Ahaha oh my.. it’s only after a little two months since the event that I get around to writing my report about my first artist alley experience at AM^2 at Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA. To those who were looking forward to my report.. I’m sorry for the wait!
Despite its tardiness.. I believe my report’s still.. kind of incomplete? I did my best to fill in the blanks but, I feel that I can elaborate more in the actual report. Therefore, I might edit this in the near future. I’ll update this space if there’s new updates.
Anyway, I decided to split the report into sections so it’ll be easier for me to describe the kind of things I went through prior to the convention, during, and what I did afterward (which also acts as a closing as well, I suppose).
Below is a image of my table (taken on day 3)! I shared the table with flamefairy! She’s really nice and such an awesome table partner. Thank you so much for being so accommodating to someone like me. ;A;
I think it’s better if I describe the steps in I undertook in a bullet list just to make it easier to follow. Not all of it is in order since my memory of it is kind of fuzzy now that some time has passed.
First of all… I did all kinds of research on how I should go about with my prints. Using google search, deviantart, and whatever few guides my friends wrote… I prepared my prints, keychains (more like cell phone charms ahaha ;; ), and last-minute buttons in these steps:
- Print Shop: After some deliberation… I decided to go and make my prints at a store mainly because I settled with a low/minimum run of 5 prints per image. I would have liked to order them online but then my low run wouldn’t justify the cost of the shipping for the overall order. Plus, it allowed me to be flexible at the making of them given that I do it before the store closed. A variety of office-based stores have print services but I ended up settling with Office Depot for their generally favorable customer service.
- The Office Depot associates were courteous to me at all visits not to mention exhibiting a lot of patience for my end.
- Secondly, were an error was made or if something didn’t come out as intended, then I don’t have to pay for the print (.. which is very good! Otherwise I’d have a few bad prints I don’t wish to own but unable to sale it off). The policy doesn’t apply to laminated prints however. Although, there was an experience where a associate behind the counter was a FFIX fan so he immediately recognized Dagger in my bookmark print samples. At one point during lamination, the bookmark accidentally crossed over to another one (there were bubbles too but that’s something I cannot do much about). Of course, it usually isn’t the fault of the associate since it was forewarned but he decided to go ahead with reprinting and laminating a new set of affected bookmarks. That kind of service was what prevented me from going to other larger print shops (and besides, my repetitive visits to Staples hardly bore fruit in the meantime).
Overall… the preparation phase felt the most difficult to execute due to my inexperience and ignorance in matters like making prints and other assorted merchandise. What’s more.. I had the impudence to underestimate the preparation phase.
- Reusing Older Works: Instead of largely new pieces.. I ended up reworking quite a few older works (fortunately, they’re mostly works I’ve drawn last year or so) and using a few fanart commissions (with permission from the commissioner(s) just in case) in order to bolster my offerings.
- Ratio: And even though I thought of having 75% fanart and 25% original to start off.. in the end it “looked” to be near 50/50.. if you consider that the common onlooker wouldn’t recognize characters from niche series let alone those dressed in unofficial outfits/designs lmao. I look forward to getting more original illustrations made so I can make prints out of those than to mostly rely on some of my fan art commissions to bolster the amount of prints I can bring.
- Bookmarks: Also, I had a few mishaps with getting buttons and bookmarks done. In the end.. I only had a Atelier ~ alchemists of Arland bookmark set, 2 Persona 3 based bookmarks (originally, I planned for a few Persona 4 bookmarks as well..), one FFIX bookmark of Dagger (with some touched up unfinished shading I left out for the online submission), and a reworked original work whose outfit design I’m still fond of but.. felt that it could be improved vastly before making it into a print-based product.
- Making bookmarks was the first thing I did before moving onto prints. Admittedly, because I was terribly inexperienced.. I ended up making several “samples” to see how the final product would look. The first time involved thick paper
- Making “Key Chains”:
- I originally intended to create several new chibi Umineko no Naku Koro Ni characters to join along with the few that were already made. However, because brand new material gets priority.. I put the creation of them in the backburner. Needless to say.. time was running short and I couldn’t create new ones. The only “new” one is basically drawing the belated iconic dress for Golden Witch Beatrice LOL. She’s on the right by the way.
- Also, because I couldn’t decide on a singular expression.. I ended up using a few varied ones hoping that it’ll be appealing enough for potential customers. Here’s a sample of it below. Ahaha poor Eva-Beatrice. I wasn’t kind enough to create a wannabe troll expression cell phone strap for her.
- As I said earlier, most of the time was devoted on new material involving Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I haven’t seen the characters drawn into their own soul gems so I figured that I might as well use the idea. Plus, it made the general base cutting pretty consistent.
- As a last minute measure… I used my Sound Horizon Marchen chibi set, originally intended for buttons, as cell phone charms. I know I’ll ramble about this again later in the post.. but this set exceeded my expectations considering how niche the fanbase currently is (but is growing nonetheless). I cannot help but feel delighted that fellow Laurants decided to attend AM^2 despite of the still relatively new and small convention setting.
- About Buttons…: I frequently would hear/read that buttons are (generally) a good item to have for sale. And so.. with the help of a friend, we ordered a inexpensive button maker (with misfortune being a badge-a-minit /SOB) with a few parts. However.. that wasn’t exactly the wisest move because the parts I ordered later weren’t compatible. The parts were good.. but the button maker, which was inexpensive initially, became a terrible investment as the parts itself was the most costliest component in this ordeal.
- In a last minute gesture, my friend managed to get some stock plastic button parts and used it to make some last minute buttons for me. This delighted me and naturally mortified me ahaha ;;. I was really appreciative of the kindness (thank you so so much!!!) but the buttons weren’t exactly what I call high quality (as in.. I could already see that they weren’t going to sell easily). At this point, I just want to let those just break even to remove the stigma that still haunts me orz.
- Hole Puncher: I bought a specially sized hole puncher at Michaels for punching holes onto the charms. Normally it’s used for scrapbooks but the small size worked well for my charms. If I remember the measurement, I’ll update this point.
- My Own Paper: I also went through the trouble of buying my own cardstock paper for prints but.. there wasn’t any certification on the packaging that made it safe for laser printing (though the isle I got it from.. I’m pretty sure, said was designed and safe for laser printers). I returned the package in the end because it was too much trouble to deal with at this point. What furthered my frustration was how Staples wasn’t very accommodating on my end when I had the paper at hand. Why buy my own paper? Well, I heard that it’s good to have and far cheaper to make prints with at big stores like Staples especially when stock shortages occur mid-convention.
- Cell Phone Strings with Crab Claws: I ordered cell phone charm strings with crab claws on ebay. It was a bit late at this point so I was mildly worried that I wouldn’t get it on time. Fortunately, the seller lived locally (about a city or two away?) so shipping was quick. Oh yeah.. for the longest time, I had NO idea what those type of strings were called. :<
- Wire Cubes: It’s either that or PVC (?) pipes. I went for the former because it was something I could easily obtain and useful even post-convention. Right now I have two boxes made as a makeshift shelf haha.
- Luggage: I ended up using a medium-sized wheeled luggage to drag my things around. It was pretty useful haha (later I learned that the few wire cube parts I brought could even fit inside which was very good). The downside is that it gets in the way kind of easily but then again.. I didn’t even bother to put it under the table. I just jutted it to my right side.
- (Computer) Tablet: I lately purchased (technically gifted) a tablet some time before the convention. I didn’t use it very much at my table (as it didn’t seem proper to use while tabling and with someone no less), but it was very useful for collecting references for commissions!
- Sheet Protectors: Somehow my brother found that we have a bunch of leftover sheet protectors so I brought some with me. They weren’t really professional to use since they’re made to be inserted in a binder but it’s better than having none. Someday, when I’m more experienced, I’ll buy sheet protectors that can be sealed.
- Bringing Art Tools With Me: Comprising of color pencils, pens, pencils, erasers, blank index cards, and a scant amount of blank printer paper. Later I would get my hands on a 8.5 x 11” sketchbook during the convention. I placed the color pencils in a small stationary case with a handle and my pens/pencils/etc. into my regular handbag.
- Tape: For sticking stuff. It was pretty useful to have.
- I used a few well-written guides on how to fill a seller’s permit.
- I drove to the office to turn in my application in person because I didn’t want to wait for the mail to send me my permit. Fortunately, the nearest BOE was actually fairly close to the school I’m attending.
- Admittedly, I thought I had to wait for an hour for the processing but nope, it was an hour of waiting instead. There weren’t many applicants that weekday but there was only one or two windows open.
The Actual Report:
orz if I had this written up much earlier.. I probably would have remembered more details. In any case, here’s what I can recall. o:
Picked up my badge. It was interesting to see the whole convention being set up but much of it was still pretty empty. Some tables already had displays up for tomorrow. Admittedly, it was rather quiet and due to circumstances, I was stuck there for a few hours. I fortunately brought a few things to stave off boredom though.
If I knew I could just pick up my badge on Day 1.. I could have spared the trip for Day 0. I daresay that’s the reason why hardly any artists came to pick up their badges on day 0.
I tried playing off my nervousness.. but I guess it was evident that I was nervous due to the setup taking the entire time from early artist alley badge entry to the opening for free attendees (paid pass users could go in an hour earlier than free attendees though). The setup was time consuming because:
- I had to make a display board for my cell phone charms (I was crazy enough to NOT have display-version cell phone charms withoutthe straps so I had to spend a bit of time getting them off loool). Also involved with the point below.
- Next time, I should prepare the basic display board beforehand. That would have saved me a lot of time during setup!
- Also had to make lots of handmade signs and prices for them. Involved finding paper, using blank index cards, cutting them out, taping them, etc.
- Again, I was foolish enough not to prepare signs beforehand. I guess I felt pretty confident that I could just wing it at the time. I did in the end.. but it was hardly professional-like haha.
- I had to figure out how I want to setup my wire cubes.
- And how much I’m willing to share the display of it. o:
- Figuring out how to display my various prints.
- Deliberating on commission prices.
- I also decided to only offer chibi commissions (both color and b/w) because I felt I’m still pretty rusty from not drawing on paper for some time.
The busiest day of the three days.
Taking into account what I didn’t do on the first day during set up..
- I rectified my wire cube setup by pinning sample prints on both the left and right side of the towering wire cube boxes. I can’t believe I forgot that I could actually do that! I practically lost some potentially easy advertising on Day 1 lool.
- Before leaving, I printed out some signs and prices to replace my spontaneous crappy hand written ones. They look so much better now!
- Instead of displaying ALL of my prints on the table, I put the prints into a sheet protector folder thing I had brought with me.. which also contained my traditional artwork displayed all over it. I couldn’t find my other one so I resorted to letting my primary one be sacrificed for the greater good of fair table sharing display. Yesterday’s wasn’t very good since I have a ton of stuff on my table. I did this some time later after the setup though.
- Used the plastic shoe box as a base to hold my larger bookmarks way in the top. It increased in visibility due to that, I believe.
- Used mini metal clamps to hold up all of my display material on the wire cubes. ffff I wish I knew that yesterday because I used tape for display. My sample posters are fine using masking tape though~
It was a really short day. There was honestly not much activity left offered by the convention other than some movie screenings and scant panels.
There isn’t much to say except that I sold more 8.5 x 11” prints than the previous two days which surprised me a lot (one of them was from a Haruhi cosplayer, the first I’ve seen)! That made me really, really happy OMG. ;A;
quick edit: Forgot to mention this orz. An artist came by early on during setup to trade. I traded one of my 4×6 prints for two cute pins. >w< My first trade ever~~ thank you Vy~!!
In the end.. I didn’t break even lol. I hoped to break even.. but then that’s quite unrealistic when considering factors such as competing sales in a incredibly large artist alley (in comparison to 2011’s) and the convention generally being lacking this year in terms of drawing people to attend despite the free admission.
- First artist alley experience!! It was really exciting to do this sort of thing. I dreamed of doing this, but never thought it’d be this soon.
- Sharing a table with another artist <3
- Meeting Finni for the first time OMGG I knew her for like 10+ years ahhh /ok I know I said that already but she’s someone I’ve known fairly early in my life
- Lots of artists this time around (2011’s was just like.. two rows ahaha ;; )
- Even though I more or less sat around my table all these three days, there wasn’t a major event I was excited about.. hence my reasoning to stick by my table all three days. It probably didn’t help that the convention was unable to invite high-profile guest of honors.
- Doubly, there weren’t any notable concerts this year. 2011’s was amazing so it was disappointing when this year lacked any.
- Only half of the convention room was rented so it was awkward seeing the artist alley, stage, MLP lounge, and dealer’s room squished together in the same space.
- My table was located close to the doors so the music didn’t bother me, but the volume from the stage was very loud when one gets closer to the tables close to the stage.
And.. as mentioned earlier, here’s a photo of some things and super awesome gifts I received. ;A; I forgot to upload the picture of it but I also got some super cute prints from my partner. You can see them here in this tumblr post.
I have a LOT of leftovers. Some things sold better than others so I might consider reprinting those in the future. For the other things.. there’s a pretty good chance of me retiring some of them as some were admittedly added in the last minute. I planned to open a shop but alas.. I’m horribly slow at turning the sign around because I’m at loss at how I’m going to ship some of it. The smaller things are easily shipped (and fairly inexpensively too) but the larger stuff requires more specialized packaging. I also have to figure out how much I’m going to charge for flat rate shipping were I to finish setting up my store. Otherwise.. I can personally charge custom rates since I’m still able to go check up the rates at the post office and whatnot. And.. I also should order some photo mailers. Tubes as well, maybe. /woes in lacking shipping experience
It was tiring yet exciting experience~~ maybe it’s lucky that I chose to attend a smaller con than a larger, well known one since the smaller setting helps me wet my feet a little. Someday.. when it doesn’t have to be a dream anymore, I’ll try tackling some larger conventions. >w< Of course, I hope I can attend AM^2 next year. Or maybe another anime con? Who knows. Hopefully I would be more prepared by then ehehe.