Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fanime Artist Alley 2013

My first con of 2013! Fanime Con was held in San Jose, CA from June 24th to the 27th. I drove up from Los Angeles with my friend, Mojgon. The largest anime convention I'd ever attended up until that point was Anime Detour, with an attendance cap of 3,500. Fanime had 21,000+ attendees! I was nervous at the thought of being overwhelmed, but I quickly realized that the Artist Alley was just as manageable as any other. ^_^ As far as sales went, I found it to be just as profitable for me as any other, too. To make $50 at a free convention is awesome. To make $50 at a convention that costs well over $100 to attend... not so awesome. But don't get me wrong! I loved my time at Fanime. Here's why~

By far the most special thing to come out of Fanime was new friendships! My table-mate, Bianca, was fairly new to the alley, same as me. She was selling hand-sewn plush dolls of bunnies and onigiri, hair bows, and watercolor prints. Carli is an artist alley expert, and she had a towering display of beautiful anime posters. Marissa, also an alley veteran, sold stunning, extra-large posters. I'm so thrilled and thankful to have met these lovely ladies, who I now call friends.
Happy to be a cupcake.

Marissa insisted that I try on her cupcake dress, and I happily did so. (My camera was bad to me, so this is my only con photo!)

At first, it was very hard to resist the urge to attend panels and events. At such a large convention, there was a whole lot of interesting stuff going on! My very favorite panels are the ones that are informational-- especially the ones that teach you how to do something new and exciting. So, on day one, I went through the enormous program book, circling tons of interesting events. I circled one called "Artist Alley Survival Guide." Then it hit me. I didn't go there to talk about selling in artist alley.... or to learn how to wire LED lights into a costume (though that sounds terribly fun). I chose to present myself in the Artist Alley and focus on my goals as an artist, not on my hobbies. I'm so used to attending conventions just for fun, that I had to rewire my brain to accept this new reality! Suddenly, I saw the weekend through the eyes of a student. It was one big lesson, and my friends were my teachers.

One of the most important things I learned was to make proper use of my space. Of the 350 tables in the alley, nearly all of them made use of vertical displays made of pvc pipes or grid panels in order to display a dozen or so prints at once. Those that did not, including myself, were at a serious disadvantage! I only had three prints hanging off the front of my table. There was an enormous amount of people drifting by, seeking a good reason to stop and take a closer look. I didn't have much at first glance.

I got to sit beside Mojgon, who has sold in artist alleys for many years. I picked up on a few things, such as:

  • Her best-selling items appeared to be buttons and 11 x 17 poster prints, though she also sold bookmarks, 8.5 x 11 prints, charms, and necklaces. 
  • She had $100 in ones and fives to give out as change, plus lots of quarters. She kept the bills in a cute pouch... which I find worth mentioning, because having a special place designated for holding your art money feels exciting. :) 
  • After an item sold, she took note of it in a quick and simple way. I imitated her, like so:
Keeping track of sales in a tiny notebook.
I had my tiny Rilakkuma notebook with me at all times to take notes on everything. When I took a break to walk the alley, I noted clever table arrangements, artists' contact information, sales techniques and unique merchandise. While at my table, I noted as many behind-the-scenes details as possible. I love note-taking! I have many pages full of tidbits... but what I've already described here constitutes my major findings, I believe. While it's not much, I hope there was something here of value to you. My artist alley adventures will continue in January, with Anime Los Angeles. Gotta get to work! ~<3