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.

Venue
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
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.

Attendees
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.

Staff
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.
 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nakakon 2014: Unification: Review For Artists



Naka was one of the BEST convention experiences I’ve ever had. It was also my first time as an adult in the Kansas City area. On the first day, we ate lunch at a place called Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ and I’ve officially decided there needs to be one of the restaurants in every city. Moving on, the review.

Intro
This was my first year attending Nakakon and it was their 10th birthday. I had always been told it was a great convention to go to all around, with fantastic guests and artists and very well organized. They select artists from a jury pool so as long as you submit by the deadline, you have a shot. I have no idea what they judge by, aside from the merit and variety of artwork. No preference to locals, hating on  crafters or anything of that sort. Located in the beautiful Overland Park City of Kansas (west KC, MO), it was pretty close and right off Interstate 70. Easy travelling for anyone on either end of the country.

Venue
The Overland Park Convention Center is a spacious, modern building with plenty of parking. It’s located right off the highway in a relatively easy to navigate area. Plenty of hotels nearby including Drury, Holiday Inn, Marriot, and others. This might have something to do with the fact that there was also a hospital up the street.

So like any convention center, OPCC had ginormous rooms for panels and exhibitors. Escalators and elevators, big glass windows, a thousand sets of doors, and a big loading bay. It was nice that the loading bay had open docks and parking spots so trucks and vans weren’t just lined up trying to unload. Venue staff were also very polite and helpful. Inside the area with vendors was also a food vendor and restrooms. Outside the vendor’s room, hot food was catered most of the day and ohmigosh it looked good. Oh, here’s a biggie. It was clean. Custodial staff checked on the restrooms regularly and every hours or so, someone would walk by to sweep up any bits and pieces on the floor, trash cans were never overflowing. This place was top notch.

Artist/Dealer Space
Artists and dealers were in a locked room (with our own set of restrooms and concessions!) The loading dock led directly into the vendor area. It was setup pretty nicely, with vendors in the front half and around the walls. Artists were in a block in the back half of the room. I think there were 3 aisles. Artists received a 6x6 space and a bare 5x2 table. I gotta admit, the 5’ table was a pretty tight fit. If I had known the table size ahead of time, I would’ve brought my own to organize my booth. Oh well. At least I had a tablecloth.

Even though artists were in the back half, there was no traffic issue. The aisles were big and artists could setup a back display because none of us were back to back. I liked that because I could hang prints behind me to get more exposure, but it was also a little awkward for anyone walking behind me to be able to see my boxes and mess ^_^ I guess it’d also be important to mention the artist sections were roped off by short rods and drapes so there weren’t just people milling behind your table. We had a divided space.

From what I could see, most vendors were divided by blue tape on the ground. It started to get confusing with some of the vendors not against the wall. They had shelves everywhere and it wasn’t clear where the aisle was and where the booth was. I don’t actually know why I’m mentioning this but someone might want to know.

Every night the doors were locked and I believe they had some security keeping an eyeball on all the merch. From what I heard through the grapevine, Naka had a small issue with theft last year and they made quick work to prevent a second incident.

In the center of the artist alley, Nakakon also set aside a fairly large space with couches, pillows and tables. I assume they were just a place for people to chill although it looked like there was some furious scribbling going on all weekend at one of the tables.

Variety & Shopping
Naka definitely had a big vendors area. A ton of great artists and dealers. Normally at a similar sized con, you still get a handful or new artists and first timers. This was definitely not the case. Every artists here knew what they were doing, with great displays and plenty of experience doing the AA thing. It was actually nice to see an entire alley of people that had their shit together. Is that a fair thing to say?

I didn’t get much chance to meander the room since I was alone again and barely got a break to even eat a snack. From what I could see, there was a great mix of print and craft artists. The different styles of prints were astounding. There was everything from anime, semi-realism, to macabre/fantasy. Crafts were also pretty prominent. I and one other artist I saw sold polymer clay jewelry, although we both worked in very different ways. She painted her clay pieces (and did a damn good job). I didn’t see many plushies but there were plenty of buttons, nerdy things like dice bags, trinkets, bead sprites, amigurumi. Wish I had the chance to walk around more but that didn’t happen. Here’s why:

Sales
I have never experience sales like this. Even at Anime St. Louis where my husband and I are both trying to answer questions and do transactions at the same time, we still had small breaks here or there. This weekend was nonstop. Nakakon is definitely a convention no artist should attempt alone. I don’t believe there was ever a moment that I didn’t have a crowd around my table. It was the same at almost every table. There were so many people actually buying things that I watch a line form of people trying to pay. The awesome part is that everyone was buying, not just looking or talking.

I was handing four transactions at once for most of the weekend because people were ready to move on to buy things at the next table. Talk about exhausting (but sooo fantastic). Every once in a while I’d see someone who would stand behind the crowd, waiting to come take a look, and give up and move on. Quite a few people came back later in the day when it was less crowded (forming a new crowd) to take a look. I had a lot of people who knew what print they wanted from my display, and just flat out waited anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour to get it. I’m not complaining about sales, I’m just saying those poor souls were pretty dang patient.

Clearly you understand that sales were great by now so let’s talk content. Everything Studio Ghibli
I had was gone by Saturday morning. Jewelry, bookmarks, buttons, everything. Other trending fandoms received similar sales but Ghibli stuff was consumed en mass. By Saturday evening, I was pretty bare and a few other artists were down to their last bit of merchandise. I sold very little food jewelry but anything game related was wiped clean. Prints were a good mix of fan art and original art, so I was really happy about that.

Naka also let “con supporters” into the vendors room about 30 minutes before everyone else and if you want to shop, this is definitely something to get. Many artists were sold out of X or Y by Saturday that if you didn’t pick it up early, it was gone. I had quite a few people say they’d come back later and by later, everything they wanted was gone. No one took it too personally, that was nice.
 
Attendees
Aside from a couple oddballs, Naka had a really good crowd. No major problems with attitudes and everyone was friendly. If they didn’t have a question, it was because they were already throwing money at you. :D I did have a photography issue where some people would come and take a dozen photos of everything at my table. You get this at every show though, so it’s not so weird. It just irks me when they go as far as to move your displays to take the photos. Oh yes, I had a girl MOVE MY DISPLAYS out of her way so she could lean in and take a bunch of pictures of my bookmarks. When I asked her to please stop, she snapped one last picture and rushed off.

By the way, awesome cosplays. Bigger cons tend to attract some seriously amazing cosplayers and I fell in love with quite a few. Man I had my camera and everything but I didn’t even get a snap of my table because sales rolled from open to close without pause.

Staff
A show that's been running strong for 10 years requires some serious organization and Nakakon's got it. There were easily identified staff everywhere. All were courteous and professional and made for smooth sailing. I had no problems that needed addressing or any run-ins that required staff mediation. My overall experience was fantastic, especially due to the great work behind the scenes from diligent staff.

Nice touch that I really enjoyed: artists got a small goodie bag during check in. I've only had one other convention do that and sadly, they've quit the practice. In the Nakakon goodies, we got an assortment of much needed candy, a pen, and a Nakakon anniversary patch :) I'm a patchaholic so that was quite a bonus for me.

At the end of the weekend, vendors and artists received a survey to fill out about our likes and dislikes. That shows desire to make the next year better and a willingness to remedy problems.
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My final verdict: a fantastic show. The application process is juried and they clearly pick and choose artists very particularly. They want artists with good portfolios and probably some experience. They also sort by variety very well so there's a good range of items on the AA.

I'd say apply if this show is in your radar. There's always a chance to not get accepted; I'm sure they get a floor of apps every year. Do it anyway. This is a show worth the wait.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Utilizing Sales & Discounts



CASE 01

So I recently had another artist ask me why print artists discount multiple quantities. In years of doing this, all the print artists I knew did some sort of discount. The most common one I see and that I myself use is
  • 1 for $10
  • 2 for $15
  • (3 or) 4 for $20
 Now the question wasn’t about the profit margin. Clearly when selling in multiples, these items are taking a pretty tremendous cut in profit. That shouldn’t be too big of a deal, assuming you aren’t overpaying for your prints. I pay .50 per 12x18 through my local printer, and I know some who pay even less because they order larger runs. If you’re getting your prints through a chain like Fedex or Staples for $2-3 per piece, it might be tougher to convince you to sacrifice your smaller margin.

By the way, anyone reading this and thinking, “Well why am I paying $10 if it only costs you .50?” It’s because you’re not paying for the paper or the ink. You’re paying for the 20 hours of work. Blah.

So they asked, why not just price all your prints at $5? You’d be making the same as if you sold 4 for $20.

Truth is, most of us don’t have enough prints for people to even find 4 they want. Right now I only have 36 prints and many are original. Seldom I get someone who can find 4 they want, or a group of friends who want to split 4. For the most part, people will find 1 or maybe 2. This is good, sort of. If 90% of your customers are only buying 1, you’re still making $10 per print. If you just dropped your price to $5 each with no discount, you’d only make half that. Just business.

Not to mention people LOVE deals. It’s a good marketing incentive to spend a little more. I do quantity discounts for most items, but I try to keep the numbers rounded to fives. It’s easier to keep track of and you don’t handle as many ones. It’s also easier for someone to hand you a $5 bill than four ones or a five and a one. My current setup:

11x14 prints: (stated above)
Buttons: $1 or 6 for $5
Bookmarks: $2 or 3 for $5
Notebooks and Necklaces: $5
Earrings: 1 for $10, 2 for $18, 3 for $25

Another trick, my earrings use to be $8, no discount. I upped the base price to $10 to make up for the loss when people buy more than 1 pair. While I sell more 3-pairs at a time, it doesn’t cut too much into my profits because enough people will still just pay $10 for one.

CASE 02

What about Sunday discounts? Half off everything that didn’t sell!
 My opinion about Sunday sales are to avoid them unless you’re not going to have another show in the foreseeable future. Sure it’s nice to walk off with that $50 extra dollars at the end of the weekend, but it will loom over you that you could’ve sold it for more later. You still put work into it, you still deserve to be paid.
These last minute discounts, for some, are just for fun. They do this as a hobby and would rather get their stuff out there and appreciated than miser over the nickels and dimes. That’s cool too. Just not for me, or recommended for anyone actually trying to maintain multiple conventions as a source of income.
 I do feel that a lot of convention attendees (only applies at anime cons) wait until Sunday to buy things because they hope you’ll be slashing prices. That pretty much means the first half of your weekend trying to sell at a normal price was wasted on quite a few people. In order to keep the value of the artist alley as a whole, I feel that no one should do such a predictable discount. Plus even if people intend to come back on Sunday to “check it out”, a lot of them forget. There are a gazillion other things going on for them to be occupied with and maybe their friends don’t feel like walking across the hotel to visit the AA again. Rely on selling your items throughout the weekend, not just at the last minute bash you’re wanting to throw. Desperation makes for later regrets.

Anything not sold this weekend is stock for the next weekend.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bookmarks

Just some new bookmarks. :) Gonna work on Princess Anna next. Hope to have these by NakaKon.






Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Through the Gate: Serah & Lightning Progression

http://paulinachinea.deviantart.com/art/Progression-Through-the-Gate-438558871

Click that ^^^ to go to the big expanded DeviantArt file so you can actually read the words :)

I spent forever (35 hours) on this one. I wanted to do a double print feature and I've been playing FFXIII and FFXIII-2 for the past 2 months so this was definitely on my mind. Originaly I just wanted to draw Light since she's got some kickass armor but it seems more appropriate to show the struggle of the two sisters trying to save the world and find each other.

Here's the completed version.

This will be sold as a 2 print set ($15), or I guess you could just get one if you really wanted. Cannot wait to get them printed!