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.


  1. No one told me artists were alphabetical, wth? We got there Thursday afternoon and were told "take whatever table you want."

    TOTALLY agree that the extra tables looked trashy, especially Saturday when they just covered them with an extra table cloth and blocked them off with garbage cans?

    I talked to a few artist friends and apparently location was everything. You and I were pretty central in the aisles of artists, but those in the back (by the empty tables) said they didn't do very well :/

    Great review, as always!


    1. I sometimes wonder how much thought really gets put into their AA. But it's good to know someone is reading these reviews!