Friday, November 28, 2014

Con Recap: Anime Blast Chattanooga

I think even short time readers of this blog have figured out by now that I'm not really a fan of doing conventions back to back.  Back at Hamacon, when I first became aware of Anime Blast Chattanooga, I hadn't really intended to make the trip.  At that point, I'd already signed up for the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention, and I was still waiting for NOCAZfest to announce their dates, and I really wasn't looking for a third con to attend in November, especially so close after GMX.  Somewhere along the way though, I allowed Heidi and my own vanity to persuade me to sign up, and the $35 for table AND badge wasn't a bad price either, even if the convention was still small.

I've been relying on the 'new' setup since Anime Weekend Atlanta, and so far it's served me well.  Rather than doing a demo setup each time, I just run through my items while repacking them to make sure I have everything I need.  The website promised a 6'x2' table (the usual standard), and I packed for that.  I booked a room in the con block of the Marriot (attached to the convention center) at a pretty decent rate of $99 a night, and the drive to Chattanooga is only 2 hours, which really isn't bad.  The hotel was booked from Thursday night until Sunday morning, and while I usually don't like heading back the night after the con, two hours was fairly doable.


We left for Chattanooga on Thursday evening, and arrived early enough that we went to the convention center to see if we could pick up our badges ahead of time.  That gave us an opportunity to scout out the center, which looked like a refurbished train station.  The convention center seemed quite large, with plenty of room for panels and attendees. 


Somehow, I managed to have enough panels to take advantage of the additional 2'.

The Alley

Nattosoup, Anime Blast Chattanooga, Artist Alley

 The Dealer's Room

Friday morning we went down to pick up our registration, but it seems like registration wasn't quite ready to handle customers, as it took awhile for them to get our stuff together.  I requested a program guide, since we weren't given the bags that went to regular attendees, and after a little arguing, I finally got it.  Conventions, I wish you guys treated us as well as you treat regular attendees.  Customers constantly ask us about when panels are, or where the Cosplay contest is, and while it's not our job to answer them, it'd be nice to at least have the option, or even be able to decide if we want to attend events ourselves.

Nattosoup, sassy buttons, glitter buttons, flower buttons

A beautiful shot of my handlettered Sassy buttons, a Nattosoup original. 

buttons, pins, pin display, button display, anime con, Anime Blast Chattanooga

commission display, Nattosoup, Anime Blast Chattanooga

7" Kara, kid's watercolor comic, Hana Doki Kira, anthology comic, anime convention

Since people always want to turn the cakestands, I finally put a lazy Susan beneath them.

Heidi and I got to the alley and were pointed to our tables, since a map had not been provided before the convention, and this is where we found out the tables were 8', rather than the 6' we'd planned for.  Fortunately, both of us managed to quickly come up with solutions for our tables, and were able to utilize the additional space.  We also found out that the Dealer's Room and Artist Alley shared a ballroom but had different hours, with the Dealer's Room staying open longer than the Artist Alley.  Anime Blast did have a staff member and a velvet rope to make sure there was no crossovers while the Alley was closed.

Friday sales were pretty slow, and I didn't really have to worry about take home commissions keeping me up that night.  Although slow Friday sales are usual for all conventions, this didn't bode well for the entire weekend, especially since the hotel cost more than I'd initially expected, as we had to pay for parking.

On the plus side, I did get to meet Georgeo Brooks, an artist Joseph interviewed back at AkaiCon.  Georgeo is a comic artist who's currently attending the Memphis College of Art, and he's currently working on Phoenix Scroll, an American shonen comic.

Friday Commissions:

Belle, Beauty and the Beast, sketch, sketch commission, Anime Blast Chattanooga, Nattosoup

burlesque, sketch, commission, Nattosoup


Saturday morning we woke up to the fire alarm in the hotel going off.  We didn't have time to change clothes or grab our stuff, so after evacuating the building, we ambled over to a nearby Starbucks for breakfast.  The firedrill made us a little late getting to the table, but that was fine, as the alley was pretty dead at that time.

During Friday, I had a slight issue with not one, but two film crews interviewing cosplayers in front of my booth.  In neither instance did the crew (cameraman and interviewer) ask nor apologize for blocking my table, nor did they think to interview the artist they were blocking.  I had to involve convention staff both times, and the Artist Alley Head was prompt to respond, a definite plus for Anime Blast.
Normally I feel icky taking photos of people without their permission, but believe me, they got my grumpy mug a few times without asking as well.  This is far from even.

Saturday sales were a little brisker than Friday's, but still dead enough that around 5 Heidi and I went to get some lunch from the grilled cheese sandwich truck.  The wait was a lot longer than expected, and we returned about an hour later.  Later that evening, at dinner with a couple other artists, I was informed that apparently a customer was enthralled with my $3 marker book, so enthralled that she lay on the floor in front of my table, clutching both the book and her money.  Another artist offered to take her money and give it to me upon my return, but she insisted on waiting for my return.  By the time I returned, however, she was long gone.  I definitely feel like this is a metaphor for my convention career.

I had near constant booth barnacles all Saturday and Sunday- a major distraction when they're demanding your attention but not buying anything.  This caused me to be shortchanged on several occasions to the tune of $50, which I suspected during the transactions, but was too distracted to fight them over (what if I'm wrong?  That's a big bridge to burn).  I found out for sure when I went over my books, cash, and Simple statements and found the shortage.  Apparently it's a common technique to give an artist a $10 and claim you gave them a $20.  To prevent this, I usually leave the bill on the table until change has been given, in case the customer claims they gave me more than I received but with barnacles hanging all over my table and no assistant to be a spare pair of eyes, I didn't want to leave money laying about.

Although Saturday hours were supposed to last until 8 (on both the program and the emails sent to artists), it was determined that we'd close by 7, costing me sales and causing me to mail a commission that was otherwise ready for pickup.  I wish conventions would stick by the hours proposed.

Saturday evening we had dinner with Georgeo and a pair of plush artists, Holly Tillman and her tablemate.  It's always nice to be able to chat with other artists, and it's especially nice to share convention war stories.

Saturday Commissions

sketch commission, Nattosoup, Anime Blast Chattanooga, anime style, cute, kawaii



By this point in time, I was pretty frustrated and spent.  Anime Blast had been, overall, an exhausting convention with a crowd that required a lot of effort to make even minor sales.  Still, I had to put my big girl pants on Sunday morning and hope Sunday impulse buys salvaged things for me.

Small item sales did pick up on Sunday, and I had a couple commissions, but sales were still very slow, and when 4 came around, I was already half packed.

Sunday Commissions

Mail In Commission

Sales: 478.5


Gas: $40
Food: $5 coffee x3, $30 dinner Friday, $10 lunch Saturday, $10 dinner Saturday, $10 lunch Sunday
Table: $35
Hotel:  $386 included taxes
Parking: $10 a day (an unplanned cost)- $30

Total Cost: $373


Although Anime Blast Chattanooga was quite affordably priced at $35 for an 8' table, getting $105.5 in profit (and that's only going by my sales book, my cash and Square transactions don't equal that, meaning I was shorted quite a few times by customers) isn't enough to make up for the cost of materials or my time.  Although Heidi and I made an effort to eat affordably when possible and even skipped some meals, it was still difficult to make a profit.  For now, Anime Blast is too small a convention for me to see the sales I need to make a profit, and I would consider attending again once the convention has grown.