Sunday, June 28, 2015

Artist Alley Review: OMG!Con 2015

After a string of ups and downs this convention season, I was exhilarated with how much fun OMG!Con was. I think I can easily say it was the BEST convention weekend I’ve had in a very long time, inside and outside of the artist alley.

So introduction to the convention. This was OMG’s 10th anniversary. In years past, they were a strictly no fanart alley, which deterred a lot of artists. This year, they opened it up to 50/50 fan art and original art. This year, it was also held in the lovely Owensboro, KY, instead of Paducah. While it’s 2 hours further away for me, I must say that Owensboro is a beautiful city on the Ohio River. I’d heard some… not good things about Paducah as a whole and nothing but good things about Owensboro.

OMG is a juried alley.

This was a hot weekend, and really humid too. Fortunately, heat was the only weather issue, but it because quite a force to contend with during the evacuation. I will tell that story at the bottom.

Here we are!
 Owensboro is a skip south of Evansville, IN. Literally to the southeast just across the Ohio River. You can follow just a few major highways. The convention was located Downtown, which is actually a ridiculously amazing place. There’s plenty of parking within walking distance, all free, lots and streetside. There are also a lot of little places to eat dotted around with live music at night.

My favorite thing about the downtown area was the riverfront. It wasn’t just some steps leading down to the banks, or jagged rocks with a tiny cut path. This was a paved walk, complete with swinging benches, art sculptures, amazing synchronized fountains and picture perfect landscaping. I also really wish I had more time to explore the area. There was a city musem just a block or two away!

Also good to note, traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as you’d expect. That’s probably because you could walk anywhere. I’d also like to say kudos to the foot patrol officers walking around in their gear in the humidity and heat. Poor guys.

The Owensboro Convention Center is a beautiful building, inside and out. The architectural design is amazing, with geometric glass walls in the front. Inside was spacious, clean, and straightforward. The parking lot was decently sized, especially for downtown, but it certainly wasn’t enough to accommodate everyone. If you arrived late, you would probably end up parking across the street or a block or two away. Not a big deal though. The sidewalks are wide, the area is safe. OCC isn’t massive, but nothing felt too small. Definitely a good fit for OMG!Con.

The OCC was really cool. On the second floor, there were large windows that overlooked the vendors room and the rave. You could people watch like a creeper up there, and it was kinda neat.

I stayed in the Hampton Inn & Suites, which was right next to the OCC. They had a large, private parking lot, pool, workout gym, and nice rooms. However, at $125 per night as the convention rate, I almost cried. I understand that it was downtown, but I paid for a Sheraton room with two queen beds in Chicago for less. I suggest find a less expensive option elsewhere. You can reach the other side of Owensboro in about 15 minutes where the lodging is much cheaper.

My favorite part about the rooms was the size of the bathrooms. Five cosplayers could change, do makeup, and fix their hair all at the same time in there.

Artist Alley Space
The AA and dealers were located in the same space, with artists in front and dealers in back. However, the dealers were section off from us by drapes, and they also closed a half hour earlier than the AA every day.

Tables were 8’ long with a ton of space to either side and around. It was definitely set up spaciously, which I didn’t expect. Each table came with 2 chairs and a little cardboard trashcan (they were actually kinda cool). The restrooms were a skip out the door and there was only one entrance in and out of the room aside from the dock doors. I was the first table on the right when you entered the room, which was a good spot. Most people walking in passed me without a second glance, but I caught more of the people on their way out. The way the tables were arranged, there were no “bad spots”. The amount of space in general was just amazing. Aisles were wide enough to accommodate a large crowd moving through, no problems.

Wifi was available for free, and it worked very well. No spotty service at all. Outlets were available for everyone against the wall. Staff also gave us bottled water all three days. Friday, the air conditioner was cranked and it was freezing. I think staff got the hint and tried to remedy the cold by opening the dock doors for a little bit Saturday and Sunday. When they did, the AA became a tunnel for wind that dragged through the building and almost took down my displays a few times. Aside from that, it was pretty comfortable.

Sales were very good all around. This turned out to be one of the best conventions in this category all year. Ironically, every con I’ve ever done in Kentucky before had me barely breaking even so I was really nervous about this one. Not sure what was difference with OMG, but money was being spent for sure. I heard quite a few people mention how happy they were to see fan art in the alley again. Despite this, I can say that it didn’t affect what I sold. My original art moved just as well as fanart.

A small crowd had formed as we opened on Friday, and it consisted of a lot of parents. It started as a typical Friday; lots of people were just hanging out, taking a look. Of course, there were slow and steady sales.

As the afternoon rolled around, it got a little slower as panels and activities started up. People and sales came in small waves, with lots of down time in between. During these times, however, people were definitely spending money.  The last half of the day slowed to a crawl, with the entire room being mostly empty. At the very end of Friday, I had a little jump in last minute sales but ended it quietly. A lot of other artists said they had broken even by that evening, which was good.

Sloooow times
I sold a butt load of prints and earrings. A butt load. Despite paying a fortune and splurging on the hotel and meals, I still broke a grand this weekend.

The crowd went straight to the dealers when the doors opened, but as the day continued, sales stayed steady. I was very surprised by how many people were buying multiple items without blinking and doing it table after table.

Saturday was interrupted by an evacuation order, where we lost about an hour and a half of selling time. I’ll cover that in the “staff” section, because I feel it’s more relevant to talk about how the staff handled the incident than how it affected sales.  When we opened again in the afternoon, sales slowed down a smidge but there was a steady stream of people coming in and still buying.

Quite a few artists expressed that Saturday was slower for them than Friday, but they also mentioned having sold out of their big ticket items Friday. I guess everyone expected it to be smaller and slower, I know I did. Fortunately I had over prepared to make it through another convention the following weekend, which I then had to restock during the three days in between like a mad badger :P

Sunday continued, a little slower than the past two days, but the sales were big as people went back for the things they had seen earlier, or just trying to spend the rest of their money. Again, the room emptied out toward the last few hours. I did make a ton of last minute sales right before the room closed. That last 15 minutes was amazing, especially for my earrings.

Some booty (Left to right):
Sweets Haven, Mimosa Studio, Skullcat Studio

The AA coordinator, Jordan, did a fantastic job. It was her first year running it and you wouldn’t know unless she told you. She checked on all the artists every few hours and was very accommodating. Emails were also answered extremely expediently. I saw her a lot this weekend because she had a table right next to me with badges and programs ^_^ She personally checked each table to make sure it complied with the 50/50 rule and provided us with water and soda, while also running around doing other things for the convention.

Staff in general were very diligent and did a great job running the event. Badges were actually checked at each door, all problems were addressed professionally. The staff really cared. The promotion of “cosplay is not consent” was very aggressive and they took all harassment seriously.

So Saturday afternoon, fire alarms went off in the building. You could see the confusion as attendees moseyed out the doors and artists and dealers scrambled to grab purses, laptops, and cash boxes before getting corralled out of the building.

Outside was about nine bajillion degrees of sweltering hell, and the hundreds of bodies packed the lawn and streets outside the center. Someone had called in a bomb threat and the building locked down. Police and EMT arrived quickly to help control the crowd, not that there were any problems. After the first fifteen minutes, you could tell the heat was starting to get to people, especially those in cosplay.

During the evac :D
Staff made rounds every few minutes to give the crowd updates and what was happening, how long they were expected it to take. They also had a water tent set up, and several other staff were walking around with cases of water handing it out to anyone who wanted one. The sheer amount of bottled water that was consumed during that hour in the sun must’ve been phenomenal. An ice cream truck also came by and made bank. Cosplayers were also being directed to go into the Hampton Inn hotel, where they could stay cool in air conditioning. I personally enjoyed the sun and heat, but most people weren’t handling it well.

After OCC staff and the OPD bomb tech cleared the building, we were allowed back in slowly and orderly. Artists and dealers were given an extra half hour to reset and check their booths before it was reopened to the con. Despite this break in the day, I don’t think it affected sales much.

I’d like to say that OMG staff did an exceptional job taking care of everyone at the convention the entire weekend.

Final Verdict
Five stars across the board. I honestly can’t think of anything OMG!Con could’ve done better. I highly recommend them to artists far and wide and will definitely be going back next year if my schedule works out. Fantastic staff and beautiful location. And a free photo booth. Yeah.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

DIY Pillow Boxes

It's fun to spruce up your products and gifts with nice packaging, especially if you get to design and make it. Gives it that personal touch, ya know?

Coming up, I have OMGCon, Cosplacon, and Anime Midwest and that's it. My life and career are taking a different path so I'm going to use these last three conventions to go out with a bang and do all the things I've never had the time or money to do. Like awesome packaging.

Unnecessary context info. If you're just here for the tutorial, skip down.

I used to sell grab bags at my table, mostly to get rid of overstock or things I had made that I didn't have enough of to set up a full display for. Well they sold so well that at one point I realized I was more stressed about having "enough" grab bags to sell than actually selling my product. I think my record was 48 in one weekend.

When it finally dawned on me that I was underselling a ton of my stock through grab bags as opposed to through regular sales, I quit making grab bags altogether. It just became too much of a hassle. However, I have been asked many times in the last two years to bring them back. With only three more conventions left to go, I am. With limitations.

I will have a paper items pack and a craft items pack, to separate things like jewelry and art prints. Both will be the same price and value, it's just easier for me to separate because my big prints never fit in my little grab bags. And there will only be 6 of each available per convention; once they're gone, they're gone. This will alleviate me needing to throw them together behind the table.

Prints will be in sleeves with the artwork facing in. Craft items will be in these nifty pillow boxes that I'm gonna show you how to make.

Ok the good stuff.

 You'll need: scissors, glue, something dull and rounded for creasing, heavy books for pressing, and your box template.

 Cut that sucker out.

 Crease where to folds will be. Any tool that is rounded and dull will work, like an empty ball point pen or your house key. If you use a blade for scoring, be careful not to cut the paper all the way through. Press just enough to leave a faint indentation, it'll help guide your folds.

 You'll need to fold the little flap over. Then fold the entire thing in half. Make sure you crease the folds well.

 Carefully fold the rounded parts. These will be the ends of your box, so you'll want to get them as close to shape as possible. No need to crease these edges.


 Put glue on the tab. Make sure you have glue closest to the edge where the arrow is pointing.

 And press until the glue is dry. Be careful not to put globs of glue on one spot, otherwise it'll squish out and you'll glue your box shut.

Here they are, all flat and pretty.

  Just press the end flaps inward and it'll take shape.


(And fold flat for storage.)

Other Tips:
  • I wanted my boxes to be pretty shallow, so the width is only set to about 1". You can make yours longer if you want it more rounded. 
  • You'll notice on my boxes, the little tab and the almond shaped end flaps are a solid color. This was just so I didn't have to guess or draw a line where it should fold. Most templates have a tacky little outline of where the folds are. Bleh.
  • When cutting the end flaps, if your cutting is not perfectly round, it doesn't matter. It's not really noticeable once you've folded it all.
  • Most people design their boxes horizontally or tie a piece of twine or ribbon across it to keep the ends from opening.
  • If you want to ship it, you'll either need to pad it with bubble wrap or put it in a box. 
  • Thicker cardstock works better for the box because it gives you a stronger end product and it's easier to indent the folds into a thicker paper.
  • ALWAYS make a test run of your box out of regular printer paper to make sure the dimensions will work out. The first one I tried to make came out way too rounded and the ends wouldn't stay closed.