Monday, October 27, 2014

Obligatory pre holiday post!

Every year I start my Christmas sales in October. This year things got rolling a few weeks late because I had two conventions this month that threw me off schedule. So once again, I have started pre-season orders and batches for Christmas.
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The information:
Holiday Deadlines
International Nov 30
Domestic Dec 14


These deadlines allow me enough time to make "made to order" items and for shipping to arrive before Christmas.

Please remember that the Christmas holiday is extremely busy not just for me but for the postal service as well. Order early to make sure your items arrive on time. While I've never experienced delays during the holidays, they do happen. Also, double check your shipping dates and addresses if you're leaving town or traveling. I will only ship to the address on the order form.

I cannot guarantee delivery dates unless you want to upgrade your shipping to expedited, priority, or overnight. (Save your money and just get it early.)

Normal refund and exchange policies will be in effect. If an item doesn't arrive by Christmas and you want your Money back, you will still have to return the item.
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As always, order early so you're not worrying at the last minute, hoping the mailman brings it the day before Christmas Eve! I've already started my Christmas shopping ;)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Crystal Fair St. Louis: Review for Artists




Replaced all my displays with pony stuff. Looks weird.
Whew, I’m topped out on ponies for the rest of the year. Just got home from Crystal Fair in St. Louis, my first My Little Pony event. So I heard about this even about a month in advance from an artist friend, and applied fairly last minute. The application and payment was quick and painless, and communication from the staff were prompt. So let me say this, I did not realize this was a dedicated pony event until two weeks before the con. It hit me like a sack of dominoes. The two weeks between Archon and Crystal Fair were pretty much me frantically working on pony things until my brain shut down.

This was their second year and last year was pretty good, according to artists who’d attended before. I won’t say I walked into this convention with high hopes, but it was certainly going to be a new and fun experience for me. 

If you know me, I’m not a big pony fan. I mean I think they’re cute and very creative. If you read about my adventures at Anime Zap earlier this year, you might recall my being snowed in at the hotel with the lovely Alexis Hejna of Honeysuckle Rose Creations and being brainwashed with episodes and facts about MLP.
So a pony convention. Yeah.

Application and Pre Show

As I mentioned before, I applied just weeks before the show. I emailed them my app and paid over paypal. $75 for a 6’ table. Not bad. Artists who applied earlier said they were asked to send in a check.
So I’m not going to lie, after it dawned on me that this was a pony con, I wanted to back out. Like really bad. Their FB page was still seeking artists pretty much right up to the week before, and that made me nervous. Most conventions don’t have to hunt for artists that close to the actual event unless they’re having a hard time accruing them, which is bad news.

Well I figured it was still worth the shot and held my breath. I’d already paid and I didn’t want to be that jerk that paid and backed out all in the same month right before the con.

Location

Crystal Fair was held at the super ritzy Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel in St. Louis. Wonderful hotel staff that went above and beyond to help us load in and set up. This is the kind of hotel people want to get married in… literally. We shared the hotel with an unhappy wedding party and this is a very important factor in how the weekend played out, in my opinion (and pretty much everyone else’s).

Anyway, the actual hotel entrance is around the back of the entire Westport complex, which consists of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, office buildings, and luxury accommodations. There’s also a McDonald’s in the parking lot. There was a parking garage as well as outdoor lot that was more than enough so parking was not an issue.

The inside of the hotel was gorgeous. Beautiful chairs, clean marble floors, weird hotel lobby sculptures.
This was a great location because it was easy access on and off the highway, with plenty of food options within walking distance.

Saturday night a few of us went up to Kobe Grill for hibachi and it was the greatest dining experience of my life. For real. I highly recommend to anyone that doesn’t mind dropping the money for exceptional food, chefs, and atmosphere.

Vendor Space

The artist/vendor room got changed at the last minute. We were supposed to be right smack up where all the panels and events were, but the wedding party booked parts of the hotel and somehow we all got booted down the hall with the room sliced in half because the other side was being used for the wedding ceremony. Talk about tight quarters. I had to request to move because I was afraid my backdrop would block too much of another artist’s table.

A few artists were in the hallway up by registration. I think this caused a lot of confusion because people seemed to not realize there was a whole other room with vendors down the hall. However, staff were quick to put up big signs and even direct people our way the best they could.

So the room locked up each night, which was nice. Vendors and artists were all mixed in the room, but it was fine. None of the vendors were the ones with giant displays and gridwalls, taking up several booths. Everyone had a table and it was pretty difficult to tell one from the other sometimes.

Variety

How do you have variety when everyone is selling MLP merch? That’s what I thought before I arrived. Granted, everyone was selling pony stuff, but it was all so different. Print artists all had their own unique styles, there were plushies, hats, bead sprites, and candles. Even Build A Bear was there with all their official MLP plushes. 

Only three or four artists, including myself, had non pony stuff mixed in at our tables. Talk about pony overload! Unfortunately, I didn't manage to grab cards or photos of everyone but here are a few of the artists that were right across from me :)



 Sales

As blunt as possible: sales sucked. And it was all around. Returning artists said they didn’t come close to last year, and everyone was just happy to break even by the end of the weekend. 

But I don’t want this to be a red flag for anyone interested in the convention. Crystal Fair did everything right, and I honestly believe everything would’ve been amazing if not for the wedding. So how does one wedding affect an entire convention?

The bride had a little meltdown that she was sharing the hotel for her special day with a bunch of kids dressed as ponies. Everything from having the convention move rooms so they could have their ceremony and reception in specific places, to wanting to take pictures in the lobby. At one point on Saturday, con staff came around to explain (and apologize) that things might die down for a while because the wedding party wanted clear halls for their photos. Seriously. So foot traffic got restricted and the room was essentially dead.
Also as I mentioned before, the vendors room was waaay down the hall where there were no panels, events, or even convention related decorations. Unfortunate.

Weekend breakdown for sales: it was just dead all weekend. You could walk away from your table for an hour and not miss a thing. I think I spent a lot of time chatting with other artists and just milling about. Honestly, it was like that point where everyone’s in the same boat not making money, so everyone just gets really social. I would say there were never more than 5-10 people in the room shopping at a time.
Some of it might also have to do with the fact that a lot of the attendees were young children with their parents, so not exactly people with a ton of pocket money. Also, Build A Bear was a big money sink for a lot of people. $25 for a big pony plush? Hell yeah, I’d spend it too. I do believe that BAB was hard to compete with, especially for the plush and hat makers. Ugh, I wanted a Spike so bad.

Note: I barely sold or traded and pony stuff. In fact, I sold almost entirely Pokemon and Studio Ghibli jewelry and original art prints. Weird. 

Staff

The CF staff are amazing people. All of them. Quick to reply to emails, they’re very active on their FB page. Polite, helpful, flexible at the convention whenever something needed attention. The poor crew was so exhausted trying to work out problems the wedding had caused, and do their best to direct traffic to vendors and keep things running smooth. They did everything convention staff should do and more.
I’d like to also point out that the volunteers were also amazing and very helpful. 

Final Verdict

Despite being the worst sales I’ve had since doing conventions, this was an incredibly fun event. I do believe that everyone broke even by the end of the weekend. And you know what? THE STAFF GAVE A DAMN. They came by and checked on us individually, asked for feedback, and even apologized for the little disasters that happened out of their control.

I had a BLAST meeting and chatting with everyone, doing art trades, and just hanging out.

There’s just something about artists that attend anime-eque cons that always seem to be more… cheerful. I’ve attended so many shows that are scifi, fantasy, or just more classic adult nerd oriented where I made good money but it just felt like crap all weekend. It’s like the people at those events are so jaded and “professional” that they’ve forgotten how to have fun.

Not Crystal Fair. Even the introverted artists were fantastic conversation and everyone was relaxed. By Sunday we had all resigned to, “Eh, I broke even. So other stuff blah blah blah.” I’ve only been to a handful of conventions that had such a great atmosphere and by the end of the weekend, I was in a fantastic mood coming home with my little bit of cash.

The convention was well run and with great staff, I think they just hit a patch of bad luck this year. I heard nothing but great things about last year and I believe they will have nothing but success in their coming years.
For pony fans and artists, please do attend. I highly recommend it, especially with such great staff. I want this convention to grow into something big and amazing. I, however, am not sure if I’ll be going back. Simply because I don’t know if I can gear my portfolio to sell that much pony stuff. XD It was really difficult for me to get enough pony stuff organized together and change out all my displays. Nevertheless, GO! Crystal Fair is a fantastic event and it’s guaranteed fun.

Con booty: the sole judge of how much fun I had. Candles, bead sprites, pocket watch, and a game mat. Yeah. All good stuff!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Archon 38: Review for Artists



This was my first year attending Archon, St. Louis’s own scifi and fantasy convention. It’s always been on my radar to check out, but I had never had the guts to attend a a convention so far from my comfort zone. As I understood it, this was the haven for Trekkies and classic scifi fans, not Naruto ninjas and Ouran fangirls.

Table cost was $70 and didn’t come with a badge. I did receive confirmation from John Seis, the wonderful man in charge of artists, that if artists weren’t attending events, badges were unnecessary.

The storm front moving in. Taken about 4 seconds before freezing cold rain poured on me.
So a few days before I was about the leave for St. Louis, it stormed like a beast in mid Missouri. We had flash floods and tornados that were supposed to continue through the early weekend, and that made me pretty nervous. Fortunately I managed to catch the ONLY dry patch between storm clouds and ride it all the way east to St. Louis, where it quickly caught up and poured on us. Friday morning was sunny when I woke up but started pouring in the afternoon, before drying to a chilly, cloudy sky for most of the weekend.

This convention was more adult oriented than any I’ve been to before, not saying that it isn’t family oriented as well. But at the Friday night reception, there was free beer (and food). I don’t drink, but that is pretty awesome. And it was Klingon War Nog. According to everyone, that stuff is delicious and expensive.

Location  & Venue

Archon 38 was held at the wonderful Gateway Center in Collinsville, IL. I have reviewed the GC many times before because they host a great many of the conventions near the St. Louis region. Just a quick review:

  • The GC is located conveniently off several major highways including 55 and 255 (that’s what they are in MO, not sure if that’s what they are in IL)
  • There’s enough parking for everyone and their momma and it’s free!
  • The location is wonderful. There are a ton of fast and real food restaurants within a few miles, as well a grocery stores, Walmart, and anything else you could need last minute. Very convenient.
  • The GC has it’s own hot food and snacks vendors both in the main ballrooms and in the front lobby. And the food is actually delicious and the prices aren’t too jacked. One thing I’ve never seen before is the Italian beef sandwhich. Not sure if it was special to this convention or if I’ve really just not noticed it in the last half decade. I could spend all day talking about how delicious those sandwiches were. On a food related note, the GC staff also came around a few times each day with a little food cart for us. That was awesome! I have definitely never seen that at any of my other events there. Such a luxury, especially for those of us manning spaces by ourselves.
  • Staff are friendly and professional. The trash cans get empties, the bathrooms are clean, and they’re just super polite and great to work with.


Artist/Dealer Space

My table! And my two lovely dolly assistants :)
The dealers were in a locked room. I only managed to wiz through there once, very quickly. It was pretty packed! I know a few artists who opted to be in the dealers room because they locked their doors each night.

Artists got tables in the main hallway, right smack where the traffic was. The GC has very specious halls so there was no squeezing to be done. Each artist received a 6’ table with a skirt and two chairs. Each table was placed about 6” from the tables next to it. Most of us bumped together here or there to create more walking room between every other table.

The location was good. The tables spanned across the main panel/event rooms, so no one was dangling alone in the corner of some dusty hallway. Of course, 38 years in I’m sure they’ve got this figured out. The only problem I noticed was on Saturday night, the line for the masquerade started at 6pm although the masquerade seating wasn’t going to start for another hour. To prevent a fire hazard, the line was asked to press up against side of the hallway, against all the artist tables. This resulted in about 2 hours of being blocked for those artists.

Because artists were in the hallway, it was a “set up and tear down as you please” type system. Being my first time, I had no idea what time to arrive on Friday. I was told I could arrive as early as 9:30am, although the dealer’s room wouldn’t open until 4. The opening ceremony was at 1:30, but there were panels as early as 11am. I settled on leaving whenever I woke up. I arrived around noon, and most artists had trickled in by the early afternoon. There was already quite a bit of traffic by the time I arrived, so for future reference, get up earlier.

Variety of Products

Most conventions I go to are pretty anime oriented. When I say, “There was a really good variety,” I normally mean there was a good mix of plushies, prints, jewelry, bead sprites… This was a different world of variety. There were quite a few authors, including one of my childhood favorites, Tamora Pierce. It was very neat to see authors with their stacks of books in the artist alley.

Magpie’s Masquerie was next to me, and if you’ve never seen them at KawaKon, they’re purveyors of costume horns, “fruit” bats (plush bats made to represent real fruit!), and ren-fair type wares. The artist to my other side was a weaver and she even had a demonstration loom that she worked on for half the weekend. Painters, a needle felter, hat makers.

This was a very new experience for me. I will say that I felt like I stuck out pretty bad. I would describe my table as colorful and “junky”. Junky refers to it being crowded with trinkety items popular with anime crowds. This weekend I managed to catch the eye of every minor or mom with a kid. However, only a handful of adults stopped to look. It was weird for me.

Sales

Just down the hall.
On Friday, I made most of my sales while I was setting up. This wonderful experience died pretty quickly as the day trickled on. There were hours that would go by with only a few people that stopped to chat. It was like this up and down the hall. I figured it was just a case of the Fridays. It’s a school and work day, plus it’s only the beginning of the weekend. At the end of the day, I went home exhausted but content. I managed to break even on Friday and I was very excited that the sales I did make were a great range of my items. A little bit of everything sold, which means a lot to me because I pride myself much more in my print work and jewelry, which usually sell poorly on Friday.

Saturday had a bout of chilly weather and I think that made me really tired. By 2pm I was ready for a nap. Again the traffic was very steady, sometimes even overwhelming, but the sales were slower than I had hoped. Most people just wanted to get to their events (and I don’t blame them; the programming was very interesting). I spoke to a few other artists and dealers, and everyone was in a similar boat. I have to admit, between the exhaustion, the cold, and the slow sales, I was getting pretty down about the convention. These things pay my bills, ya know? By the end of Saturday, I was debating on whether or not I should just pack it in and call it a weekend. Of course, I chose to stay because I dislike artists jumping ship without a good reason. It makes the AA look bad. Plus I had already paid for the table soooo…

Sunday I woke up and arrived TWO HOURS late. I set my alarm clock wrong and it never went off, so I woke up when I had planned on arriving. Derp. Well, Sunday was still pretty slow but I will admit I was in a much better mood. The past two days I stressed myself silly over the numbers but by Sunday I had decided I was done with that nonsense. Sunday was still fairly slow, but I definitely enjoyed myself more and talked to a few more people, mostly teens waiting for their rides or moms waiting on kids. The nice thing about Sunday was that even though I made fewer transactions, everyone was ready to spend their last dollar. I had several people toss me a $20 before picking out their prints. How silly. While I was packing up, I made quite a few last minute sales. It certainly boosted my mood and the weekend finished on a really good note.

At the end of the weekend, I had made my threshold (by $15 O_O), which is my minimum profit in deciding whether or not I would attend again. So it wasn’t bad. I think the sudden onset of cold weather didn’t help either.

Staff

After I had paid for my table, I had heard from a few people that Archon has sorta been going downhill over the past fear years. Mostly vague rumors, about how they weren’t interested in trying to attract the pop culture and anime crowds and so the event itself was slowly dying out, staff who flat out disliked anime...

Not the case.

I found the staff to be very professional, friendly, and just all around great to work with. John Sies, as I mentioned before, was wonderful in answering questions and very accommodating when I asked to move my table further from the wall. Another staff member came around the AA to personally introduce himself to each artist. When I mentioned feeling out of place, he explained that Archon was meant to be all encompassing so my artwork was very fitting. Many asked if I was enjoying my weekend and if I planned to return. Very genuine. So those rumors are debunked!

Crowd
Talented mom made the cosplays :D

Every time I write a review, I feel like I add a new section. Here’s a little blip about the crowd J

Archon definitely attracts an older audience. I met quite a few people who told me they’d been attending Archon for decades! There were a bunch of families too, many with young children. Archon had an entire children’s track, complete was story time and kiddie masquerade. That’s such a great way to get the next generation involved, and give parents more reasons to attend. I can’t remember how many princesses and mini Spidermans walked past.

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of anime fans. Most, if not all, stopped by my table to chat. Like me, many were first timers to Archon. While there wasn’t much programming for the anime crowd, they had many cross interests in the scifi or pop culture aspects so it worked out.



Final verdict:

Archon is a good convention, but definitely more worth it if you can attend the events. I wish I had a companion because some of those panels (nanobot technology, seriously!) would’ve been right up my alley. I wouldn’t expect to make a fortune since most of the attendees are trying to get to those awesome panels or autographs, but you’ll make enough to call it a good weekend. This seems to apply both to artists and dealers.

So will I go back? I’m not sure yet. The slowness of the days was very taxing despite decent numbers. I’m pretty sure if I return to Archon, it will not be as an artist. I want to get to those panels! But you never know, I do love shows in the fall. However, this time next year I don’t think I’ll be available because I’m going back to “school”.