A-Kon is the oldest anime convention in North America and a convention I had wanted desperately to attend for many years after finding out there were such things as crazy weekend gatherings of otaku and their ilk.
Years later though and having tabled my way through a dozen other cons, I wasn’t as raring to go because the Dallas location felt inconvenient. I don’t really know anyone in Dallas and wouldn’t have a couch to crash on; it’s a longer drive, and man, A-kon’s tables are expensive! But as I hit up other cons on the Texas circuit, hung out on the Artist Alley forums, and made friends with other artists, it felt less and less like a big deal. It’s the biggest con in the state. There’s really no good reason for passing it up! So I decided to go for it when the tables came up for purchase. Those suckers sold out in less than two minutes of keyboard-mashing, eye-twitching, heart-racing insanity, but I am master table wrangler!
Ladre was generous enough to offer me space in his room at the con hotel, which would be shared with a lovely bunch of other artists, including Tracie (Silver no Miko), Chrislea, Cathy (Meomeo), Xanseviera, and (fellow SCAD grad!) Missy (Zimmay). At Matsuri, Chuck and I discussed the possibility of carpooling to Dallas, along with his friends Erika and Meagan. Things were coming together nicely!
…Of course, the best of plans tend not to go as planned. Thursday of the con was one of the most stressful Thursdays ever, and there have been many Thursdays. On the bright side, the weekend did not consist entirely of Thursdays. (This con report is 6850+ words long. Yup.)
The plan was thus: Chuck, Erika, and Meagan were to meet at my place around 3pm so we could tetris everything into my minivan and hopefully beat rush hour traffic out of Houston and make it into Dallas by sundown around 8pm. The Artist Alley at A-kon is divided into two sections: the downstairs, unsecured section, which is open to the public at all times, and the upstairs, secured section, which had designated hours each day. All four of us had tables upstairs, which meant that we had to check in and get our badges before setting up. (Theoretically, downstairs folk also had to check in prior to setting up, but in practice, no one checked.) Artist check-in on Thursday was from 3pm to 11pm, which would give us plenty of time to get settled if we arrived by eight.
On Tuesday, Erika informed me that she probably would not be able to get off work until 4pm, so would probably not be able to meet until past five because she lived on the other side of town. Truthfully, I didn’t take this well because 3pm was already a bit later than I would have preferred. Chuck and I settled on that time since he wasn’t sure when he’d be able to take off work either. Consider that when I had been at SCAD, I specifically tailored my schedule every quarter so I would be out of classes by 1:30pm Thursday for the sole purpose of being able to leave early on convention weekends. I was stubborn enough to take an 8am the Monday after a con, but never a class Thursday afternoon if I could help it.
If I hadn’t had others depending on me, I’d probably have left around noon. The joys of freelancing! The paranoid neuroticism of always wanting to be safe and early! There was also the fact that, even though the con wasn’t technically “on” until Friday, artists were welcomed to begin peddling their wares Thursday as soon as they set up. For those downstairs, they were welcomed to camp out all Thursday night and sell then if they wanted. For us upstairs, we had until 11pm, when the secured section became secured. Or so we were told.
Thursday morning, to add to my anxiety over needing to leave later than planned, I received a note from Tracie: Ladre, who had been sick for some time, had been hospitalized that morning and would not be able to make it to the con. She would be taking over the hotel affairs in his place. Terrible news. Of course I was worried about Ladre’s heath (spoiler: he’s fine!), but there was another concern as well… Ladre was my one contact for the room and the only hotelmate whose number I had. I needed to be able to call someone when I arrived at the hotel so I could get the room number. In a mad rush, I sent everyone my number, but it being Thursday already, I was sure that everyone was already traveling or otherwise too occupied to check their messages. Woe, anxiety, woe.
I basically spent all Thursday afternoon fretting until the carpool party was finally assembled around 5:30pm. Thankfully, packing the van did not take long and was not terribly difficult considering I had previously helped Cat tetris five artists and their luggage into her much smaller vehicle. We left just in time for rush hour. No one had responded to my note regarding numbers when we had left, so all I could do was hope one of my hotelmates would get it and call/text me before I got to Dallas.
Even with the traffic on 610 backed up to hell like it always is, I felt a lot better once we were on the road. Belting out lyrics loudly, shamelessly, and endlessly helped. Passing all the other cars on the road once we got out of the city helped. There were about a billion cops on the road between Houston and Dallas conspiring to catch me speeding, but it was mostly smooth sailin’. It really didn’t feel like a four and a half hour drive, hahaha. The Sheraton is right off the freeway, so we had no trouble finding it and arrived just after 10pm. After unloading everything, Chuck and the others went off to check in at the hotel and to figure out stuff with Artist Alley — we still had an hour for to grab our badges and set up, right? I went to find parking.
The Sheraton’s parking lot was full. There were a number of public lots around the hotel, but the signage was confusing and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to park overnight at any of them. After circling the area twice (doubly annoying because there’s a tram that goes through one of the streets and all of the timed traffic lights were sloooow), I pulled into a suspiciously empty lot a block from the hotel. I paid for parking at a machine that was apparently incapable of letting you pay for more than twelve hours at a time… I could park the night, but I would need to come back before 10:30am Friday to pay again… and that period would expire at 7:30pm, so I would need to return again and again throughout the weekend to keep paying for parking. Oh, hell no.
But for the night, it would do. I would find new parking in the morning.
I checked my phone and was insanely relieved to find that Tracie had texted me at some point. I called her to meet me in the lobby. Chuck, Erika, and Meagan were also in the lobby and informed me that AA check-in was, in fact, closed already. What. We totally made it on time. What? Since now we couldn’t set up, we decided it’d be easier to let them take all of the stuff up to their room first instead of trying to extract mine from the tangled mess that was the bellhop cart. They left and I chatted a while with Tracie, who said that Ladre was like the Kevin Bacon of artists and that we were all only connected to each other through him, hahaha. She also said that AA check-in closed at like eight. :\
I went up to Chuck’s room, retrieved my stuff, dragged it to my room in a different tower of the hotel, went to return Erika’s hand truck, then finally went to scope out the downstairs Artist Alley. It wasn’t insanely busy or anything, but it was busy enough to be depressing because I couldn’t be part of the action.
I got progressively more pissed the more I thought about it. Check-in was supposed to close at 11pm. I had been a ball of anxiety all day, drove across the state in record time, made it on time, but I still couldn’t bloody check in? Getting any selling done was already out of the question, but I wanted to get my damn badge and set up, at least. It did not help that no one seemed to know when AA opened Friday morning to the public VS open for artists. No one knew when AA check-in would resume again. I had a 10am open-to-public time written down. Staff gave me conflicting answers, but it seemed like check-in wouldn’t open again until nine, giving me one hour to get situated in the morning. It takes me longer than an hour to set up. Bad mood, bad mood, bad mood.
I wandered around the (downstairs) Alley. A lot of people were still setting up, including Tracie and her tablemate, Alicechan, and there were quite a number of still-empty tables, but those that were set up were vendin’ already. While none of them were physically present, I noticed a lot of popular deviantART artists’ tables. Artists I admire like Rem, e1n, Joanna, and Sypri were there… Endling was also supposed to be in attendance, though he wasn’t tabling. Their existence was intimidating. There were a lot of rather sophisticated set-ups and plenty of gorgeous, gorgeous artwork by people I didn’t know. I felt distinctly outclassed and suddenly realized that hey, A-kon really is that big. Rounding out the top five largest anime cons in the States, A-kon is one of those conventions that artists will actually fly out to attend. There were artists from across the country. From out-of-country. Shit. I’m outclassed, and I can’t even set up. Woe and despair!
Eventually, I retired back to the hotel room, showered, and chatted with Chrislea and Missy. The three of us and Cathy (who was super quiet!) collectively passed out around 1am. I have no idea when Tracie and Xan got back to the room, crazy downstairs-AA-people.
I woke up once an hour, every hour, from 1am to 6am, like clockwork. Sleeping is hard. I gave up just before seven, tried to take my damn sweet time getting ready since it was so early, failed, and left to go see if maaaaybe AA check-in would magically be there around 7:30 or so. No luck of course, though the early Friday registration and pre-reg line were already a hundred people deep. I circled the Alley once or twice restlessly before wandering out into the disgusting Texas heat to go square with parking.
I found a different lot a block away from the Sheraton where a shady-looking parking attendant assured me that I would be able to pay for the entire weekend at once and that I would be able to leave my car overnight, etc. I parked and paid him cash to get a ticket for my window before realizing there was a machine that would have done the same… the parking attendant jotted down his number on the back of my parking ticket “in case [I] have any trouble with leaving the car overnight.” I couldn’t tell if he was failing at flirting or if I had reason to worry. Either way, it made me uneasy.
Despite being literally a block over, I left the parking lot from a different exit/entrance than I had entered, confused myself, and got mildly lost on the way back to the hotel. This would have mattered less if it hadn’t been 95 degrees and humid out. I returned to the Alley just past eight and finally, finally saw staff and volunteers setting up at the check-in table. But they wouldn’t let me check in. Because they “weren’t open until nine” and had to sort out volunteers and stuff. This seemed like a stupid reason. I returned briefly to the hotel room, whined about my not being able to check in to Chrislea and Missy, then returned to the AA check-in table to make sure they knew I was pissed.
In retrospect, I was kind of a douchebag to the poor people at that check-in table and I feel bad about it. It was just insanely aggravating for me to see staff and volunteers sitting at the table, some of them looking rather bored, insisting that they could not help me. I believe Starry explained it to the extent of the person with the laptop with all the artist information was not there yet (I’m not entirely sure if this was the reason because honestly, I was too mad to listen properly), but this seemed like a poor excuse. Really? One single person has the list of artists? Really?
You know what I found ridiculous about the whole thing? Giving artists a separate check-in is supposed to expedite matters. Conventions that make artists go through the normal pre-registration line with all of the attendees are ridiculous because artists are vendors, not attendees. Vendors have stuff to prepare and tables to set up! And yet, pre-reg was open both at 10:30pm Thursday night and 8am Friday morning while AA check-in wasn’t. If I had gone through the pre-reg line, I would have been able to get my badge faster. Bloody ridiculous.
I got my badge at 9:05am. It took all of a minute. It took two trips back up to the room to get all of my stuff (Missy helped!) so I could finally start setting up.
The AA tables at A-kon were set up as huge islands of around 15 tables each. Each island had a one table gap that served as the only entrance/exit for artists; there were no gaps between any of the other tables. Long story short, this made set-up more difficult than usual because I needed to adjust the position of my clamps so they didn’t hang off the sides, which threw off the length of PVC I needed to go across the table. This is annoying when you cut PVC to the exact length of tables. It’s not that obvious in the picture, but the two supporting poles on the table both point outwards a little, instead of straight up.
You might also notice that that’s still my old banner. Tables are six feet long. My new banner is exactly 1×6 feet… which means that the banner is the same size as the PVC meant to hold it. Good job! Will need to order a new new banner and figure out a use for the old new banner so as not to waste it. Sigh. Nomako didn’t get to make it out to A-kon to keep me company because I had too many things to carry already without bringing her along. This was particularly sad because Katy (Winged Cat Machine) was set up diagonally across from me on the corner of the next island, which would have made it super easy for me to refer people to her if they had inquired about my amazing steampunk-modded Mokona plush.
I was not ready when “the gates opened” at ten. I don’t know how obvious it was, but I was an exploding bundle of nerves the first hour or so, scrambling around making sure everything was where it should be and fielding customers at the same time. Friday at A-kon was the most insane, crowded, and busiest Friday I have ever experienced.
It felt like a Saturday. It blew my mind how busy it was. The entire upstairs Alley was flooded with swarms of attendees from the minute we opened at 10am to closing at 9pm when staff began ushering people out. There were some fantastic cosplayers milling around too, many of which I didn’t get a chance to grab photos of because I had so many people at my table. o_o I had more than one friend mention that they never got to stop by and say hello because every time they wandered over, I was being mobbed by others and they didn’t want to interrupt. Madness. I was sold out of one of my prints by mid-afternoon. On Friday! Friday!
I think I spent at least ten of the eleven hours we were open drawing commissions, including a crazy number of full-page pencil sketches. Normally, I get a ton of sketch card commissions because they are small and versatile (available in pencil, ink, or color), and maybe one or two of the full pages. People often ask if I can do full-page inks or full-page color, but those would take too long, and I’d rather do a ton of little things than one or two big things. It means people don’t have to wait as long and I get to draw a bigger variety of subjects, keeping things interesting. It was weird to do so many full-pages for once, even if they were all just pencil and still didn’t take that long. I ran out of paper an hour before closing. o_o
Every hour and half or so, an Alley volunteer would stop by to ask if I needed water or a break. They had been around to offer their help for set-up as well. I always bring my own water and only only took one break the entire day, but the volunteers coming around did a lot to quell my morning’s rage towards staff and procedure. There were only three or four different volunteers, but they came around frequently enough to make me think that A-kon had a good number of them, but apparently this wasn’t the case? It confused me that these volunteers seemed so available, but they were too short-staffed to maintain the AA check-in hours Thursday night or to have more than one person with the proper information to check-in artists earlier Friday morning.
There were a lot of Doctor Who cosplayers. Actually, I was extremely surprised at the number of non-anime cosplayers in general. I definitely saw more than one Robin, Batgirl, and Green Lantern — there were also about two dozen Jokers, a couple of Harleys, a hundred trolls, and I saw someone cosplaying Annie from Gunnerkrigg Court!! I’m very upset that I didn’t manage to get a picture because I’m pretty sure I won’t see that again any time soon. It was a post-living-in-the-forest Annie and she had leaves in her hair and it was a lovely costume in general… Now I want to find someone cosplaying a Lackadaisy cat. That would be amazing.
I also found a Zim! …And noticed that man, there sure are a lot of clothes with GIR on them. I feel like a good 5% of everyone I saw that weekend was wearing GIR in some form or fashion… that little robot dog is on fancy-print purses and wallets and a billion T-shirts, and I even saw a hoodie-backpack? I have no idea. It looked sophisticated and strange. You know, Invader Zim is a decade old now? How many of these kids running around in weird GIR hoodie-backpacks have even seen the show?? But maybe I can’t say anything because, in fact, the white sleeveless jacket I often wear at cons has GIR on it, hahahaha.
I also found some ponies, even though it took me about five minutes to figure out why they looked familiar, lol.
Doing commissions nonstop all day was great, honestly. I had several people come back with friends after I finished their commissions, resulting in an endless cycle of awesome that was very exhausting. I snacked on SOYJOY bars leftover from Comicpalooza, but one especially amazing commissioner also brought me a taco from Taco Bell. ♥
And then suddenly it was nine o’clock and time to close up. Despite my hand being tired as hell, nine felt very early. Where did all the time go? As I packed up, I chatted a little with Jessica, who was tabling directly across from me, as well as JohnYume and her swarm of table helpers (?), who were a few tables down. Actually, one of them was probably Spizzy, since she, JohnYume, and Chrislea were splitting two tables three ways together, but I didn’t realize this at the time! It’s hard to match faces with forum handles. Besides, I have the face-memory of a blind person. This was made obvious as there were several attendees who said they had visited me at other conventions, but I would never remember who they were until they described our interactions. I don’t forget encounters, but faces? Yup. Who are you again? ;_;
I went downstairs after packing up to mill around the other Alley again. Of course, the whole place was jumping with activity, though there were quite a few tables that had already closed up shop for the night. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. When I registered for A-kon, I chose to be in the upstairs Alley on purpose. I like having set hours because I would undoubtedly be insane otherwise and stay up all night in the Alley because I could… my convention habits are unhealthy enough as is without forgoing sleep as well. And I like being able to leave things overnight knowing that attendees wouldn’t be able to mess with anything — I have so many little things, it is a huge pain to have to clear it every night and hide everything under the table, which still isn’t very secure. I also like being near the Dealer’s Room, and the upstairs Alley was right next to it.
But it’s hard to see how crowded and busy the downstairs Alley still was at 9:30 and 10pm and not be at least a little jealous. I did get a lot of mixed reviews about the two locations though. Most artists feel that having more hours to sell means more sales, but a handful would contend that having limited hours spur people to buy more when they can. Artists that make a lot of money in commissions tend to prefer longer hours as well, since it gives them more time to draw without having to disturb all of their hotelmates at odd hours. Artists that depend more on prints seem to be less picky about having longer hours… at the very least, a majority of the artists that had already vacated their tables downstairs seemed to be primarily print artists.
I dunno. It is hard for me to judge because the only two conventions I’ve been to with 24-hour, unsecured Alleys were EXPCon and Anime Matsuri, both of which were small enough that crowds thinned out considerably after a certain time. So even though there were technically no hours, a majority of the artists retired around the same time. But with an estimated attendance of over 18,000, there would definitely still be people wandering around at all hours of the night at A-kon. I heard later from artists that stayed up to 2-4am working on commissions (including Tracie and Chuck!) that there would still be random attendees around… mostly drunk, but drunk people still buy things sometimes?
I went back to the hotel room pretty early; the tiredness catches up to you. On my way up, I outed myself as an A-kon newbie by being surprised that there was a line to access the elevators. I asked, “Is this a line… for the elevator?” The person coming up behind me laughed and said, “This is your first time here, isn’t it?” So apparently a line ten to fifteen people long is standard procedure for going up the elevators in the evenings. There are six elevators for the center tower, each of which has a maximum capacity of what, ten? Twelve? On one hand, I suppose it’s a good thing that they are careful about maximum capacities. On the other hand… wow. Just, wow.
Chrislea, as the only other person in our room with an upstairs AA table, was the only one there when I got back to the room. Just as I was about to head to bed though, one of the screws in my glasses pops out, loosening the frame enough that the right lens falls out. Awesome. The screw is tiny, and I have no idea how I didn’t lose it immediately, but I definitely didn’t have a screwdriver small enough to put it back in place. Somehow though, with Chrislea’s help, a nail clipper, and some other random tools, we manage to put it back together… it was obviously not perfect though. The corresponding screw on the other side of the glasses was much tighter. What if the screw popped again on Saturday? Or Sunday? While I was driving?
But I actually manage to sleep Friday night. Even with the semi-broken glasses, I was feeling a lot better about the weekend because the check-in stuff was done and over with, my table was set up, and hey, I had made more on Friday than I had over some entire weekends. o_o A-kon had been amazing thus far, and I was very eager for Saturday.
The upstairs Alley was open again at 9am. It was once again crowded the whole day through, and I was once again drawing commissions for pretty much the entire time I was there. The volume of commissions I received on Saturday was so incredible that I actually had to close them intermittently to make sure I didn’t build up too much of a backlog. My normal turnaround for sketch card commissions is like, five minutes for pencils, ten minutes for inks, and maybe twenty minutes for color, though I think I’m actually a little faster and give slightly inflated times just to be safe (and also because it is reaaaally hard to tell time while working the table). A lot of times, I’ll finish commissions while the commissioner is still hanging out at the table looking at other stuff, and so I don’t really build up a queue.
But A-kon… A-kon was crazy. At some point, I had a backlog of seven or eight commissions, including some full-page pencils. Again, it actually doesn’t take me that long to work through them, but since I’ve never had this many commissions to do before, I didn’t have the best system of keeping track of them all. I kind of just jotted down messy notes on my inventory sheets and kept the order of things in my head. When I got to the point where I didn’t think I could remember the order anymore, I closed commissions until I cleared the queue… though a lot of times, I took on more even when I was technically closed because there were people that could leave references and reassured me that they were in no hurry. (Man, do I hate making people wait.) The only ones that I had to turn down outright when I was queued up were those that wanted me to draw them because that meant they had to hang around while I drew them, which meant I had to set aside the queue to work on them.
I think the next time I’m at a con with an 18k+ attendance, I’ll need to set up a proper system of managing queued commissions so I can queue up more and give better estimates of turnaround times. I don’t think I’d have a problem drawing it all, it’s just remembering what needs to get drawn, in what order, and if certain commissioners are leaving at a certain time, making sure their stuff is finished first. Honestly though, this was a pretty awesome problem to have. It certainly beats being bored at the table because no one’s around!
Sometime in the early afternoon, my glasses exploded again. By sheer, insane luck, the screw landed on my shirt and I didn’t lose it! If it had fallen on the floor behind my table… it would have been lost forever. But being momentarily blind when I had a billion commissions to do sent me into a small panic. One of the AA volunteers came around though (perfect timing, dude!), and I asked if he could go find me a tiny, tiny screwdriver. He went off and I tried to fix the thing again with a nail clipper and the pinback on one of my buttons. It didn’t work that well. But by amazing luck, the screwdriver that the AA volunteer managed to retrieve was small enough to be useful. It still wasn’t quiiiite small enough for the screw, but it was good enough! So relieved. And yet, so scared that it was going to happen again.
But other than that! There really isn’t much else to report about Saturday because seriously… I spent eleven hours drawing and that’s about it. o_o
Here’s some more cosplay though! For anime-related cosplay, it was a lot of business as usual — there were a ton of Pokemon gijinka, but I didn’t see nearly as many trainers? Oh, wait, except these ladies:
I was glad to see lots of Black/White love, even if it made me feel terrible for not having finished the game yet… Seriously, guys, I haven’t even beaten the third gym yet. It’s pathetic. ;_;
There were a few dozen Panty and Stockings, hahaha. Not enough Briefs! Not enough Scanty and Kneesocks! But I did find a Garterbelt:
There were also a lot of Durarara!! cosplayers, and upon seeing my Celty bookmarks/buttons, a dozen people remarked that they’d seen one or three such cosplayers wandering around but didn’t know what she was from. …This meant that I got to say the name of the series many times and sound like an idiot each and every time! :D But the best Durarara!! cosplayer was not a Celty, but the following Shizuo, because while I have seen many Shizuo cosplayers brandishing signposts as props, this is the first that was awesome enough to carry a damn vending machine with him everywhere:
The upstairs Alley closed at 8pm Saturday night. I have no idea why we closed an hour earlier than Friday since Saturday is usually the “main” day of the convention. More than a few people were annoyed by this for sure. When we closed up, the downstairs Alley was as busy as ever and with the rave going on into the night, I imagine that it stayed that way for a while. I went through the Alley to make a few purchases and say hello to my hotelmates and various others — a lot more people were still at their tables this time around. Busy, busy, Saturday night.
I hadn’t really planned on it, but since it was so damn early and I had nothing else to do, I decided to check out the Furry Fiesta room party that one of my commissioners (the lion sketch above was for him) invited me to. I’ve never gone to a room party ever, lol, but I would have gone to Furry Fiesta if I had known about it in time (it was a February con), and figured I could learn more about the convention? And also get free snacks! Free snacks are very appealing when all you’ve had are SOYJOYs all day (not that SOYJOYs are bad!).
The room party was in a suite divided thus: a bunch folks doodling and playing a Mario game I didn’t recognize in one room, and a bunch of folks doodling and watching random episodes of Tiger & Bunny (a decidedly not-furry “superhero” anime, lol) in the other room! It was kind of awkward not knowing anyone there, but whatever! I camped out for a little by the food and chatted with two or three people before settling down to watch two episodes of Tiger & Bunny, which I had been meaning to pick up anyway. I ended up not talking to anyone about the actual con and left around 11pm or something, but it was still a nice way to relax a little after drawing all day.
Sunday morning was wonderfully lazy. The upstairs Alley wasn’t to open until ten, but I was awake at 7:30 or 8am? Maybe it was even 8:30?? It felt ridiculously late to be honest, but I was the first person up, and everyone kind of rose lazily after I did. We all took our time getting our things together, but really, the bulk of my luggage was my table stuff — I had very little up in the room. Chrislea recounted fun (and kind of disturbing) stories from other conventions. Missy and I reminisced a little about SCAD. Can I take this time to mention how awesome my hotelmates were in general though? It was always quiet in the room, everyone was very mindful of when someone was sleeping; the room was clean, no one snored, and everyone was just lovely to each other. It was so nice. ♥
I gave my room key to Tracie and went down to the Alley a little past nine, leaving behind the entertaining conversations. I wandered the upstairs Alley for what felt like the first time because well, it’s hard to browse tables that have the same working hours as you! (This goes double for the Dealer’s Room, which opened later than the AA and closed earlier — of course, this is the way we prefer it since it drives people into the Alley before and after DR hours, but it still means that I never get to go to the DR!) I made a few purchases and talked shop with Pawstar, the awesome folks to my left — I seem to have made many friends in the fleece hat-making business, lol.
Sunday was (surprise!) another day full of commissions. And on Sunday, everyone wanted two characters on each sketch card! And in color! I probably leveled up in speed coloring. Someone also got me to draw a trombone! Having been a woodwind player (clarinet), I have a built-in and superficial bias against brass instruments, but the pressure was double because the commission was to be a gift for the commissioner’s trombone-playing father, aw, man. Cons are full of challenges.
I have no idea where most of Sunday went. Friday and Saturday were busy and went by quickly, but Sunday, it was like… I blinked and suddenly it’s 4pm and we’re being told that we had previously been misinformed — Artist Alley didn’t close at 6pm, we had to be packed up and our tables moved out by 6pm. Ummm.
This made things pretty disorganized and weird because artists would leave at different times and staff would come and take away their tables and chairs, leaving gaps in islands and the whole place looking a mess. Once a good percentage of artists were gone, less attendees would wander through because it looked like we were closing, though I guess the attendees were also signing out of the con themselves.
At some point, Emily (IceAndSnow) came and totally made my day by asking to trade Archen prints with me (hers, mine). Her paintings are so gorgeous… ;_; She had a number of original watercolor and acrylic paintings with her at her table, but I didn’t get around to asking about them. I also traded buttons with Jessica and the two guys tabling to my right, Slimu and Fenryk. This brought the total number of buttons I obtained over the weekend to 39. I really need to figure out what I’m going to do with all these buttons! Someone buy me a new hat, omg.
I finally started breaking down around 5:15pm or so because the Alley was more than two-thirds empty already and Chuck, Erika, and Meagan were finally breaking down as well. The room was apparently connected to the Sheraton’s parking garage and had a small loading area, so after dismantling my set-up, I went to find the car. We loaded everything up without a hitch, said our goodbyes to our friends, and were back on the road a little after six.
PS — my glasses did not explode again while I was driving, thankfully. They exploded and I finally lost the screw about three hours after I got home.
A-kon was awesome. I am still hoping to move out of the state soon, but I will come back for A-kon, and it would be worth it. Things weren’t perfect, and I think all of my anxiety from Thursday and Friday morning made up for how relatively relaxing my last couple of convention Thursdays were, but I think this was as close to an ideal convention as I will ever get. A-kon has been around a long time, and I think that experience really shows.
Some miscellaneous thoughts:
- Both the upstairs and downstairs Artist Alleys are in pretty ideal locations. The former was next to the Dealer’s Room, and the latter was right next to registration and the main ballroom. There is one “doom island” downstairs across from the bathrooms, but I wonder if they could move that island upstairs and move some of the Exhibits people downstairs? The far wall of the upstairs Alley was also occupied by folks that should have been dealers and moving them out would possibly make room for another island upstairs without moving Exhibits… but as I understand it, the waiting list for the Dealer’s Room is five or six years long. o_o I wonder if moving into a larger hotel is in A-kon’s future? The Sheraton was pretty swanky, but yeah.
- There could have been longer hours for the upstairs AA. I think we could have and should have been open 9am to 10pm every day, honestly, or at least 9am to 9pm. With normal registration open at all hours and staff required to watch the entrance of the secured area all day anyway, I don’t really see what difference it would have made. Perhaps less volunteers would be available for the fringe hours, but I don’t feel artists need that much assistance in general — I appreciate that they’re there to watch my table if needed, but I’m still not going to leave any more than I need to. For Saturday especially, 8pm was way too early to close.
Really though, I have few complaints. A-kon was great. The staff and volunteers were great. The hotel people were great. Most of the inconveniences on Thursday and Friday were no one’s fault and I can plan for them better next time. I will leave you now with a picture of my loot and a photo gallery. Thanks for reading through the lengthy recounts of my adventures!