Delta H Con was the tiniest convention I’d ever been to and took place at the University of Houston over August 13th-15th, the weekend immediately after Anime Overload. It was the first con I didn’t have to travel for beyond the half hour drive downtown every morning and evening and was a strange experience…disappointing in many ways, but slightly redeeming in other aspects. I meant to write this con report much sooner, but a day and a half after the con, I was hit with some preeeeeetty ridiculous work circumstances that pretty much took over my schedule for the following two weeks. But that is mostly over for now, so here I am writing this somewhat belated entry.
After AO spoiled me with an unexpected eight foot long table, I found myself having a hard time adjusting back to a six foot space though the table was also wider than usual by six inches or so. Catherine was supposed to be joining me for the con but bailed two days prior. :\ It was probably just as well though, as I couldn’t really see the two of us squeezing our collective merchandise onto the table when I was having trouble fitting everything alone. And hey, as my third con going solo, I’ve gotten considerably better at stringing my banner up straight, lol.
Since the posted Artist Alley hours did not start until 3pm, I left for the con until half past noon. I might have left later, but I was counting on my mish-mash of Google Maps and GPS directions to send me astray for at least a little while. This wasn’t really the case though, and I was parked on the University of Houston’s campus a little after one. Unfortunately, the parking lot was a two block walk from the con building. This wouldn’t have been as big of an issue if 1) it wasn’t a hundred degrees out, 2) I didn’t have to haul all my stuff alone. It pretty much sucked and I was sweating my ass off by the time I got to the building, but I am so incredibly glad I decided last minute to transfer all of my con stuff from my usual duffle bag to a rolling suitcase. (I usually opt for the former because driving with large groups in small cars = space is an issue = duffles are more malleable.)
There were some sorority girls on the first floor of the building talking to freshmen there for orientation (or something). The first indication of “trouble” was the fact that these girls had no idea what I was talking about when I asked them where the convention was. I was eventually pointed to the second floor, where a majority of staff seemed to be hanging out in a concession stand selling both concessions and badges. I picked up my artist badge and was pointed in the further direction of the Artist Alley… which was in a large ballroom-type area with a stage. Hmm.
Second sign of “trouble”: the Artist Alley had a grand total of seven artists, only half of whom were already there when I arrived. David Weaver of Bleak World Productions, who had been one table down from me at Anime Overload, was among them, so I plopped my stuff down at the table next to him and started setting up. As I did so, Kawaii Ribbons, the ribbon/lolita accessory people also at AO, claimed the table on the other side of me. We had a few laughs about how the three of us ended up next to each other. On the other side of David was a collective of friends called Star Hoshi Hoshi who were selling mostly fleece hats and small plush, then James Moreno (no website), who had very fine artsy canvas drawings of tiny, tiny, tiny shapes, and a print artist I don’t recall the name of because I don’t think she had a business card. The seventh table, on the other side of Kawaii Ribbons, was not occupied until late in the afternoon.
Now, I’ve been in some pretty small Artist Alleys. The AAs at Kami-Con, Nashi-Con, EXPCon, and Anime Overload probably didn’t have more than fifteen artists… but seven seemed an incredibly sad number, especially when we were arranged in one lonely row against one side of this ballroom, and there was nothing else in the ballroom. This makes me wonder if anyone else actually applied because certainly there was space for more. But oh ho, it gets better. Even more sad than the fact that there were only seven artists? There were only three dealers. I have never been to a convention where there were more artists than dealers, where the Dealer’s Room was smaller than the AA. And none of the dealers were selling anime/manga goods primarily! One was selling kimonos. One was selling spiritual jewelry of semiprecious stones. And one was selling faux fox/wolf tails along with a handful of miscellaneous anime keychains. That was it. That was the Dealer’s Room. And I felt bad for them because they were in a tiny room that was harder to find than ours (the ballroom/AA was right next to the registration concession stand).
3pm came and went. A small trickle of people came and wandered and left and came back and wandered some more. It was painfully obvious that there were very few people milling around because the same people kept coming back, usually looking bored. This did give us more of a chance to try and engage people in conversation and to get them to look at our stuff. Star Hoshi Hoshi seemed to be doing remarkably well, and David had one customer buy one of almost everything he had to offer. o_O For me, Friday sales were about on par with Friday sales and I got a small handful of commissions. Not terrible, but not the best. Everyone in the Alley was fervently hoping that Saturday would net a bigger turnout.
A very sweet woman came by a few times and eventually commissioned a badge of AdventChildren!Cloud for her son, who was cosplaying as such. I basically just used him as a reference, so it’s probably not 100% accurate, even if he had a pretty awesome costume.
There weren’t any other events that look place in our ballroom on Friday, though there was a laptop set up to play music near the stage. This was a minor source of annoyance throughout the day as the volume did not seem able to stay constant. It would get loud for a song, soft for another song, and so on, at the whim of the person manning the computer. Some songs would also cut off midway. It was still a welcomed change from the ever-loud techno of the previous weekend though, and Thomas, the staff member that owned the laptop, had a good collection of Gundam music to entertain me during the long hours.
Sophie (Rubybaga) from Star Hoshi Hoshi stopped by my table at some point and recognize me as a SCAD alumni from the copies of Rainbows and Rainclouds I had for sale. Apparently, she had just been to SCAD for one of their one-week summer programs and, while there, had picked up the Sequential departmental sampler, to which I had contributed a short comic featuring the same protagonist (Greater than DOG). It was a weird coincidence, and I ended up talking to her a bit about the school and the programs there (she was interested in Animation).
The seventh artist shuffled in eventually, and she was a shy Japanese girl selling mostly commissions. Her English was not as good as I’m used to, and she scrambled for her electronic Japanese-English dictionary once or twice when I spoke to her, but it was clear that she was working really hard! x3
As disappointing as Friday was, at least there were still Pokemon gijinka to be found! Though to be honest, I forgot to ask if she was Togetic or Togekiss, lol.
The Artist Alley was not supposed to close until the con itself closed for the night at midnight… But all of the artists, including myself, pretty much decided that Friday was sucking hardcore and packed up around nine. This was definitely the first time I’ve seen something like that happen. We effectively shut down the AA three hours early because none of us believed it was worth it to stay. And it probably wasn’t. There was no one around at all.
The hours for Saturday were 10am to midnight. I got there a little past nine after stopping by Kinko’s to pick up some reprints of my Pokemon poster, which I had sold out of at AO. David and Star Hoshi Hoshi were the only people already there when I got there, I think. We set up at a very leisurely pace. The official opening time meant nothing. People started trickling in one at a time from eleven and onward. It did not feel very different from Friday…
While we waited for life to come to the con, Sam (BlackPosies) from Star Hoshi Hoshi commissioned me for a badge of herself. It is always fun being commissioned by other artists. XD Actually, she also commissioned me the night before for a sketch page of one of her favorite Korean boy bands, but I wasn’t able to finish it before all the artists bailed for the night so I finished it, along with another page of another K-pop group, that morning. It blows my mind that some of these groups apparently have like a dozen freakin’ members. o_O Thankfully, we had Internet access in the room and one of the Star Hoshi Hoshi crew had a laptop so I could look up references.
Things picked up in the early afternoon, and there seemed to actually be things going on at other parts of the convention, whereas Friday the whole floor seemed dead. There was lots of loud yelling coming from a room adjacent to ours and there were intermittent announcements of a panel being hosted by the con’s sole guest, Robert Axelrod, who had also been at Kami-Con. In fact, Mr. Axelrod wandered through the AA a few times to look at our wares (he was nice, but he seemed kind of bored…). Additionally, it would seem that cosplay chess was set to take place in the ballroom, giving the seven of us in AA front row seats to the whole affair. All the same, Saturday at its most crowded was not very crowded at all.
Considering the demonstrated size of the convention (tiny!), I was somewhat surprised they actually got enough cosplayers to fill the chess board, though honestly, the moderator was pretty desperate and annoying on that microphone, continuously calling out for participants. I kind of suspect that, after a while, people just joined so he would shut up.
I don’t think Nabeshin participated in chess, sadly. The chess game was not terribly entertaining, especially since it seemed to take so long for the staff members to get organized. The participants seemed mostly bored and some wandered around a little when they weren’t being active. The plus side of all of the nonsense was obviously that the event, however sad it was, attracted more people to the room, and if they were bored with chess, they could come look at the Artist Alley. ;D I snagged a few commissions during this time, including one by the shy Japanese girl, Renka, who provided me with this lovely reference, which she let me keep afterwards:
I drew her a conbadge:
On Friday, an Aerith cosplayer commissioned chibis of herself (in cosplay) with Riku from Kingdom Hearts. On Saturday, she returned for two more chibi pairs:
An OC and Riku.
And herself (as Aerith) with her friend (as Kadaj) getting married, lol.
One of the girls from Kawaii Ribbons (I’m sorry I forgot your name!) also commissioned chibis of herself and her husband. That is the dress she was actually wearing! It was super cute and I was happy for the excuse to draw it, haha. (She told me to fudge the shoes, but I don’t blame her for wearing flip-flops considering the ridiculous Texas heat.)
Renka, the Japanese artist, stopped by my table a few times to comment on my two pages of Touhou ACEOs, which she really seemed to like even though she didn’t seem terribly familiar with the characters and repeatedly mistook Rumia for Marisa. :o She ended up borrowing my Marisa card for a while to use as a reference for a commission she was doing for Sophie, lol. Hurray for artists commissioning other artists and helping other artists out. XD
Cosplay chess was followed by a cosplay contest, and you could definitely tell the staff is desperate for participants when they say things like, “Enter if you have a store-bought costume! Enter even if you’re not in a costume!” Nevertheless, I think they managed to effectively gather every single cosplayer at the con into a line and marched them tediously through towards the judges. During both cosplay chess and this contest, I felt like a majority of the con-goers at Delta H Con were in the ballroom. Which was very sad. Because it never felt full. Or even crowded. Or even slightly crowded. But it was still infinitely better than Friday.
After the unremarkable end of the cosplay contest, there were a few impromptu karaokes on the stage, then our entertainment for the evening arrived: bellydancers. I had seen bellydancers on the guest lists of other conventions before, and it still confuses me as to how they’re relevant, but more and more I feel like anime cons, especially these smaller ones, are branching out because they have to and because for a lot of artists/dealers/entertainers, there aren’t many other events for them to attend. Two of the seven artists did not have anime-inspired art. Half of the dealers did not have Japan-relevant items. But for them, other than Ren faires, where else is there to go? Especially in Houston? There is no art scene in Houston.
Anyway, the bellydancers were actually pretty fun to watch — definitely the highlight event of the day. There were three of them, and the most experienced one was totally the expert of dancing with random things balanced on her head.
Here she is with a brass pot on her head.
And with a real sword on her head. :O
After the performances, the bellydancers held a raffle for some random items. I ended up winning a keychain/charm thing. David won the exact same thing several tickets later, haha. Around this time, Sam spotted an ACEO of Machiya, one of my characters, in my binder. She had been wandering to my table all day when she was bored and had seemed vaguely interested in commissioning me for various things, but she totally fell in love with Machiya when she saw him. o_O Unfortunately for her, I also really liked the ACEO in question and was not planning to sell it. So she commissioned me for a full page sketch of him instead! …And this was followed by another sketch of her glomping him. …And a sketchcard.
It very, very weird for me to have someone like one of my characters as much as Sam liked Machiya (she was positively fangirling over him) since I don’t tend to publicize them much, especially when they’re from perpetually unfinished projects. I ended up drawing him a few times for her for free just because I was so flattered, durrhurr. x3 Sadly, I did not get pictures of most of these commissions, but hopefully Sam will get around to scanning them for me sometime eventually…? XD
She even drew me fanart! XD (She referred to him as “piercings guy” for a long time because that is his most distinguishing feature. And probably because his name is weird, derp.) His reaction is pretty spot on here.
After the bellydancers packed up around eight (?), the stage was again taken over by karaoke and there were talks of a dance/rave happening despite it not being on the schedule. There really didn’t seem to be enough people around for such an event though… people were clearing out pretty quickly now that the bellydancers were gone. Kawaii Ribbons and David decided to head out early again, not really caring for the poorly planned shenanigans. I stuck around doing Sam’s sudden onslaught of commissions, along with a few other random sketch commissions that random people were suddenly interested in! There was even one girl (with awesome pants; this is her distinguishing feature) who commissioned me for four pages of sketches and told me I could draw whatever the hell I wanted. :O
Given that the room was pretty empty aside from artists and staff, and given that after four or five commissions in a row, my hand needed a break, I decided at some point to join the karaoke line on the stage… I had played around many times with the notion of singing at karaoke but always managed to chicken out. At larger cons, there always ends up being a few people with amazing voices and I don’t want to go up on the same stage they did. XD A majority of the artists at Delta H sang at some point, I think, and while everyone had a lot of fun and no one was terrible by any means, there wasn’t anyone amazing. And this made me feel better! So I sucked it up and sang “Believe” by Nami Tamaki (3rd OP, Gundam SEED) and stumbled off the stage in a daze to continue my commissions. :> The only comment I heard was that my speaking and singing voice are apparently very different. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing. XD
By ten or so, I had managed to finish all my commissions except for the four pages of sketches the pants girl had bought. I felt bad about leaving for the night before finishing, but they were turning off the lights and passing out the glowsticks for the would-be rave, so there was little point in staying. I tried to find the girl to tell her that I would be back on Sunday and would finish them then, but she was no where to be seen, so I left her a note on my table after I packed up…
Hours for Sunday were from 10am to 6pm. I arrived at around the same time as Saturday and set to work immediately on the unfinished commissions. This distracted me somewhat from the fact that there was nobody there besides staff, artists, and dealers. I finished the sketches quickly enough and then occupied myself with further commissions from Sophie and Sam from Star Hoshi Hoshi.
Sophie stared at, considered, and eventually bought the Nodame badge I had had since ages ago, noting that she never saw Nodame merch anywhere. Sometimes I think I have weird perceptions of what’s popular and well-known because a majority of my aniblogosphere acquaintances are very well-read/well-watched (and absolutely do not reflect the preferences of a general North American audience at all) and a majority of my real life acquaintances don’t even keep up with anime anymore. But it’s just as well because I tend to only do con badges of characters I like from series I like, which makes leads to a lot of fun conversations with the fangirl or boy that eventually buys them. :3 After buying the badge, Sophie commissioned this sketch of Chiaki and Nodame from me:
And then she commissioned this badge and sketch of some Reborn! characters. XD
And then she commissioned a NANA badge!
In between the Reborn! stuff and the NANA badge, one of the other members of Star Hoshi Hoshi commissioned me for a sketch card of a game character I didn’t recognize. The amount of patronage I got from Star Hoshi Hoshi altogether was ridiculous and amazing and I am very, very thankful for all of it because Sunday would have been insanely boring without it! I was really pretty surprised at the amount of commissions I got over the weekend in general though. Usually, I probably make 20% of my money from a con in commissions. At Delta H Con, it was 50%. And so many people wanted con badges! As I mentioned in my Anime Overload report, no office supply store anywhere near me seems to sell 3×4″ badge holders, so I haven’t been able to resupply these last two cons… so I started taking the badge holders from my premade badges when people commissioned me for custom badges. At the end of the weekend, I had two badge holders left. T___T I am so glad I have time to order some online before the next one, whenever that is.
After Star Hoshi Hoshi was done throwing money at me though, I finally noticed that there was seriously no one there besides artists, dealers, and staff. Poor Mr. Axelrod was apparently supposed to have a panel that morning. I popped in briefly. There were five people in the panel room aside from me. One was James, one of the other artists. The rest were staff members. Mr. Axelrod was recounting how he broke into the voice acting/dubbing industry. It was interesting, but not that interesting, and after about ten minutes, I wandered back to my table. So did three of the others. So in the end, the sole guest of the con was giving a panel to two staff members. That is just a little bit depressing.
In the early afternoon, a few con-goers seemed to show up. The staff was setting up some kind of tournament in the ballroom. I had a long conversation with a guy who apparently had not been there the rest of the weekend and told me that this was his first convention ever. I told him he should have been there Saturday instead and that conventions were generally more exciting than this, seriously. He surprised me by buying my Victini ACEO, especially considering he had no idea who it was, and then wandered off to join aforementioned tournament.
I started to pack up around three. By then all three of the dealers had gone, along with David, Kawaii Ribbons, and the artist nearest to the door whose name I never got. Only Renka, Star Hoshi Hoshi, James, and I remained. The pants girl had not shown up all day to pick up her commissions, but as we were packing up, I saw a cup with an address on it near James’s table. I remembered overhearing him and the Star Hoshi Hoshi girls puzzling over it earlier in the morning. There was some hard to read scrawl on the cup along with the address, which did not contain a city or zip code, just a street and number. After some staring, I figured out that the scrawl read “Awesome Pants.”
James told me that Saturday night, the girl asked for paper to write on to leave a note for an artist. Not having any paper, he gave her a cup. The girl had apparently forgotten who she had commissioned (there were only seven of us!! and only five tables had people even taking commissions!) and left the cup with the address with James, saying that she wouldn’t be back on Sunday and the artist would know what it meant. James, not really knowing what the hell she was talking about, tucked the cup under his table without reading it.
I was and am immensely frustrated that the girl did not think to leave an email address or a real means of contact. I’m not comfortable sending her commissions to the partial address without a name, mostly because her parents might think it weird if I addressed an envelope to “Awesome Pants Girl” or something. Also, given that it was only a partial address, I’m not 100% sure that there aren’t streets of the same name in more than one of Houston’s many suburbs. So… if you are the person that commissioned me for four pages of sketches Saturday night at Delta H Con, PLEASE email me ASAP to confirm your name and address so I can actually send you your stuff. :( Otherwise… I guess I’ll be carting these sketches around with me at subsequent Texas conventions and hope you turn up somewhere. D:
That mess and the fact that there was no one else around, really, kind of put a damper on Sunday, but to be honest, I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the weekend despite lackluster traffic throughout. It was totally ’cause of these people:
The members of Star Hoshi Hoshi as the cast K-ON! (and a maid?) and Renka in the middle as another maid. This was taken Saturday evening. On Sunday, Star Hoshi Hoshi mostly wasn’t in cosplay and Renka was Haruhi Suzumiya. :3 It was really nice, for once, to remember that I am a fan, and to hang out with people that are also fans.
So I had a good time. But I’m still severely disappointed in Delta H Con. For starters, I don’t understand why the con didn’t take place after classes started at the University of Houston. Classes started the following week! What is so hard about postponing it until then? That would have obviously bumped attendance by a lot! As I understand it, this was the con’s third year, and in previous years it took place in April. Whatever the reason they had for moving the date, it should have still taken place when classes were in session!
I also disapprove of DHC’s pricing scheme. For a tiny, tiny con on a college campus, it had a pretty regular-con price. $20/day or $30/weekend. PLUS, certain events had an additional $5-10 fee. What the hell? It may be presumptuous to think that UH lets them use the venue for more or less no charge, but these are the costs of weekend attendance for the other college cons I’ve attended: Nashi-Con, $10; Kami-Con, FREE, MomoCon, FREE. Hmm.
The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that it was a three day convention when it was painfully obvious that it did not need to be. For some more comparison: Kami-Con was two days. Nashi-Con was a day and like three hours! Even MomoCon, who had over 7,000 attendees this year, and is bursting with crowding issues, events, panels, and guests, is only a two-day convention. Nashi-Con, which was in its third year as well, I think, had 700-1,000 attendees. Kami-Con, in its second year, had ~1,200. I did not think there were more than 500 people at Delta H. Why are they a three-day con? I sent them an email afterwards asking for an attendance estimate. I received a reply a few days ago. Guess what the number was.
Two hundred eighty-five attendees in your third year, and you still have a three-day convention? Why? There were not enough events to fill the time, and most of them were poorly run. Start smaller, do it better, and then expand. I am inclined to think the only reason Delta H Con is a three-day convention is because all the other Texas cons are three days. Maybe all the other Texas cons started at three days and managed all right, but it’s more than obvious that DHC isn’t managing the same for the time being, so it would be better for them to shrink back a little and make themselves an amazing one- or two-day convention before expanding to a three-day con that includes an incredibly pointless Sunday where artists are left commissioning each other out of boredom (not that this was necessarily a bad thing, but come on).
I really, really hope Delta H Con picks things up, but all the same, if I’m still in Houston next year, and if there’s nothing else going on that weekend, I guess I would still go.