You know, I’d never been particularly interested in attending Anime Expo, which is over July 4th weekend every summer. AX is the largest anime convention in North America, but it seems like it’s always a mess with lots of management drama, especially where Artist Alley is concerned, which is why I’d never really wanted to deal with it.
But this year, it seemed like everyone I knew was going, including most of my friends and tons of artists I admire, and the big kicker was that almost all of these people are currently riding the high of the same fandom(s) as me, which is fairly rare. Listening to everyone babble about AX prep and AX meetup plans and AX, AX, AX on Twitter all through June made me really sad about not being able to go…
Everfree Northwest was the same weekend though. And in addition to being local and convenient for me, Everfree was my favourite convention last year. So as long as it’s around, I’ll always choose Everfree over AX (and AnthroCon, that other big July 4th convention), even if makes for kind of a lonely convention for me.
This report is 4,326 words long.
The vendor’s head for Everfree changed this year from Morgan (who’s now “Assistant Director of Business”) to Jer Flores, though Morgan still handled most communications regarding Vendor’s Hall up through April. Communications were about as frequent as they were last year, but a bit more organized. The operation’s smoothed out some!
Vendor registration was also a bit later this year, happening in mid-March, and this year they were juried. We got notifications about a month later in mid-April, and were asked to properly register for the convention at that point. Everfree has apparently adopted the same custom-built registration system that Rainfurrest uses… I don’t like it because it’s clunky and feels sloppily put together, but it gets the job done, I guess. We’re asked to send in the same info as last year for the website and social media (vendor display name, description of goods, any other interesting facts, etc) around early May, and we got an email about table assignments three weeks out, and another email about setup times about a week and a half out.
The Vendor’s Hall was running a scavenger hunt again this year, but I wish they’d given more of a head’s up about it. It was mentioned offhandedly in the table assignment email, and it was assumed that vendors knew about it from last year. Asking about it got a quick reply back, but it always annoys me when cons assume people know how things went “last year.” I did know about the scavenger hunt last year, but ultimately didn’t participate, so I didn’t remember anything about it. But even if I had participated, a year’s long enough forget the details. (The scavenger hunt basically gathered questions about various vendor tables/displays for attendees to answer, encouraging traffic to participating vendor tables. Completed questionnaires were then entered into a raffle for donated vendor goods.)
Overall though, pre-con communications were stellar. I decided to donate some postcards to the Charity Auction this year, and their staff was good about prompting me for info and giving me instructions for drop off, etc. All emails from all departments were informative and useful, and all emails to them were replied to promptly and professionally. I can’t sing enough praises for Everfree staff. ;3;
Setup Thursday was from noonish through 6pm, though the Vendor’s head noted that the end time was very flexible, depending on how things went. The setup start time for Friday morning was also flexible.
I rolled into the Seatac Hilton around 3pm. The Vendor’s Hall was in the same room, right near one of the main entrances of the hotel. There were vendors and staff everywhere, but security was very lax — I walked into the room without being stopped. A map of the room was provided beforehand, but I had interpreted it backwards… the tables weren’t labeled, and so it took a few minutes to figure stuff out with the Vendor’s head.
Setup went smoothly. Despite the low ceilings, I built up to five feet this time, and so I had plenty of room. With bookmarks retired and the discovery that I actually moved more postcard sets with them lying flat on the table, I ditched the larger of my two plywood stands and stuck a pair of my postcards in nice frames to fill in the side. I also used the cute basket I had at Sakura-Con for Easter eggs as a $1 clearance bin, featuring the handful of bookmarks I have left and poor-performing buttons.
I finished setting up right before six, though it seemed that they were definitely going to be letting vendors stick around for longer to set up. I think there was a small bit of drama where one vendor who bought two tables had only been assigned one, but staff seemed like they were working hard to fix the mistake, and I didn’t really hear about it the rest of the weekend, so I guess they did?
After setup, I finally picked up my actual badge and program at a table outside the Vendor’s Hall. Then I wandered around a bit trying to find the Charity Auction so I could drop off my stuff. There was no map in the program guide, and I asked two staffers where it was. Neither could tell me, but one at least could point me to the display at the end of the hall that had a map. I eventually found it in a small, tucked away space in the conference center where most of the con events took place. I’d miscounted some stock and so wasn’t able to donate two postcard sets like I’d intended, but they didn’t mind me substituting one of them for a zipper bag instead.
Against my better judgment, I did a last minute print run at FedEx Office after I lightrailed back to Seattle. The miscounted inventory was for my MLP Villains postcard set, which I’d apparently sold out of somewhere between MomoCon and A-Kon, and I wanted to have more on hand for Everfree. As it always goes though, FedEx’s quality is abysmal and I wasn’t happy enough with the results to sell them full price, so I just chucked all of them in the clearance bin, haha. I keep telling myself I’m not going to do last minute print runs anymore because they’re never good, but then I KEEP DOING THEM. WHY.
When I finally got back to my apartment, I spent most of the evening cooking so I could just have leftovers all weekend and avoid going out to eat every night. I was hoping for a lot of commissions to work on over the weekend, and not eating out would save both time and money. And I mean, I had to cook my veggies before they went bad anyway. :o
Public hours for the Vendor’s Hall were 10am to 6pm both Friday and Saturday (and 10am to 4pm Sunday). Vendor setup started around 7am, I think, but I wasn’t in a hurry since I’d already finished.
So I got up around 8am and made myself an Actual Breakfast. This happens rarely enough that I was very proud of myself, haha.
One thing that became very obvious once I got to the con was the fact that there was no room at all behind the island tables. Last year I’d been against a wall, which meant meant there was no one behind me, and I had plenty of room. This year though…
During setup it wasn’t as noticeable because the folks at the table behind me weren’t there yet, but the chairs behind the tables were back to back with basically no wiggle room. This was frustrating because any time one of my back neighbours scooted back to get up, their chair would hit mine, and this could have potentially screwed up a lot of my inking while I worked. It was basically impossible to walk down the aisle behind the tables, and it got worse once these back neighbours set up their tall, vertical display banner, which completely blocked my exit.
None of this was my neighbour’s fault, and we did our best to adjust our things in the space to give us each more room, but ultimately there wasn’t much that could be done. There really needs to be at least, at least!, four feet of space behind each table, which means eight total feet of space in the back aisle of islands. This either means that Everfree needs to cut back on the number of vendors, or they need to move us into a different room…
Cutting the number of vendors is not ideal, so while I love the location of the current Vendor’s Hall in the hotel, it wouldn’t be horrible to move it into the adjoined conference center, to the room where Rainfurrest (which uses the same venue) has their Dealer’s Room, and where many of the convention’s panels and events take place anyway.
The other thing was power. I didn’t pay much attention to power access for island tables last year since I was directly in front of a wall outlet, but apparently power was provided to all tables, including the islands. This is really quite nice of Everfree to provide, for free, as almost all other cons charge significant sums for access to power (to be fair, it’s usually because of the venue, not the con itself). I think, like many furry conventions, Everfree goes out of its way to provide power to its vendors because they realize that a lot of artists need it to laminate custom badges, which aren’t nearly as popular at comic or anime cons.
This year, they were supposed to provide the same, but for one reason or another, did not have it set up yet Friday. Staff mentioned some miscommunication issues with the hotel, but the bottom line was that we weren’t going to have power that day, so I would have to laminate all my badges at home that night.
Friday’s crowd was mostly light and casual. I had just enough commissions to keep me busy for most of the day, but I got bored very quickly in between commissions (even if the time between finishing the last of my commissions and getting a new commission was sometimes just five minutes), and it felt like kind of a long day.
An hour before close, I had a freak out moment when I bought someone had walked off with my cashbox. This was especially terrifying because my cashbox doesn’t look like a cashbox, so someone would have had to watch me a while to know what it looked like and to specifically plan to take it. I scrambled around in the cramped space behind my table looking for it for about 45 minutes. My neighbours alerted staff for me.
In the end, I found it hidden in the thick folds of the tablecloth near the end of my table. It had fallen into a weird space where I couldn’t see it and all my scrambling around didn’t knock it back into view. It was one of the side effects of having such a cramped space, I guess. x_x It was a huge relief that no theft had happened though.
Though I felt that Friday was “just okay” for most of the day, I actually ended up with a good amount of work to do that evening. Friday was the Fourth of July, so I think attendance might have been slightly down because of that. Last year, the fourth was the Wednesday before the convention. Still, I did see a couple of single-day badges, and the downtime I had during the day was fairly minimal.
I’ve mentioned before that I think I’ll always feel a con is “just okay” unless I’m completely overwhelmed, and I think that was definitely the case here. I think part of it, too, was that not very many people stopped to chat at length, so all I had was work, and if there was no work, then it was instant boredom. I didn’t have anyone except Twitter to talk to all day, and most of my Twitter feed was, of course, filled with AX tweets, which just made me feel more lonely, haha.
Since I have way easier lightrail access this year VS last year, I didn’t need Jer to chauffeur me to and from the con, and since Tori moved back to Texas, I didn’t have anyone else to do the show with. Basically everyone was at AX! On the heels of a very social A-Kon, this felt pretty jarring?
Onnanoko, my neighbour from last year, was just across the aisle from me. It was super nice to see her again, and we had nice chats before and after open hours, but we were too far apart to talk otherwise, and as we’re both local, we each headed back to our separate homes every night after the con to work and didn’t hang out all that much.
I finished all my homework commissions around 11pm, but I didn’t end up going to bed until like 2am because I got trapped scrolling through Feedly… this is the primary downside of home cons, haha.
As I was leaving Friday, staff were rolling in a cart with a ton of extension cords and outlets, and when I arrived Saturday morning, I was pleased to find that all the island tables were how wired for power.
It’s very fortunate that Everfree shares a lot of staff with Rainfurrest. This gives them both experience and resources (all the cords and outlets belonged to RF, apparently) they wouldn’t have had otherwise, and I think that’s a large part of why Everfree has been able to do so well in the time it’s had. In 2012 and 2013, a ton of My Little Pony conventions popped up, and many of them went as quickly as they came. Along with BronyCon, Everfree seems to be one of the ones with the most clout and staying power, and that’s very lucky.
I wandered around a little bit Saturday morning and did a couple of trades with vendors who had approached me about it Friday. I figured it best to do trading Saturday so I could take home as much extraneous things that night as possible and not have to deal with it Sunday. Aside from doing trades though, I didn’t really talk with many other vendors at Everfree.
The vendors for Everfree were pretty diverse, but I felt a bit out of place amongst them since it was obvious that a majority of them primarily did pony conventions and were rather active in the fandom. Everfree’s my only pony con, and while I’m a fan of the series and really enjoy drawing ponies, I’ve never been particularly active in the brony fandom. There are a ton of well-known fan projects, fan personalities, in-jokes, and other things there that I’m completely unaware of, and while no one’s ever made me feel unwelcomed, I still felt kinda weird, I guess.
Saturday was busy. Very busy.
I took on a huge number of commissions and worked nonstop the entire day. Despite finally having access to power, I only used my laminator once at the con Saturday because I didn’t end up finishing very many large badges while there. I bumped a lot of smaller commissions ahead of the badges because I could finish them more quickly, and most of the commissioners for badges said they probably wouldn’t circle back until the next day anyway.
I didn’t actually feel like I did that much work on-site Saturday, but I must have because I so tired by the late afternoon that I ended up having to completely redo a badge because I colored the character completely wrong. I also had to redo an ink sketch because the first go was sloppier than I wanted. I decided to stop working the last hour or so of the con because my brain just wasn’t working anymore… My take-home work queue at the end of the day had thirteen things on it, and all but one required color. I’d never had so many things to do overnight ever. o_o
The 45 minute lightrail commute home was a good opportunity for a nap, at least!
Despite knowing that I’d be up all night though, I was really pretty pleased with the amount of work I got Saturday.
I put a sign out Friday noting that laminated badges, which were by far the most popular commission type, would be +$5 of their base price Saturday and +$10 Sunday. (Later on, I also decided that all colored commissions would be +$10 Sunday.) It was my first time doing something like that, but I think it did help convince a few people to commission me Friday and it definitely convinced a few people to commission me Saturday, so I think I’ll keep doing that. :o
Saturday was a long night, but thankfully my friend Miyu stayed up with me on Skype (she’s as nocturnal as I usually am anyway) and helped keep me awake and engaged while I powered through commissions.
I went through everything in a very assembly line fashion, haha. I penciled everything first, then inked everything, finishing all the inks around midnight. I took a break to shower, then I colored all the badges, cut them and laminated them — the badges were all finished around 3am. Then it was just coloring all the sketch cards, which took just about an hour, so I finished up around 4am.
After that, I cleaned up and repacked everything for Sunday and managed a few hours’ sleep before getting up again at 8:30am. 8D IT WAS A GOOD NIGHT, HONESTLY.
All things considered, I was feeling pretty all right Sunday morning, if a little spacey, and my first new commission for the day was really fun! My hand was hella tired, but it wasn’t out of the game yet. It also made me happy that the commissioner was totally okay with the +$10 Sunday fee on colored commissions.
Two of the commissioners picking up their Saturday commissions liked them so much that they immediately commissioned me for more stuff. More colored stuff! Both were, again, totally okay with the extra fee. I felt really appreciated. ;___;
The overall volume of commissions slowed dramatically Sunday, but instead of badges, folks were getting colored sketches and full page things, which are honestly both easier for me to do. The workload was perfect, and I had a really good time working on things.
Onna rolled in kind of late Sunday, but she was really sweet and brought me coffee (she did Saturday as well!). Jer also showed up at the con for a few hours in the early afternoon, bringing me coffee. I hadn’t seen him in a while either, so that was especially nice.
One of the biggest downsides of the Seatac Hilton is that there isn’t a proper coffee place for….miles? The hotel doesn’t have a built-in coffee place. Last year, they had the bartender brewing (not very good) coffee drinks, but this year, they just didn’t have coffee. So you had to get caffeine on the way in or not at all. D;
I finished my last commission about 40 minutes to close and officially set down my pen for the weekend.
The total commission count for Everfree was 39, including 14 laminated badges, 6 small badges, 3 color full pages, 9 color sketches, 5 ink sketches, and 2 pencil sketches. Probably my most ever, though I know some of my commission records from previous cons are inaccurate because I worked on a lot of things on the spot while the commissioner waited (and didn’t mark down these commissions) instead of queuing everything like I do now.
Tony Fleecs, one of the artists on the My Little Pony comics, had been tabling across the aisle from me all weekend, and at the last minute, I finally got up and bought a print of his gorgeous Nightmare Rarity. I still haven’t read any of the MLP comics, though I’ve been meaning to for a long time, but Nightmare Rarity’s design just really, really appeals to me, haha.
Tear down after the show closed went smoothly and I chatted a bit with the Vendor’s head before I left. I mentioned that I was kind of sad that Everfree being on July 4th weekend means it conflicts with two other major shows and asked if the con would be the same weekend next year. He didn’t really give an answer, but said that next year’s dates would be up on the website within a week after the con. I felt kind of hopeful that they would be moving the date, but since Everfree has proven once again to be a great show for me, I honestly wasn’t too fussed…
Everfree Northwest was, once again, quite fabulous.
I was up 11% from last year for the weekend, though commissions made up a whooping 48% of the total this year, versus just 29% last year. I actually grossed exactly as much I did at ACEN, down to the dollar. Crazy! (For comparison’s sake, commissions made up only 16% of ACEN numbers.)
I didn’t move as much merchandise this year, though I’m sure part of that is because I didn’t have very many new pony-related items (though I did have a lot of new things in other fandoms). I didn’t speak as much with other vendors as I would have liked, but I think the general word from repeat vendors was that things were about the same as, or better than, last year. Good!
Staff and attendees were just as great as they were last year. Everfree is still one of the few conventions I know of that provides artists with bottled water, and for the most part, staff made themselves readily available. When I had my cashbox scare Friday, it seemed that there wasn’t anyone in shouting distance and I obviously didn’t want to leave my table to go find someone, but my neighbours were all supportive and great during my freak out and all was fine in the end.
Bronies remain some of the most genuine fans I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at cons. There’s drama in every fandom, but I’ve been lucky enough to never have had any bad experiences with this lot myself. My very first customer Friday morning was a fan who’d purchased from me online several times but who’d never met me at a convention until then. That was kind of a first for me — I don’t yet make very many online sales, so a majority of my customers find me at cons and then follow me online, not the other way around — and it was really humbling to have someone so excited for me to sign my art for them.
A feedback survey was available online throughout the course of the con, and a link to it was also emailed out to everyone afterwards. This is such a simple thing, but I appreciate it so much since a lot of other cons still fail to do this. There was no vendor-specific feedback request this year, but I included lots of vendor-related comments in the regular survey anyway.
When I checked the website a few days after the con, the announced dates for next year were… May 29-31, 2015! Not July 4th weekend! It won’t conflict with AX! And by startling coincidence, AnthroCon is also not on July 4th weekend next year, which means I could possibly… do all three of them? I’m really excited about the possibility, but regardless, I’m happy about Everfree moving to the end of May because that means I don’t have to make any hard decisions about that weekend (which isn’t actually Memorial Day weekend, but it’s close enough that it may still be when Fanime and Animazement are happening next year; MomoCon is already confirmed for that weekend).
I’d learned a lot of things from my experiences at Everfree last year, so I think this year went especially smoothly for me, even without much extra help or company. I’m excited about next year! >:)