November 14, 2014

Nekocon 2014 Convention Recap!

Now that it's been about a week since the show, and I'm almost recovered (let me tell you, one very stressful show followed by a relaxing, but very far away show has been really draining on me, whew!), I figured it was time for the Recap/Review of Nekocon 2014.

Naturally, I forgot to take ANY pictures, so we'll go the humorous animated Gif route. -__- I swear, one of these days I'll remember to take pictures.

For the record, this was my very first time attending Nekocon, and given that I had to drive about 10 hours, that's gotta say something. They impressed me enough to make me curious enough to drive out there. ALSO, this review is from the Artist Alley side, if you're looking for a review of events or shows, you've come to the wrong place, as I saw the backside of a table ALL WEEKEND.

Anyway, I'd like to highlight some interesting things about this particular alley - it was one of the first fully juried events I managed to get into. I was first placed on the wait list, but then made it in soon thereafter, so to whoever's place I took: THANKS! I had a BLAST!

They had all sorts of categories that people could be placed into, as well as some "pro row" seats, which are very tempting mind you, they had things like 3-D, Traditional, Webcomic, and all other manners I'm not remembering at the moment. I figured, what's the worst they could say? No, you're not in? All I'd have lost is minutes of my time in the sign up process. I liked that they had all sorts of Categories, and actually took "traditional" into account (mostly so they don't have an overabundance of the same type of 2-D art, but it really made me feel welcomed). Already my interest was peaked.

I also noticed after a bit of research that the show is what I'd call "Shuto Con Sized", where it's bigger than a small convention, but it's not nearly as huge as say Anime Central. And I know I do pretty well at Shuto, so WHY NOT GIVE IT A TRY?


I could gush about this show for hours, but that's also probably because I had just come off of my Youmacon push, which was quite possibly the most frustrating convention experience I've ever had. I was looking forward to a relaxing experience.

+ The show was set up in a separate room from the Dealers. In a lot of shows,this makes people antsy, especially if it's a newer show. But this one's on it's 17th year, so I had faith in it. Also, is this an east coast thing? Because Katsucon does this too.

I was even placed in the very back, and I still did well. The people who came into the alley area were definitely interested in artwork, artisan products, comics and the like. I sold a decent amount of comics and sketchbooks, along with garnering interest for Sky's at the same time. I got to buy a bunch of comics from other artists in the alley. It was very art positive.

+ Friendly Staff. Prepared Staff. When I arrived Thursday night, we ended up going in the wrong doorway, and talked to the volunteer guard there and said "Artist Alley Checkin?" and instead of yelling at me to go to another door, he immediately pointed me to the alley, and said "Have a good weekend!" At the table, they had the map laid out, as well as badges with my booth name on it. WTFFFFFF. Where was I? Was this some other dimension? I was also greeted happily and sent on my way to my booth.

+ Nice Crowd. Barring a few over exuberant people, I had lovely island-mates as well as lovely attendees stop by! I did a lot of commissions (in fact, I'm sorry I had to shut them down on Sunday, my arm was cramped so bad it was getting hard to hold objects), and they ate ALL MY BUTTONS. That's never happened before! o.O

+ Caring Convention. I heard that apparently they were having problems with the PayPal system in registration resulting in an unexpected LineCon. According to Husband, who was running out to get things like food, water, supplies, he noted that they had staff all along the line helping to chat/entertain the guests, as well as providing cups of water to those standing (and I would assume holding a spot if they had to use the restroom). Everybody joked about LineCon, but I never really saw any true vitriol from the attendees themselves.

+ Signs & Programs. They had very clear signs! Upon checking in and getting to my booth, I HAD A SWAG BAG WAITING FOR ME. That's right! A bag with a program, a schedule, and some other miscellaney coupons for local stores. I didn't have to hunt down a program. I didn't have to hope I'd find one. I GOT IT FROM THE START.

+ Survey. On Sunday, I approached my table and saw they had left me a feedback form ON MY TABLE. Guys, I just had to fill it out and give it to staff. Like, no going online, no trying to remember, I could just give them feedback RIGHT AWAY. And they really wanted to make sure we were all taken care of, and that we liked the show.

Overall, it was very nice!


As with all conventions, not everything is roses. I didn't really have too many complaints.

- ISLANDS. WHYYYY. It wasn't nearly as tight or bad as Youma, and thankfully I did not have a corner booth, but still. Please, can we all graduate to rows? Pleeeeeeeease?

GPOY: Me Every Night of the Show

- Killer Hours. I know we were in a separate room, and we did happen to have the Tabletop Gaming nearby (which was cool) as well as Autographs and the Art Show, but man... a 12 hour shift? Our hours on Saturday were 10 am to 10 pm, and yes, we DID have people roving the halls late in the evening (since the dealer's closed at 6), but man, I haven't hurt that much in a long time. I was never so glad to fall asleep in a discount hotel bed. I like longer hours, but can we shorten them a leeeeetle bit?

- Killer Drive. I have plans on how to tackle this next time. Apparently Mountains and I do not get along at the moment. Not the con's fault, just thought I'd gripe more about freeways here.

- Lack of Communication on the Internet. They don't have a specified forums, and I only discovered they had an FB group two days before the show. Emails were infrequent, if not entirely non-existent, so I was kind of worried if I was properly paid, still in, and so forth. They did get us a map the week of the show though, which was really nice (apparently it was a first for them).


I left my suggestions on the little form they gave us, but it mostly came down to a couple of things:

* More Email/Internet Communication. I know y'all are volunteers, but please! Show us where we can go to find more information. I'm used to dealing with forums, and talking with the other artists/staff, and for those of us coming from far away it's nice to know we're still actually in the show.

* Change the Hours Slightly? 12 hours are killer, 10 hours maybe? I can handle working 10 - 7 or 8, but that 12 hours was killer.

* Rows Rows Rows. I'll say it till I fall over blue in the face. Can we just agree to have rows now? Are shows finally big enough to have them?


Definitely! Despite some of the "problems", I really liked the atmosphere and the crowds. I would hope maybe in future years it expands a little more or gets a little more populous, but it's got a good sized crowd. In the case I should make it in again, I plan on having a lot more books and things on display (as I am in transition on what I really want my booth to be like, I've shifted around a lot of stuff)!

8/10 Would Totally Vend Again.


And with that, my 2014 Convention Season has come to a close! I'm now onto getting the Etsy shop back up to snuff for the Holiday season, and heading into MAKE ALL THE BOOKS time. I've got a short amount of time, and I need to finally bust out these things I've been looking forward to making for such a long time. I'll keep you updated here, of course.

Next Shows Coming Up:

Ohayocon (Confirmed)
Katsucon (Confirmed)
Shuto Con (Confirmed)

MMX (still waiting on signups)
Anime Central (still waiting on signups)
Random Battle Con (still waiting on signups)
...and many others, I'm sure!

November 12, 2014

Interstate Travel is Secretly Trying to Destroy Me

As you have probably realized looking at this blog, I do some travel occasionally. Whereas I try to vend within a close distance of home, (close = 5 hours approx driving) sometimes the siren call of a fun convention sounds and I can't help but take it!

This means my husband and I drive all over strange places of the countryside trying to get to our destination(s). He loves adventure, so often times we'll be taking side tours of places he's gone or heard of that I've never been to. Unfortunately, I have recently discovered that Mountains and I Do Not Get Along.

Also adding to this list: Other State Signs Make No Sense To Me, Why Is This A U-Turn It's a Michigan Left, and Why Are There No Reflective Markers at Night On this Road Oh My God I'm Going To Die.

I hail from the lovely foreign country of Michigan. Which really I can't decide if we're a little piece of Canada that the US adopted, or a little piece of land that Canada gave to the US because they didn't want it. (Either way, I get Tim Horton's Donuts, so I really can't complain). We're the Motor Capital of the world, the Birthplace of the Car, assuming you follow what we put on all our postcards. So naturally we're more inclined to vehicular travel (don't ask us about our roads, even WE don't get why they're ground up so bad). We have things like Michigan Lefts (where you turn around on big boulevards to prevent random left turns and lower accidents), and lots of big green signs, with road names that we actually call our roads. You know, civilization.

The rest of you states are clearly trying to kill me in various ways. Or capture me for nefarious reasons of one or another.

Once we hit Virginia (after finally crawling out of Washington DC - WHY DO YOU NEED 8 ACCIDENTS ON ALL THE FREEWAYS ON A THURSDAY AFTERNOON), it was edging on darkness. We began seeing signs on the side of the road that read "Speed Enforced by Aircaft". Can somebody explain to me what this means? Are you guys doing strafing runs on the freeway aiming for anybody over 70? Am I being watched by drones? I JUST NEED TO KNOW HOW TO LIVE IN YOUR FOREIGN COUNTRY.

On top of the possible air strikes, as the sky got darker, and it started to get a little rainy, we promptly discovered that the paint lines on the road weren't exactly... how do you say it, REFLECTIVE. We're also traveling at a downward decent (still), and there are little to no lights on the sides of the road. After NOT stopping at the last Rest Area (Half of it was dead and we were directed to port-o-pottys on the other side. I kid you not), we were trying to just GET to the show. Thankfully we made it, but I was a tad... out of sorts to say the least.

Once the show was over we decided that we'd hit some landmarks on the way home, which this time meant "Gettysburg. Making our way past the now thankfully not accident covered Washington, in the daytime, we entered Pennsylvania. Getting to the city is a little interesting because it's not on a "main freeway", but we made it. We only had time for the museum and plan to go back, but I think I'll take a different route next time.

I was desperately trying to avoid mountainous paths as I had a Not Very Good Time with them on the way out. So I found a not horribly winding road, which lead me to believe that it wasn't a switchback mountain path. Seemed easy, right? Until I started being unable to tell where we were. And I had a phone with Google maps on it!

Every time I'd get us on a path, all the signs would NOT match the road I thought we were on. And then when we were driving through a little mountain town we came to a signpost that looked something like this:

Some details may have been embellished...

Things that should be north and south were labeled east-west, numbers changed at what was seemingly random intervals. I think my compass might have been bewitched too. Neither myself or my husband could figure out where we were going, and I was severely stressing out. About 3 more turn-arounds, and we finally made it back to the freeway. Ish.


It was during one of our "the blue dot has LEFT THE LINE" moments in traveling, that we got to go through some lovely little... hills. Namely huge grade S-Curves (thanks Google Maps, it didn't look that curvy on the PHONE), so bad that trucks were told to only go 25 MPH, and at the bottom of the hill as we headed into the town, there was a "runaway truck ramp". Which, for those not in the know, are for if trucks are having problems slowing down and need to use physics to get themselves to stop. This is normal for mountain paths, and I'm okay with them having it, but as we approached, we saw there was literally a HOUSE made within 50 feet of the end of the ramp. WHY WOULD YOU PUT A HOUSE THERE.

It was after that tiny town and a few more "detours", that I have come to the realization that the only reason people are living in Pennsylvania is that they got lost, and gave up, and decided to live where their car stopped working.

Also the huge downward slope across I-80 wasn't all that pleasant either. Seriously, highway, you don't have to tell me that we're passing the HIGHEST POINT ON I-80, and now we're headed down because that will only serve to trigger more anxiety and door clutching.

After we began our decent into the fiery pits of Ohio, I did everything I could to distract myself from the road. Husband was a trooper and handled the hills with Bravery and Ease. Bless him.

I did have one good thing that I got out of the harrowing journey, and that was learning that there are apparently more stars than just the big constellations. There are STARS BETWEEN THE STARS and it was really pretty and it distracted me enough to get us onto the Ohio Turnpike.

Husband says that he'll take me to see the stars some day. I told him okay as long as I'm not driving down a hill.

We finally made our way to Ohio, which is well.... Ohio, but at least we had billboards, and rest areas that weren't deadly looking, so it was kind of plus. Even though it was Ohio. We were certainly relieved to have hit the bumpy Michigan Roads, because we knew resting was soon to be had.

...the biggest things I've learned from traveling to other states is I'm even more certain that Michigan is it's own Foreign Country, and other states really need to Get With The Program. Get some better speeds, label your dang roads properly.



November 6, 2014

Nekocon Approaches!

Wow, so I kinda planned this badly and I am doing two decent sized cons right after each other. If I ever think about doing this again, y'all are welcome to slap me silly!

ANYWAY, this weekend I'll be at NEKOCON in Virginia!

I'll be participating in their artist's alley, and they've released a map for once! So if you're here over the weekend, come by and say HI!

November 5, 2014

Youmacon 2014 Recap!

First off, welcome all new readers! If you've found my blog from my business card, I'm glad you made it by! I usually tend to post mostly convention reviews, but I'm working on posting some newer things. :) This time around, it's a recap of experiences from Youmacon.

This particular review will be a little different, mostly because I didn't really have a lot of events I went to (and only after alley hours, which was judging and photography), so I just wanted to provide a general overview of my experiences over the entire weekend. I also forgot to take pictures, so you get animated GIFs instead. :P

If you've been poking around the internet, you may have come across a lot of bad press from artists regarding this particular show. I'm not going to say we didn't have problems as a show and as an alley, but I'm here to provide the good, the not-so-good, and suggestions to improve the show for later years.


+ I may be one of the few people who actually enjoy having my artist alley inside the same room as the Dealer Hall, as well as being over in the Cobo. I really like the professional atmosphere the facility provides, as well as an honest, legit convention hall (tall ceilings, concrete floors), there's just something that screams "home" to me about that sort of thing.

+ Speaking of the COBO, I also really enjoy being able to park on the roof as a "vendor" (I'm usually in AA, but I'm still vending things), because it's cost effective, and I never have to deal with rowdy crowds in the tight-spaced Ren Cen. There's nothing wrong with the Ren Cen, I just happen to prefer to avoid the more rambunctious crowds due to my partial social/spatial anxieties.

+ Staff was willing to work with me when I checked in. While my requests for seating had not been added to the chart, they were more than willing to help me out, and it seemed everybody else who had a request. (I'll have more on this in other sections)

+ Crowds were pretty nice! Most people were really polite, happy to be there, and enjoyed perusing my wares (and I could assume other's wares as well!).

+ Lots of tables available – upon arriving, the zone where the artists would be was actually quite massive. I'm used to vending in huge alleys (aka: Anime Central, Katsucon, etc), so the number of tables did not frighten me. I did find out that the registration area emptied directly into the "north" end of the room (the side opposite the main "entrance" to the hall), which it's nice to at least have the attendees walk past the artists area to get to dealers. Could be better, but honestly, could be worse!

+ AA Ops had their own little "booth/kiosk" thing! This was nice, because it made it really easy to find where to check in, and where to go if we had questions.


~ Artists Badges =/= Helper Badges. Upon checking in, I received an artist badge, but my helper did not (they did not have them at the desk yet?). We shrugged it off, and planned on getting it the next morning. When we got the helper badge, it was only listed as a 3-Day badge. While this doesn't sound like much of an issue, when your helper has to go get things during "off" hours in the alley (aka, early morn, or close down), they can't get back into the hall unless their badge said vendor or artist. I'm not sure why they did this, but this fact alone made it a little stressful to send my helper on food runs and supply runs.

~ Check-In Amnesia. When I checked in, the staff had a list of names with numbers, and then a corresponding map (awesome!). The list however, was done by name, not by studio name, and when I checked to see if my neighbors were the booths I had requested (all three of us sent in requests, and received an email saying it was received and would be taken into consideration), and they were not. Thankfully the staff let me change some stuff around so I could be near my neighbors who we share helpers/supplies together with. During this process I was informed that they had "remembered" my request, but had somehow… "lost the email". It was frustrating to say the least.

~ Corner Booths. I understand that there was a lot of hassle with the last-minute map layout (I was there for the first posting of the map, and the subsequent thread about it), and that in the end the Fire Marshal had to change the set up. But what I'd like to know is why they thought it was "fire safe" to have 60% of the booths be corner booths. I'm sure a lot of you have heard me complain about it (I'm building a full-sized post about booth locations in general because of this), and this isn't the first corner booth I've had to navigate. But one thing is certain: Corner Booths SUCK.

For those NOT in the know, a corner booth is one table that is on the corner edge of a square/rectangle "island" of booths. It's often said that corners get the "best visibility", and while that may be true, I find living behind one an exercise in futility. Both me, and my other corner mate will end up losing over half our backspace (as the central area should be set up so we can put things like displays). I ended up having to trash my original set up, and get my old supplies from home in efforts to even have something that was useful and wouldn't be so unsteady to fall over on people (I managed to only have a little button wall that might attack people if bumped). I had to borrow back end space from my friend because we had no room to store our products in a manner that would even be feasible to get when a customer ordered it.  BUT ENOUGH ABOUT CORNERS. We can all come to the current conclusion that I very much dislike them, and hope that maybe we get rows next time.

~ Same-Ness of Booths. I'm not going to call out any particular booth. (I honestly can't in this regard!) There's been enough drama about that on the boards and internet, but this is more an offshoot from the "Corner Booth" critique. I've seen people complaining about the alley looking "cluttered" and "hard to navigate", and I must say I agree (I can NEVER find my OWN booth in island set ups…). What happened is that due to the tiny island set up (each side only had 3 tables wide), the booth set up that it was most conducive to was the "puppet theater" version.

A puppet theater booth is when the booth makes a tall wall usually on top of the table space and plasters it with posters/prints/plushies/etc, and leaves a small window for the owner to act through. (kind of like a drive-through window). There were a few behind-the-artists displays, but I want to say about 80-85% of booths were puppet theater style just due to the lack of backspace. This made all the booths look the "same", and in essence would have the chance to confuse patrons. This may also have lead to "worse sales" for some artists who may accidentally have a similar motif, or style, or mayhaps drew characters from the same show. When it all blurs together, nobody knows where to shop!

~ Communication Breakdown. In the weeks leading up to the show (even up to 2 months out), we received little communication from our department, and from what it looked like on the forums and websites, from ANY department. Our DH appeared to be unable to get replies from any other department, and none would aid her in using the registration system (let alone working with her to make it so we could purchase helper badges at the time of table purchase). I also get the feeling that she was not provided table information until the absolute last minute, and received little/no help or support from the rest of the departments. But I won't say the DH was wholly excluded from critique either, because they would vanish for periods of time, then come back with any number of reasons why they were unable to access the page, and it felt more like excuses. We understand you're busy AND stressed! Please, when you come back, just start crankin' out responses, instead of listing off all the reasons why you couldn't respond. We're ALSO busy and stressed, and the faster we get confirmations on things, the less we'll bug you! I PROMISE! Moral of the Story: DEPARTMENTS. NEED. TO. TALK TO EACH OTHER.

~ Artists. I want us all to take a deep breath. I am going to say this with the utmost love. I have never seen a more doom & gloom alley in all my years. *sighs* Every time I checked the Facebook group in case of any updates… all I saw was "not selling anything" and "terrible show", combined with a few "we're so screwed!" type of updates, along with angry ranting about demanding refunds for table sizes, and so forth. I understand we were all stressed, and things weren't going as planned.

But I just want to reassure ALL artists, Fridays are ALWAYS SLOW. ALWAYS. I hardly ever sell ANYTHING on Friday. Yes, attendees are going to totally blow past the alley upon first entering the hall. They are there for the VENDORS first and foremost, and then the AA. This is just the way things work, and while there are exceptions to the rule, the attendees wanna go buy their figures first before getting prints. It's always been that way. The amount of doom & gloom, whining, angry ranting I saw on Friday, made me kind of embarrassed to be sharing a hall with many of you.

Everybody, it's gonna be okay. Wait until later on Saturday before making some judgments. Also. IT WAS HALLOWEEN. School was in session, and most people would probably want to stay home or get home early so they could either hand out candy or go trick or treating themselves. OF COURSE IT WAS DESOLATE.

My advice? Get off the internet and start working on things to look busy instead of complaining at your booth on a Friday. Stop attacking/blaming your neighbors. Stop yelling at the show as though they are obligated to you to get you into the black. You're there to SELL. SHOW YOUR BEST SELF!


I'd like to provide some advice to the show, on stuff that happened, and what could possibly make it better. I'm no guru, nor does the show have to take my advice, but as an artist, here are some suggestions:

# Communication & Staffing. Please please please do two things for me: 1.) Get all the departments to know that they really SHOULD know what each other is kind of up to, so in case they need to contact each other, they can. Also, they should check their emails. 2.) In that regard, please get the Artists Department a set of full STAFF. One gal doing it alone should NOT be how this works. You're a big show, your departments deserve some extra staff members now to help.

# Technology/Email. Numerous times we were provided that there were issues with the DH handling email. That our messages might get lost, or that requests were somehow missed. (We couldn't even send in location requests until the map was started because in theory the messages would get lost in all the emails). We live in the year 2014. Most email systems are a POP3 system. You can route them to other emails (like gmail) or you can route them into a reader like Outlook! Outlook has folders, and rules you can set to filter stuff like spam, or space requests. I do this with my own departmental emails, and it makes it 10x easier to keep track of stuff. Having an email list would be great, but I'd rather the poor DH get the emails in an easier to sort format than they've currently got! This will make both the DH's life as well as the artist's lives SO MUCH EASIER.

# Confirmation Communication. One of the issues we had as artists was with the sign ups. Upon entering the system, and paying the fee, we received no other information on if we were in. In theory, if you were able to pay you were in, otherwise, you could add yourself to a waitlist. A simple copy/paste email of "you are in" would have been FAB-U-LOUS. For people who complain that we as artists are extra needy, it's little things like this that will keep us from hounding you. We just need to know if we're in, so we can then plan travel and booths. 30 minutes of copy paste emails will save you WEEKS of headaches.

Also, can we go back to using forums? Facebook is too chaotic. I kept seeing the same question REPEATEDLY, and people don't like to search for terms. I may be old, but forums at least keep threads alive. I like the Facebook group for meeting and chatting with the other artists though, so it's not all bad.

# Artist Badges for All. It's kind of a minor thing, but we desperately need specified helper and/or artist badges to be provided to those helpers we've designated. Your door guards were doing a great job making sure only artists got back in during closed hours, but that also unfortunately prevented some of our helpers from getting back to us! My helper only got back in because he was wearing a very recognizable Spooky Hat and had talked to the door guard before he left. I don't know WHY the department wasn't given more artist badges, but please, can you make our helpers be able to access the hall with us?

# ROWS rows rows (row your boat!). I can't stress enough how terrible corner booths are. Not only were the tables shortened (we were told they were 8 ft, but ended up getting 6 ft, to which I didn't care as much about that as I did losing all my backspace), but 60% of the booths were corners. Which meant 60% of artists were sharing a back area with another person. We were stepping all over each other, and I really want to know why the fire marshal thought that set up was a good idea. We were expanding our displays accidentally over each other's space, in a desperate fight to be seen. So many went taller.

If you maintain the same set up of dealers, I may suggest having the artist alley mimic the rows that the dealers were placed in? In a way, we'd all look somewhat uniform and the patrons could float between the sections, without hitting a strange wall of odd set ups and getting lost in a maze.


Maybe in future years. I am actually planning on taking a year off from this particular alley unless any major changes occur.

It really comes down to the fact I retained a lot of stress from the show. Whether it was pre-con drama, at-con drama, post-con drama, as well as lack of communication and answers or poor set ups, I maintained more stress than I normally have for conventions. I wish the show the best for the future, and I hope to return at a later year!