Last year, my friend Alex suggested that I try tabling at Kamicon, an anime convention in Birmingham, AL. I'd missed the deadline for their Artist Alley by a few hours, but I applied to be put in their waitlist. Unfortunately, I never made it into the artist alley last year, but I was much more proactive this year in submitting my application, and secured a table.
Part of the draw for Kamicon was that, at the time of application, Alex was artist alley staff, and I felt comfortable going to Alex with any concerns I might have. Unfortunately, Alex's talents were needed elsewhere, but I honestly didn't mind too much. Hamacon was a good convention for me, and I was pretty sure Alabama conventions were a good fit for me.
Before the Con
A couple months prior to Hamacon, I had a fairly negative convention experience with Anime Kaiju. Although I knew better, Anime Kaiju still affected my confidence, so I wanted to make sure I hit Kamicon with my best foot forward and my guns blazing. Part of doing that meant changing how I handle my display, which included cute new standee price signs.
I also collaborated with Alex for a series of pieces that combined cute chibi art with relaxing space.
And I did a full demo display to make sure everything worked together and I had everything that I needed ready to pack.
I introduced a commission sample book for Kamicon- a little portfolio filled with labelled originals to give customers a little extra help deciding what sort of commission they'd be interested in purchasing. I wanted to free up space on my display for mini prints and watercolors, and it was extremely easy to put this little book together.
Heidi came to spend the night that Wednesday, and on Thursday we made the drive down to Tuscaloosa to pick up Alex. We arrived in Birmingham on Friday morning, and went to check in with Kamicon registration immediately.
We did a four way hotel room split with Emily of Sweet Fancy Cuteness, and since Alex would be serving as staff, Alex paid towards the hotel cost. We opted to stay at the Westin attached to the convention, as that's usually the easiest solution, and paid to park in the attached parking. Since there were four of us to the room, I'm fairly sure our per person total was cheap, I'm guessing around $60, but as I didn't book the hotel, I don't have access to the numbers.
We were directed to the artist alley, which was located just past the dealer's room. I was a bit concerned that having customers travel through the dealer's room to get to the artist alley might affect our sales, but I decided to wait and see how things went before getting bent out of shape. We were able to quickly locate the Artist Alley Check In Table, nestled in amongst the artist tables. It only took a moment to check in, and we were pointed to our tables- the last two on the first row.
I was somewhat nervous about being placed next to Heidi- it's been a reoccuring theme in my convention life that when our tables are together, people will inevitably compare us. For a few years, I resisted raising my prices, as it meant my most expensive sketch commission would be the same price as her cheapest, and customers would usually just take their business to her. I didn't notice this problem when we weren't placed next to each other, and while I like to say none of us in the artist alley are competing against each other, I also feel like it's unfair to put two commission artists next to each other when you have an entire alley to play with. I feel like it's generally bad alley organization not to mix up your alley. Personally, I really like being next to plush artists, hatters, or, my dream placement, next to someone who sews American lolita-wear (but then I'd spend all my money at that table, haha). WITH THAT SAID, Heidi requested that we be next to each other (I didn't), so the alley staff was merely honoring her wishes.
|This is actually a REALLY frumpy outfit for me, but it was too cold to skip the jacket, as the loading bay door was open while artists and dealers set up.|
The alley itself wasn't very big- four rows of tables with maybe 8 tables per row, some rows having two tables at each end as endcaps, so maybe 34 tables total. The room we were in could have easily accommodated more dealers and more artists, it seemed a bit empty and under utilized. It was also a very Spartan room, with an unfinished ceiling and concrete floors. Perhaps Kamicon could have used some of the extra space to host minor family-oriented events the way Hamacon did last year. By having hourly events, you could ensure that there's always some crowd hanging around.
We had PLENTY of room behind our tables though. Had I been smart, I probably could've brought more wire cubes, and set up a gallery wall, but you can never really predict what sort of space you're going to get until you see it in person. I really don't like tabling next to people who assume the con is going to provide everyone with plenty of space, and so they pack huge displays or displays that have a large footprint, and then insist on using their entire display even if our space is greatly reduced. I'd prefer to pack small and try to expand than to take up someone else's room.
Friday sales were steady, but fairly unremarkable, and were slow from setup until around 4, when they picked up as kids got out of school and started getting to the convention. Our food option was within easy walking distance- burgers, fries, and hotdogs, and the bathroom was just a little further away. Also in this massive room were the convention recruitment tables, which seemed an odd placement, as they would've gotten more attention flanking the entrances to this room. Despite having the Dealer's Room, Artist Alley, AND convention tables in the room, the room still felt very empty, even at its busiest.
On Friday, Alex was busy helping open up the convention to attendees, so while I had no problem handling sales on my own, it got a little lonely behind the table.
Friday Artist Alley Hours were 4:00 PM- 8:00 PM
I apologize for the lack of photos from this point on- I spent the rest of Kamicon extremely busy with commissions. At this con, I was still offering detailed chibis and dots-for-eyes chibis at the same price, which kept me slammed but didn't net me as much money as I would've liked.
Saturday was fairly bustling from the get-go, although things definitely picked up even more after lunch. Alex was busy at registration for a lot of the day, and the artist alley was kept really cold, which made it difficult to draw, as my hands get stiff. I took commissions all day, so I didn't really have a chance to talk to the attendees as much as I would've liked. Although it was nice to stay busy, I was pretty run down by 8:00 PM, when Joe with MCFC swung by to chat. Alex was there to help out, but Alex was so run down as well that it was really difficult to juggle it all. I was definitely ready to head back to the hotel when 10:00 PM struck, and I was starving. Unfortunately, late alley hours make it really difficult for tabling artists to find places to eat that are nearby and still open. Fortunately for us, we had plans to dine with convention staff from MTAC, Otakon, and Momocon, so while we had to hit up a few restaurants, we managed to find a pizza place that could not only accommodate a party of our size, but was open late.
Although later hours makes it harder to find food late at night, I gotta admit, I'd rather get up later and stay later than get up early and leave at 6 PM. I'm a night owl, and I don't really wake up mentally around 11 AM, so the later hours are better for me, as I'm much more on the ball.
Saturday Artist Alley Hours were 10:00 AM- 10:00 PM
On Sunday, Alex was able to hang out with us much more, as the registration swarm had all died out. Although sales had slowed down, I wasn't too disappointed, as I was working on a few remaining sketch commissions taken the night before that I hadn't been able to complete before my hand gave out. Once those were done, I did take a few additional at-cons, but Alex and I both pushed the mail ins.
I feel like the introduction of my commission portfolio, mentioned earlier in the post, really helped move sales. I also broke up some of my commission tiers- dots for eyes started at $5, detailed chibi started at $10, inks were an additional $5 on whatever base price and having labelled examples for all of these made it much easier for customers to decide what commissions they wanted.
At Con Commissions
Mail in Commissions
Total Sales: Slightly over $800
Hotel: $60 per person approx
Transportation: A tank of gas each way, so $80 total
Food: $5 Frappechino at the Starbucks in the Westin, we didn't eat a real meal until a very late dinner, the only place open was the pub attached to the Westin- $25, Saturday $5 frappechino, $10 lunch at the con, $20 dinner at the pizza place, Sunday $5 frappechino, dinner on way to Tuscaloosa at Okinawa $25
Total Costs: $235
So far, I really, really like Alabama conventions. Hamacon was great last year, Kamicon was good this year, and could have been better if I'd had more ready-made stuff that appealed to people looking to fill a fandom need. Also, I had a lot of repeat customers from Hamacon, Anime Blast Chattanooga, and MTAC, customers who actually sought me out to say hi! It's so rewarding doing shows where people actually remember me, and I'm more than just a sketch-Walmart to them. I enjoyed filling all my commissions, had a great time chatting with people, and got to meet a lot of new friends. If you're an artist like me who often has trouble standing out at huge conventions like Otakon or Animazement, I highly recommend tabling at great smaller shows like Hamacon and Kamicon.