Three days after Rose City Comic Con was Rainfurrest, the furry convention in Seattle, or more accurately, in Seatac, at the Seatac Airport Hilton and Conference Center.

I was hopeful for a busy weekend, especially since RCCC was a bit of a bust. Last year was nice for the most part, but I wasn’t working at capacity on commissions, which make up a vast majority of the business at fur cons. This year went off to a similar start — it’s officially a four-day show, but still not a lot of people show up Thursday. I got my wish pretty quickly once Friday rolled around though…

Animal people are great people.

Animal people are great people.

This report is 4,661 words long.

Jump to: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Overall.

THURSDAY

Setup for both the Dealer’s Den and the Art Show began at 9am, and both rooms opened to the public at noon. Hannako met up with me at my apartment around eight and helped me haul my things to the lightrail and to the hotel. She didn’t have a table, but she was interested in checking out the con and seeing what it was like, and I was super grateful for the extra hands, especially since Art Show stuff couldn’t be packed in with my other luggage without being damaged and had to be carried separately. (It turned out to be even more lucky for me that Hannako was helping out because the elevator down to the street from the lightrail was temporarily out of service, so we got to drag my stuff down four flights of stairs. D;)

We got to the Hilton just after nine, and, like last year, the Dealer’s Den wasn’t unlocked or ready to check-in dealers yet. :/ Art Show was ready to go though, so I went to check in there while Hannako watched my stuff and kept me updated on DD.

Sparkle dawgs~.

Sparkle dawgs~.

Pre-con prep and communication for Art Show was pretty similar to last year. Registering for panels was simple, and I got confirmation quickly. We got emails fairly often in the last few months about entering our pieces into the online registration system, but the online system was still a sloppy mess. Almost immediately after the show ended last year, the system was activated to accept registrations for this year, which means no one really even considered working on it to make it better, I guess?

My critiques stand: the system is unprofessional-looking, looks like it was coded in a night, is cumbersome to use, seems somewhat insecure (though I’m not knowledgeable enough in this area to really comment), and looks to be difficult to manage by the different branches of staff that need to use it. It forces you to pace through all of your registration information every time you want to change or update anything, rather than letting you select what you want to do, and different access URLs to the reg system give you access to different portions of your information, which makes it doubly confusing when URLs provided are incorrect or outdated.

As far as Art Show goes, the reg system doesn’t give you access to or the option of entering in information for specific pieces unless 1) you go to a very specific URL and 2) something on the backend is switched on to allow you to do that. There was a lot of back and forth with the AS head when one or both of these conditions weren’t met, and it was obvious that AS staff didn’t have direct access to verify these conditions themselves. Half the time, the given URL just stepped you through regular AS registration for panels, as if I hadn’t already registered for them. ;/

In the end, I did manage to enter in all my pieces for the show about a week and a half prior, but this was definitely an issue last year, so I’m annoyed that it was still an issue. Other fur cons like Furry Weekend Atlanta and Midwest Furfest have swapped to another custom reg system that seems more polished and professional. It doesn’t look like it’s an open source system, so probably one of MFF or FWA staff coded it and shared it between the cons (and maybe other cons as well?), and I’m not sure whether Art Show stuff is built into their system the way it is for Rainfurrest, but either way, RF should step it up and at least consider improving the UI of their current system.

Art Show panels.

Art Show panels.

Actual on-site check-in for Art Show was pretty painless, in part because I had all the info entered in already and had cut-out bid slips ready to go. It was just a matter of hanging everything, labeling the pieces, then having a staffer verify the number of pieces and print me a check-in receipt. There was some technical trouble with the printer, but the whole process still only took about 20 minutes.

Dealer’s Den was ready to finally check in vendors by the time I got out of Art Show, so I was able to do that without a problem. I wasn’t sure whether Hannako would be able to come into the DD with me since regular attendee registration wasn’t open yet, but while my DD reg only came with one badge, it did come with two dealer’s ribbons, so I could give her one of those. Honestly though, security at DD wasn’t especially tight, but it also wasn’t busy enough to warrant it, I guess. There were probably only five or six dealers there for most of the morning.

Fake Lemonade Stand @ Rainfurrest 2014.

Fake Lemonade Stand @ Rainfurrest 2014.

I individually boarded and sleeved my letter-sized prints again. I do really like how people can pick them up and flip through them, and I think it helps somehow that there are fewer things to flip through on the stands than in the binder, making it less intimidating? It’s an interesting middle ground between having people stand five feet away from the table looking at the display prints I have hanging and having them flip through my 40-page binder… I have boards and sleeves for my tabloid-sized prints also, but I’d definitely need to get more stands to properly display them like that.

Hannako was awesome and did a coffee (and muffin) run while I set up the table. My number one complaint about the venue is still there are no nearby caffeine options. The nearest Starbucks is in the airport. Ridiculous.

Thursday morning sustinence.

Thursday morning sustenance.

Hannako took off just before we opened at noon because she other commitments for the day, but she didn’t miss much.

No more than half the dealers and none of the guests showed up Thursday. The Dealer’s Den was sparse, and rather than browse, attendees gathered in groups in the empty spaces of the room to chat amongst themselves. This is RF’s second year as a four-day convention, and the hours were much clearer this year from the get-go. Even so, lots of people were still traveling into town Thursday, and many locals hadn’t taken the day off work. There wasn’t a lot of programming Thursday either, so the activity level across the con was fairly low.

Emptyish Dealer's Den.

Emptyish Dealer’s Den.

I did get a handful of commissions throughout the afternoon, but they were mostly small pencil sketches and things I could finish very quickly. Maybe it was just as well, since I didn’t bring my laminator in Thursday because of luggage space and wouldn’t have been able to laminate badges, but one of the nice things about commissions and fur cons is that almost all of the attendees are there for the full weekend, giving me plenty of time to finish things if needed (though most of my neighbours also had laminators, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal to ask anyway). The table was wired for power though, so I’d be bringing my laminator in the next day.

It wasn’t surprising or unexpected, and I didn’t really think it’d be an indication of the weekend to come, but the slow day made me regret again not bringing something substantial to work on behind the table. But I feel like comic pages are one of the few actual project things I can work on at the table though, and I don’t have a lot of comics I want to do at the moment unfortunately. I have a storybook idea I’ve been sitting on for ages, but it’s a digipainting project and I can’t do that at the table. I have an embarrassing number of fanfic ideas I want to write, but it’s doubly difficult to focus on writing and story-crafting at the table. Woe, woe.

Pencil sketch card.

Pencil sketch card.

Dealer’s closed at the very reasonable hour of 6pm, and I went home Thursday with no commission queue. The completely empty evening with no convention obligations was so weird to me, it almost felt like I wasn’t even working a con! Last year I mentioned that I wanted to try and check out more of RF’s programming and try to be more social, but it just didn’t happen that way.

6pm is a great closing time, as that’s basically dinner time, but that also means everyone closes shop and immediately heads out for food. But food options around the hotel are pretty abysmal — they’re either quite the trek or very expensive — so the most convenient place for dinner for me is home. Since I commute to RF, I cooked enough food Wednesday to last me through the weekend so I wouldn’t have to spend money eating out. And once I’m home, I’m home and that’s that. <_<

Small badge commission.

Small badge commission.

FRIDAY

Dealer’s Den hours for Friday were from 10am to 6pm, so I left my apartment around 8:30 after having breakfast and got to the hotel around 9:30. Amazingly, it was drizzling enough outside that I put my hood up — it was appropriately drizzly for most of the weekend during Rainfurrest last year too. It may seem like an obvious thing, but it’s actually been a long, hot, and dry summer in Seattle. It hasn’t rained nearly enough, says I. We’re well into what should be fall now, but it’s still not raining enough. Come on!

Friday was immediately different from Thursday. While not everyone was fully set up yet, all of the dealers and guests had at least arrived by the time we were open. Artist Alley was also in operation now — they actually opened an hour before us, at 9am. Remember that Artist Alleys at fur cons are distinctly different from Artist Alleys at anime or comic cons. They’re typically free or very low cost (I think RF’s AA is $15/day?) and spaces are first come, first serve on a daily basis. While many of the same artists do claim tables throughout the weekend, a handful will only do a day or two, leaving room for a fair variety of people to rotate in. Meanwhile, Dealer’s Den is for everyone wanting a guaranteed table for the weekend and a locked room to keep things in after hours.

Large con badge!

Large con badge!

The overall atmosphere of the convention was much busier, and I got slammed pretty hard with commissions from very early on in the day. A vast majority of them were color commissions, too, which of course take longer to do. It was a little surreal, to be honest. I was especially surprised at the number of dragons I was being commissioned for — I don’t draw a lot of dragons and find them pretty difficult for a lot of reasons, so I don’t have a lot of examples of dragons, but people kept asking me for them. o_o They were all fun and I enjoyed the challenge, but it was still puzzling to me, haha.

I was also surprised to be moving a lot more merchandise compared to last year. Prints and buttons were both doing a lot better. I have a lot more creature/monster/animal prints than I did, so that probably helped? I had a taped a sign on my Art Show panels noting that I had prints available of almost all of those pieces, so maybe that helped too. And hey, maybe the individually board/sleeved thing helped too. Too many factors to really be able to tell. I have no idea why buttons were doing better though. I only had about half my buttons out on display because of space issues too.

Though the tables were 6′ long, my setup last year was actually 8′ since Tori let me use a third of her table. She wasn’t here this year though, so it was back to a normal 6′ setup for me, but it didn’t really seem to matter at all. How I use the space is clearly much more important than the amount of space…

Full page color commission.

Full page color commission of a hipster cougar. (He only drinks Real Coffee.)

I took way fewer photos this year because I had my head down most of the day working. It was kind of weird how long the day felt. Despite also spending a lot of time handling sales and writing down even more commission information, I managed to finish a lot of work while at the convention, so I felt like time should have passed faster, but it turns out I am always working faster than I think I am? I felt really focused all Friday too, which probably helped a lot.

Even with how fast as I work though, my queue grew twice as fast, and when we closed at 6pm, my queue included 17 commissions, 15 of which were in color. o__o This was definitely a new record, trumping my crazy Saturday at Everfree this year, where I took home about 14 commissions at the end of the day. I’m still really glad for that 45 minute nap I get on the lightrail on the way home.

Full page color commission for someone's themed "taur" sketchbook.

Full page color commission for someone’s themed “taur” sketchbook.

After a quick dinner, I launched straight back into work.

I decided to ink all of my commissions first, then move onto color and see what I could get done. My assessment of how much I could reasonably finish that night shifted as the evening went on. I was using my work night at Everfree as a gauge initially, but it ended up being inaccurate since I can draw ponies a lot faster than most furries, as ponies lack a lot of fur/feather/scale detail. I love drawing and coloring fur/feather/scale detail, but it is definitely time consuming!

I knew I wanted at least two hours of sleep, so 5am was the latest I’d stay up to work. I gave badges a higher priority since they’re wearables, and I think it’s nice for people to be able to get some wearing time out of their badges while still at the con… plus they’re the messiest to work on since they involve all this paper cutting and it was better to work on them at home where I had a lot of space and didn’t feel bad making a mess.

ALL of the to-be colored commissions from Friday night, at their inked stage. Not shown are the commissions that only required pencils.

ALL of the to-be colored commissions from Friday night, at their inked stage. Not shown are the commissions that only required pencils.

In the end, I did stay up until 5am, and it was just enough time to completely finish all the large badges I had (minus lamination; I’d left my laminator at the con) and to ink everything else.  This was my first time not completely clearing my queue overnight, but I’m really happy with the amount of work I managed to finished, and the quality of the work too! *___*

ALL THE FRIDAY LARGE/CHIBI BADGES.

ALL THE FRIDAY LARGE/CHIBI BADGES.

SATURDAY

All things considered, I was feeling pretty good Saturday morning. I slept in a little later than I originally planned and got up around 8am. I brewed myself coffee to go and got another 45 minute nap on the way to the show.

I spent most of the morning finishing up the color commissions I’d inked while adding new commissions to the queue. Since my ability to accurately gauge what I could finish seemed a bit off based on the previous night, I started bringing up mail-out fees on commissions as a precaution. Everyone was really cool about it — I understand that mail-out/after-con commissions are very common, if not the norm, at furry conventions, but I almost always finish all of my convention commissions at the show, so I still feel a bit weird about marking things for after-con completion I guess.

Full page color commission.

Full page color commission.

I stopped taking color commissions for at-con completion in the early afternoon, though I think this ended up being overcautious on my part. Though there was still a fair bit of new work, I got fewer commissions Saturday than Friday, and they were mostly of simpler types (read: fewer things in color).

I’ve done very few furry conventions compared to other types of conventions, so I’m still figuring a lot of things out as far as how best to handle commissions on-site and post-con, but the learning experience has been really pleasant thus far, honestly. :o

WereGarurumon!

WereGarurumon!

The fursuit parade came through the Dealer’s Den starting around 2:30pm and it was nice to take a break to watch them all go by.

I didn’t bother taking video this year, but plenty of other people with better cameras did. Some of the notable species this year include a stegosaurus, a maned wolf, several really awesome sharks, two or three pteradon, A BUMBLEBEE, a meerkat, what I think was a sea lion, and three orcas. I think there was also a giraffe, but I’m not 100% sure. XD Along with WereGarurumon and the Charlie from last year, there was also a Clifford, a Scooby Doo, and a Rocket Raccoon, as far as canon characters go. I don’t think I saw any of Clockwork Creature‘s suits this year though! That was a bit surprising and disappointing — theirs are some of my favourite costumes for sure. *__*

Here is a cute deer though.

Here is a cute deer though.

My queue at closing time Saturday was just eight things, all in color.

After packing up, I stopped by Art Show briefly to see how my pieces were doing. I was a little annoyed to find that the panel arrangement had been shifted so my chosen panels faced the back of the room instead of the entrance, as they had when I set up. I didn’t see a point in making a fuss about it though.

I was surprised to find that none of the things I had been excited to include had bids while all four of the things that I had decided to include last minute because I had space though, did. Those four pieces included three framed open edition miniprints from my Canis mythos series (which were for direct sale) and a very old piece I did for a gallery show in college. That last thing surprised me the most. :o It seemed they were closing bidding half an hour early though, at 6:30, while I was there, which meant there wasn’t much of a chance of the other things selling. Bummer.

Full page color commission. Another of many dragons.

Full page color commission. Another of many dragons.

After walking out to the lightrail, I realized suddenly that I’d left my phone in the Dealer’s Den. Thankfully, I didn’t actually board the lightrail before doubling back, but by the time I got back to DD, they had locked up for the night… and only one con staffer was authorized to get the hotel staff to unlock it. From DD, I had to walk back to Con Ops, find someone who could call this staff person, then arrange to meet them back at DD. In the end, the crisis was averted and I got my phone back. x_x

It was really, really stressful, but RF staff was polite and did their best with the circumstances. I honestly considered just leaving my phone, but I had a bunch of reference photos and things there, and it’s also my most reliable alarm. D;

Full page ink commission.

Full page ink commission for a themed “cock fights” sketchbook. One of my favourite commissions from the weekend, haha.

Saturday night was pretty similar to Friday night.

I inked all my commissions first, then powered through coloring and laminating all the badges. I did bring my laminator home Saturday night and planned to leave it at home so I wouldn’t have to try and figure out how to pack it with the rest of my luggage Sunday. Since I had fewer badges Saturday, I also got to finish coloring two of the full page commissions before 5am rolled around again.

All the Saturday night commissions, inked.

All the Saturday night commissions, inked.

Honestly I really enjoyed staying up stupid late both Friday and Saturday night working. It was weird and nice to be actually working at capacity for those two days?

I LIKE WORKING. I LIKE BEING BUSY. IT IS GREAT.

Finished badges from Saturday night.

Finished badges from Saturday night.

SUNDAY

Prior to opening Sunday, I did some button trades with Ian Jay, whom I went to college with, and who had been tabling behind me all weekend. Since I’m not super active in the furry fandom, I didn’t really know a lot of people at the show aside from Ian and OnnaNoko, who I’ve run into frequently at previous shows. I did get to chat a little bit with some neighbours throughout the weekend, including Hillary (Rah-Bop) and Meezer (RedCoatCat), but didn’t really socialize beyond the few tables nearest to me.

It’s funny how Rainfurrest is such a social show for most of its attendees, but for me, I was just working most of the time. And I’m fine with that. I don’t think I’d have had a lot to say anyway, even if I had had time to socialize more. As with Everfree, where many of my friends were at Anime Expo the same weekend, Rainfurrest was the same weekend as Anime Weekend Atlanta, where I also knew many people in attendance. But in both cases, I think the show I chose was the better show anyway. ;)

Coloring fur~.

Coloring fur~.

For me, inking is probably the most time consuming part of the process. Coloring goes by pretty quickly, especially when the character doesn’t have a complicated color scheme. And so, just an hour after opening on Sunday, I actually finished up all the work from the night before and cleared my at-con queue.

Sunday commissions were nearly non-existent though, and of the few bites, two of them ended up being marked for post-con completion, not because I couldn’t have done them before the end of the day, but because the commissioners were leaving already. I ended up bumping one of the previously marked post-con commissions up and finishing it at the show, but mostly Sunday was spent resting my hand, haha. After a whirlwind Friday and Saturday, things were winding down in an obvious way.

Full page color commission. One of the coolest characters I've ever drawn.

Full page color commission. One of the coolest characters I’ve ever drawn. :o He belongs to Draphilius.

Dealer’s Den closed at 4pm Sunday, and after packing up, I hit up the Art Show to pick up the leftovers.

Check out seemed much improved over last year. All of my stuff was still hanging up on the panels, so it was just a matter of taking them down and turning in the bid tags. After checking out, I schlepped on home.

Color sketch card. One of very few Sunday commissions.

Color sketch card. One of very few Sunday commissions.

OVERALL

Rainfurrest was amazing this year, honestly.

I made double what I made last year, and it was the most I’d made in a weekend, ever. It was the highest ever percentage of commissions as well — 62%, up from last year’s 53%, but that still left a significant chunk of sales in premade merchandise, which is great! Over the weekend, I did exactly fifty commissions, and of those, thirty were in color — also a record, of course. This doesn’t include the number of commissions I took for post-con completion.

I worked my ass off at Rainfurrest, and it was great!! I’m so, so grateful and happy to have had all that work. It was a really lovely weekend.

The trick is learning to draw with the wrist brace on! (Don't quote me on that.)

The trick is learning to draw with the wrist brace on! (Don’t quote me on that.)

Pre-con organization and communication was a bit improved from last year.

Dealer’s Den was more communicative this year; they sent out emails about setup and hours at the beginning of August and in mid-September, and both emails were very in-depth and informative. Art Show sent out fewer emails, but they were better organized compared to last year. Unfortunately, issues with the registration system for Art Show pieces remained, but since this was my second time dealing with them, I was personally better prepared and managed to get my pieces entered in properly ahead of the show, which made at-con processes go a lot smoother.

All on-site staff I interacted with were polite, though they occasionally seemed poorly equipped to answer the questions I had — nothing really noteworthy though, just the normal level of uncertainty I’d expect of new volunteers/staff. With the exception of Thursday morning dealer check-in, Dealer’s Den always opened and closed on time. And while they didn’t really announce the starts of days, they were good about announcing the ends with thirty, fifteen, and five minute warnings.

I’m not sure why Art Show closed up bidding early Saturday night though.

Con swag, mostly buttons from Ian, haha.

Con swag, mostly buttons from Ian, haha.

I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t sell much in the Art Show this year, but more than that I’m concerned that if I can’t move originals at Rainfurrest — where art is king and the average attendee has the budget to at least consider it — then I probably won’t be able to move them anywhere else either.

I’m still somewhat resistant to the idea of putting more prints into Art Shows; it seems counter-intuitive to do so when I’d offer the same prints in Artist Alley or Dealer’s Den anyway. I could go for fancier and more exclusive print options — canvas prints or metallic ones or extra large sized ones — but those would be costlier gambles for me. I already have all these originals, after all.

Maybe it was just an off-year though. I didn’t go to the live auction this time, so I’m not sure how that went, but it did seem to me that fewer pieces than last year had bids on them when I stopped in Saturday evening. Regardless of sales though, Art Show did go more smoothly this year, so I’m glad for the little improvements. :o

The number of markers I needed to refill post-con.

The number of markers I needed to refill post-con.

All in all, Rainfurrest was super great, and I really look forward to next year!

I’d like to add more furry conventions to my circuit, but so far no luck. I was waitlisted for MFF this year and FWA next year. I suppose there’s still a chance of FWA happening, but MFF’s definitely out. I’d love to do AnthroCon next year since for once it doesn’t conflict with AX or Everfree, but we’ll see… we’ll see…