass.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Magnetic Dress Up Dolls WIP

Started a set of magnetic dress up dolls for fun. I've always wanted to do these because I loved the paper dolls I used to have, but paper is just too fragile. So magnets it is!

Here's the first "pack". It will include one 5" (ish) doll and everything you see in the photo below.

It's just supposed to be non-fandom casual stuff, so anyone can enjoy it and not just us Vault hunters, time travelers, and Jedi. I will have dolls of different skin colors (pale, tan, dark) and they will probably come in different colors of underoos too, just for kicks.

The dolls will be available individually so you can get more than one without getting the same standard clothing pack twice.

I also plan on having releases of specialty clothing packs with things like kimonos, maid outfits, scuba gear, and cosplay costumes. You know, things for the nerdier ones to enjoy. I mean, who doesn't want to have a pirate ninja wearing a green polka skirt on their fridge?

A boy doll is in consideration. I'll probably reuse the body and just change the face. And give him tighty whities YEAH. I won't discriminate the boy/girl outfits but he'll come with a boy start pack at first so you don't wind up with dresses and skirts.

Ok, well I'd really appreciate any input on outfits, design, ideas, whatever that you may have. Can't wait to have these ready for a show!

PS: they won't be available for a while. Hopefully by this winter but you never know. I procrastinate >_>

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Anime Midwest: Review for Artists

Left: Me, Right: Melissa
All right errbody, just got home from Anime Midwest over July 4th weekend and I think this is going to be the longest, most comprehensive review I have ever written in the history of ever.

So to start, this is one of the biggest shows I’ve been to. I prefer to stick with smaller shows usually but I wanted a taste of Chicago. My friend Melissa (Mimosa Studios) met me in St. Louis on Thursday night and we set off at about 4 am Friday morning. So guess what? Toll roads, that’s what. Good thing I had Melissa with me. She was the BEST navigator I’ve ever had, plus she looked ahead and brought coins for the toll roads.

We took 55N to 294N, which had 4 toll stops. It was hella confusing because the signs didn’t tell you to pull the f*ck over until you had like 100 feet to do it and then you were cutting across 6 lanes. Even better, my Garmin told me to take an exit that was specifically reserved for people with I-Passes. So if you were paying cash and you didn’t have a GPS to tell you what to do, you were pretty screwed. Good job, Chicago.


The convention hotel was the super luxurious Hyatt Regency O’Hare by the airport. It was pretty pricey but so totally worth it. It was a gorgeous building and the interior was nice enough to get married in. Our room was one the 7th floor and had a balcony. Not gonna lie, I was most excited about the fact that my TV GREETED ME. 

Yeah. Also, we were able to walk out onto the balcony on Friday night (the 4th) and watch the city fireworks display. Super awesome.

The hotel was directly across the street from the Stephen’s Convention Center. Both these buildings were 2 turns off the interstate so you couldn’t miss it.  After doing several turnarounds and looking like morons, we finally realized that we were able to pull into the convention center to unload. That’s right, I drove my car right in. This was super snazzy because I only had to unload and walk maybe 100 feet to get to my table.

The Hyatt had their own parking lot for guests with a big signs that said $25/day. Ho. Lee. Crap. The convention center also had its own garage for $13/day but there was no elevator access. We parked in the hotel lot anyway.

There was also a skybridge connecting the Hyatt to the convention center but the weather was so nice who cared? Walking distance from Mcdonald’s and free shuttles to the airport.

One of the nights, we ate at the hotel. They had a little buffet line setup where you got what you wanted and paid. It was expensive but I was too  tired to go anywhere. It was atrocious. I got a deep dish pizza that was soggy and all crusty. Bleh. I also paid $3 for a can of Mountain Dew. But god did I need it.

Vendor Space

Artists and dealers all shared the very spacious Stephen’s Convention Center. It was actually pretty overwhelming at first because the room was just so big. Of course there was a lot of space between booths and tables so that might have been an artificial observation. All the dealers were set up near the front doors and artists were sorta crammed in the back. There were guest tables (autographs and photos) behind that artists so I guess the idea was that they would draw the crowd back there. I don’t know, it did seem like artists were an afterthought back there.

So I thought I paid for a 6’ table. Upon arrival, we discovered we had 5’ tables. That seems to happen a lot and it’s more the venue’s fault than the convention. Oh well, you move on. The tables were also lined up one against the other for a dozen tables or so, and in 4 rows. The problem was that they covered the entire row with one giant runner/cloth. It was a little tricky to tell where one table ended and another started. This caused a little issue early on in the weekend that was resolved by staff. I also noticed there was a lot of confusion, a lot more than usual, about what items were from which artist. Almost everyone had their own table cloth but my stuff was mistaken for someone else’s and reverse. I guess the proximity was too confusing for some.

Bright side, there was plenty of space behind the tables. Since the applications didn’t mention the size of that artist space, I was a little concerned there wouldn’t be enough room for my backdrop display. That was certainly not a problem. There was room to spread out boxes and displays and still walk by without tripping.

Artists were also placed alphabetically, except me because I requested to be next to Melissa. This makes the job easier for the con staff but it means that no one is trying to organize artists by what they sell so that a bunch of plush artists aren’t sitting in direct competition with their neighbor.

Vendors were the only ones in the convention center, the rest of the convention was across the street in the Hyatt.

EMPTY TABLES. I feel like this is a major thing worth mentioning. There were a dozen empty tables all weekend. There were 3 consecutively in the row I was in and it looked BAD. There were empty pockets throughout the artist section and I don’t know why they didn’t get filled. I know at least one of the artists had canceled early on but his table was never given to someone on the wait list. What happened? Maybe it was too last minute to find someone who could come, although I doubt that. Many of the artists I met were localish and I knew a few other hardcore artists that would have gladly made that drive. Hm :/

Variety & Shopping
Anime Midwest had 50ish artists and I don’t know how many vendors. I guess I could go count the list on their website but blah. There was a little of everything but a lot of one particular thing: jewelry. Granted there was everything from polymer clay to chain mail but it seemed like jewelry was a major player. Heck I barely sold a quarter of what I move at smaller shows. The show does not jury their applicants so this might be a result of that.

There was a lot of Lolita stuff, be it cosplays or dealer items. There was a dealer right across from me (I cannot remember their name) who had racks of the most adorable Lolita dresses. Ugh, wanted one so bad. There were some crazy awesome dealers too; some with art books and some with things I’ve never seen but always wanted like super cute Totoro backpacks and new vinyl figures.

Artist variety was pretty great with a good mix of crafts and prints. You had your usual perler beads, plushies, jewelry, prints, etc. Everyone was fairly unique. I found quite a few artists I wanted to buy from and trade with. There were a lot of us vets and plenty of newbies, which I found interesting. For a convention of 8,000 attendees in Chicago, I expected the roster to have more big wigs. That was not the case. This is not a show to be intimidated by at all.

Here’s where I get a little biased. I had thought that with such a large body count, I should be expecting to do several times better than conventions that were smaller. Not the case. I did as well at this show as one of my 3,000 person conventions. Granted, it’s still a profitable show so don’t be put off. My expectations are pretty high. I had not done the math to consider that while there were 3x the number in attendance as Con A, there were 5x the artists and dealers.

I spent the weekend super busy. But it was an empty kind of busy because I sold more single buttons than I ever have at any show. I only made 5 sales the entire weekend that totaled $20 or more. Most people picked up a single button or a necklace. I’m not saying people weren’t buying. Everyone was walking around with bags and posters, but I think there were so many vendors that no one wanted to drop a lot of money at one table. This seemed pretty true all around for those who had a lot of small dollar items.

It was really crowded though, not like there wasn’t enough space, but there were no slow points. Traffic was steady and people were talkative. On Friday when they opened the doors, people poured in like crazy. Sales went pretty fast, even if they were small. By Friday afternoon though, it was all lookers. Saturday was slow but steady small sales and same for Sunday.

The crowd was pretty young, teenagers mostly. Didn’t see too many adults unless they had their kids with them. It was a good crowd though. Everyone was polite and note annoying (say whaaaaat). All the people with cameras asked before photographing, which was nice. And everyone was on the move. No one lingered for an hour to tell you about their cardboard rocket project. It was pretty good flow but like all shows, there were only a small fraction of people that came to the vendors hall. When I left for the night, the number of people was astounding.

I met some chill peeps. That’s about all the notes I wrote for this section. :D

Anime Midwest is run by the same group that ran Anime Zap plus a bunch of others in the northern Midwest. They’re a good group of people, fairly organized. Sometimes a staff member would stop by to give us updates and closing times and whatnot. The funny thing was they would run over and sometimes stop at each table to repeat the message or they’d tell one artist, then turn around and disappear. And no, said artist did not ask for the information specifically.

I will say that I wrote several emails to the staff, requesting to be put next to Melissa and asking questions about space. I never heard back from anyone. I did receive like a kabillion emails the month before the show reminding me to preregister and check out the schedule and all that. But since I got put next to Melissa, my message must’ve gotten through. No response though.

The convention also asked vendors for “tax information”. When I clicked the link, it directed me to an informal google doc that asked for my name and other bits of info. It had no instructions as to what it would be used for or how to actually pay my taxes. I later emailed the IDOR for a tax form so IF YOU NEED AN EVENT TAX FORM EMAIL ME.

Final Verdict
Anime Midwest is a good show. It’s not amazing but it’s far from blah. The only downside is that Chicago is expensive so you can expect your overhead cost to go up. I essentially paid more to come to this show and made the same at another half its size and cost. In the end, the decision is yours. I will recommend this convention because I don’t remember anyone doing bad, just don’t expect a mindblowing event.