Thursday, July 10, 2014

Artist Alley Bare Essentials

Over the past year, I've done a lot of conventions.  I've also written about a lot of conventions, both in convention recaps and informational posts.  I've even presented a few panels on the basics with Heidi Black.  During this span of time, I've learned a lot and have reflected a lot on what I do and why I do it.  For an artist alley artist, I'm a little atypical- the majority of my money is earned selling commissions done while at the convention.  I don't really offer prints, I don't offer plushes, but I do sell comics and small knick-knacks with my art on them.  I try to be quick to say that my advice may not be one size fits all.

With this post, I tried to write a basic list of the items that I find essential to tabling in the artist alley.  Your mileage may vary, but I think it's a good start.

Absolute Basics

  • Tablecloth in a solid color or monochrome print ( I recommend 3 yards  or if you're sharing, 2 colors, 4.5' each, sewn together.
  • Business cards
  • Business card holder
  • Signage to display prices and deals
  • Banner with business name OR length of finished cloth with business name neatly and visibly hand lettered.  An above table banner is 6'x2', a half table banner is 3'x2'.  If you plan ahead, BuildASign often has sales.
  • Notebook to record sales
  • If selling prints, page protectors (buy in bulk)


  • Kitty with a selection of bills- I prefer 50 ones, 5 fives, 5 tens, 10 twenties, and a roll of quarters.  This should be acquired ahead of time, and it's your responsibility to stay on top of it.
  • I use a clear accordion coupon folder to organize my bills by denomination and separate money I've budgeted for spending in the artist alley.
  • Lockbox that travels WITH you
  • Square reader or any other brand of credit card reader.  Figure out how to use this ahead of time, NOT when running your first credit card transaction.
  • Smartphone, tablet, or iPod touch with wifi enabled to look up reference, nearby restaurants, and run credit card transactions.

Display Materials:

  • Wire mesh cubes can be used as towers to vertically display posters, as shelves to display plushes and hats, as a structure to hang banners, signs, prints.  Things can be magnetted or clipped.  Can also be covered to improve aesthetic.  Easy to break down and set up, versatile, fairly affordable, and easy to find. 
  • Easels for signs, books
  • Cork boards to display pins
  • White or chalkboards for easy to adjust pricing
  • High visibility sticky notes in a contrasting color
  • Bulldog clips
  • Magnets


  • Plastic containers to hold table materials while not in use
  • Storage containers that hold merchandise not currently on display
  • Small tool box to hold misc essentials at table
  • Transportation with wheels (like a rolling suitcase or a small dolly)


  • Fat tipped permanent market
  • Magnets
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Chapstick
  • Hair elastics
  • Rubber bands
  • Washi tape or other low tack tape
  • Sweater
  • Band aids
  • Scissors
  • Busy work in case con is slow (comic roughs, sketchbook, sewing kit, watercolors)
What are your most essential artist alley items?  Comment below and let me know what I'm missing!