Sunday, June 14, 2015

Con Recap: Animazement

I first heard about Animazement when my friends Lane and Dylan were trying to lure me into doing North Carolina conventions.  It sounded good- I assumed Raleigh was nearish Charlotte, so I went ahead and applied.  When Dylan told me he was waitlisted, I assumed I didn't make it, so I was a little surprised when I got my acceptance letter a couple weeks later.
At this point, I still hadn't realized what a large show Animazement was.  The photos I found online showed booths in a hallway, and I assumed it was in a weird convention center/mall, the way Anime Weekend Atlanta is.  I was a little nervous about that sort of set up, but I've been doing alley shows for awhile now, so I figured I'd manage.  Although I'd done SOME preliminary research, it was obviously not enough, because I didn't realize how big Animazement really was until I saw people on AANI freaking out about it a week prior to the show itself.  At that point, I was seriously starting to regret my decision to attend, as I have a history of doing poorly at big cons.
 My nerves only got worse when I saw my actual placement.  This map is deceptive- my actual table was in the very back, and there was nothing to lure people back there.  That dealer's room 'exit'?  Mainly used as a shortcut from the artist alley to the dealer's room- people would go down that first aisle, never to return to the artist alley until their money was spent.


But gee, that map sure makes it SEEM like it's a great space, doesn't it?  And you see that unlabelled gray spot?  That was a huge support column that basically blocked attendees view from seeing the last few tables.  The art auction and art class rooms weren't even a draw- the auction went on during the afternoon of Sunday, was closed to the public for the majority of the con, and I never saw any art classes actually in action.  And the location of the art show made it seem like there really wasn't much going on beyond that point.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?
So part of my convention prep was painting new mini watercolors.  I feel like my minis have skewed shoujo lately, so I wanted to do some cute shonen watercolors.

This was also the anime convention debut for several of those Artscow items I showed you guys earlier, including the Kawaiimasks.

All these new items meant the introduction of some neat new setup items, including the magnetic locker baskets I first started using at MTAC.  I ordered quite a few more as it allows me to neatly display things on my wire racks, freeing up table space.  I was pretty excited to see how they worked on a full scale anime-con display, rather than the half displays I'd used them on at FCBD and TCAF, but unfortunately for me, Animazement uses 8' tables, and my demo table is only 6'.  I did do a test setup with my cubes on the floor, but my apartment is so weirdly laid out that there was no way I could do a full set up and take photos.


We left at 11:00 AM, thinking we'd make it for Alley setup opening around 6:00PM, 7 at the latest.  Unfortunately, neither Heidi nor myself realized there is a GIANT BLACK HOLE between Tennessee and North Carolina, and this isn't even talking about the hour lost from Central to Eastern.  With no lengthy stops, we still didn't get into Raleigh until 10PM, and just went straight to the world's worst Best Western.  Seriously, avoid the Best Western in Raleigh- it is full of black mould and still sick from it as of the Tuesday after the con ended.  Spoiler:  We ended up switching to a super nice Double Tree for the rest of the stay, as the Worst Western was making Heidi sick too.


During Setup

Since we missed Thursday registration pick up and setup, we had to hotfoot it over to the downtown convention center early to get everything handled.  We were there around 8:40, hauled in our stuff, and I went to go take care of our registration and the purchase of two additional artist helper badges for our friends Lane and Dylan, who were heading up from Charlotte that day to help us up.  As soon as the alley opened, Heidi and I went to our tables and started setting up.

Even doing my best to get set up as soon as possible the alley still opened before I could finish setting up.  While nobody was actually there to buy yet, it was still difficult to get setup around people browsing my table.

Friday sales were incredibly slow- the artists around me assured me that Friday was browsing day, but that Saturday and Sunday would be hectic.  While I'm used to sluggish Friday sales, it seemed that almost everyone in the alley on Friday was just browsing, and let me know that as soon as I greeted them.  There's nothing wrong with this, by the way, just a type of customer I'm not used to.

Since Friday was so slow, especially commissions-wise, I ended up penciling a few Gizmo Granny illustrations while conducting sales.  I usually do bring outside work to conventions, but generally don't find much time to actually get anything done, so I was glad I'd thought ahead and brought a plan B.

At Con Commissions


As I walked into the Artist Alley on Sunday, about 40 minutes after opening, I spotted the cutest American-made lolita dresses for sale.  Sweet Mildred had an adorable selection of not-over-the-top lolita, and I ended up splurging and buying myself a new convention dress- a cute sailor collared dress covered in an obnoxious (amazing) kitten print.  This was pretty much the only opportunity I had to shop, unfortunately, as by the time I was packed down for the alley each evening, everyone else had pretty much already left.  After buying the dress and opting to wear it for the day, I headed back to my table to begin making sales.

Saturday at noon was the cutoff limit for artists to show up and claim their tables, after that point, the tables were available to purchase.  Dylan was able to snag one of those tables, and fortunately Lane brought his convention stuff up with him the night before.   He had his choice of the four unclaimed tables, and his spot was a little more prime than my own.

Saturday wasn't much better than Friday- the biggest sellers seemed to be stickers (2 for $2) and Sassy Buttons.  I'm glad I pushed myself to make 5 dozen in the week before the con, I really needed everything I could to recoup some of my TCAF costs.

This, unfortunately, was the weekend view from my table, and is pretty standard for the amount of crowd I saw all weekend long.  That curtained area is where the art auction took place, and it was only utilized on Sunday afternoon for about an hour, so it was not any sort of draw to customers.

This was taken from beside where the art auction would be held.  As you can see, people just aren't really making it this far down the artist alley.

And I had a large column right in front of my table, which blocked people's view from the front of the alley.

This is about as busy as the artist alley seemed to get.

Artist Alley Photos Courtesy of Lane


Dealer's Room Photo Courtesy of Lane

I didn't get much opportunity to leave my table, but Lane was kind enough to take photos of both the artist alley and the dealer's room for me.  According to Lane, there were concession vendors in the Dealer's Room, and the room seemed to be packed nonstop.  Perhaps Animazement could move some of those concession vendors into the Artist Alley, not only to draw in more customers, but also so that the artists would have a convenient food and water source.  This system seems to work well for Anime Weekend Atlanta, which also has a large artist alley, though not as large as Animazement's.

Saturday Commissions

Saturday Pack Up

Below are some shots of the alley taken from the second level foyer as people were packing up to leave for the night, at 9:30 PM.  I think it really helps to show the scale (and issues) of the alley.  That aisle to the left was basically a highway straight to the Dealer's Room, encouraging many customers to skip browsing the immense alley save for that one aisle.


I'm used to Sundays being the slowest day at the convention, but Animazement took me by surprise.  While it wasn't as good as people promised, Sunday wasn't a slouch, and I managed to sell several Kawaiimasks and copies of 7" Kara.

Sunday Commissions

The artist alley ended at 3:00 on Sunday afternoon, which is pretty early compared to the 4:00 or 5:00 many anime cons end at on Sundays.  We were expected to be packed up and out by 4:00 PM, but one of the AA staff managed to get us another 30 minutes to pack, which was much appreciated by many of the artists in the alley.  Lane and I started packing around 2:30, first with little things that weren't really moving, then with larger things.  It seemed like any amount of packing scared off potential customers, but honestly, they may have just been looking anyway.

Total Sales: $992

Hotel, total: $142
Transportation: 2 tanks of gas each way, $30 per tank
Table: $150
Additional Badge for Lane: $63
Food: Thursday- Papa John's small two topping $10 (split between two people), Friday- frappechino $5, dinner- $24, Saturday frappechino $5, lunch- burger and a shake $6, dinner at Flying Saucer (one of the few places still open) $24, Sunday frappechino $5, celebratory Shabu Shabu dinner- $50
Parking: $7 per day event parking X 3 days
Total Costs: $419.50

The Verdict

While my total sales was almost that of MTAC, I honestly feel like Animazement was a disappointing convention, especially since I'd heard so many good things about it.  It could have been my awful location (there's reason to go back there, other than the artists), the fact that the Animazement Artist Alley is HUGE (bigger than Anime Weekend Atlanta), there's nothing to entice attendees to fully explore the alley, or maybe I'm just a terrible fit, as Animazement seems to be a print focused con, and I am not a print focused artist, but I think Animazement is a convention I'll have no problem skipping in the future.  My limit for 'driving cons' is usually 4 hours (or longer, if it's Mechacon and we stay at Alex's halfway through the drive), and Animazement clocked in at a whopping 10 hours each way.

Animazement seemed to be geared mostly towards prints, with an audience used to haggling and nickeling and diming.  While this is fine if your profit margin is healthy, if you're mostly selling little things you assemble yourself, being nickeled and dimed doesn't really pay the bills.  While there were many fantastic customers, Lane and I were also creeped on A LOT, and that definitely takes an emotional toll.  The fact that Animazement is so print-centric also seems to indicate that the audience hasn't been primed for original art- I had very few people asking if I drew OC's (a common questions) or self portraits, and many asked if I sold prints of my mini watercolors (why would I?  I'd be charging the same for a print when you could buy the original)

It can be discouraging to see other artists do so well at a convention that I felt was a struggle, but I have to keep in mind that there are conventions that I excel at.  I know I don't do well at larger cons, and I started to have serious misgivings when I realized how big Animazement really was.  It was disconcerting how few con-goers were interested in commissions- most were more than happy to spend $15-$20 on prints rather than going home with the genuine article, and had charms and Sassy Buttons not sold exceedingly well (I'm glad I really pushed myself to make 5 dozen sassy buttons in a single day the week before Animazement), I know my sales would've been much worse.  What did surprise me was how many copies of 7" Kara I moved later Saturday evening/Sunday, far more copies than I sold during TCAF, a convention that's supposed to be geared towards indie comic artists.  When I did my final total, I was honestly surprised by how much I sold, as it felt like I'd struggled to make sales all weekend long.

I just filled out the Animazement artist survey, and this is what I said for my final thoughts:

I felt like the alley was too large given how sparse the crowd INSIDE the room was.  I also felt like there were traffic flow issues- people would enter the artist alley, go straight down that long hall, and then enter the dealer's room without viewing the rest of the alley.  I was in the K block, and groups of people were sporadic at best- people weren't making it past the art show down to the art auction/art classes.  Because there was literally NOTHING in the back of the room, there was no reason for people to continue moving to the back.  Signage would be nice, especially on those huge columns that blocked people from seeing the back of the room.  Perhaps utilizing the width, rather than the length, of the room the way Anime Weekend Atlanta has done in the past would ensure more uniform dispersal of the crowd?

Things I Saw A Lot Of:
  • Steven Universe
  • Prints.  Everyone had prints.
  • Buttons
  • An overabundance of cute and cute artists
  • Sailor Moon
  • Neon
  • Pastel
  • Pokeballs
The takeaway is, if you live nearer Animazment than I do, do well at larger cons, and have a variety of prints as well as small cheap items to consistently sell, you'll probably do pretty well.  If Animazement is a local con to you, you'll probably be really happy with your sales.  All of my encounters with staff were very pleasant, the convention as a whole seems well organized, and picking up and buying additional badges was a breeze.

Since I've fallen behind on my convention recaps, I'll be adding my mail in commissions to this post after the fact.