Friday, August 22, 2014

Motaku 2014: Review for Artists

Just came back from a convention in Kansas City, MO. This was Motaku’s 6th year and it’s been on my radar for a while. Having gone to Nakakon this past spring, I was pretty excited to go back to KC. The crowd is good, you know?

I’m not sure where to put this next part, so I guess I’ll stick it right here. It has been so long since I’ve been to a actual ANIME convention that it was strangely comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, Anime Midwest, Cosplacon, and all the last few have been anime friendly, but they all had a greater pop culture or niche fandom that was greater. Lolita, Dr. Who, and Star Wars were bigger attractions than anime. Now at Motaku, it was pretty much 100% anime everything; art, panels, cosplays. It was nice, like going back to when I first started.

So I carpooled with the lovely artist Kailey Weiss and she chauffeured me around all weekend because I’m so cool. And cuz I paid her for gas. But mostly cuz I’m cool. I know you’re reading this Kailey.

Me and Kailey!
Hotel (not convention hotel)
A quick little snippet about our hotel, in case you find yourself looking for a place to stay in the area. We stayed at the Quality Inn about a mile or two away from the convention. It was tucked in the back end of some side street but overall nice. We had a double bed room booked but they upgraded us to a suite. So I guess I’ve never been in a suite because we had a living room. Both sides had their own bathrooms (SCORE!). We also each had our own TV even though we both \ watched COPS in our own beds and yelled hilarious things at each other.

The staff are super nice. Oh and they must’ve known we were coming because I found a gummy worm stuck to the wall. I love gummy worms! XD Anyway, free breakfast was a much needed perk.

We were the first to set up. :)
Motaku was at the Ramada and I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never seen a not-janky Ramada. Every time I’ve stayed in one for a convention, there’s something weird like dancing Mexican staff at 1AM or windows with bullet holes. So this one was pretty much there. Broken lights, broken concrete. But hey, the inside was pretty nice! I didn’t get a chance to venture more than 20 feet from my table so I can’t really speak for the rest of the building. There was a restaurant though, with good, affordable food. The snack machines were right behind me too, and there was even an ice cream machine. Bonus.

The actually location of the Ramada was a little poopier. Usually you get hotels in the heart of downtown, or convention centers that have bustling restaurants and hotels built to serve said convention center. This place was, as Kailey called it, “trucker country”. And it doesn’t get more accurate than that. There were plenty of gas stations and Flying J’s, and the only sit down places were a Waffle House and Denny’s. Fast food included McDonald’s, Subway and… does QT count? I love QT food.

Best part, we ran to a Walgreen about 10 minutes away and it was all Mexican ghetto. And I mean hardcore ghetto. Full of burrito palaces and Mexican restaurants. We drove down this tiny one way street and when two guys appeared next to a park car I genuinely feared for my safety. Yeah, take that as racist as you want. Aside from that, the entire region is pretty meh. Nothing neat, nothing convenient. Although it is right off a highway so that’s a bonus.

Quick snap of the hallway during a slow point.
Vendor Space
When we arrived on Friday morning, about a dozen tables lined the hallway across from registration. We were told to pick one and start setting up. Kailey and I were pretty much the first ones there so we grabbed the two tables closest to the doors (and the snack machines). As artists trickled in, everyone was kinda confused about the FCFS table grab. I think there were only 13 artists though, and all the tables lined the hall between registration and main events, so no one found themselves stuck in a miserable corner.

Since we were in the hall, it entailed the usual tear down each night. The first night, I actually tore down and took everything with me to the car. The second night I got lazy and just tucked it all under the table. Staff assured me they would have people walking the area until the last of the programming ended at about 1AM. After that, there’d be no one til morning. That’s fine with me. I don’t think hotel staff would be remotely interested in stealing most of the stuff artists sell. Let’s face it you guys, most of us sell non functional junk with no equitable value.

I did have a small issue with someone sitting at my table after we’d all packed up. This isn’t unusual when artists are in the hall. A late night attendee wants to sit in a chair instead of the floor, ok. But this guy decided it was going to be ok to move my displays and put out his DVDs for sale on my table. I’m not ok with people moving my displays. Plus I was worried he’d kicked over my earrings rack under the table. That thing’s about to fall apart already. A friend reported him to staff and no damages were found in the morning. In the end, no harm done.

Dealer’s were in a locked room. It was pretty packed in there, and cold. The AC was blowing hard. We did a quick one-time walkthrough and that was all the time we got.

The AA was about 10 feet from the doors leading to a side parking lot so loading and unloading was pretty painless. I like that J
Behind our tables: RAAAAIIINNNN
Variety & Shopping
It’s been a while since I hit a show and actually got something from almost every artist. This time I think I only missed 2 tables. One was an old friend so I don’t think they mind, and one was an artist that was always gone when I went by.

There was a good mix of prints and craft, and even a good mix of craft. It’s not like there were a ton of artists but we definitely had a few plushies, bead sprites, knick knacks, stickers, and of course my jewelry. No competition this time, if you don’t include a few artists that were in the dealer’s room. Very anime based, like I said. Didn’t see too much pop culture like Star Wars or Firefly.

I don't normally do this but CHECK OUT KAIJU CUPCAKES BANNER! Coolest thing ever.
This weekend gave me a really good boost for me art-esteem. The last few conventions I attended were good profit wise, but I was making one button sales for the entire weekend. I don’t know, it’s more satisfying to sell my jewelry and prints than the knick knack junk I keep for variety like buttons. Motaku was a different beast. No one was misering their dollars this weekend. I’m not saying people were throwing cash at us, but there was no complaining about prices or skimping. I sold more earrings on Friday than at my last three conventions combined. It’s starting to make me rethink retiring my jewelry again. Uh oh.

The traffic was great, being in the hall between registration and main events. There were a few slow points when the big panels were happening, but it was never empty. I think we probably had spells of half an hour to an hour of quietness a few times, but when the panels let out, there was a rush of sales while people tried to spend their money before the next event.

We closed each night after it started to slow, but it never reached a stop. Sales were still pretty regular at 7pm but hungry artists are grumpy artists so we packed up and went to dinner ^_^ Even in the mornings, I found myself making a few sales during setup. It was pretty awesome.

I also brought stuff to do this time, so the down time didn’t feel like forever. I made floral crown for my dolls, who were chilling at my table with me.

The crowd is good. Like many anime cons, it’s mostly teenagers and young adults, with some small groups of families and their little kids smooshed in. I think KC gets a great group though. A lot of people come from Kansas and the rural area around the KC region. I didn’t have any problems. At all. Like not even someone wanting to talk for 2 hours about how their learned to cut Styrofoam.

People were respectful and no on crashed into my display, which stuck out into the hallway about 2’. That’s just how my table was set up, I swear. I did have one guy crash his backpack into my earring rack twice, but he was pretty apologetic both times.
Something I’ve never encountered was the number of people asking me to break their 5’s into 1’s. The vending machines were about 8’ behind me so people were wanting a snack. I got so many ones this weekend I was totally ok with breaking fives. I even had one guy ask me with hesitation if I would break his five if he bought something. The smart business move would’ve been to say yes, but I told him he didn’t have to do that. Another girl came to my table and said, I only have $1.25 to spend. I would spend it on something to eat until my mom gets here, but I can’t get anything so I guess I’ll get a button. I asked her how much something from the vending machines would cost and ended up giving her a quarter so she could get a snack. I don’t know, it felt really good to help people out, even though it was something so small.

Staff were great at Motaku. They checked on the artists a few times a day and brought us water and donuts. Everyone was super chill, even though they were all running around from one problem to the next. They also kept people moving so they wouldn’t create a fire hazard. This was nice because when people started to gather at each end of the hallways, they started to block artist tables.

I think the strangest thing I saw was a staff member prop checking a miniature bucket prop. He said, “I guess it can be thrown so let me prop check it,” and put a little zip tie on it. Now, this staff member was super awesome all weekend so I’m not hating on him. It’s just that he was prop checking a 3” garden pail and all I could think about was, “I could beat someone to death with a chair and that’s waaay better than a bucket.”

Final Verdict
I’m totally doing Motaku again, hands down. Well, not next year since it’s being postponed, but the year after that! This convention pretty much blew my mind out of the con blues I’ve been having. The atmosphere of the entire event was great, sales were amazing, and it felt very close knit. I strongly suggest it for artists in the nearby area, because it’s worth traveling for. I was pretty bummed out to hear they wouldn’t be having it next year, since this is my first year doing it, but the reason is pretty awesome. :) We’ll leave it at that.

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