January 18, 2018

State of the Artist Alley 2018


(aka all the stuff that happened in 2017)

NOTE: This is mostly in regards to Anime Convention Artist Alleys (as those are the shows I am most familiar with). Comic Conventions and other Niche Conventions may vary in products and issues.

A Booming Business

The Artist Alley (referred to as AA or Alley from now on) has grown a lot from its early years. Table set ups are larger, taller, with a lot more products within them. There have been a growth of companies which help provide products for artists to offer more than just prints, and thus have increased the types of products being sold.

Products that Gained Popularity

2017 seemed to be the year of Enamel Pins, Plushies and Zines. Enamel pins used to be a very rare occurrence in the Alley and this year and the last have had an increase of companies that are helping make Enamel Pins easier to get. They tend to act as the middle man, and it's less troublesome than having to navigate all the manufacturer sites. Many of the enamel pin creations are also funded through kickstarters, many of them successful!

Plushies continue to be a staple, but have not been as successful this year. I've seen kickstarters for many plushies, but less of them coming to tables officially. I think there have been some difficulties with manufacturers?

Zines are short for magazines, and are often composed of multiple artists providing artwork, comics, writing and more in regards to a singular topic or fandom. There's been an healthy increase of Zine offerings (or at least, the ability to find said zines), and has been a nice new add to products!

Problems with Sign-Ups

Due to the massive increase of the business of Alleys this year has marked the first very difficult year for artists to find spots in conventions. A lot of conventions are having to switch from the usual First Come First Serve (FCFS) sign ups to Juries or more often, Lotteries. Shows that are FCFS are "easiest" to sign up for, and let you feel in control of your destiny, but there's so many artists signing up that servers are clogging and shows are filling up in seconds. A convention I was signing up for, which has 130ish tables for artists and there were over 800 applications. 800! No wonder it's getting difficult to get in, egads!

How will this affect alleys from here on out? I know that many Department Heads (DHs) work on a volunteer basis, so having them take so much time to go through hundreds of apps for a small amount of spots is nigh impossible. Will we see more lotteries show up? Will this cause a burst of the AA bubble? Only time will tell.

Other Products and Booths

Grid Square Cube Shelving
Some things never change - we've still got a plethora of printed bags, charms, prints, hand-made plushes, and clay items. A few newer things I've seen pop up over the past couple of years are more along the lines of soaps, bathbombs, and other "nerdy-based" crafts.

Booths have gotten more streamlined, and taller. Many shows were instigating a booth height restrictions due to this. The more popular items to set up your booth are Photo Booth Backdrop Frames and Grid Square Shelving (the kind that snap together with little clips).

My personal favorite of the photo backdrops
(I use this one!)

A lot of packaging in AAs have increased to more professional bagged/boarded items (a topic I am conflicted on myself), along with the companies that are helping provide these products for us. Set ups for booths have gotten much more professional looking as each year passes, and can make starting out very expensive and difficult.

General Outlook

The general theme amongst artists seems to be a bit of unease at the start of 2018. With the uncertainty of placement at shows we've been vending at for ages, let alone the gamble of new conventions, a lot of artists are expressing concerns on being able to keep doing what they enjoy.

I hope that 2018 goes well for the artists, and I'll be back with another State of the Artist Alley next January!

Keep on creating!

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